American metal crew Static-X emerged at the tail end of the '90s, pushing an aggressive thrash metal blend with industrial overtones and a techno pulse. Their breakthrough debut, 1998's cult classic Wisconsin Death Trip, rocketed them to stardom in the heavy music world, their image boosted by frontman Wayne Static's distinctive hair and vocal delivery. While maintaining momentum into the 2000s with additional efforts like Machine and Shadow Zone, Static's passing in 2014 effectively halted the group in their tracks. However, at the close of the decade, the original lineup made a comeback with the help of previously recorded Static vocals, issuing Project Regeneration in 2020.
Static-X's roots trace to the Midwest, where vocalist/guitarist Wayne Static grew up in Michigan and drummer Ken Jay in Illinois. They ended up in Chicago separately and met at the record store where Jay worked, introduced to one another by future Smashing Pumpkins vocalist Billy Corgan (who was in the band Deep Blue Dream with Static). Static and Jay decided to head west to California and start up a new band. Shortly after their arrival, Osaka native Koichi Fukada responded to the duo's ad and became their new guitarist, as well as programmer. Bassist Tony Campos, the only true Californian, was the final piece of the puzzle. Signed to Warner Brothers in February 1998, Static-X debuted with Wisconsin Death Trip a year later. The album was a hit and eventually certified platinum, bolstered by the strength of the singles "Push It" and "Bled for Days." Despite the success, founding guitarist Fukada briefly left the group in 2000, replaced by Tripp Eisen (ex-Dope) for 2001's gold-certified Machine, their highest-charting effort to date. Further lineup changes followed, as drummer Jay left after the 2003 album Shadow Zone. Soon after, misdemeanor charges forced Eisen to leave the band in 2004 (he was later convicted and spent a year in prison). Still, Static-X was undeterred. Static tapped Fukada to rejoin on guitar and programming in 2005, while touring drummer Nick Oshiro took over full-time.
In June 2005, a rejuvenated Static-X returned to recording with Start a War, home to the single "I'm the One." Fifth album Cannibal arrived in 2007, charting inside Billboard's Top 40. The band toured and released a CD/DVD document, Cannibal Killers Live, then settled into the recording of their sixth studio album, Cult of Static. Released in March 2009, it debuted inside the Top 20, their second highest showing to date. The group went on hiatus not long after finishing a lengthy tour, with Wayne Static announcing a renewed focus on his Pighammer side project, with contributions from his wife, Tera Wray. In 2011, Pighammer appeared as a solo album under his own name. A year later, he re-formed Static-X — minus any of the original members. The lineup, which consisted of his solo backing band, mounted a tour but broke up by 2013, and a year later, Wayne Static was dead of a drug overdose at the age of 48. Just over a year after that, his widow Tera Wray took her own life.
This tragedy seemed to spell the end of Static-X, but a few years later, the remaining bandmembers patched up their differences and decided to see if they could salvage anything from past recordings. Starting from a slew of unreleased demos, the group went into the studio, once again with Ulrich Wild, where they stripped Wayne's vocals from the demos and composed entirely new tunes around them. The resultant album, Project Regeneration, was released in two volumes, with Vol. 1 arriving in the summer of 2020. To support the release, the band embarked on tour with a new, masked frontman named Xer0, rumored to be Edsel Dope of Dope. Lead single "Hollow" crashed the U.S. Dance/Electronic chart, peaking in the Top 15. ~ Neil Z. Yeung & Josh Loehr