Rather than stumble in the face of adversity after the departure of their lead singer, Mushroomhead are back and armed with a new album and a new co-vocalist. In the last few years the band’s popularity has soared to the point where they are now producing gold records and playing to thousands of people a night. The group’s newest record is titled Savior Sorrow and features the debut of new Mushroomhead lead vocalist Waylon who took over for the departed J-Mann. Fortunately enough for PGA, we were able to score an interview with Mushroomhead’s refreshingly eloquent lead-singer Jeffrey Nothing. Here is what we we both had to say….
I know you guys have been around a while, but I never knew what the meaning was behind the band name Mushroomhead. Could you please elaborate on what the meaning is (if any) behind the name and how you came up with it?
Jeffrey: We had a band, Skinny, Gravy and I, called Hatrix… Gravy joined a cover band for some extra cash and so Skinny and I had a lot of free time we didn’t want to waste. We went on to form the foundation of Mushroomhead that year, but as much as we wanted the music and look to have no boundaries, we wanted a name to do this concoction justice. As time passed Gravy came up with nicknames for his new bandmates and the one he called Mushroomhead stuck with us… it just seemed to fit perfectly. I guess it was a good call. Mushroomhead was an artful experiment that seems to be working. Let’s face it, this band is expected to be different from anything out there and make it all work at the same time as being different.
Before we get into the new record, let’s briefly talk about what the band has been up to the last few years to put things in perspective. At what point did you finish up touring for XIII and how soon after did you begin work on a new studio album?
Jeffrey: We toured XIII on and off ‘til really during final mix sessions of this new CD. In between we changed labels from Universal to Megaforce, changed co-singers from J Mann to Waylon, and put out our first DVD release to date Volume I. We’re actually looking thru footage for DVD number 2 and we’re about to shoot 4 Music Videos, always busy.
The new album is called Savior Sorrow, your first new record in almost three years. Now that the album is complete and just about to be released; how do you personally feel about the disc and how does it differ from your last album XIII?
Jeffrey: I love the new record. This is our best yet. I definitely mean it here, we as a band have grown and we have a whole new life. I guess with the addition of Waylon and what we can do together. The songs are a lot more… majestic and thought-provoking and tell much more personal stories of the state of our world. I think we can accomplish so much more left to our own devices. It was a great experience going out to create a radio-friendly Mushroomhead with Universal, but with Megaforce we were allowed to breathe so much more without sacrificing what has always just worked… artistic freedom. Singles will come if left to the heart of any band. Maybe we aren’t full of them by the cookie cutter standards. But they just seem to show thru in the songs. We grew from inside. I think Savior Sorrow screams with them. XIII to me was great in its own right but it wasn’t completely us… this is what was meant.
Savior Sorrow, just like your previous record, was produced by Steve Felton, a.k.a. Mushroomhead’s drummer Skinny. Did you ever explore the idea of working with outside producers on the new disc or do you find that you guys work best on your own?
Jeffrey: We talked to Matt Wallace about doing at least a couple songs again since he mixed XIII. But, schedule conflicts kept that from happening. We also explored the thought of working with other producers and settled on keeping it in house like we’d always done pre-major. The combination of Skinny, Bill Korecky and Mushroomhead just works for us. We grew these songs in the lab setting taking the time to make them the best we could and to us, it works. Skinny has definitely grown in his approach to the song… knowing when to give and take the right amount. These songs breathe and have things missing when they should.
On that note of working best on your own, Mushroomhead is a band that does things on its own terms. You guys not only make and produce your own music, but you also create your own artwork and you recently produced, directed, shot and edited a DVD called Volume 1. Where do you think this hands-on approach to everything comes from?
Jeffrey: It comes from having no other choice if you want to be more then just a brief footnote in the musical sands of time. So many bands I believe go thru it thinking: I’m signed, I got it made. Wrong!!! If you don’t work at what you want, it’s over… and if it was all handed to you, does it feel as rewarding as making it happen on your own terms? Getting noticed is all the battle on whatever level. You have to make it happen. That’s what we’ve always believed and so far, this drive and mission statement has never failed us.
I found a quote from Skinny about Savior Sorrow and with regard to the lyrical content on the album he says, “…it definitely reflects where the world is at this moment in time.” With this quote in mind would you consider Savior Sorrow to be any sort of a concept album? Why or why not?
Jeffrey: I thought XIII turned into a concept album in a way but Savior Sorrow, just even more reflects our time – in one piece of music. There was no struggle for a word of this. “Save Us from Ourselves” I think says it all. “I don’t believe what you believe… I’m ugly compared to you, your life is just another number in the grand scheme of things, you’re yesterdays headline…” We need to embrace our differences and our right and the glory of having them. How boring and horrible would it be if we were all the exact same? We need to embrace that in your head, the kid across the classroom is “different” and applaud that self expression. We need to embrace that the woman walking home may have 2 kids waiting there and her life is worth something to them. We need to stop killing each other for nothing before we all embrace the ending.
Mushroomhead of course parted ways with their lead vocalist J-Mann a few years ago and he was of course replaced by new vocalist Waylon. How did Waylon meet and end up joining Mushroomhead as their new lead singer? What caused you to believe that he was the proper replacement for J-Mann?
Jeffrey: 3 Quarters Dead from North Carolina played their first show opening for a national with Mushroomhead. Raw band, great vocals. They were on that tour for 13 shows. They decided to come to our “Filthy Hands Studios” here in our hometown and turn demos into a true CD. As the sessions were going on J-Mann commented how much Waylon sounded like him and if he ever quit you guys should get him. One thing led to another and on Sept 19th, 2004 Waylon’s birthday… Skinny called him to ask if he’d take the job, 2 years prior to Savior Sorrow’s release date. Kind of fitting… we never planned any tryouts; it just felt right and still does.
Speaking of Waylon, what has the fan reaction been like towards him as Mushroomhead’s new singer? Were you at all worried that the fans would not embrace him like they did J-Mann?
Jeffrey: There was a small growing pains period I guess would be the way to put it. What has happened on this CD more then makes up for any short comings that may have occurred singing songs not his own. But he has also survived that challenge and continues to grow in those shoes… And I for one am glad we made this choice and fans of Mushroomhead seem to love him.
What is the songwriting process like within the band? Do all seven members write or is it more the efforts of one or two members?
Jeffrey: It varies, on the last two it’s centered around more of Gravy, Skinny and I taking basic structures and making the song shells to add all the hoo hah and hopefully make memorable songs. Other then a few moments on past releases, this is the first record where the 2 singers have really collaborated. Waylon and myself have worked together a lot on this one. That’s new for me really and new for him coming from a band that only ever had one guy. We for a long time threw all the ideas at the wall and saw what stuck, now we create as 2 voices working as one… it’s exciting to do new things in our 13th year… the sky’s the limit.
Mushroomhead is of course a large band consisting of seven members in total. Because there are so many members in the band, do you find that it is ever difficult to make decisions like for example what songs should make it onto a record?
Jeffrey: We have a voting system for the most part, but when it comes down to it, it’s what’s for the good of the band. Everyone’s not always happy but who in what walk of life is? I think whatever we’ve always done just somehow always works even if the cast sometimes changes or the lead players shift roles at times. Mushroomhead is a way of life to me and to many others… the songs just kind of pick themselves. There were a few ideas that never got any further then pre production. Maybe they’ll get on the next one in one form or another or sometimes they weren’t meant to be. And life goes on.
Things seem to be looking up for Mushroomhead with the imminent release of Savior Sorrow. What does the band have planned for the rest of 2006 and into 2007?
Jeffrey: More videos, another DVD, starting the follow up for Megaforce… Touring the World and hopefully Saving it… Peace. [ END ]