Interviewed by Damian J. Cousins (Writer/Journalist/Contributor)
Since the Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival kicked off last weekend, I thought I’d share some interviews with a couple of the bands who are on the bill. And what better way to get started than with Skinny from MUSHROOMHEAD, right? The night before their recently released album The Righteous & the Butterfly came out I was able to catch up with Skinny after a record store signing. So here it is:
MGM: One of our writers is such a huge fan and he loves the record. One of the things he mentioned to me is how much he loves the way your sound and look has evolved over the years.
Skinny: Yeah, man. Every album has some change and we have evolved a little bit. This time around I think you’ll really see it.
MGM: Twenty years, you’ve been at this now. What was the overall focus when you went in to make the album?
Skinny: I say it all the time, this album damn near wrote itself. We’ve known each other and worked together for so many years. Even the introduction of Dr. F (bass) and Tommy Church (guitar) to MUSHROOOMHEAD fans, I’ve worked with those guys for years in other projects. They’re basically comrades in the studio for a long time. When we started The Righteous & the Butterfly we had NO IDEA and it was kind of a no-holds barred type of thing. It was everything but the kitchen sink. And while we were working on it J Mann and I and one of our best friends Mike who is a rapper were working on our hip-hop project and J Mann heard some of the mixes from the MUSHROOMHEAD sessions. So he asked if he could get a disc of it. Next thing you know J’s working on not one, not two, but four and five songs, just throwin’ ideas out there.
It wasn’t like a, “Hey man, you wanna put MUSHROOMHEAD back together the way it used to be?” or anything like that. This thing is organic, and it just fell into place; that’s very special on this record. And being twenty years in just led more to the camaraderie of everyone being on the same page. And that’s awesome; you got brand new people, older people comin’ back and it’s full circle. In a lot of ways it’s like they never missed a day, you know? And on top of that you got J Mann and Waylon (Reavis, clean/unclean vocals since 2004) for the first time together just bein’ brutal, hittin’ the stuff back and forth. Then you got J Mann and Jeffrey Nothing together, and then you got all three of them going from light to dark and evil and with harmony. It’s great, man!
MGM: Now, did the additions of Dr. F and Church make for a different approach? How much input did they have as to what went on?
Skinny: Oh, quite a bit. They’re very, very cool, and very knowledgeable. Dr. F can play piano, drums, guitar, bass, he can sing. He’s got perfect pitch, he can walk into a room and say, “That’s flat. That’s sharp…” or, “That should be a C, not a G there” and he’s right every time. He knows where everything needs to be in the songs. Church, he’s more your rock and roll type. When you think of slutty riffs, think of Tommy Church (laughs). And then on top of that both of them are really well-versed in Pro Tools and engineering. They’ll keep trying different mics on my drums till they get just the right sound. They’re very much in on the production aspect of things. It’s a really fresh twist on our style of things.
MGM: You had two very important people die at a young age. Obviously, J.J. Righteous who was a big part of MUSHROOMHEAD. And my condolences on the loss of your wife Vanessa.
Skinny: Thanks, brother.
MGM: Did writing and recording these new songs help everyone in the band heal and cope with these losses? Because there’s some emotional stuff here.
Skinny: You know, J.J. died directly after Beautiful Stories for Ugly Children came out. So that one was a little rough. We were fortunate enough to be home for his memorial, and that one was pretty fuckin’ heavy. And when we decided to do some old school shows Church and Dr. F got to learn some of that old, old shit. We started writing right after doing those shows and some of his style was just naturally infused due to the vibe. And it’s in a proper way, not contrived. The song “Bwomp” from XX is a perfect example of how Vanessa and J.J. were together. She’s the one speaking in Russian in the beginning of the song, and he wrote and played all of the guitar on it. That’s how we all were when we together. And that’s how we should all be remembered and celebrate life. And that’s why this album is titled The Righteous & the Butterfly, for the people we cared about and still do whether they’re here or not.
MGM: How are the MUSHROOMHEAD faithful receiving the band’s current line-up?
Skinny: I think there’s more excitement than ever. There’s a little bit of anticipation. Any time you have some changes people are gonna be like, “Oh, they’re never gonna be the same!” But there’s also the people who say, “Let’s give this a shot.”
MGM: Are you doing anything special to commemorate the band’s Twentieth Anniversary?
Skinny: It literally is this album. The twentieth year to the day was October 23. So this is our full year of celebrating twenty years. Hey, after twenty years, you celebrate the whole fuckin’ year, man (laughs)! And this album is really how we’re doing it. With J Mann back, the new guys, and dedicating it to J.J. and Vanessa, that’s how you celebrate life.
MGM: You’re doing Mayhem this summer. You excited for that? And you’re hitting Dallas in the HOTTEST part of the Texas summer, too!
Skinny: Oh yeah, man! Plus we’ll be doing some headliners on off days. We’ll have some really cool drum circle shit going on. That’s where I see it going (laughs menacingly). We’ll wear all our masks, I promise you. No matter how hot it is, we ain’t pullin’ shit off. You gotta come out, man!
MGM: Oh, I’m coming! As a founding member what has been your favorite thing about MUSHROOMHEAD over the past twenty years?
Skinny: my favorite thing of the past twenty years? Fuckin’ TODAY! We got a brand new album comin’ out and people believe in this band. Like this interview, right now, today. The glass is either half empty or half full, but you gotta make shit happen NOW, ya know?
MGM: What would you like to say to all the MUSHROOMHEAD fans out there in the world?
Skinny: Thank you for all your support. We’ve got a brand new one out, and the opportunity to be an artist rather than a rock star is overwhelming. I hope everyone enjoys it, because The Righteous & the Butterfly means everything to me. I thank you so much.
I can honestly say that Skinny is one of the coolest and most down-to-earth rockers I’ve gotten to know in the short time I have been doing this. His attitude and outlook on life is something we could all learn from and I can’t wait till MUSHROOMHEAD gets here to Dallas in August. Find out when they’re going to be in your town on the Mayhem Fest HERE.