Interview: Mushroomhead

Over the past few decades Mushroomhead have made their mark on the metal scene. They are still one of the most exciting bands around, from their brilliant styles of music in their songs to their eye melting stage theatrics. Jeffrey Nothing speaks to MRD about the career of Mushroomhead, where it all began, and what has happened during it's time.

MRD: Where did the idea of Mushroomhead come from?

Skinny and I had a band called Hatrix, our guitarist talked our bass player into making extra cash playing covers on weekends. Being that Skinny and I now had free time we didn't plan on and not being Musicians who took time off, we sat in our  Jam Room  daytime gear storage room and said: "What are we gonna do now?" We decided to make our dream band, where we made the rules and pushed the envelope to oblivion. It became our side project along with other Musicians from bands who also rehearsed at our new practice space. Oddly enough that Hatrix Guitarist, who later joined the band for 10 years as Gravy, see XIII, Savior Sorrow, Beautiful Stories for Ugly Children, while nicknaming the other guitar player in his cover band, said the name that has now been ours for 21 years. Mushoomhead was born.

In the early 90s Mushroomhead was originally a side project, what was the main reason that Mushroomhead became your main focus?

We noticed that our crowds from as early as our second show, which was offered to us a day after our debut. At the Agora Theater, main support to Gwar, that our Side Project was quickly gaining Steam, whereas our main band Hatrix had more people on the guestlist, than there was paid. There was talk back then that the Novelty would wear off and people would see... Well, Here we are!

Were you influenced slightly by bands like Gwar? 

Yes in the sense that from the start we wanted to be different, very visual and unpredictable, we came from four or five well known Cleveland bands and we wanted people to take this for what it was and not guess as to what they were about to see and hear. Mr. Bungle  and the Residents were also influential in our infancy.

Was it true you did your second ever gig with Mushroomhead supporting Gwar?

Yeah we had done an opening slot at a smaller club, Flash Gordons, which is now a Walgreens  drugstore and someone passed the word to Belkin, the big promoter of the day and there we were. The Crowd started chanting You Suck and We Want Gwar! Great times... We later heard they thought we were Gwar roadies or Band  members themselves ala the X Cops! We ended up doing a short run together, 'til  we found we cut into each others merch sales and it didn't last. We both had a Monster season and Sharing it didn't make as much sense. I miss Dave and I'm so glad Oderus was an everyday visitor during our Soundwave Australia Trek. R. I. P!

You, Skinny and Schmotz are the only consistent members of Mushroomhead, with the other members in place will this line up with the others stick?

Yes, we are the three Amigos, the originators, torch barers if you will.  Some good people have come and gone, a couple maybe not fast enough and 1 has unfortunately left this life completely. R. I. P.  JJ Righteous.  I had a kinda comical working title for " The Righteous & The Butterfly" and it was " It Only Took 19 Years to Get Here" it's funny and it's also serious. We have had a guiding vision since the beginning. Some of our past members wanted to drive. We are in such a better place now. Coming from a like mind and a connected Heart and this makes sense and feels right again and indeed... Righteous!

You played at the House of Blues in LA, how was that show for you guys? From the pictures it looked tremendous.

It was good. Back in the Universal, pre water drum days we were House of Blues regulars. I believe they got tired of our mess. Or maybe the mess we could become for a while. Those places just feel really good, and sound great and Yeah that one was a lot of fun, with Family,  both blood and just because. I Love LA and we do seem to turn it up a notch there, even more than in NYC. 

So has Shockfest tour been everything you have expected? How did the tour go with Insane Clown Posse?

It was fun and very different, met some great friends in Jelly Roll and the ICP guys were great. Guessing if we would have a foot in front of the drums or 3-5 feet was fun and the deciding factor in how many pre show Jager shots I would do that night. Keeping your balance at one foot and between a 5-8' drop could get interesting with 9-10 of us up there. I feel like we were received pretty well for being so far out of genre. But it had been planned for give or take 10 years so it had to happen. The Gathering of the Juggalos is huge and way more colorful, but the tour held it's own in craziness.

Your recent album, The Righteous & The Butterfly, has had critical and fan acclaim, and I have to say it is a great album! Did you anticipate it doing this well?

Yes I honestly did. We had undeniable purpose and I feel like everyone involved felt this one with all senses and gave everything they had. Some Mushroomhead Albums happened in spite of some of us. Getting some people to sessions at times was like pulling teeth. Almost like, "ok, but what do I get out of it?" Music to this band,  at this time is Our Life. This is what we do. I can quite frankly say 2014 is the best year of Mushroomhead and I also feel that this conglomeration is simply getting started and that Church and Dr. F., although they hit it out of the park, in terms of what's to come, they merely got their feet wet. MRH has written together in a lot of different ways. A few members jamming, one guy bringing in a riff or someone with a CD of a few of their pieces, parts ideas. Our new Additions brought full song ideas and at about  24 songs we had to stop them and concentrate on the best. Needless to say J Mann, Waylon and I were in that candy store with the most amazing Canvas any of us had ever heard. Skinny pulled out all the production stops and also had two new drivers in the same said 2 new members. For another perspective while tracking. Plus this is a tribute to friends lost and it simply had to Shine.

Did everything go to plan with the album during recording and production?
Yes it did especially considering we had three singers and two guest vocalist.  We made suggestions to each other and never walked on each others parts. It all just feels Right. We have finally realized that vision from so long ago. We are Mushroomhead through and through for maybe the 1st time. We have had great moments captured in the past but TR&TB is the first time every song is complete. We have had interesting doodles before, interludes if you will. But this is 14 strong songs all very much, who we are. What we have always meant to say and spoken with a determind, positive collective soul, free from ego or pretension. Filthy Hands studio was a hive of serious activity moreso than ever before. It did feel like this one wrote itself. Like it was meant and unstoppable.

Do you ever think of writing songs whilst you're doing ordinary things, like eating toast or drinking beer?
It can hit me very randomly. Most times when I'm in my bed or in my bunk starting to doze off. Or just walking around after the show in the club or on my way to grab some food pre show. I really appreciate the iPod because of the note pad, its much faster than finding a pen and I love having access to a recorder app. If I smoke a lil Cannabis I could never write fast enough. Without it I am writing the 1st line and thinking of the second, with it I am writing the 1st and thinking of the 5th or 6th... So again, all hail Apple. But never beer for me, just shots.

How did you get in contact with Megaforce?
We were in between labels, thinking of self releasing or shopping for a new one and a friend of mine let me kñow they were interested because they had no contact email. I let Skinny know and they came to see us and the rest was quick history. They are a historic Metal Label, Metallica's home when they 1st, really mattered. So it was  Sooo cool to be asked to join them, plus they are very nice people, who get it. Not everyone does get us. Funny thing I did an interview with a Cleveland fanzine called Heavy Metal Demolition back in the late 80's or early 90's and it was a: "What do you want for Christmas" question to members of the local metal scene and 1 of my answers was a Megaforce deal!!!

What is it like signing to a major label? What restrictions and things do you have to bare in mind whilst being under their "command"?
It was Amazing and also kind of Heartbreaking in that you become kind of a commodity. We were fortunate because we have always been a D.I.Y. Band and we understood to get anywhere you have to put in the work, there is no such thing as  we got signed we made it. That's when the real work starts. We were very grateful for the chance and exposure, but we were unfortunate to happen at the explosion of the internet age. Oddly enough we signed our deal just after the planes hit on: 9/11, we also had our 1st meeting with label reps at a Hotel here at home. Finding out later that it had a horrible tragedy happen on its first night open and ran out of interested owners and guests. To this day it sits, an empty lot. Superstition asside, we Made a $250,000 Video and played Ozzfest in the states and in Europe and had our CDs on the endcaps of Record Stores and pics in every Magazine. It was a great experience but they are bottomline looking for Multi- Platinum and we were released from our deal as our second Album and the first solely thru them was released and I would do it againtomorrow. The guy that signed us has since called the CD a Dodo and I feel the industry is still re- inventing itself.

With those masks on, I bet you have made a lot of kids cry. Have you ever made a kid cry wearing your mask?
I have made a member of our crew, while filming one of our videos, Run! I have had kids at our signings aftershow kind of backup and try to hide behind their parents and now and then  while taking pics with some kids for their parents they can't even look at me. Not sure if tears have happened, but fear definitely has.

If you had the choice to swap your face with the mask as a permanent replacement, would you?
That is interesting, I have always found it interesting how much people love creatures from movies and the reaction we get is crazy too. But it would to me get that "thing" hunted down. It is exciting and a little frightening to think about. Forever maybe not but for a while for sure. It would be so crazy to be able to move those hands...to wave, do the metal horns and say F**k You! With my face!

How are the masks designed and made? What clicks your inspiration to make a precise look for them?
Everybody is a little different some see the exact Idea and some  make suggestions and see how it goes and then give the Sculptor notes and have another look. I gave our longtime artist "House" a sketch and some notes and it just somehow never clicked. He did a rough sculpt and brought a couple of his version of my vision around and they just weren't close. I gave our new guy Jason Kisner pretty much the same notes and after that 1st look at a pic and another short talk he nailed it. My idea was for me as a serial killer and prior to attacks on others I self mutilated my face off. Down to the Muscle. Deciding I needed a new face so to speak, I decided to wear a token of my female victims, a reminder, to go. I would use their hands and fingers to form my new: "Bloody Murderhands" mug.  Jason added the third Eye which I feel took it over the top. Quite Handsome don't You think?

You incorporate a lot of music genre into the band, how do you know what music genre goes with another music genre to make a good song?
We have always purposely tried to defy Genre. Nothing should be off limits. Sometimes people whine about lack of continuity but thats like saying, "Why can't You be Normal!?!" Who is to say what works or makes sense and to that point why try? There are a few bands that if you pick any song from any album, I would still be able to tell you who it is and to me, that's just wrong. F**k formula even to the point of the biggest hit.  That will probably be a one hit wonder, nine times out of 10. I prefer our formula, making our art, for us. If other people get it and Love it, Great. We were from the start to a certain extent a crazy experiment. That was fun and as serious as it sometimes gets it should take you somewhere else at the very next turn. Redundance gets, well redundant and I prefer to make it a point of being pointless.

I know you get asked this a lot, but over the years you seem to have quite a rivalry with Slipknot. Has everything settled now between both bands, and why were things bad to begin with?
As it turns out, the label president, who was trying to sign us took it as an insult that we said no to his S**t record deal so deeply that he more or less constructed his own... Us. The deal was a joke and I doubt the wording in their deal was the exact same. To insure their success he hired Ross Robinson as Producer of their debut Album and got them on Ozzfest and put $1,000,000 into Promo. Our fans here at home, who are very loyal to us took this news pretty poorly as well and let their unhappiness be known at their first Cleveland show. A war of words ensued and kept a kind of rivalry going. Fueled by the media it lived way too long. Things have changed since the extremely unfortunate  and way too early passing of members of both bands and Syd has tracked on one of our side projects as well as sharing the stage with us on some tour dates. Hopefully even more is coming up.

Corey Taylor said he'd love to tour with you guy, GWAR and Mudayne. Would you ever consider joining a line up like that to tour the world?
I am very supportive of a Facebook group called Make the Mushroomhead/ Slipknot Tour happen and I am 1,000,000% Down. I am happy Corey is too and hope to make it a kind of "big four" revised and redefined. Visual bands, kind of like a  Monster Ozzfest! bands that have  a like visual element, all day. Touring the world culminating with the close to home US dates in our area of America in the Halloween season. I think it would be the biggest world tour...ever.

There is a small clutch of bands that use masks even on a small scale, would you say you guys were influential in that? 
Yes to some extent, just as all those that came before us. Just as I feel we have been influential as far as the makeup of our band as far as two vocalists singing at once in different styles, with voices intertwining. Kiss was the second concert  I ever saw and horror movies are my movie going choice just as Halloween is the holiday I live, everyday. The idea is to keep reinventing. Other bands should want to grow this look into something totally new. Putting on a mask shouldn't be enough. Push the envelope. Be a 1st somehow. 

Do you plan on something similar like Shockfest to come to the land of Great Britain?
We will have to make it something special. I'd love to do something like that but maybe with one other metal band too. I just want to bring this crazy ride back to your side of the pond. I love the intensity  with which fans live it there. Our crowds are fantastic everywhere we've played but even in the tiniest pub with a slanted  drum riser. Those pits went off and became a part of us. Lets do this!

It's just a little over 21 years since Mushroomhead formed. How much longer do you guys plan on staying together? Do you think you'd be capable of doing a Rolling Stones and gigging in your 70s?

This is what we do, all we kñow and if someone's done we fill a mask with a new driven entity and Rock On! Yes, I see no end. Mushroomhead is more a way of life than a band and our fans keep thankfully recycling. We have been very lucky in that way. Being so much more of an experience, not just a show. You leave singing our songs  and talking about what crazy thing just happened on stage and you keep coming back! That can't be bought and is usually, just a dream.

And last of all: Anything you would like to say to the fans that are reading this?

If you haven't, give "The Righteous & The Butterfly" a listen! Check out the "Qwerty" and "Out Of My Mind" videos. Tell the local Promoters that you need your Mushroomhead Fix Right F**king Now and thanxx for reading my rant.

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Discovery: Interview: Mushroomhead
Interview: Mushroomhead
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