Cleveland, Ohio’s Mushroomhead are a roving mob of a band. Just dropping The Righteous and The Butterfly, on Megaforce Records, their 8th and latest release is yet another theatrically metallic album, and definitely not something you can easily fit into a particular musical category. The ebb and flow of the tracks remain consistent, but this listener was often thrown by how different the tracks were from one and other. It’s a very unique experience that needs to be heard to fully appreciate.
To get some insight on the album and discuss the group’s explosive headlining run and upcoming Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Fest appearances, I caught up with vocalist Jmann over the phone to talk about the group’s lengthy history, the new album (of course), and what it’s like to be in a band for 20+ years and all it entails.
(Oh yeah… The whole Slipknot/Mushroomhead/Mudvayne tour idea that’s been in the news lately? I’m totally into that and would love to see all 3 of these awesome bands share a stage.)
G- Jmann, thank you very much for taking the time to speak with Live High Five today! How is everything going today, man?
J- Thank you for having us and things are going great! The tour is going well and the record just came out. The feedback seems pretty positive, so we’re pretty excited.
G- That’s awesome, and you guys just had your release show and a couple of dates up to the release in Ohio, playing at the Agora Ballroom for the actual release show… How was that show because Cleveland LOVES their Mushroomhead!
J- Oh man it was INSANE! I think it was 120 degree inside and totally sold out. Our Cleveland fans have always been there for us, so it was something we wanted to do at home to give them the opportunity to buy the record first and hear the record first. It’s just our way of paying them back for 21 years of loyalty.
G- Yeah man, and this is the first album in 4 years. Again, it dropped on Tuesday on Megaforce Records, and this one is a special one because it’s dedicated to original guitarist JJ Righteous and Skinny’s wife Vanessa, who both passed away. Tell us about the experience in the studio this time around. How is everybody feeling about the record?
J- Everyone feels really good about the record. Like you said, it was a very emotional record to make, but it was also very cathartic. It gave us a way to channel our emotions and try to make something positive out of such tragic losses. It was definitely something we needed, and I think it brought the band even closer than its ever been in 21 years.
G- That’s good to hear, because there are also a couple of other things going on with this record. One of those is your return to the fold, and the other is Church and Dr. F. recording debut with Mushroomhead.
Starting off with yourself, how was the return to the studio, and then how about Church and Dr. F. how they handled themselves as well.
J- Well, it was more like a family reunion. We’ve always been like a family and we’ve always been like brothers. When I was gone, I always stayed in touch with the guys. We worked together on some side projects and I played some shows regionally. So, even though I was not on the records, I was still part of the Mushroomhead family.
Honestly, I think we were just waiting for the right time to do it. It was something we always talked about. Initially, it was ‘You should sing a couple of songs on this record’ or that record. Then, when JJ passed, it was like… We started to realize how fragile life really was and how rare it is to have a creative bond with people. I think that made us appreciate what we have, and life itself, more. So, that really was the catalyst to me coming back I would say.
And a lot of it was timing as well. Getting back to Chruch and Dr. F., those guys have been working with the band, and I think the greatest service they did for the band is actually acknowledging the history of the band. They went out of their way to write material from every era of the band, rather than just say ‘This is me and my sound, and this is how we’re going to sound now.’ They were huge with kind of reacquainting us with our past.
G- Cool. This album hit me differently… it’s definitely Mushroomhead, but there is a lot of nice variety going on, and it sounds like a good return to form.
How do you feel it fits in with the grand scheme of your output? I mean, with 8 albums, that’s a deep catalogue you guys have.
J- Yeah. Well, I think it was a logical next step, but I also think that it really encompasses the prior 7 records. That’s what we wanted to do… We wanted to touch on every record and we wanted to have something to offer everyone.
When the band started out, it was meant to be eclectic and have a wide variety of music. I think the last couple of records started to get pigeonholed into being just a metal band, and that was never what we really set out to be.
J- That’s why there is more piano, and a lot more keyboards, and a lot more different styles. It’s very aggressive, but it’s very melodic.
What the blueprint was in 1993 was… It took a couple of decades, but I think we’ve achieved it.
G- Right on. And getting into some of the more intricate aspects of the album, I want to talk about the recording process. You were with Bill Korecky, who did the “Firestorm” EP by Syracuse’s Own Earth Crisis. Sorry, I had to throw that in there.
J- That is one of my favorite Hardcore releases ever!
G- Tell me about it!
J- Our first 2 records were recorded in that same studio before he moved. He did a lot of great Hardcore. He did all the early Integrity records, all the Ringworm records, so he’s definitely known for Hardcore and heavier music. It was a pleasure to work with him.
Honestly, we recorded the album at our own studio called Filthy Hands, and it was engineered by our drummer Skinny. We took it to Bill to mix because we trust his ear. We’ve got a 20+ year relationship with him, and when you’re so close to a record working on it, you need that outside opinion to help balance things so you’re not biased. So, he was really instrumental in that, and it was awesome to work with him again.
G- Ahh ok my apologies for the mistake. I thought Bill did all the recording as well. Well if that is the case, how long would you say the record took to record in and out the way you guys wanted it to sound?
J- Honestly, it happened in stages. The band is a touring band year round, so they would go out on tour for 6 weeks, this was before I came back, and then they would come back and we would work on this for 6 weeks. Then, they would go out for 2 weeks, and they’d come back and we’d work on this for 2 months.
So, it was just chipping away at it a little at a time. I’d say it was really over the course of last Summer that it really gelled, leading up to the 20th Anniversary tour that happened in September. By the time that tour started, the record was done and mixed. We just had to have it mastered and do the layout, which took another 6 months.
G- Ok, and before we get onto the live shows coming up, I want to ask about the Adele cover of “Rumor Has It.” This is NOT the first time. you’ve done a cover that is maybe a bit unexpected from Mushroomhead… How did this come about?
J- With that song… When you start to make a record, you just try to get good sounds. Good drum sounds, good guitar tones. That’s basically how that song came about.
Before there was any material for the record, we had to start getting sounds. I forget who in the band suggested it, but it didn’t matter what we were playing because we were just looking for sounds. Once we recorded it, it was just kinda cool!
It really was! It wasn’t until the very last minute that it made the record. It was just sitting around. We did a couple of changes to it, to the chorus, because we didn’t want it to sound just like hers. So, it wasn’t until we started bringing some of the electronics into it that it was different enough. Originally, it was just going to be a hidden track, but then we put the name on it after all (laughs).
G- I dig it.
Now, we have to talk about Mayhem Fest. A lot of people, myself included, are really looking forward to the lineups, and you guys are a big part of this… What are your plans for the run? Will you guys be pulling out a lot of back catalogue, or have any secrets that you can share if I may ask?
J- We don’t have any secrets at the moment. We kinda take our tours one at a time. We have a month off before the tour, so I think that’s where we’ll really buckle down and figure out how we want to be presented.
We’re really looking forward to it! We’re friends with a lot of the bands on it. We just got done doing Soundwave in Australia and a lot of the bands on Mayhem were over there, so we just did a festival with all of them on the other side of the world and it’ll be cool to reconnect with them here in America.
You know, Avenged Sevenfold was on it, and Korn was on it. It’s almost like an American version of that, slightly scaled down, so we’re looking forward to that. We’re definitely looking forward to playing outdoors in the Summer… It’s always fun!
G- Awesome! And obviously, you’re gonna be out there representing Cleveland and representing Mushroomhead, but you’ve got a stacked bill on the tour and a lot are your friends: Who are you most excited to see on the festival everyday?
J- I would have to say the Avenged Sevenfold guys because we go back so long. I’ve know those guys since 2002.
In fact, Mushroomhead took those guys out on their first national tour, and it’s been a real joy to watch them become not only the band, but the men, they’ve become. They’ve got families and they’re great guys. I’ve always stayed in touch with them and the coolest part is, even though they’re one of the most successful bands in Rock and Roll, they’ve stayed humble and they haven’t changed. Sometimes you’ll know someone when they’re small, and then they get huge and forget your name. Not these guys. It’s a pleasure to see them.
G- That’s excellent!
Ok I have 2 last questions for you today. First, obviously you’re on a headlining tour right now and you’ve got Mayhem Fest coming up… Any other plans for 2014? Will you guys be hitting the international market with the new release?
J- Yeah definitely we’re going to do that. We just had some offers from South America and Japan. At the end of February and early March, we did Australia, and then last week we just got back from Moscow, which was interesting.
G- Oh wow yeah I bet!
J- With the political climate that is going on right now, it was pretty intense. But we made it out alive.
G Very good!
And to finish up today, again 20+ years as a band is a strong testament to creativity. Mushroomhead has 8 solid release and you’re still going strong with no intention of stopping.
The music industry has changed dramatically since you guys got into it, and it’s still changing, but there will always be kids that want to pick up guitars and microphones and drum sticks to try and do what you’re doing. From your experience, give these kids some wisdom about how to navigate this crazy world of music.
J- Well, like I was talking about with the Avenged guys, humility is a lot of it. If you get into this thinking you’re going to be a rock star, rich, or famous, you’re doing it for the wrong reasons. I promise you that you’ll be disappointed and you won’t last long.
We call people like that in the business “tourists.” They’re just vacationing here. The others are “lifers.” That’s the biggest advice. I really think that if you get into it for the right reasons, and lead with your heart and your passion, that you’ll be ok.
G- Excellent! Well thank you again very much for taking the time to speak with Live High Five today! Travel safe, play super hard, and we’re looking forward to seeing you guys on Mayhem Fest very soon!
J- Cool thank you very much for your time. We really appreciate it!
G- My pleasure.
07/05 San Bernardino, CA – San Manuel Amphitheater
07/06 Mountain View, CA – Shoreline Amphitheater
07/08 Auburn, WA – White River Amphitheatre
07/11 Phoenix, AZ – Ak-Chin Pavilion
07/12 Albuquerque, NM – Isleta Amphitheatre
07/16 Maryland Heights, MO – Verizon Wireless Amphitheater
07/17 Clarkston, MI – DTE Energy Music Theatre
07/19 Noblesville, IN – Klipsch Music Center
07/20 Tinley Park, IL – First Midwest Bank Ampitheatre
07/22 Mansfield, MA – Xfinity Center
07/23 Saratoga, NY – Saratoga Performing Arts Center
07/25 Toronto, ONT – Molson Amphitheatre
07/26 Burgettstown, PA – First Niagara Pavilion
07/27 Hartford, CT – Xfinity Theatre
07/29 Darien Center, NY – Darien Lake
08/01 Camden, NJ – Susquehanna Bank Center
08/02 Scranton, PA – The Pavilion At Montage Mountain
08/03 Bristow, VA – Jiffy Lube Live
08/05 Atlanta, GA – Lakewood Amphitheatre
08/07 Oklahoma City, OK – Oklahoma Zoo Amphitheatre
08/09 Dallas, TX – Gexa Energy Pavilion
08/10 The Woodlands, TX – Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion