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Denver Hard Rock Examiner interview: Skinny of Mushroomhead

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In just a few short weeks, the one and only Mayhem Festival will arrive here in Colorado. Korn, Avenged Sevenfold and Trivium will be headlining a five band set at Red Rocks on July 14, while the second stage bands will be playing the Fillmore Auditorium a day earlier.

The art-metal musicians of Mushroomhead will be among the headlining acts at A Taste Of Mayhem, and I had the privilege to speak with drummer and founding member Skinny by phone in anticipation of the big show. Be sure to grab your tickets to both Mayhem Festival and A Taste Of Mayhem at Ticketmaster.com.

Examiner: Hey Skinny, how are you today?

Skinny: Hey, how you doing bro?

Examiner: I’m alright,I know you’re on the road to Colorado right now.

Skinny: Yeah, we’re just outside beautiful Kansas.

Examiner: Well you guys are coming to Denver for the Mayhem Festival in July, but you’re also playing a show in Grand Junction here in Colorado tonight too. How’s this current tour treating you?

Skinny: So far so good, it’s only the third show in but we’ve been pretty busy. Back in February we did Australia Soundwave, and since we got back we got some video stuff done, we went to Moscow and did a one-off in Russia, came back to promote the new album The Righteous & The Butterfly , filmed another video and now we’re back on the road. The album’s been well received so that’s a pleasant surprise, man.

Examiner: Yeah, I’ve been hearing QWERTY on satellite radio and web sites, you’re getting a lot of attention for the single and the whole record just has that cool Mushroomhead vibe.

Skinny: It’s been pretty cool, especially after 20 years and 7 albums. People think they know it all, but when you actually put a good body of work together like we did, I think people really notice when a band comes together and puts a fresh twist on something that’s been around for awhile.

Examiner: The intriguing thing for me with this Mayhem lineup is that the past several times I’ve seen your band, you’re not usually touring with mainstream metal acts. I’ve seen you with HED (pe) and One Eyed Doll... you guys seem to usually go out with more alternative acts.

Skinny: Yeah exactly, we like to keep it fresh. Keep the fans guessing and keep it a little more underground, give opportunities to bands that need more exposure.

Examiner: Well this Mayhem run will probably be your first time on stage in front of a lot of more mainstream metal fans in while, the kids coming out for Korn and Avenged Sevenfold and Trivium. Are you excited to hit that new potential fanbase?

Skinny: Absolutely. I feel like we’re definitely going to add a different element to this tour... but a lot of these bands on Mayhem were also on Soundwave, so it’s going to be kind of like a high school reunion. We just hung out in February so that will be cool. It really is an honor.

Examiner: Which Mayhem bands are you already friends with?

Skinny: Avenged Sevenfold, we did some off-dates with Korn in Australia as well. Ill Nino, we toured with them back in the day, Suicide Silence, there’s a lot of bands. I want to check out everyone, you know? Some of these bands I’ve heard of them or I’ve heard some of their material, I might even think I know what they’re about, but I’m going to check out every one of them. I’m looking to find a new band to get into, I love listening to music and finding something new. In the festival setting you get a real variety, like Iced T bringing Body Count back.

Examiner: Well here in Denver they’re splitting the show up, the main stage bands are playing Red Rocks on Monday but you and the rest of the second stagers are playing the Fillmore a day before. That makes you one of the headliners for that show.

Skinny: I always like that too, when you’re in the middle of the run and it gets split up like that. Kinda changes the game, keeps it fresh. Because when you do the same time slot in the same daylight and the same thing over it really becomes Groundhog Day and you lose sight of it as far as oh god, another one of these. So this is something new to do in the middle of the routine.

Examiner: As much as I want to see you guys play in front of 5,000-10,000 kids, I also think your particular show, with the water drums and the lights and everything, it probably looks better in a dark theater than on a midday outdoor stage in the sunlight.

Skinny: We actually got some new gear specifically designed for the outdoors, we didn’t even take the water drums to Australia. We have a solid 25 minute in-your-face set, we’re gonna let the music do the talking this time.

Examiner: Awesome. Are you going to have a longer set at the Fillmore because you’re a headlining act?

Skinny: That’s a good question, I actually don’t know. If they give us more time, then hell yeah. I got seven albums to pick from. That was the toughest thing we had to do, break seven years and 20 albums into 25 minutes to play for the Mayhem Festival. There’s so many tunes but you can’t do them all.

Examiner: When I saw you guys in New York last fall (my review and photos here), you had a weed tip jar at the merch booth because you don’t like to travel with drugs, which is probably a smart idea. Will you be busting that out here in Colorado?

Skinny: If we could just end the tour in Colorado, that would be great! I like doing Colorado at the end because then I only have so many states to get home.

Examiner: So the new album came out last month, and like we said it’s been getting really good reception. Do you have a favorite song on it yet?

Skinny: No, it’s funny because out of nowhere I’ll sing one that we haven’t rehearsed or we haven’t worked on, I have to say usually by the time we’re done recording, mixing, making videos, usually by the end I’m so sick of them I can’t listen to it. But this one in particular is not that way, and it’s really cool. It’s the first body of work as a whole that I can listen to from start to finish and smile after spending a year and a half working on it. For a favorite song, I’m going to go with Our Apologies right now. I love that one.

Examiner: I love that one too. The big news for this record was that J-Mann is back full time in the band. So how did that change the writing process?

Skinny: With J-Mann, it was just like riding a bike. He’d been gone for 10 years but he wasn’t really gone, we were still dabbling with side projects and he would come back and do old school shows with us, Christmas shows and Halloween. So it’s not like we weren’t talking or weren’t friends, he just wasn’t in the band. But he was still around. So when the time came to start working on the new Mushroomhead, he and I were working on another collaboration at the time, and we were at the studio and I played him some songs. He said “Oh man I got something for that,” so I said “get in the booth!” Five hours later he’d done three songs already so I said “we should just collaborate all three of you,” and that’s what we did.

We pay attention to who sings what and where, and instead of just saying okay you sing, and then the chorus, and now you sing and then the chorus, that’s just boring to me. And sure we do that in some songs, but it’s much more interesting and much more creative and I don’t even know what’s going to come out sometimes. And I really tend to like about working with the three singers, because you know, you got one singer it almost gets boring. (laughs)

Examiner: And how does that work live? On some smaller club stages it probably gets crowded up there.

Skinny: It does. We do a lot of passing the baton, we’ll start a song with all three, then go into a J-Mann and Jeffrey Nothing song, and then go to a Waylon heavy song or a Jeffrey Nothing heavy song, and then go into something with all three of them again, and then into a song like Dream Is Over with just Waylon and J-Mann, and then come back to something like the Pink Floyd cover which is just Jeffrey. We built the setlist so people can take breaks, grab some water, talk to the sound guy.

Examiner: Speaking of Empty Spaces, that’s what first turned me onto Mushroomhead all those years ago. I just thought it was the heaviest take on Pink Floyd I’d ever heard. On this record, you covered Adele. That’s a little different.

Skinny. Usually when we get together in the studio, we’ll bash out a couple of cover songs just for fun, to get the tone or the snare drum or whatever. That one came about, Rumor Has It popped up on my iPad shuffle, and Dr. F, our new bass player, was like “you know, if you put some heavy guitar on that it could sound like Metallica,” and we just laughed and we went back to the studio and just laid it out. And the next day someone added a track, and the next day someone else added one, and it was more for us just having fun but everyone liked it so much we put it on the record.

Examiner: Is that how you recorded Empty Spaces too?

Skinny: Empty Spaces was... more of a childhood thing I always wanted to do. And Jeff has that ominous tone, I’m still a Floyd freak and growing up listening to that album was so epic, and it still is. If I had five albums to pick that would definitely be one of them. It had such a huge impact on me as a kid growing up and being into music and dabbling in drugs, just all of it. And everyone in Mushroomhead pretty much feels the same way.

Examiner: Let me wrap up with one last question, and I apologize because I’m sure you’re sick of being asked about this. But Corey Taylor revisited his fantasy of a Slipknot/Mushroomhead tour just a week ago, in the context of the passing of Oderus from GWAR because he wanted that band on this hypothetical tour too. But is that something you could ever see happening?

Skinny: Let me say this. If it ever came to light, sign me up, man. The Mushroomhead camp is in. We love everything those guys do, Stone Sour, obviously the Slipknot stuff is legendary. It’s way beyond the masks, there’s players and talent and it’s a huge work ethic, so the respect level is huge. The reality of it is, I was saying the other day, I’d like to see the Loch Ness Monster and Big Foot too, but I don’t know... We would do it if we were invited. They know how to get hold of us.

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