Contributor’s Note: Just before the albums release I had the opportunity to chat with Static X Drummer Ken Jay for Madness To Creation to discuss the creation process of what would turn out to be an emotional and particularly poignant piece of music. Fans can find Static X at the following locations:
Mark Dean: Hello.
Ken Jay: It’s been a while since I’ve Skyped and I was like, “Oh, wait. I’ve got to get this thing up and running again.” So, here we are. How are you doing?
Mark Dean: I’m good…what about yourself?
Ken Jay: Can’t complain, although it’s a weird time for the world.
Mark Dean: It is. With the coronavirus situation at the present time all live shows have been postponed over in this part of the world.However I note that Static X still has some shows advertised as still going ahead.Whats happening in the States right now in relation to live concerts?
Ken Jay: Yeah. As of right now, yes. Well, and I will tell you, Wisconsin actually had the… They had two IndyCar races this weekend with fans, and it was well over 10,000 for each race, and they socially distanced, and granted, a racetrack, outdoor racetrack, is quite a bit bigger venue, but this is an outdoor show with 20% capacity only being sold and they’re supposed to follow the social distancing rules and masking. So, as of right now, we have a show. We’ll say that, but it’s Monday.
Mark Dean: Yeah. Things can quickly change.
Ken Jay: Yeah. And Wisconsin’s seeing this spike, like everybody else has, so, yeah. Yeah. Things could change, and what’s ever safest?
Mark Dean: Of course, the new Static-X album has been released to huge acclaim, positive reviews everywhere. I just wondered if the band had any idea that they had created something special with this particular release?
Ken Jay: Well, I think, working off Wayne’s ideas, it felt special in that sense, but you don’t… I always tell people, with Death Trip, we didn’t know, either. I mean, that was being the first major label thing, that was in our minds, kind of like, “Well, it’s a really big, well-funded demo. Let’s see how it goes.” I’m sure Ulrich didn’t feel that way. But this time, yeah. I think that the idea that being special really was just the concept of working off the original demos. But no, you don’t ever know. You just hope that people view it as something special, like you do, and enjoy it, and they do so far, so yeah.
Mark Dean: You’d originally left the band after the release of the second album. Were you surprised when they decided to reform, reunite, in 2018, that they got back in touch with you again?
Ken Jay: Well, I did all the touring for Machine. It was actually right before the recording of Shadow Zone when I left. Once I left, I was in another band for a while and then I felt it was better for me, for my own mental health, to just get away from everything for a while and not be Ken Jay. And that was good for me. That’s what I needed to do. Tony and I had started texting again in roughly 2010, 2011. Yeah. Static was done by then, and he was doing Soulfly and Ministry, and then the year Wayne died, I had actually gone and saw him in person at a Soulfly show. And before we left that night, which was roughly eight or nine months before Wayne died, he actually cracked a joke about, “Hey, see you at the reunion tour,” and, I mean, I took it for what it was worth, and it was a joke.
But I think that Tony and Koichi and I really started talking after Wayne died. We needed to. Static-X was a 30-year period of my life. I think maybe the surprise was I was 51, 52 years old, and we were talking about a reunion tour, and the surprise was, “Ah, man, now I got to really get in shape,” but as far as the band, no. I think we viewed it more than anything as some kind of… It had to be cathartic for us. It couldn’t be about money and it couldn’t be about just touring. But the response to it has been so good that that, I think, was… The response to everything has been really overwhelming. So, that’s the big surprise. Yeah.
Mark Dean: How was it, though, when you first got back together in the studio and started jamming out some music again with those guys?
Ken Jay: It was, and all of us feel this way… The first song we played together was, of course, Bled for Days, which was really one of the first three songs that we had written that made us become Static-X. It was the song that changed everything from a band standpoint of we had been this experimental thing before, and then we wrote this song with drum programming and all these keyboards and everything going on, and it was like, “Oh, here’s our identity.” So, within 25 years down the road, we get together in a practice space and we play about roughly the first 15 seconds of Bled for Days, and we all knew. We all knew, then, that, okay. First of all, we’ve missed it, and second of all, that we were doing the right thing. It just felt whole and complete. So, it felt like we could move ahead.
As far as the work aspect, the recording and everything, that’s something that… There’s a lot of long hours involved and everything, but I always tell people, back in the day, when we were writing and writing what became Wisconsin Death Trip, and we all had jobs and rent to pay on the practice space and all of the… Being in the band, it was easy to spend long hours doing it just because it didn’t feel like work. That’s the same thing that we’re going through now. It makes you feel like there’s an absolute sense of purpose, so you just keep doing it. And so, yeah. I mean, it just feels like working towards something. So, yeah. It’s all good. Can’t complain.
Mark Dean: And obviously, Ken,there’s obviously the significant change in the band dynamic, because Wayne wasn’t there and you have this other guy, XerO, coming in and working with you guys. How did he fit in? What did he contribute? Was he an equal partner, so to speak?
Ken Jay: Yeah, he’s very evil. The weird dynamic to it is, we’re doing this new album that is 95%, 98% a vocal of a lead singer that’s gone. So, for the absolute humility, the absolute… To kind of step back, I guess, in that sense, I mean, lead singers are lead singers. They’re out front. So, to step back from that, I mean, that’s an incredible thing to me. From the standpoint of… We’d known him for a while. It’s not the same dynamic without Wayne. We miss Wayne, which is part of the reason we’re doing it, the biggest part of the reason we’re doing it, but that’s a… Congratulations to you. I’m almost speechless on that. It’s not a seamless thing because when we’re on stage, sometimes you look up and the mask is jarring for the three of us.
I mean, it wasn’t meant to be… Look. Wayne had a really sick sense of humor, so old Wayne would have thought this to be somewhat humorous. But, yeah, there are times when you’re on stage and he turns around and looks at me and it’s like, “Whoa, wow.” That really freaks you out a little bit. But there were so many things that XerO offered to us. He’s an independent musician and he’s done everything in his career DIY, and we needed that because we needed autonomy. We did not need somebody who didn’t know the band trying to give us any kind of direction. Anything that has been a mistake or anything along the way, the band had to learn how to do that on their own, because it is starting over, because the industry’s changed so much and because we’re starting this thing that, like any major band that has had a person die or leave, you have to figure things out on your own. So, I don’t know. I don’t know that I gave you a coherent answer there. I hope that was enough.
Mark Dean: The band obviously, then, went on and played shows as Static-X. Did that present any sort of moral dilemma, first of all, using the name and playing those shows with another singer?
Ken Jay: I think, in regards to that, there were some other members of other bands that were down on it, but the reality is this. If you look back at music history, you’ve got the Rolling Stones, Alice in Chains, all these bands. AC/DC, where a member has died and they’ve kept going on. I think, morally, I think that maybe not to do it is more of a moral dilemma, just because then… The first time we got together, the three of us, to do an announcement, and this was before the concept of XerO had been really fleshed out, so to speak. But the three of us got together. I live in Illinois and I flew out here, and it was the first time the three of us had been together in almost 20 years.
And as we had made our greetings and talked for a little bit, it became readily apparent that each one of us had emotional issues with Wayne’s passing that we had to deal with. And considering that it was the three of us that started this in 1994, it seemed an adequate way to hash it out, and it really has been, in that sense, from the emotional baggage that the three of us were carrying that we probably hadn’t acknowledged, it really has been a healing thing. Plus, I would also tell you, every step of the way has been guided by the Wells family. They’ve been very influential in this. Yeah. I don’t feel like there was a moral dilemma, so to speak, and there’s just so much history there, even from bands outside of Static-X, that, yeah. I think that probably was the answer that I should’ve given you, really.
Mark Dean: How do you see the two volumes of Project Regeneration? Does it represent the end of an era for Static-X or actually the beginning of a new chapter for the band?
Ken Jay: I feel like it’s the beginning of a new chapter, personally. I wouldn’t speak for the other guys, and this is… I’m 54 years old now, and prior to this, I was teaching drums, but I didn’t want to play in bands. I had tried a couple of projects over the years after being out of Static-X, just starting from scratch, and it just… I missed my friends. Tony and Koichi and Wayne and I, the hardest work we ever did in our lives was at the start of the band, when you’re renting vans that you can’t afford to go to shows and play and nobody’s there, and just, those were some rough times, but they also, they were the best times of our lives, and we grew up a lot during that, and it was sad to see it go away, and especially like it did. So, to have this opportunity, feel it’s a new beginning. The title is apt for it.
Mark Dean: Of course you mentioned some of the early tracks that you’ve actually done. I’m thinking of Push It, Bled for Days. Will those actually be making an appearance on volume two of the album, or not?
Ken Jay: There are some bands that have gone back and re recorded some stuff, huh.
Mark Dean: Yeah.
Ken Jay: Yeah. I don’t know. I don’t know. Well, and especially with YouTube, with the way everything is now, I would tell you, those songs are out there in so many various forms that… I don’t know. I think we would be more apt to… We had some songs… We had a song called Down that only ever came out on a… It came out on a sampler-type CD thing that Warner Brothers did. I think it was Down, Push It, and Bled for Days, maybe. I can’t even really remember. I kept everything from the band. I can’t find it, but there are live videos of us playing it online.
Down would be an interesting song, to me, to re record, and some of the stuff that was in the early experimental phase… We had a four-song demo we did. That was actually just Tony and Wayne and I. Koichi had left the band for a little bit, so the programming was very rudimentary, but we had written… We had demos of Bled for Days and Love Dump, and they were pretty good, and we were learning how to do this programming thing, and especially without keyboards. So, we did a four-song demo and we only ever kept one song from it, and it was called Structural Defect, and that ended up on the Machine record, a re-recorded version of it.
But those three other songs would be something that I viewed… “Oh, hey.” They were probably a little more dark and edgy, but I’ve always held a place in my heart for those songs. So, I think that I would look at that before rerecording anything on Death Trip.
Mark Dean: I get you. I think what I’m trying to get is, will volume two of Regeneration be, again, all new music, or will it actually incorporate or include some rerecording of old material?
Ken Jay: Oh, well, there were enough demos out there of Wayne’s to do two volumes. So, we’ll see. We’ll see what direction it all takes us. Obviously volume one came out fairly inspired, so we’ll see where that leads us. Or maybe we’ll just throw everybody and not ever do a Project Regeneration 2. I don’t know. Yeah. Especially being the weekend the album came out, that’s a wait and see proposition.
Mark Dean: Okay. Just a couple, then, to finish. How does it feel? You mentioned earlier about your break from the music business. How does it feel to be back in again and involved?
Ken Jay: Weird. I always, prior to Static being signed, I worked in record retail. At one point I was a Billboard reporter for dance music, believe it or not. I was a metal head kid, but for some reason I just was able to pick dance music that was going to sell. So, whatever. So, I’ve always had an idea of what was going on in the music industry. Like I said, I tried a couple of band projects. I produced a couple of local bands. I knew and read about the music industry quite a bit, and it interests me, and I didn’t know… Sometimes you just wonder… I don’t know that anybody ever deserves to be famous. So, that’s kind of a weird concept to me.
Now, with all that being said, I like being back. I had the most fun, and trust me. I mean, we had some pretty fun times touring in the late ’90s, and if you go out with Ozzy Osbourne and Pantera, chances are, you’re probably going to have a good time doing it. So, but really the best time… And it was a fight. Just for me personally, I physically had to get back into shape, and superior shape. I had a couple of health issues to deal with in the last year, but it was the best time of my life. So, yeah. It’s surprising to be back in it. Yeah.
Mark Dean: Yeah. Just a final one, then. How can you attempt to explain the enduring popularity of Static-X as a band?
Ken Jay: I don’t know that I’m far enough removed from it. Seriously, people are like, “Oh”… I’ve mentioned this earlier. We did not know, we had no clue, when we were doing Death Trip that it would have the lasting power that it has, and that’s really an amazing thing. I mean, really, it was kind of… It had Warner Brothers on it, but it was really done like an independent label, and we did not have the budget that other bands did when we recorded, and we burned through our tour support really quick, and then the next thing you know, we’re out for two and a half, almost three years, touring that album, and I think that that was what cemented it. I don’t know if that’s what has carried it on for over 20 years now. I think it’s a moment that every band should strive for in their lives, but I don’t know how to tell you to… “This is the formula for doing it.” There is no formula. It just seems to be something people have grabbed onto, and we’re happy for that, extremely happy. It’s overwhelming.
Mark Dean: That’s great, Ken. Thank you very much for chatting to me. Good luck with the album and hopefully you’ll get back out and be able to hit the live stages again around the world.
Ken Jay(Us): Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. People got to watch out for each other. You gotta mask up, and hopefully if they do that, we can get this thing rolling again.
Mark Dean: Thank you very much. Cheers.
Ken Jay(Us):Thank you. Thank you. You have a great day.
And there you have it! Check out “Project Regeneration” by Static X on Spotify below: