Powerman 5000, comprised of Mike “Spider One” Cummings, Mike “M33” Tempesta, and Adam “Adam 12” Williams, is an eclectic goth-metal blend. Against all odds this band sold millions of major label units before releasing their own independent label recordings. By definition, Powerman 5000 (PM5K) is a concept as cryptic as its name. “Powerman 5000 can be called a lot of things… industrial metal… with a bit of hip-hop, a touch of funk and an awful lot of energy…. [C]all its music ‘action rock,’ but just don’t call this quintet gloomy or menacing,” gloated Michael Mehle in Denver’s Rocky Mountain News. “There’s not much angst or anger here.” Regardless, these band members perform under a name that sounds like a squad of superheroes, and they often dress the part. The band’s lyrics and the Powerman album art combine to create a unique mix of hard rock, science fiction, heavy metal, and gothic dread.
The Powerman image, replete with jaded superhero costumes, is strategically devised not only to induce curiosity but also to produce a well-orchestrated show. Matt Weitz in the Dallas Morning News extolled the exotic outfits: “[A] semi-theatrical stage presence; the members of Powerman dress in a kind of ratty futuristic mufti that makes them look like imperial storm troopers
Members include Mike “Spider One” Cummings, vocals, song writing; Dorian “Dorian 27” Heartsong (left group, 2001), bass; Alan “Al 3” Pahanish (left group, 2001), drums; Mike “M33” Tempesta, guitar; Adam “Adam 12” Williams, guitar.
Group formed in Boston, MA, early 1990s; signed with DreamWorks, 1996; relocated to Southern California, 1996; major label debut album, Mega!! Kung Fu Radio, 1997; released platinum-selling Tonight the Stars Revolt!, 1999; recorded independently, 2000-.
Awards: NEMO Music Showcase and Conference Kahlua Boston Music Awards for Rising Star and Album of the Year for Tonight the Stars Revolt!, 2000.
Addresses: Website —Powerman 5000 Official Website: http://www.powerman-5000.com.
on an absinthe bender.” Yet PM5K claims that its ward-robe is integrated into the act as solidly as the light show that illuminates the stage. The visuals are not a gimmick, according to the band members, but rather pieces of a persona that tie together into a cohesive act. Nothing in a PM5K performance is a random occurrence; no noise is accidental, no chaos exists in the mind of the creators. This notion of controlled insanity permeates in the theme of such Powerman songs as “When Worlds Collide” from the Little Nicky movie soundtrack. Likewise, this superimposition of defiance and power created the mood for the group’s 1999 album, Tonight the Stars Revolt!. Although the Powerman 5000 paradigm leaves many skeptical, three singles from the Stars album charted with ease, and the album was certified platinum within a year of its release. Indeed, according to Mark Brown in Rocky Mountain News, the 1999 album was an artistic breakthrough—for the genre as well as the band.
Some observers challenge the Powerman phenomenon because it yanks at the intellect, posing a quandary that demands an explanation; others wonder only where such musicians are spawned. For founding band member Spider Cummings, the question seems more complex than the answer. Cummings is the younger brother of PM5K comanager Robert Cummings (more commonly known as Rob Zombie of the band White Zombie). Interestingly the Cummings siblings boast a middle-class upbringing that was perfectly staid, even dreary in its normalcy. They grew up outside Lowell, Massachusetts, in a working-class factory town.
If an explanation of PM5K’s unorthodox themes is due, according to Mike Cummings, it is that the quiet complacency of his young life drew him to the vivid world of superhero cartoons, horror movies, and other fantastic cultural phenomena. In his comments to Mike Ross in the Edmonton Sun, Cummings explained that he found creative inspiration as well as escapes in these cartoon-like outlets. He went on to insist that he and his sibling were happy children, not weird in any way. No dysfunctional relatives and no extreme environmental factors interfered with the wellbeing of the brothers Cummings in their culturally nondescript family environs. “It took my parents a long time to understand what we were doing,” Cummings confessed to Victor Barajas in the Arizona Republic.
As Spider Cummings entered adolescence, he founded PM5K some time around 1992 along with a drummer friend, Alan “Al 3” Pahanish. After adding Williams on guitar and a percussionist named Jordan, the quintet gelled when bassist Dorian “Dorian 27” Heartsong moved from Boulder, Colorado, to join the group. After the independent release of Powerman’s six-track EP, A Private Little Warm 1993, the quintet released its first full-length album in 1994. The recording, True Force, appeared on the independent Curve of the Earth Records label. PM5K followed that first effort with the release of Blood Splat Rating System in 1995. Those early ventures led to a contract with Dream-Works Records in 1996. The band’s first DreamWorks album, called Mega!! Kung Fu Radio, appeared in 1997.
In a state of ongoing evolution after the DreamWorks debut, the band lost percussionist Jordan when he moved on to other projects. Powerman then added guitarist Mike “M33” Tempesta to the mix in 1999, and with him gained a new dimension of guitar sound with beefier riffs. The band released their follow-up million-selling album that year, Tonight the Stars Revolt!. It was PMSK’s second and final major label release.
The group then set to work on a new album, which was to be an independently recorded CD with the working title Anyone for Doomsday? The album was slated for release on August 28, 2001, but less than two weeks prior, on August 15, the band announced that they planned to scrap the recording and postpone the release date until March of 2002. PM5K then returned to the Chop Shop & Music Grinder studio to rework the entire LP because they were not completely satisfied with the output. A previously scheduled fall tour was likewise postponed. Three months later, in November of 2001, both Pahanish and Heartsong announced their intentions to leave the band. A series of public announcements followed, from the former band members as well as from the remaining crew; each asserted that the partial breakup of the band was amicable and that all involved felt comfortable with the change. Although Cummings announced early in 2002 that a new PM5K drummer would soon join the band, the identity of the new Powerman member remained undisclosed, even as fans awaited the release of the reworked and unnamed third album. The selection of a new bassist was still being considered as of March of 2002.
Powerman 5000 was among the acts that performed at Ozzfest in 1997 and again in 1999, and the band can be heard on the live albums recorded at those concerts. PM5K also contributed to a number of popular movie soundtracks, including “Get On, Get Off” from Scream 3 and “Nobody’s Real” from End of Days in 2000. Earlier in the 1990s PM5K was heard behind the scenes on film music from Dead Man on Campus and on the soundtrack for Bride of Chucky. PM5K contributed to assorted film tracks in 2001, including th Frankie Goes to Hollywood cover, “Relax,” which was heard in Zoolander, and “Bombshell” from WWF Tough Enough.
A Private Little War (EP), independent release, 1993.
True Force, Curve of the Earth, 1994.
Blood Splat Rating System, Conscience, 1995.
Mega!! Kung Fu Radio, DreamWorks, 1997.
(Contributor) Child’s Play 4: The Bride of Chucky (soundtrack), CMC, 1998.
(Contributor) Dead Man on Campus (soundtrack), Dream-Works, 1998.
(Contributor) End of Days (soundtrack), Interscope, 1999.
Tonight the Stars Revolt!, DreamWorks, 1999.
(Contributor) Scream 3 (soundtrack), Wind-up, 2000.
Arizona Republic, December 2, 1999, p. 45.
Dallas Morning News, February 4, 2000.
Editor & Publisher, December 25, 1999, p. 1.
Edmonton Sun, July 28, 2000, p. WE3.
Rocky Mountain News (Denver), March 18, 2000, p. 3D; April 25, 1997, p. 20D.
“Bands A-Z: Powerman 5000—Biography,” MTV.com, http://www.mtv.com/bands/az/powerman_5000/bio.jhtml (February 1, 2002).
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