Sunday, November 2, 2014

This Does Not Compute: The Death of Wayne Static

Wayne Richard Wells 1965-2014
This morning I awoke to distressing news, news that has put a black pall over the rest of my day as I prepare for work tomorrow. 

While I enjoyed my Halloween weekend, stayed up late to watch Hellsing Ultimate and slept in almost without regard for the fact that I am attending a trade show in three days and my co-workers needed help, a tragic loss reverberated throughout the metal community last night.

Wayne Static is dead. 

The official announcement was made by Static X's official Facebook page. Nothing has been released with any certainty regarding the cause of death, but Wayne Richard Wells left us suddenly yesterday November 1, 2014 at the age of 48. I will not speculate on how he died. Not long after the announcement, two-bit online metal publications began circulating rumors of an overdose. Since no official statement has been made, I don't understand how this conclusion can be jumped to so quickly. Close friends and band members either aren't coming forward, have been asked to keep silent, or there is nothing to talk about in regards to whether or not Wells' death was accidental or natural. When Dave Williams died, it was easy to speculate that it was an overdose. The frontman for Drowning Pool picked up a bad pill slamming habit in Dallas. However, the pills did not kill him. They weren't helping him, but they didn't kill him. Drowning Pool's official statement debunked the rumor, and it is now common knowledge that Dave Williams died of an undiagnosed case of cardiomyopathy, a disease of the heart muscle. It is unfair to pass around these rumors until an official statement is released. You'll get no wild speculation from me. True, metal is a heavy industry. Death by overdose is common, most notably highlighted by the loss of Gwar frontman Dave Brockie a few months ago. 

This humble blogger would like to remind other writers, fellow metal heads and the general public that until an official statement is released, no one should read more into the drug rumors than necessary. According to photographer Jeremy Saffer, who had the honor of shooting Wells more than once (and who generously addressed my concerns regarding this matter on Instagram), there was a lot to fear from Wayne Static's drug habit, but I think that you can say that about any addict or former addict. Every day my boyfriend's family expected to get the call that he had finally succumbed to his habit. My boyfriend has been clean for nine years. It is possible to change. There was a statement in a press release that Wayne Static had been clean, but then again, so had Phillip Seymour Hoffman. I ask, I beg of you, to please allow Wayne Richard Wells to retain just a shred of dignity after his passing before we smear his name all over the industry as a doper who died as a result of his bad habit. If it comes out as truth, we will have all the more reason to mourn.   

In an interview I read in 2002, Wayne Static discussed the rigors of touring. He described the body-odor, the heat, the sweat, the hunger and monotony of traveling on tour by bus. He described having to shit in a bag for lack of a bathroom, and no where to stop, while on tour. That song is called "Shit in a Bag", unsurprisingly. No air-conditioned bus, no private plane for Static X. The article gave us great insight into Machine. For many contemporary bands experiencing the budget limitations of touring without a record label (as discussed at The Future of Metal Panel at Red7 presented by Austin Music Foundation three weeks ago), this is a common reality. For the  metal industry, some things never change, and Static X may not have held the same power over the masses as Korn or Ozzy Osbourne, or even Marilyn Manson, they were authentic industrial metal that held a loyal core of metal fans to this day, myself included. Remembering the rigours of the tour reminded me that the industry had already taken a severe toll on Wells by the time he began work on Machine.  

I have nothing but good memories of listening to Static X throughout my high school and college years. Not only was the music suitably heavy for the tone I was trying to set for myself during those years, but Static X could carry you to the limits of tolerance and still keep you begging for more. Industrial metal has always had a special place in my heart. I remember taking the school bus every morning, dreading once again the daily fight for my sanity amidst the drudgery of school work, the farce of my education, and a routine dose of severe abuse and bullying. I turned up Wisconsin Death Trip and nodded quietly to myself as I stared out the window of our bus, my cheek pressed to the window, the bright light of the only cool part of the day turned the bus into a steaming mess. I needed it. Every morning it was better than coffee. It fired my imagination and anchored me to my soul. I believed in it. I went and saw Queen of the Damned, though I didn't pay for it (we snuck in after Lord of the Rings). I listened intently to the soundtrack and pirated it shortly thereafter. Queen of the Damned was an extended music video, a playground for Wayne Static, Jonathan Davis, Marilyn Manson, Drowning Pool, Papa Roach, Dry Cell, Kidney Thieves, Disturbed and the rest. I loved it. I'm listening to it right now.  

In college I began a lifelong career of being tattooed. Though that's only really taking shape in the last few years, I began attending Slingin' Ink Tattoo Festival in San Antonio regularly. This was especially fun while my soon-to-be-boyfriend was trying his best to impress me, which  he stopped doing shortly after we became lovers. One year, when my ex-husband (then boyfriend) and I were once again attending the tattoo expo, with one pleasant surprise. Listening to 99.5 KISS in San Antonio, Chris Sifuentes announced the attendance of Static X at the expo, February 24th, 2007. I found money I didn't have somehow and begged my boyfriend to go with me. I didn't have to beg him to go to the expo, but he had little love for Static X. I bought the tickets anyway, and reminded him that if he didn't go with me, I'd find someone else. At the risk of being seen in public with someone else, he went with me. I could not concentrate on the expo. Though many amazing artists and portfolios were on display, I never moved far from the exit to the back lot where Static X, I knew, was setting up. This did not please my ex, who having no money to spend, didn't understand why we were there at all. My ex's reticence did not entirely make us late, though I did not get as close to the stage as I wanted. I have a history of being bodily removed from mosh pits. I'm a liability, it seems. We stayed close to the chain link fence. Of course--just like at Green Day, I couldn't see, so I asked my ex to hold my bag so I could jump over the heads of the crowd, which he refused to do. I strapped my bag to me as well as I could while my ex sat on a pick nick table bench. I have memories of him playing on his phone, but that's not possible. He didn't have an iPhone by then. Those could be injected into the moment by later memories in which he would do this at any event he didn't care about--which was almost everything. Still, he would not join the pit with me, and he would not jump or rock with me, and it hurt down to my core. In fact, he didn't even find it funny. He was put out by the whole experience, and complained about the sound quality. What did he want from a venue like Slingin' Ink? It was the Airport Convention Center in San Antonio. Static X did the best they could with what they had. It was an intimate venue, and I'm glad, so very glad and relieved to this day, that I was able to attend. The experience is tainted with bad memories that I cannot shake today. As I sit here writing this I am near tears. Not just about Static X or the loss of Wells, but because so much of my past was spent being openly disdained by my own significant other. I remember how offended he was when I screamed Wayne's name and held my hands aloft. I remember climbing the fence to see more than his hair and being shooed away by security. The rest of the time I spent trying to get my ex to enjoy himself. Why I bothered, I'll never know.

Static X means a lot to me. Static X defines my current metal taste and has influenced many contemporary metal bands. You can hear it in industrial metal today, and though Static X fell by the wayside, Wayne Static's work went platinum, and it is tattooed on the hearts of metalheads around the world. I had a crush on Wayne Richard Wells in high school and kept a magazine cover of him in my bag for months. I probably wasn't in love with him, but the music lit a fire under me I had never felt before. As I go about my day, I find myself unable to process the knowledge of his passing. I look around and wonder why I'm sad, and I remember the loss we have all felt and again I can't believe he's gone. I'll never believe it. It's not possible. I forget throughout the day, and then it crashes down on me and I stop, pull up youtube, and partake of a greatness we all took for granted, and I'm sorry that I did that. He deserved better. I'm sorry I didn't enjoy the only show I ever saw them perform. I'm sorry I didn't pay for Queen of the Damned when I saw it. I supported it in every way except the way that mattered. I'm sorry I didn't do right by you, Wayne. I wish you were still here. 

Thank you, Wayne Static, Wayne Richard Wells, for gifting us with your talent, your rage, and your work. Metal wouldn't have been the same without you, and it won't be the same again now that you're gone. You will be missed, and you will be missed dearly.