Even though he fronts the sonically aggressive electro-metal band Powerman 5000, Spider One (AKA Michael David Cummings) is a thoughtful and downright restrained individual. I guess you have to have a cool head to keep some form of a band going for 23 years. Over that time, Powerman 5000 has released nine slabs of intense industrial metal, including 1999's Tonight the Stars Revolt, one of the genre's signature statements.
Speaking from the tour bus in New Mexico and in anticipation of Sunday night's performance at Trees, Spider One spoke with DC9 about everything from being Rob Zombie's brother to how he got to be on the original Beverly Hills, 90210.
DC9: Does anyone call you Michael?
Spider One: No, if anyone did, I wouldn't even turn around.
What about family members?
Maybe Mom, but that's about it. Other than that, I never hear Michael. That is pretty funny. I wouldn't even respond to it. To be completely honest, I don't actually remember where the name Spider came from. It's one of those things. Before Powerman, I had a short-lived band called Spider Baby. I think I got the name then and it never went away. I guess for better or worse, I am stuck with it forever.
You've played Trees several times before, haven't you?
Yes, we loved Trees. We've played there many times over the years. Texas, in general, has always been kind to us. Dallas is usually rocking. Trees is such a good spot. I think it is the loudest spot in America.
When will the new album, Builders of the Future, come out?
New record comes out May 22. The single, "How to Be Human" is already out. We're eagerly awaiting this new album to hit the stores.
Any stylistic differences with albums you've released in the past?
Yes and no. We have settled in to what we do best, that electronic metal sound that we sort of established. We've experimented with things over the years, but we've always come back around to that sound we do best. People seem to dig that sound. Now, we are trying to do it better, weirder and louder. There are some surprises on this record, but we are trying to stick to the plan.
You've gone through quite a few band members. Who is involved on this tour?
It's basically the same lineup I've had for the past year or so. You're right. We have definitely seen a lot of faces over the years, but we have also been a band since the early '90s. It's not the easiest thing to keep a band together for that long. There are definitely advantages to changing members. Everyone brings in new ideas, their own influences and vibe. It keeps the band fresh and new every time we make a record.
Why did you decide to do Copies, Clones and Replicants, the all covers album in 2011?
I didn't really plan to do it, but it actually came out pretty cool. It wasn't supposed to be an album. It was an experiment that turned into an album. The song choices were based on what I listened to growing up. Sonically, that '80s new wave vibe fits with what we do. Bands like Devo and David Bowie, that stuff was really perfect.
Why remake "Relax" by Frankie Goes to Hollywood?
We did that for that movie Zoolander. That was quite a while ago. [Ed. -- 2001, in fact.] That was a request. The movie is kind of based around that song. It's part of the storyline and they wanted a new version. They reached out to us. It sounded like a good challenge so we did it. It came out pretty cool. It turned some heads, but we gave it the Powerman style.
Are you and your brother competitive?
I wouldn't say that at all. I would say that we are supportive and collaborative. We talk about what each of us is doing. He clearly has his own thing. I just try to do my thing too. There is plenty of room for everybody. It has never been a competitive thing. We've done a couple of things together over the years. He did some vocals on one of my records back in 1999. We've played a couple shows together, nothing too major. With him in his world and me in mine, it's almost impossible to get together for dinner.
Your album from 1999, Tonight the Stars Revolt, is always singled out as the best one you've done. What about that particular album makes it special?
I think it's interesting because I don't think it's our best record. It was timing. That year, a band like us could still get on MTV and MTV was still showing videos. And radio was very receptive to our music. It was just an exciting time. Sometimes those things all come together. It's nothing you could plan. Every time you make a record, you try to make it the best one you can. We captured something cool on that record and I think the music was pretty unique in terms of the style. We combined electronics with heavy music. Now, it's pretty common. Everybody does it, but back then, it was more underground. We took it to a more mainstream place and it connected with a lot of people. I was surprised at how popular it was. I thought it was a weird record that a handful of people would get.
You were briefly in art school in Boston. What was your medium?
I did a bunch of stuff. I painted and drew. I still do that now. At the time, I had a passion to start a band. I knew that I could always do the visual arts, but I was a kid and I knew that I had to be in a band now. Art school was not the place for me.
Your brother has done some filmmaking and you have worked on some television series. Would you like to get more into films?
I am not working on anything now. I have stuff on the back burner. Right now, I want to focus on the band. I want to do a lot of touring. For me, that's the priority right now. As soon as that settles down, I am sure that I will do something related to film.
How did you end up appearing on the original Beverly Hills, 90210?
That was the classic one, the old one, not the new one. Years ago, by mere coincidence, Jason Preistley was a fan of the band. He was producing and directing some of the episodes and he asked me to be in one of the shows. At that time, I was pretty much homeless in Boston and I had nothing better to do. I got a free flight to Los Angeles to be on a TV show.