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Mushroomhead on new music, touring with Dope, and remembering Wayne Static of Static-X


Interview and Photos: Adrian Hextall / (C) MindHex Media

With Mushroomhead having recently completed a UK tour and former touring mates Dope returning to the UK shores with Static-X as they present the 20th Anniversary of Wisconsin Death Trip, we spoke to Steve “Skinny” Felton, founder, leader, and drummer of Mushroomhead at their recent London show along with the rest of the band who decided to hang out and chip in to get their views on the new music the band are producing, the amazing mask designs that have driven the band’ image for 25 plus years and of course, the tributes to Wayne Static that sees his [Wayne’s] former band out on tour again.

AH: You must have good memories of Dope. You’ve played on tour together several times now?

MRH: Yeah, yeah, a lot of times.

AH: We have them over in September as well, because they’re on the back of the Static-X tour. It’s an unusual tour for us to be covering. It’s an unusual tour full stop because of course, Wayne’s no longer around.

MRH: Yes.

AH: It feels like it’s being done exactly the right way just to close the door on the past and also open the door on the future, what would you guys think?

SF: I personally think it’s pretty cool. I would, I would hope that that would be the exact approach for Mushroomhead. God forbid, something happens to me. Keep this thing alive, keep it going. And you know, there’s the heritage that deserves the respect, a lot of people were turned on to Static-X early on and it made a lot of people want to be in bands and play. So, you know, I have a lot of a lot of respect for those guys doing it and as long as they keep it respectful, I think they’ll be very successful at it.

AH: Seems to be at all the right reasons.

MRH: It’s probably the key to their success. It is a very successful tour.  Yeah, keeping it and doing it right, keeping it respectful. And, you know, literally just keeping that focus will, I would think, like you said, kind of close the door a little bit. And you know, let everyone have some at least one more chance to you know, see what they grew up on. Like I said, I was a big fan on early ’90s and as a matter of  fact, our old drum tech and water drummer Dan Fox is playing for Dope. So he’ll be on this tour as well so make sure you say hi to him.

SF: So as long as they continue to do it the way they’re doing it and you know, keep that respect level going. I think it’ll be cool.

MRH: As well for fans to have never got to see Wayne static or see Static-X before it’s great because there’s a whole generation that probably never got to see them.

AH: Yeah. Now fully agree, fully agree. Now, OK, so back to you guys. You’re in the process of doing the music.

MRH: Correct. We’ve had to start over a couple of times in the last two years, but it’s all been well worth it.

And the album so far is very focused and it’s just, it’s just got a lot of I don’t wanna say, musical maturity to it? But yeah, there’s focus to the writing for sure. There’s a lot of stories there to put into words, put into music,

There’s a lot of material, there’s a lot of things that have been able to influence us over the year, over the years. And I think it’s just the strong stuff that is rising to the top, and it’s almost writing itself. You start thinking about it too much and then that song goes right to the bottom of the pile. So the strong stuff like I said, it’s basically writing itself and we know without even really talking to each other that it’s like that one’s going to get some attention or that could be a single or that one definitely needs to be played live because you know, taking different approaches on… ‘is this an album track?’ ‘Is this a live track?’ ‘Is this just a track?’ There’s a lot of ways to think about doing an album so this time around we’re like, let’s just make songs that we truly like and would not hate playing 20 years from now.

As an example tonight, our first song on the set list is 43 and that was the first song that we had ever put together, going back to 1992. So we’re 26 years on stage playing the same song. So I’m looking forward to putting out this album and hopefully in 25 more years still be playing something off of this album work early. Right.

AH: And how did the recording location come about? You are going to be or have recorded some of this at Abbey Road as well.

MRH: We were there this afternoon

AH: Is this the first time for you guys being up there? It’s a wonderful place, isn’t it?

SF: Second time there for us. It’s unbelievable! Legendary, legendary. I didn’t want to leave. Time and money getting in the way but no, it was two of the best experiences of my life and the tracks that we did there just, they’re awesome!

AH: So come on. Did you do it?

MRH: We had to run across the Abbey Road crossing but we did it… Just to catch our Uber but no photo…  There are mobs of people trying to cross the street and get that photo. I mean, it’s just non stop. I wouldn’t I would hate to live there because everyone’s just trying to get a photo walking.

Jackie LaPonza: There’s never a moment though, that there’s not somewhere else crossing. So you can’t ever do them. Get the picture, right.

MRH: The picture right… There’s always someone else in the way.

Jackie LaPonza: We tried like three times the last time. Tough work…

AH: Looking at the stage shows for the band, you have a lot of members to get on stage. How do you manage to keep everything moving around?

MRH: We’re used to it.  Yeah, we just got off a five-week run in the states with Insane Clown Posse. There was a DJ in between, two DJs actually in between us and ICP so we were early support and there was really not a lot of room left.

MRH: Jackie doesn’t have a problem, she’ll walk out and stand on the crowd. If that’s the case, there’s no room on stage walk right out there and get out. And you know, they love it

It doesn’t matter what style of music, we’re playing with it, it’s a good thing about the band, we can kind of mash with hip hop to extreme metal you know, to whatever,

MRH: Electronic…. Electronic and pop, we kind of have a little bit of those elements all through us. And we try to put on an entertaining show so even if you know they’re standing there, not metal fans and their arms crossed by the third or fourth song we’ve seen them start about their hands smile, or at least the phone comes out, or they’re tapping their friend. And you know, at least you could tell when they’ve never seen this before.

AH: I was going to say there’s going to be something in your set that will grab everybody in the crowd at some point.  And all of this presumably has evolved over the years, the masks that you’re using now, different to what you’ve had in previous years as well. How does this come about? Who’s the- who’s the designer in the band who’s the one that comes up with the…

MRH: First, well on the individual masks, and we do those for every album. So every album cycle, each guy kind of morphs a little bit, sometimes there’s member changes and sometimes we just kind of get sick of how we look. So every…. every album, it will have a new look and on this transition, and that’s where these are basically transition masks until all the new ones are sculpted.

We have a sculptor in the States by the name of Jason Kisner, and he’ll sit down like we’ll get the head cast on. We have a bust of our actual heads and put clay on that and he’ll start to sculpt and we will say you know, you’ve got the devil thing going on. I’ve a skull and dreads but so we’ll sit down and talk to him about you know, more pointy ears more of an evil brow you know, things of that nature. So Jason does that and then we end up with the molds. So we’ve already poured the liquid latex in let them dry, pull them out, trim on them and do all the painting and the accessories ourselves. So it’s very hands-on for the band. It gives us a whole another outlet to be creative. But on this one, like I said, we all decided to match because it’s more of that transition mask. And it’s not about like, focus on one person it’s the unity of the band.

AH: And of course we get to experience all of this tonight.

MRH: Well, we might be a little short on our production as far as lighting and smoke and things of that nature. But as far as the band it doesn’t matter if we’re in a club or on a festival stage, or daylight or nighttime we enjoyed once we get that mask on it just can be turned into someone else. Like that’s part where you hit your wardrobe on and you get the makeup on and once that mask goes on, it’s it game is on because it’s you’re not even yourself at that point you know, you’re out there to do anything.

AH: No, I like that. And the bit that you can’t see on an audio interview, is the enthusiasm you can see in the faces of you all before the show, your eyes of course just say ‘showtime!’

MRH: Yeah. And it’s what we need, I think once that goes away, we’re not you know,

Jackie LaPonza: What’s the point?

SSF: There’s no, there’s no need to do it anymore. So it’s just fun to be 25 years in and just be just as excited you know, as I was 25 years ago which I think I’m more excited and more hooked on it now than ever before.

The new album is slated for release in April 2020. New masks will again be designed for the release. The band are currently on tour in the US. Details below: 

OUR REVIEW OF THE SHOW IN LONDON IS BELOW:

Mushroomhead does rise over London – Live at O2 Academy, Islington July 15 2019

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