“This version of Mushroomhead is probably the most focused”
Ahead of their gig in Manchester last Wednesday, ROCKFLESH sent Sarah to interview Mushroomhead’s very own Skinny. Here’s what they had to say about Amplified, their new record, ICP, and taking on Japan…
“Skinny, thank you so much for meeting with me today! How have the last few nights here in the UK been?”
Great, great! Last night was the second show of the tour and it was really hot. Really humid
(Jackie added “They said it’s never usually like this here”)
We were saying it was very thick, it was thick in the air and about five songs in I was fucking soaked. But then Robbie and I switch so I get to play water drums for the last half. I think I was more wet from playing the drums than I was from the water drums. It was a great show though, we had a blast!
“You were supposed to be playing Amplified this weekend? Such a shame about what happened to it…”
Yes. This whole entire tour was built around us headlining that festival!
“Rockflesh were coming down for it, we were very excited!”
Yeah, there was us and Jinjer and a lot of really good bands, we were looking forward to seeing it and being a part of it. But you know, this tour, we built it around that festival and when we heard it had been cancelled we were like “Well, whatever, we’re still going!!!”. Did I hear it’s now booked in Birmingham? Asylum is where they’ve put us? We did get a make-up show. I mean, it’s not a festival, but we’re fine with it. You know, we still love playing the clubs.
“I did a phone interview with Gary (Paterson – Amplified organiser) about a day before the festival was cancelled. Obviously we’ve chosen not to publish that interview or what was discussed in it, but one of the things I really enjoyed chatting to Gary about was his choice of headliners and he genuinely couldn’t heap more praise on Mushroomhead. He said you were an excellent choice of headliner because you were very much now in the ‘Cult Band’ category. Would you say that’s a fair way to describe Mushroomhead?”
Yeah, absolutely. We’ve been a very underground band with a cult following for a while now. It seems like in the very early 2000s when we were with Universal they were trying to make us a little more mainstream and I think at the time people just didn’t get it. People were either into the rap rock or they were into the more extreme metal and it was like we were too friendly for the real extreme metallers, but then we were too heavy for the radio rock and the pop rock. So we didn’t really find a niche. We just stuck with own our game plan and just did our own thing and it that is continued to have the longevity. Even more so then we had ever imagined. You know, we seen the fans lining up earlier with the face paint and their own masks, tattoos of our logo… It’s just awesome to see. But yeah, I agree, we’re very much an underground cult type of thing, and we’re trying to break that a little bit but we’ll never lose our underground roots.
“How would you describe your own sound? Is that a particularly genre you think you fit into?”
Genre wise we’ve mixed in with all types of music and styles. For example, last time we were here was November 2017, we were supporting the Insane Clown Posse, who are straight up hip-hop and rap, and I think we’ve got some of those elements mixed into Mushroomhead. We’ve got the electronic, and even.. I don’t want to say pop, but we can switch between the things like metal to rap to edm to hip-hop because we have a lot of that within us and within our music. Sometimes we’re very dark and doom and gloom. I’m a big fan of the doom stuff because the sounds just become so big.
As far as putting a label on us though, that’s always been a hard one. People call us alternative, or nu-metal. Or even shock rock! I just call it Mushroomhead.
“So avoiding the obvious questions about band politics, Mushroomhead have faced some massive changes in the last few years…”
We’ve had massive changes from band members to record labels and I think that the focus on the future right now feels like we finally have everybody on the same page.
“Has the creativity within Mushroomhead been affected in a positive way?”
Yes! It’s very positive. The new music we’re writing is for a Napalm release and there is a musical maturity that’s come out of it. Everything is very focused and it has a direction. Like some of these songs, I say they write themselves. It’s really cool. We’ll know right away if we’re working on something and it’s a good one, because it will make the hair on the back of your neck stand up. Or if we’ve been working on something for too long, we’ll drop it because that one isn’t doing what all the other songs are doing, back to the bottom of the pile with it. If it seems like it’s not happening fast enough it’s probably because we’re trying too hard and the last thing we want to do is come off as contrived. We’re way more about the artistry of creating the songs and I think personally, that’s what I am addicted to, the creation of things. The music, the videos, the masks. Just the whole concept of where the new album is headed. That’s my big thing because I get to have my hands in quite a bit of it. From the production of the music to the engineering to the editing, as well as playing drums and helping with the singers.
“Mushroomhead are known for their stunning theatrical performances. Is it yourself that comes up with all the ideas like the water drums, or is it a group thing?”
It’s a bit of everyone. I probably throw a lot of the ideas out there and then we try them and see which ones of them work and which ones don’t, and then everyone kind of chimes in and tweaks things. ST1TCH has a lot to do with the look and the presentation of the band, and helps with production decisions like how the lightings going to be, and what back drops we’re going to use, how we can change things up. So no, it’s not me 100%, I definitely need everyone to do this and I am very lucky that this version of Mushroomhead is the most focused. We’re all on the same page. You know, we’ve had a lot of versions…
This is year 26 of us playing, so we’re hoping not to reinvent the wheel but to put some new life into it.
“Last year saw the release of ‘Volume 3’ (DVD). What was the fans reaction to that DVD?”
They loved it. It was actually a lot of work. It covered the touring cycle from “Righteous and The Butterfly”. In between the videos there were some slow-mo live clips and some of the bands personal phone captured videos. It covered the globe from Australia to Moscow and all over the states. The fans really seemed to react positively to it because there was a personal end to it that I guess people wouldn’t normally get to see. People get to see the “Rawr! It’s scary Mushroomhead” side of us, so we got a lot of positive feedback from these clips where people could just see us on the bus, or seeing us in the videos of things that we captured ourselves and the things that we’re personal to us. It was nice to be able to share something that wasn’t just 100% production, just share stuff that was day to day. And then there were the videos, some of them were just over the top. The “We are the truth” one was a tribute to the Evil Dead movies. We’re all huge horror movie fans as you can imagine, so we did that video over a couple of days and it was a lot of fun. I don’t think many of us slept whilst we did it and we had a huge crew. The cast was just the band, but the crew who did the lighting, the cameras, the make-up, they were all amazing. That was probably my favourite to film out of all of them.
“I heard you were recording in Abbey Road very recently?”
Monday just gone! We just did it. It was awesome. This is the second time we’ve done a recording there. We’ve been slowly but surely building more material for the new album, and this time around it was even more fun because we’ve been working on the album in the states so I brought the rough mixes over and I kind of knew what songs we were going to work on.
The problem was we only had half a day. We flew in, got dropped straight off at Abbey, and then after that had to hurry off and make it to sound check. We hadn’t even played our first show but we’d done our recording at Abbey. Everyone must have been up for a good 72 hours between the flights and everything. But it was worth it, the tracks we got out of Abbey are dynamite and I can’t wait to put them together.
Last time we did a session at Abbey Road and we did another song that Jackie sings. I think she’s got 4 tracks on the new album, and half of them were done at Abbey Road. I find that pretty neat. The place is epic. You just walk around and it’s so nostalgic. Everyone thinks of Abbey Road and they think of the Beatles or maybe Pink Floyd, but they record all the film soundtracks there with the orchestra and you don’t really realise until you’re standing there watching them set up to record the orchestra and you walk down the hall and see all the Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Harry Potter… Look at it online, the list just goes on and on. The place is amazing, I can’t wait to go back.
“What’s the greatest challenge you’ve overcome as band?”
Probably every bands greatest challenge is finding the finances to continue to be comfortable. Comfort isn’t really something that stays. I think comfort zones are meant to be parked in and you just get in and out of them sometimes. I think the main problem is the finances, especially being such a large band like we are. I made a joke about us being a four piece and being a lot better off. I’m sure a lot of bands struggle with that.
Then there’s whole day to day challenges. Do 180 shows a year, everyone trapped on a bus together. Trying not to get stressed, trying to keep everyone on the same page. That’s a bit of challenge as well but we seem to do ok. Any band that does 150, 180 shows a year and has to be on the bus, or even in a van which is even more frustrating, they will understand. The biggest thing is to not let that get in the way and keep your eye on the prize. If you still enjoy making art and music then it shouldn’t be that much of a problem. You’re on a bus but you’re touring the world and playing in front of fans, so it’s what you signed up for.
But yeah, finances are the number one problem we’ve had. It gets tough, there’s 8 of us, that’s a lot of mouths to feed.
“What’s your favourite song in tonight’s set?”
We’ve just added it back into the set in the early spring when we were supporting ICP in the states. We are big fans of the series Game of Thrones and the final episodes were playing out whilst we were on that tour. I’ve been following it forever. A couple of years back we were invited to do a track on the GoTs mixtape so there’s a track called “Among the Crows” and we’ve kept it for this tour as well. I’ts very upbeat, it’s got a big powerful hook and we just love playing it. It’s a bit of a rare one because it’s not on any of our albums. I guess the hardcore fans really know. Whether we like the ending of GoTs or not, we’re playing it, we like the song!
“You’ve mentioned the ICP tour a few times, those guys are infamous for their crazy antics. Do you have any crazy tour stories of your own?”
I’ve got so many crazy stories that I don’t know where to begin.
I think with the ICP the best part of it all is when we’d get off stage and we could sit back and watch them do their thing that they call Faygo Armageddon. They have all their fans come up and spray Faygo and so every now and then we’d sneak in there. Change our costumes. I think Jackie all her hair in plastic bags, and a hat on, so you couldn’t really tell it was her. It was fun to just get out there and be on their stage and not having to worry performing. Only had to worry about spraying the Faygo.
Jackie – I couldn’t get mine to spray damn it! My thumb couldn’t cover the top of it properly!!!
Yeah her thumbs too little, you gotta really shake it up. But yeah, we definitely have a blast with those guys.
“What do you hope the future will bring for Mushroomhead?”
I’m hoping this new album will go off without a hitch and everyone receives it well. This is our 8th album, over 26 years. Sometimes bands get stale or the sound becomes the same. You don’t want to write that same song over and over. It’s been really fun writing this one. Sometimes the stress of the deadline gets in the way but this record has been nothing but creativity. I’m hoping that the world can tell that when they listen to it. It’s not some contrived record, it’s not the same old Mushroomhead they’ve heard before. This one is going to be slightly different.
“You’re going to hit year 30 of Mushroomhead before you know it! You must have some big dreams for that?”
I’m hoping to get to Japan! We’ve never done Japan. It’s the big one. As much as everyone says their opinion… I want to go on tour with Baby Metal in Japan. Come on, get us opening for Baby Metal. They are huge, so interesting to watch! But yeah, Japan is the bucket list for year 30 and I really hope that this album gets us there. I hope it gives us the push we’ve been trying to get for 20 odd years.
“You’ll get there my friend! Thank you so much for your time today”