Mushroomhead, the Cleveland, OH based Industrial Metal band, celebrated their 20 year anniversary last fall and this year they released their eighth studio album entitled, 'The Righteous & the Butterfly.' Fans and critics regard this fourteen-track release to be possibility the band's best ever. This career defining CD sold 11,000 copies the first week of release, debuting #20 on the Billboard Top 200, the highest chart position of the band's career.
In addition, on July 5th, Mushroomhead will be embarking on one of this summer's biggest hard rock tours - the Rockstar Mayhem tour, commencing on July 5th. The traveling popular festival will play amphitheaters all across North America, and features headliners Korn, Avenged Sevenfold, and Ice-T's - Body Count.
What follows is an exclusive interview with one of Mushroomhead's vocalists - J Mann. During this interview we discussed his return to the band, the new CD, and much more.
Rock Music Star: First of all J, I want to say congratulations on your return back into Mushroomhead, and on the new CD, 'Righteous & the Butterfly,' which is a brutal release and a welcomed return back to the band's signature sound.
JM: Oh, thank you very much. We appreciate that.
RMS: It must be pretty gratifying to see how the fans responded to it. The CD debut at #20 on the charts.
JM: Yeah, that’s actually kind of mind-blowing to me. I think it exceeded our wildest expectations. The last record I did with the band, I think we peaked at #40, so, to crack the top 20 with a record on an independent label is pretty cool.
RMS: It’s also impressive, because the band’s been away for a while, and the style of music that you perform really isn’t the flavor of the day; it must really show that your fans are really pretty loyal, and were really looking forward to a new release.
JM: Yeah, we have the best fans in the world, as far as a really loyal, strong fan base. They went out and really supported the record. I think a lot of it has to do with just their dedication, and also, it being available on multiple formats, like actually having it available on vinyl, which I’m happy to see is making a comeback, because I love records. CD, vinyl, the whole bit. I know a lot of the fans went out and bought a copy of each. I think that’s why it did so well in the first week.
RMS: That’s a good point. I think a lot of people that buy the vinyl buy it mainly for collective purposes, not necessarily to play.
JM: Right, right.
RMS: What led to your decision in rejoining Mushroomhead?
JM: Well, even though I wasn’t in the band for quite a few years, we still always kind of worked together. We would do an old school show every year. I would do a Halloween show with them every year. There was a time when Waylon actually got sick- he got laryngitis- so I filled in for a few days for him. So, we’ve always stayed close, as friends. So, it wasn’t really that out of the realm of possibility. And then, it just kind of happened with the 20th year anniversary coinciding with them recording the new album. Initially, I was just going to sing a couple of songs on the record just to, you know, just to get back with the fans and everything. As we were working on the record, everything just started falling into place, and it was so much fun to work on. After I did the initial two songs I was going to do, they’d be like, “Hey, have you got an idea for this?” They’d pull up another one. I’d be like, “Sure! Let’s do that!” I’d sing another song. After a couple of weeks, I actually looked up and said, “How many songs am I on?” I started counting them, and they’re like, “You’re basically on the whole record.” I was like, “Well, we’ve got this 20th anniversary tour coming up, anyways.” I was like, “I guess I’m back in the band!” It just worked out, and it really wasn’t strategic or anything, it just kind of unfolded naturally. It wasn’t forced. There was no agenda behind it. It wasn’t for hype, or sales, or money. It was out of sincerity, passion, and our love for each other.
RMS: You must have been pretty happy with the material you were hearing at first.
JM: Oh, absolutely! Church and Dr. F, man, they came through. And the coolest thing about that is, when they joined the band, it wasn’t like they really wanted to set out and make a name for themselves. They wanted Mushroomhead to get back to sounding like Mushroomhead, because I think some people were a little confused by the last record- there just weren’t as many keyboards on it; it wasn’t as eclectic or different as some as the prior records, I think. I think that they really set out to do that; to bring the keyboards back, and bring a lot more versatility to the table. And they did. They’re both phenomenal musicians. That’s another reason why I was really excited to work on it. Because it’s like, “Ok, I’ll do a song or two, whatever.” But then, when I heard the material, I was like, “Man, this is great! This is the strongest stuff you guys have done in years!” It made it a pure joy to work with them.
RMS: Like you said, it’s a very diverse record. It’s very interesting; sonically, it’s all over the place. It’s very powerful. I’m glad that you guys got back to that sound, it definitely distinguishes Mushroomhead from other bands, and I think it’s good that you’re back there. Now, there are two new members of the band. You mentioned Church - he’s one, and there’s also Ryan Farrell.
JM: Yeah, we call him “Dr. F.” That’s who I was talking about. He’s our bass player, but he’s a lot more than just a bass player. He’s a trained musician; he’s got a degree in music. He understands a lot about music- theory and things like that. He contributed some panel parts, and just brought some really cool and different ideas to the table. He’s actually also in - Jeffrey, he’s got a side project, called “Nothing.” That’s kind of like, his solo project. And Ryan, he wrote that record with Jeff. So, he and Jeff already had kind of an established relationship, and he’s been kind of around our camp for years, even before he was in the band. So, it was logical to get him. He actually plays guitar in that band. Like I said, he’s like an 5:44 instrumentalist, and he’s got a music degree. So, he was absolutely perfect.
RMS: Very cool. Weren’t you involved with Church in one of your projects, also?
JM: Yes. Skinny’s in that, as well. That’s kind of what got Skinny and I working together. Again, unfortunately, when our original guitar player, John J.J. Righteous Sekula, he passed away. I think he passed away in the fall, and then Skinny and I really reconnected then, because, I think it humbled both of us. We saw how short and fragile life can be, and how important it was to keep the ones you love close, especially when you’ve got a creative kind of soul mate like Skinny and I have always been. So, right after J.J. passed, we wanted to immediately get in the studio and just kind of mess around and feel each other out, because we hadn’t made a record together in quite a few years. And, I think that was like, the first step in me coming back to the band, was working on that project. And, it also gave me a relationship with Church, who I had just met. Like, we were friends, just getting to know each other. Skinny’s like, “Alright, I’m gonna go get some dinner, you guys work.” So, we’re sitting in the studio together, and we barely know each other. It really just kind of clicked. It was a good working relationship, and it turned into a really good friendship. So, that was definitely the first step to me coming back. And it was, like I said, the first time Skinny and I worked on some music together in quite a few years, and it was such a pleasure to do that. But, after that, we started another 10,000 Cadillacs record, which is kind of like, our hip hop kind of project. We just finished that record up. So, everything just kind of lined up and fell into place. The stars aligned (laughs).
RMS: Did being away from the band make you appreciate being in the band right now?
JM: Yeah, I think it definitely does. When a band is around for as long as this band’s been around, you kind of have your ups and downs as far as how passionate you are about it, or sometimes, when it has such an effect on your life, and it becomes a job, it sometimes can turn into resentment, because it is dictating your life. I think the time away has made me get way past any of that to where it’s a pleasure to be back, it’s a privilege to be back, and it’s no longer a thing that can be taken for granted, you know what I mean?
RMS: Totally. Not only has your record sold well, and your fans have responded with approval, but you're also on the Rock Star Mayhem tour. You will be playing in front of thousands of people every night. That must be pretty exciting.
JM: Yeah, it’s going to be fantastic. We’re really looking forward to it. I think this is the first full festival tour the band has done since we did Ozzfest when I was in the band 10 years ago. So, I mean, not many bands can do that- can like, play a festival 10 years ago, and then come back 10 years later and still be valid. We’re really looking forward to it. A lot of these bands, we actually just played a big festival over in Australia called “Soundwave,” and a lot of the bands on Mayhem were on that, as well. So, it’s going to be fun catching up with them. Like, Avenged Sevenfold was on it, Korn was on it - we did some offstage with Korn - so, we kind of got to know them for the first time and started to build a relationship with them. Suicide Silence was on it. So, a good portion of this tour that we are about to do, we just kind of did an Australian version of it back in February, so it’s going to be fun reconnecting with everybody.
RMS: When will Mushroomhead be playing on this bill? Are you going on early, are you playing later?
JM: Well, we’re not on the main stage. And, the one cool thing that I think Mayhem does is, there aren’t really competing stages. The main stage doesn’t start until the other stages are done. So, I don’t think we have an exact set time yet, but we’re definitely going to be on probably earlier in the day, I would imagine, because I think the main stage probably starts around five or six, so everything’s wrapped up on the side stages by then. So, we’ll probably be on, I would guess between like 12 o’clock and 2 o’clock, something like that. I won’t know yet, but the tour starts, I think, in eight days. So, I think we’ll find out all the logistics when we actually get there.
RMS: A lot of bands like playing on the second stage because it’s a little more intense than playing in the amphitheater. Do you agree with that?
JM: Yeah. Oh, yeah. I definitely like it better, and I like playing early in festivals because- we noticed this on Soundwave, as well- when you play earlier, everybody gets there early, anyways. People have a lot more energy, they might be a little more sober (laughs), you know what I mean? They haven’t been sunburnt yet. So, there’s a great enthusiasm that happens early in the day, you know? It’s like nothing’s had time to go wrong yet.
RMS: Yeah. Do you know how long your set list is going to be?
JM: I’m pretty sure it’s about 30 minutes. So, we’re probably looking at about seven or eight songs, I would imagine.
RMS: Yeah, how are you going to divide that up? You have to play some new stuff…
JM: Oh, yeah. Absolutely. Well, we’re going to try and play some of the recognizable singles, especially some of the universal stuff. I’m sure we’ll be playing mostly the stuff that we did videos for, that people are most familiar with. But, we also definitely have to play some new material, so we’re probably going to play at least two or three off of the new album, as well. And, we’re already talking about coming out with like, a rotating set list, so we can switch it up every day, as far as the new songs go. Like I said, the past singles, the most recognizable stuff- that’ll probably stay as like, the foundation of the set, and then we’re probably gonna just swap out new material every other day, or something like that.
RMS: That’s pretty cool. What do you do in all of your down time? You play for 30 minutes, and then you have the whole day. What do you find yourself doing, usually?
JM: Well, the coolest thing about that is, this band is normally a headlining band. So, normally, you wait all day to play, and then by the time you finish playing, the club is empty and everyone had to go home. So, the cool thing about this is, you get to be a music fan, for one. I get to go and actually watch other bands, catch up with some of my friends, get to hang out with other fans, or just hang out in the crowd and just kind of mingle with everybody. I think that that’s the coolest part about it.
RMS: Yeah. So, are there any bands that you’re looking forward to seeing out on the tour?
JM: I’m looking forward to seeing Ice-T, I’m looking forward to seeing Cannibal Corpse; I think that’s going to be really cool. Like I said, we’re friends with a couple of these bands, especially the Avenged Sevenfold guys, so it’s going to be great to be out with them all summer, because we’ve known those guys for over a decade. As a matter of fact, I think we took them on their first national tour. The coolest thing about them is, they’re a hugely successful band, but they remained really down to Earth and really humble, you know? They didn’t turn into rock stars, even though they are rock stars. But, they didn’t turn into it in the bad sense of the word. They take the time out for you; we’re still friends. I’ve got a side project that Matt actually sang on for me, just as a favor, because we’re buddies. I’m looking forward to spending six, seven weeks with those guys. It’s going to be great because we really get to catch up.
RMS: Now, there’s been some rumors going around about a possible Mushroomhead/Slipknot tour. Have you heard anything about that? Can you give us any information if that’s been brought to your attention, at all?
JM: Well, you know, the only stuff I’m seeing is the stuff Corey has said on some of the websites. I thought that was also really cool of him. Obviously, that band is hugely successful, and obviously the media is trying to create some sort of beef between us that really never existed, it was just, people were trying to sell newspapers, or magazines, or whatever. So, I thought that was really cool, that he suggested it. I think the bands would like it. We would love the opportunity, because I think they’re a phenomenal band. Fortunately, I had an opportunity to meet and hang out with Paul from that band before he passed away. He was just an absolute saint of a man, and just a great guy. Getting back to that hip hop project I was telling you about that Skinny and I have - Sid actually came out to our studio. He recorded a couple of songs with the turntables on it for us. So, it seems like we’re definitely getting a lot closer to working more and more together. So, I hope it really does pan out. Obviously, they still have to get back together, go in the studio, make a new record, and everything on their level. But, we’re ready to answer the call anytime it comes in. We would just love the opportunity, and, like I said, I’m flattered that he even mentioned us. I thought that was really cool of him.
RMS: When you go on stage, how do you feel? I’ve spoken with other artists before, and some people say that, when they’re on stage, it seems like everything goes really fast. I’ve spoken with other musicians who say it seems like it’s in slow motion. What is that experience like, going out on stage and playing in front of all of those people?
JM: It’s a lot of adrenaline, and the adrenaline kind of just really takes over. Sometimes, it does feel like a blink of an eye. The coolest thing, and especially in our situation, with the look of our band and the theatrics of our band, is it’s like you almost get to become another character. I don’t know if you’ve ever maybe been to a costume party, or a masquerade party, but as soon as you kind of put something on, you become someone else. I think that’s the most interesting thing- losing yourself in the show, and just kind of letting the adrenaline and character take over.
RMS: Has your level of adrenaline ever gotten you in trouble, where you destroy anything or hurt anybody on stage?
JM: No, I’ve never really hurt anyone on stage, but sometimes- I had an episode here… We were doing a show, we were opening for Soulfly, and we’re the opening band so you obviously don’t get all the monitors and everything that you need, or the sound check. This was the Cleveland show; this was like our hometown. So, I went over to the monitor guy, and I asked him if he could turn my mic up, and he flipped me off, and I just kind of lost it. I basically turned the crowd on him. I said, “This guy just fucking flipped me off and told me to fuck off! What do you guys wanna do about that?” And they started tearing the barricade down. So, the next thing you know, they take this monitor guy off the stage, they hide him somewhere backstage. Someone else has gotta come and fill in, and then after the show, I was being arrested for inciting a riot. And, the only reason I didn’t go to jail is because Max from Soulfly actually came running out and said, “You can’t take him away, or I’m not playing. And then you’ll really have a riot on your hands.” So, they had to let me go because Max kind of had my back.
RMS: Oh, wow. That’s crazy.
JM: Yeah. I thought that was cool as shit. He and I had never met prior to that, but he was like, “No. No way. He’s not going anywhere.” I still have to thank the man, to this day, for that.
RMS: Wow, that is awesome. I wanna talk about your image. How did your image come about? How did you design that? What were the thoughts behind it?
JM: When we originally started the band, the reason we kind of did the whole mask thing was because we were all in pretty well-established bands here in Cleveland, and when we wanted to come out, we didn’t really want anyone to know who was in the band.
RMS: At any point, did the band consider relocating from Cleveland to either New York City or Los Angels, like so many bands eventually do?
JM: There may be some people that frown on Cleveland, but it’s always been home to us. Cleveland has also treated us extremely well. The Cleveland music scene has always been really supportive of us. So, the thought of moving away never even occurred to us. We would have never sold out our city for success, ever. Cleveland is the reason why we are able to go to Australia and Russia. Cleveland is a huge reason why we had a top 20 record. We couldn’t have done any of this without our loyal supporters in Cleveland.
For more on Mushroomhead, visit their official site at www.mushroomhead.com
Special thanks to Doug Weber and Dana Kaiser.