I never can properly explain my self through written word, probably why I hate writing so much. It is exactly why I love photography so much, it allows me to explain emotion with very little risk of looking like an idiot. But sometimes sacrifices must be made especially when the task presents itself with an opportunity to meet people who have personally affected your life. I love what I do simply because I love music and I love being able to capture that moment where the artists is most vulnerable, that moment where notes they are playing or the lyrics they are singing mean as much to them as to me. It is something special to be able to share that moment with them and then to hold that moment physically. I get goose bumps every time I enter a photo pit. The level of emotion and excitement I feel can never be matched by anything else I have ever experienced. When I finally accepted that I had failed as a musician I knew I had to find another way to get into that special group of one percenters. The artists, the management, the publicists, the promoters, those who hang behind the walls of that special club, the ones who make a living doing what they love to do, the best of the best. It is a challenge that requires you to sacrifice everything. You must be able to take a beating and continue on with broken bones and opened wounds. You must possess talent, be unique and easy to remember. This is the reality of becoming part of the club. I only have two years experience of swimming in these waters but I have learned the truth fast. I know I’m bad at writing but to get to the people I need to impress I have to make adjustments. I fail constantly in making that personal connection. I stumble between questions and struggle to keep the conversation normal and personable, I know this but I keep going in hopes that one day something will click. Maybe I’ll be more natural and less nervous, maybe I’ll get comfortable just being myself. Now that being said this particular interview meant a lot to me. I’ll admit that while holding back my “fanboy” emotions again I struggled to keep it natural and failed to make that connection that I long for but it is one interview that I will hold on to till I pass on to the next life.
A couple of days ago and through a bit of luck I was presented with the opportunity to interview Tony Campos. This guy is a heavy metal, bass legend and cofounder of the iconic industrial metal band Static-X. Being a bass player myself and a long time fan of the metal genre getting the opportunity to actually talk to someone I admired and idolized growing up was fucking unreal. I spent time learning this guy’s songs and playing along to his music in my living room pretending I was the one on stage. Tony’s awesomeness doesn’t stop there though. He’s also played in other iconic bands such as Soulfly, Ministry, Fear Factory and NY thrashers Prong but the list goes on and on, he truly is a heavy metal bad ass. It was pretty cool to find out that we had some things in common such as we both idolized bass legend Cliff Burton and we both owned a B.C. Rich NJ Series. So at times it wasn’t as nerve-wracking as other interviews I’ve done. It was cool to pick his brain a bit and get to know him a little more personally. Even though I would get to talking about his current tour with Ministry and the release of the new Static-X album I didn’t want that to be the focus of our conversation, I figured every other publication would be asking the same cliche questions. Instead I wanted to get to know him and how he became the bad ass he is now.
Tony started playing bass at the age of 13 when a metal head guitar wielding friend of his moved back into the neighborhood and said “Hey Tony, why don’t you get a bass? So I did, and that’s pretty much it, that’s how it started.”
When I asked what his weapon of choice was he told me he has always been a big fan of Fernadez specifically the “Tremor 5 Deluxe” but then was turned onto Zon when Fernandez decided to ship out their North American division.
Tony – Funny story. They were doing a signature model for me and I dropped off one of the basses they gave me because the truss rod was completely frozen and it had active pickups but passive electronics. So about a month later I get a call saying “Hey come pick up your bass”, so I go down to their location in North Hollywood and I look through the window and the building is completely empty and there’s nobody there. So I’m ready to take off and all of the sudden the artist rep comes running out with his hands in the air “Hey man I have your bass”. So I asked him “Hey man the building’s empty, what’s going on?” and he says “yeah man, were moving. Really? Where to?” and said “I don’t know yet”. So I said “Just let me know man” and that’s the last I head from him (hahaha). But in the meantime Warren over at Zon Guitars had been chatting and they built me a bass to spec and yeah, it’s the best bass I’ve ever played, it practically plays itself.
Now Tony is a pretty popular dude so his time spent away from Static-X wasn’t him sitting on the couch. He hooked up with another one of my favs, the NYC thrash metal band Prong. When I asked him how that happened he said “I’ve known Tommy Victor for awhile. We met in 2008 when I started playing with Ministry and then a few years later he called me up and said he was going on tour and I just had happened to have that month off and I was like “fuck Yeah I’ll play with Prong” and I hoped in a van and we opened for Soulfly.
Chimera – So is that how you got hooked up with Soulfly?
Tony – Yeah, sort of. I met Max back in 2000 at Ozzfest and my old band did a co-headline with Soulfly back in 04-05. So I’ve know Max and the whole Calvelera clan for awhile. So on my second tour with Prong and them Bobby the current bass player at the time expressed to me that he was no longer interested in playing. So I did one more tour with Prong and when that was over Tommy was going to do some stuff with Danzig so I reached out to Max and Gloria his wife and said if you ever need a bass player I’d love to jam. Yeah, so Max hit me up and that’s how that happened.
Going from band to band learning all those songs on a whim takes talent. When I asked him if it’s stressful to only have a couple of rehearsals before shoving off he said “Half the time there’s only a couple of rehearsals or none at all. For instance when I was out on the road with Ministry the was no time for rehearsal before shoving off with Fear Factory so I was learning the material and practicing every chance I got in between shows practicing and making sure I was ready.”
Right now Mr. Campos is currently on tour with the industrial God Al Jourgensen and his band Ministry in support of his new album “AmeriKKKant” which was released this past March. I was interested in how the tour was going so far, if he contributed to the album and if there is any animosity at shows with this album being a blatant slap in the face to Alt-Right thinking. Tony was quick to answer saying “the tour is going good, the weather has been kind and up till now, this is actually the first day I’ve seen snow on the ground.”
Chimera – So let’s get right into it. I saw that you were attached to two tracks on the new album, Wargasm and Antifa, did you actually contribute artistically or just play what was given to you?
Tony – Actually I wasn’t even on planning on playing on the record. I was just home between tours and went down to hangout with Al, ya know I hadn’t seen him in awhile. So we went out to dinner grabbed some sushi, drank some saki (haha). went back to his house and drank some more (haha) and he said “Hey ya wanna listen to my new record?” I said hell yeah, of course. Then after awhile he was like “Hey, ya wanna play bass on this song? ”and I was like yeah sure why not ya know. So we got drunk and yeah. I actually didn’t remember what songs I played on until the album released (hahaha).
Chimera – Now when playing in a genre such as Industrial Metal do you feel the bass is kind of lost in the background, kind a like your not really there?
Tony – Nah man, not really. At the end of the day you’re there to service the song ya know what I mean? If the song calls for two notes ya play two notes. It’s not like a Jason Newsted thing where you’re purposely getting pushed out of a mix (haha) ya know? Ya know sometimes you can get buried in the mix but it could always be worse (haha).
Chimera – It seems to be that a lot of Ministry’s content is anti-conservative, do you guys ever receive any backlash from fans at your shows?
Tony – No, not really. Al’s fans already pretty much know what he’s about and where he stands politically. There were a couple of incidents during our last tour with the Trump chickens. People from the crowd would jump up on stage and try and beat the shit out of them but I don’t know if they were just assholes or just really drunk. Other than that not at all.
Now we have all heard the announcement about a new Static-X album so I when I asked Tony what brought this about and if it was easy getting the other members aboard he had this to say:
“Well the 20th anniversary of our first album is coming up this year and I’ve already been in touch with the other guys and it felt like it was the right time to do something. There was a memorial event for Wayne shortly after he passed that none of us were invited to and we felt we knew him the best and we should do something for him ya know”.
“Over the years I was able to get a hold of Wayne’s last demos from one of our old producers and I sat on them for awhile. It was really rough stuff, one or two riffs and a drum beat, some programming basically. It wasn’t a problem though, in an odd way it’s kind a how we would of wrote music back in the day so we knew how to work with it. That’s pretty much how Wayne would bring songs into the rehearsal room, a guitar riff and something on the drum machine.”
Chimera – And it was easy getting the guys involved too?
Tony – Yeah, yeah, absolutely. They were excited. I mean we all sat in a room together for over a decade writing music so yeah it wasn’t an issue at all.
Chimera – Did you guys just sit down and bang it out or was this spread out over a period of time?
Tony – Oh it was over a period of time. I was still out doing other things and those guys have their lives and their work going on ya know, so it’s been a process. It’s bared some pretty good fruit I can say.
Chimera – So would you label this project as a tribute or a rebirth of Static-X?
Tony – Ahhh, right now I’m kind a approaching it as a tribute, ya know a celebration an anniversary. Ya know just to remember all the good times we had together and remembering Wayne for the guy he was.
Chimera – Is there anything on this album that sets it apart from the others?
Tony – There’s a lot more old school moments than some of our more recent records.
Chimera – So you’re kind a going to your roots then?
Tony -Yeah, yeah, for sure. And that’s part of remembering the goods time we had. We’re trying to capture that vibe sonicly and musically as well.
When asked if he had a favorite song he laughed and said yeah but there were more that were going to get mixed that might knock it down from the number one slot. He also said there was five more tracks in que that they wanted their friends to contribute on mentioning names like Al Jourgenson and Ivan Moody. Fans can also expect a tour to follow the release as well so leave your calendars open.
This was probably my favorite interview I’ve ever done. Even though once again I failed to make that connection, that friendship that takes me to level two it was one I was glad to be part of. It’s not everyday that you get to chat it up with an idol of yours and find out you actually have more in common than you would think. So as this year comes to a close I raise my glass and make a toast. Here’s to the future, here’s to new friendships and opportunities and of course here’s to the upcoming release of the new Static-X album.