While The Masked Singer is all the rage on TV, a masked singer is helping to keep Static-X alive in the stead of late frontman Wayne Static as his final unreleased performances begin to surface.
The masked, anonymous Xer0 surfaced in 2019 when he fronted the industrial metal troupe for a 20th-anniversary tour celebrating the classic 1999 album Wisconsin Death Trip, which is continuing this year. A longtime friend of the band, including Static — who died in November 2014 at the age of 48 due to prescription drug and alcohol toxicity — Xer0 also has been helping put together the two Project Regeneration packages, which will collect Static’s final recordings with new music from the Wisconsin Death Trip lineup of bassist Tony Campos, guitarist-keyboardist Koichi Fukuda and drummer Ken Jay.
“He does a very good job of capturing the vibe and spirit of what Wayne did,” Campos tells Billboard. “And on a personal level, he knew Wayne from our very first tours and toward the end of his life. So this is just as personal to him as it is for us. With those two factors, it was a no-brainer to go with this guy.
“It’s a pretty cool way to remember [Static] and all the good times we had,” adds Campos. “It’s regeneration in the sense that we’re trying to re-create, revisit, revive those feelings and emotions that we had 20 years ago when we all first started doing this.”
Static-X will be back on the road with two one-off dates in March and then a European route starting in August. Project Regeneration: Vol. 1 is due May 29 through Otsego Entertainment Group, with the second set expected later in 2020. Xer0 says — in his first interview since becoming part of the band — he has been “deeply involved” in the music’s recording and production, and he feels a great responsibility to help complete Static’s final works.
“I am a bit of a perfectionist at heart, and I am giving my best efforts to ensure that Wayne’s last works are properly realized,” says Xer0. “Wayne’s family have been incredibly supportive and expressed so much appreciation to me for all of my efforts.”
Billboard also is premiering the single “Hollow,” which features lead vocals from Static, as do the rest of the album’s songs. Watch below:
There’s a sense from Xer0 that the group will remain active beyond these releases. For now, though, the mask is staying on. Speculation ran rampant last October when fans thought they had uncovered Xer0’s identity as Dope singer Edsel Dope, but the latter vocalist stuck a fork in that rumor.
“For the 20th anniversary tour, the last thing that I wanted to do was put my own face out there to represent something that I had absolutely nothing to do with creating. That just wasn’t something I felt comfortable with,” says Xer0 of why his face is hidden. “I have my own identity and my own sound, so it was important for me to check all of that at the door when working with Static-X.”
He calls the mask “an easy way for me to get lost in the vibe and in the spirit of Static-X and to act as a vessel for delivering the material and to best serve the fans, Wayne and the band. I also felt that wearing a mask would allow me to keep the focus on the four guys who created the music of Wisconsin Death Trip.”
To retain his anonymity, Xer0 answered Billboard’s questions by email.
How did you become part of Static-X?
I’ve considered Wayne, Tony, Koichi and Ken my friends for the better part of 20 years. We came up in the scene together, and we toured together a great deal in the past. I’ve always loved the band and their sound. The music that those four guys made together is undeniable, and I have personally missed seeing and hearing them play together just as much as the next person.
What has being part of the band been like for you?
It has been an incredible experience. My heart has been very heavy throughout this process because there is so much love for this band and so many people miss Wayne. This is very personal for me, and I have taken on a tremendous amount of responsibility, which also comes with a lot of pressure. It’s all good, though; I haven’t interpreted any of the pressure in a negative way. I just have followed my heart and have given my best efforts to the cause.
Again, I love the band, the songs and the energy, so performing with Static-X has been a lot of fun for me. At the same time, it also has been very challenging because I had to learn how to do certain things with my voice that I had never done before. Wayne has a very unique vocal style, and in order for me to represent Static-X properly, I had to really deep dive into those nuances and get out of my own comfort zone.
How have you found fan/crowd reaction to having a new guy out front?
Honestly, it has been remarkably smooth. I believe that the fans really appreciated the fact that our intention was to represent Wayne on this 20th-anniversary tour rather than attempting to replace him. I felt nothing but love from the fans each and every night. It is difficult for me to put into words because technically, I am front and center, but somehow we were able to make it so that the focus wasn’t really on me. The focus remains on Static-X and on Wayne, Tony, Ken and Koichi.
You’ve certainly done a good job of obscuring yourself with the mask.
We originally came up with a really simple design that had Xs carved into the eyes, which combined to create a larger X on the forehead. It felt like a cool way to have some Static-X branding built into this new faceless character that I was going to be. It was really that simple. Once the mask was complete, I tried spiking up my hair to further capture the Wisconsin Death Trip vibe, and that is essentially what broke the internet. The mask was never intended to be a Wayne Static mask; I’m still not entirely comfortable with people using that terminology because it isn’t at all what the mask was intended to be… I totally understand why it is easy for people to draw that conclusion or to identify the mask in that way.
Does this “regeneration” feel like a restart?
The future of Static-X has yet to be defined, but I’m looking forward to whatever role I may play going forward. Right now, I am just focused on doing my part to complete all of this new Static-X music for my old friend Wayne, his family and for the fans while we gear up to play these remaining handful of shows that were booked into 2020.