Success isn't always all it's cracked up to be. Nearly four years have passed since Powerman 5000 released their blistering Tonight the Stars Revolt!, which helped them scramble up the alt-metal scrap heap and, consequently, made their lives much more complicated.
Two years ago, frontman Spider tried to ignore his conscience and just ride the wave by writing an even heavier disc, Anyone for Doomsday?, but right before it was due to drop he shelved it because he felt like he was selling his creative vision short. The songs didn't represent his interests, he felt, and he didn't want PM5K to be pigeonholed as apocalyptic misanthropes who merely followed in the footsteps of his brother Rob Zombie's band.
"With the Doomsday record, I saw what was gonna happen with the music we created. I knew that we would be forever stuck in this mold of 'new metal/industrial/Rob Zombie thing,' and I really couldn't deal with that because that's not where my head is at musically," said Spider, whose favorite bands include the Clash, the Jam and Blur.
Returning to square one, Spider wrote Transform, a batch of 12 songs that are catchier and more musically adventurous than any of the group's previous material. "The real goal was just to strip away all of that [past baggage] and forget about any rules we had set for ourselves and just make a record that we liked," he said.
"Free," the disc's first single, is currently heating up at radio. The deceptively simple track features a gradually descending power riff that evolves into a rousing chorus treated with a spindly melodic guitar lick.
"Musically, that song was one of my favorites because it totally rocks but isn't heavy-handed," Spider said. "It doesn't even sound like it's trying that hard. It's just one of those songs that moves forward."
Like many cuts on the album, "Free" is about taking the reins and making your own choices. Or as Spider sings it, "Living so free is a tragedy/ When you can't see what you need to see."
"My mission this year is to give kids the ability to use their bullsh-- detectors again, which we've completely lost in the last few years," Spider said. "When somehow a nation is fooled that Avril Lavigne is actually a punk rocker, we've got some problems."
A performance video for "Free" was shot in late February in Los Angeles. The clip was co-directed by Spider and Vem & Tony (Hoobastank, Marah), and it captures a new no-frills, no-nonsense approach for Powerman.
"In the past, videos for us just started to get so over-the-top with digital effects and crazy characters with costumes," Spider said. "That's fun and cool to do, but I felt like if we were gonna rebuild this band we had to do it on all levels. So we said, 'Enough with the million dollar videos. Let's make something simple and cool and cheap and get back to basics.' "