This week, Cleveland's industrial metal band, Mushroomhead, will be bringing their short headlining tour to Michigan with two stops in Grand Rapids and Detroit. Tomorrow the band will be playing at The Intersection in Grand Rapids and Friday the band will be taking the stage at Harpos Concert Theatre in Detroit.
Last Tuesday, Mushroomhead released their eighth studio album via Megaforce Records, The Righteous & The Butterfly, which features singles "Out of My Mind" and "Qwerty" as well as an impressive cover of Adele's "Rumor Has It".
The album sold around 11,000 copies in the United States in its first week of release to debut at position No. 20 on The Billboard 200.
Last year, the band celebrated its twentieth year together and welcomed back vocalist J Mann. In many ways, it seems like the new album is designed to get them back to their roots.
In July, Mushroomhead will be heading out on this year's Rockstar Mayhem Festival along with bands like Korn, Avenged Sevenfold, Trivium and Cannibal Corpse. The festival will be making a stop in Clarkston on July 17 at the DTE Energy Music Theatre.
In the meantime, the band decided to head out for a couple of weeks to promote the new album with some headlining dates. On Sunday they played a show in Omaha, Nebraska where I caught up with Jason "J Mann" Popson, who was out walking back to the venue after hitting up a antique store.
Along the way, he ran into drummer Skinny, who ironically enough was heading out to do some antiquing of his own.
Q: You guys are going to be playing two Michigan shows this week. You seem to like playing this area.
J Mann: Yeah we're doing Grand Rapids and Detroit.
Q: What can people attending the shows expect?
J Mann: Well you're gonna get to hear some of the new stuff off the record that just came out last Tuesday. It's a long set. It's high energy. It's got a lot of different aspects of the band in it. It kind of covers a bit of the whole career of the band. It has something off of every record.
Q: I know it's a short tour but has a date stuck out for you so far?
J Mann: Well I mean the day that the album came out we actually did a date at home and that was just to pay our respects to like the fact that we've been a band for 21 years and Cleveland has always been right behind our backs so I guess that one stood out. Just to release the new record there and make it really special for them and let them hear the new stuff first. They earned it. We wouldn't even be here without them.
Q: What does this album mean for you guys?
J Mann: I would have to say that the fact that this is my first record back with the band is kind of like a big deal to old Mushroomhead fans. It's really all about the growth of the band. A lot of unfortunate circumstances kind of made this record happen so there's a lot of emotion on it. Sometimes when you're a band and that's your job, you have to record but sometimes there's certain records that you just have to make. In a way it's a release and that's the beauty of this record: the fact that it was that and not just a job. It was something that we all showed up early and stayed up late to do.
Q: How does the recording process work for Mushroomhead?
J Mann: Well you know there's no one formula for it. I mean usually someone comes in with like an inkling of an idea and then Skinny, who is our drummer but also like our producer and does a lot of the arrangements, is kind of our filter to see what sticks and stays. We try to build a song out of ideas from that point and then vocally with three singers it's just a matter of everyone humbling themselves and knowing what suits everyone best. We've got to just be fully aware of everyone's strengths so that there are no arguments and it's obvious who belongs where if we do our job right.
Q: What new song are you enjoying performing most right now?
J Mann: Oh my god, it's really hard to say! Because the album is so new, and then with me being back again, it's like I want to play the whole new record. There are definitely some favorites on it. There's a song called "How Many Times" that I like playing a lot. There's a song called "Portraits Of The Poor" that I like a lot. Then umm, I can't even think of it now, oh "For Your Pleasure". The record is so new and the funny thing about bands is that when you're making a record you have working titles and it's not until you actually have to send it off to the plant that you have to give it a real name so we all know the songs by their working titles. Probably because they're really kind of ridiculous. [laughs]
Q: Speaking of names, the album title, The Righteous & The Butterfly, is a tribute of sorts, right?
J Mann: Absolutely, yeah. That is a tribute to our original guitar player [JJ Righteous] who unfortunately passed away too soon as well as a girl [Vanessa Solowiow, Skinny's wife] who was like a sister to me and the wife of my best friend and mother of his children. She was a photographer and she was with us from day one every step of the way. I can't say enough about her talent and how sad I am that she's not here.
Q: The album features your cover of Adele's "Rumor Has It". How did that come about?
J Mann: The Adele cover was actually a fluke. When you start to make a record the first thing you do is just try to get some sounds together. We did like bass drum sounds and kick drum sounds and guitar sounds. You need like an exercise to just do and for some reason one of the guys said let's just do that to kind of get some studio sounds and it turned out pretty good. It was like, okay we got some good sounds out of it. Then we made the record and it was not really until like the twelfth hour that it was even decided that it was going to make the record. It just was like should we even put it out or should we make it a hidden track but at the end of the day we were like screw it, let's put it on and see how people react to it.
Q: Well you guys really made it your own and that's something you have done in the past as well. I saw you in maybe 2003 or 2004 at Harpos actually and I remember you guys doing the cover of Prince's "When Doves Cry". That performance always stuck with me because it was such a contrast.
J Mann: Yeah, thanks. I mean if you're going to cover a song you don't just want to karaoke it. It's like, let's try to put our spin on it a little bit. Obviously, the Adele song didn't even come together initially because the chorus was just us doing her chorus. It wasn't until that techno beat came in and made it sound weird that it felt like us.
Q: So the band will be getting a little break between tours?
J Mann: Yeah this is like a two-week Midwest tour because the record came out on the 13th and we're doing Mayhem over the summer and whenever you get involved with a big corporate festival there's laws that apply to bands. There's a radius clause where you can't play within 120 miles of this or that show. There's a time-frame clause where you can't play a city within sixty days. So that's why it kind of kept us limited to what we can do but at the same time we thought it was important to be out playing while the record came out.
Q: What are you guys looking forward to most about going out on Mayhem?
J Mann: Just actually catching up with a lot of those guys. We just did Soundwave over in Australia and basically most of the Mayhem lineup is from Soundwave. It's Avenged Sevenfold, Korn and Suicide Silence and like a bunch of bands that we were just on the other side of the world with. The cool part was that we just got to hang out with them. Avenged I've known since day one and actually the band took them out on their first massive world tour. We've been friends for like 12 or 13 years. Then over there not only did we do the festival but there's something called Sidewaves, which is on the off days. We played those with Rob Zombie and Korn so we got to know those guys pretty well too just between sharing stages and being at airports next to each other. You get to know someone pretty quick! I guess that's what we're really looking forward to; just catching up with the guys again and seeing my boys in Avenged Sevenfold again and just being back in America. We did the Australian tour and then we were in Moscow and it really makes you appreciate the freedoms that we have here. It was like you get off the plane and you want to kiss the ground so I think we're just really excited to be back in the States and hopefully there will be some good weather while playing the festival with our good friends.
Q: Is Mayhem even coming near your hometown this year?
J Mann: You know, I don't think that it even touches Ohio. I mean you would think it would at least hit Columbus. I know Rock On The Range was this weekend and normally I'd be at that but I'm out doing this. I think the closest Mayhem is coming is Pittsburgh and I think there's a Michigan show. I think a lot of it is really coastal. That's why we're kind of playing the center of the country right now. It's worth the wait because I really think that the exposure is going to help us. The thing with Mushroomhead is that it's kind of always been a headlining band and I think that's kind of held it back from growing on a larger scale. I think at this point the best thing for us is festival touring. We just did those opening shows for Rob Zombie and Korn and it's like we really need to play for new faces. It's a good thing because we can win a crowd over but how many times can you do that as a headliner? It's a already built in fan base so I think that's the goal for the next year or two. I think too many people tend to assume things about our band from whatever gossip websites or whatever they see without really giving us a chance. That's all we're really asking: just give us a chance because I promise we'll entertain you and you'll have fun.
Q: Well the reason I asked about an Ohio date is because I was thinking about Mayhem's infamous after parties and I was wondering if you guys would get to throw one.
J Mann: [laughs] Yeah, those are good. I was at one of the Mayhem parties a couple of years ago, which was a killer lineup. I think it was Anthrax, Motorhead, Slayer and Slipknot and I'm friends with half of those bands and my buddy, drummer Gene Hoglan, was playing with Anthrax at the time. Now he's with Testament but we also have a side project together and he had said, come on buddy let's hang out so I did and yeah, the parties do get pretty fun at those.
Q: So Soundwave was your first time playing in Australia?
J Mann: Yeah, absolutely! I liked all of Australia but I'd have to say Melbourne was probably my favorite city. Well actually let me take that back and say that Melbourne's like the New York City of Australia to where it's like really high-end and chic and all that and Sydney's the cool city like Los Angeles. It was a lot of fun. Perth was great too just because that's the closest to the ocean we got. I got to get in the Indian Ocean and we got to go to Bon Scott's grave. I love Bon Scott and I love AC/DC so Perth will always have a place in my heart.
Q: Over the years while you were gone you made some appearances with the band but what made you finally decide to return to Mushroomhead full-time?
J Mann: Well it was one of those things that was just a matter of timing and maturity. I guess we maybe had to humble ourselves a little bit. You know, when you work with somebody for so long you start to get jaded and lose sight of what drew you to that person and sometimes it takes a tragedy to snap you out of it. Honestly, one of the first conversations that Skinny and I had about me coming back was when he told me, hey guess what, I'm finally over myself and I said guess what, I'm over myself too! As soon as you can be man enough to say that to one another and also share that respect for what an unusual bond you have then it can work. You've gotta appreciate when you find a creative soulmate because those only come along once, maybe twice, in a lifetime. I mean we never wanted to be a Simon and f*cking Garfunkel . I mean it never really turned to that but as far as working together again it was like if we're going to do this then let's do it right. Like I said, a lot of it had to do with JJ's funeral. That initiated it and then Vanessa's solidified it. It was like we belong together and this is what we're meant to do.
Q: The band's masks have always played an important role in the band's image and live shows. This tour you have unveiled some new ones. Can you talk a little bit about that?
J Mann: Well this is actually my first tour in a mask. Well I did the show in Moscow with a a mask but I used to be the only one in face paint. It's about, well I don't want to say being uniform, but it's about a look and about being a team. They asked me about this on a radio interview the other day and about how the band had to let JJ go before he passed. They asked how is it having to get rid of a member and it's like I wasn't there so didn't really have to have that conversation but I can tell you that a band is a team in the same way a sports team is a team. I'm not trying to diminish it but at the end of the day you're supposed to all have the same goal and that's to win that trophy and go out and give it everything you can. So you know if you have someone that is not on board then you gotta make a trade. It's the way that any team works; if you have one negative person it poisons the whole room and too many of us have put our entire lives into this. I mean the band's on its 21st year so it's been more than half my life.
Q: Did you guys ever see yourselves getting this far?
J Mann: You know what, no. It definitely exceeded our expectations but what exceeded my expectations even beyond our success is the longevity. Back when we started there was no band that was around for twenty years. I mean now there's bands like Metallica and Slayer and Black Sabbath but back then it was unheard of.
Q: Where do you want to see Mushroomhead go moving forward?
J Mann: Just to grow. I hope people hear the record and that we can win some new fans. Everyone is so quick to write off the band because they feel they have to have a loyalty to Slipknot or Mudvayne or whoever and my dream is just for everyone to get over that and just enjoy music and the joy of what brought us all together. Just the passion that drew us all to begin this in the first place. I think as soon as we get back to the roots of it all everyone's gonna get along a whole lot better. I learned that firsthand with my band and now we need to take that out to other bands and other tours and the music community as a whole and see if we can really accomplish something.
Q: What would you like to say to those potential new listeners?
J Mann: The first thing I would say is what did Hunter Thompson say, if you bought the ticket then take the ride. It's kind of like that in that if you buy the ticket just bring an open mind and I promise we will not let you down!