Mushroomhead Interview

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Band Name: Mushroomhead
Interviewed: Stitch
Interviewer: 
Date: 2010-10-06


Previous Mushroomhead Interviews
Shauna O'Donnell: HEY GUYS THIS IS SHAUNA O’DONNELL AND I HAVE STITCH OF MUSHROOMHEAD ON THE PHONE.

Shauna O'Donnell: HI STITCH, THANKS FOR TALKING WITH ME.
Stitch: Hey, how are you doing?

Shauna O'Donnell: I’M DOING REALLY GOOD. YOU’RE LATEST ALBUM BEAUTIFUL STORIES FOR UGLY CHILDREN IS OUT NOW. CONGRATULATIONS!
Stitch: Thank you

Shauna O'Donnell: THE ALBUM WAS GOING TO BE CALLED SLAUGHTERHOUSE ROAD ORIGINALLY. WHY DID YOU CHANGE YOUR MIND?
Stitch: When the art came into play, all the imagery, photos and masks were completed and we were doing the album layout it wasn’t really matching the look of the band and album title. We kind of put it type-set in the artwork and it didn’t really look right. It worked when we were writing the record, but then when the visuals came in to play we needed to call it something different. With that being said Skinny our drummer had this title in his head that he had been holding onto for a while and he wanted to use it. When we put it into play and slapped Beautiful Stories for Ugly Children on the new band photo we thought it was perfect. It was kind of tied together at the last second. Mushroomhead’s music is vague and different all the time and every song is a different musical style, so there are different stories and themes going on all the time there. It was definitely a real fitting title I thought and the rest of the band felt as well.

Shauna O’Donnell: YOU HAVE ADDED SOME NEW MEMBERS IN THE PAST COUPLE YEARS. HOW ARE THEY FITTING IN AND ENHANCING THE BAND’S SOUND?
Stitch: We have only added our singer Waylon when the original front man J Mann left a couple years ago. That was a little bit of a rough transition. It’s never easy when a band has to go through a new singer change. We recovered very well, it was only a couple months of downtime where fans were kind of weary of how things were going to go down. I think once Waylon got comfortable, got a lot of live shows under his belt and got to find his niche in the band he has definitely earned his place with the fans old and new. It’s at the point now where this is the band it is and we just keep moving forward. The only other addition is Lil Dan, but he was already part of the live band for a few years and he was the drum tech for a long time. We just decided that since he was part of the live show for the last five years that we would just add him and make it eight instead of seven. You know, make it a good even number.

Shauna O’Donnell: IT WAS A THREE YEAR SPAN BETWEEN RECORDS AND NEW MEMBERS. WERE YOU EVER AFRAID THE FANS WOULDN’T STICK AROUND?
Stitch: Yeah it definitely was a little rough, but we did stay active. We kept touring, put out another DVD Volume II and with writing the record and everything you have going on you lose track of time. When you’re in this industry it seems like a couple months go by and it’s really been two years. It’s always a little disheartening waiting that long because if you have a lot of fans that are in their late teens or early twenties, then four or five years later they are a different person in their life at that point. People grow up, they have kids, they stop going to shows and move away. Things definitely change in that era. We are always a band where every time we tour it’s always the same amount of numbers and people, but the faces are always getting younger. It’s definitely a good thing.

Shauna O’Donnell: THE SOUND OF THE BAND HAS BEEN EVOLVING OVER THE PAST FEW ALBUMS, ESPECIALLY WITH THE ADDITION OF WAYLON ON VOCALS. DO YOU SEE THE MUSIC CONTINUING TO EVOLVE OR MAYBE RETURNING TO SOME OF THE BANDS ROOTS IN THE FUTURE?
Stitch: It’s always evolving just because you can only do the same thing over and over again. We always pull from the same influence that started the band, especially on this new record. There are definitely some sounds and references to anyone that is a hardcore fan and can pick stuff out. They are from a lot of the earlier releases when the band was more independent in Ohio. I mean it’s always going to evolve and change, but the initial idea is always behind it because the original writers of the band are still the ones writing. That is a key point, usually when bands bring in a bunch of different members and different people writing, that is when you will hear those huge changes. Our original guy J was strictly a screamer. Waylon does the yelling, singing and he does five different vocal styles, so it helps make it more interesting. Now we have two people that can sing so we can get into harmonies and different kinds of layering. We want to do stuff to make it fresh and exciting even for us. As a band you get so many albums deep and you get bored with yourself too sometimes.

Shauna O’Donnell: DO YOU DO ALL OF THE PRODUCTION YOURSELVES?
Stitch: Yeah, we have our own studio. Unlike most bands that would take their advances and go buy houses and cars, we basically invested all the funds that came our way during the Universal days and built up our own recording studio. We can do our own records, work at our own pace and make our own videos and DVD’s. We are very DIY as opposed to how we were before. We have our own recording studio, we did it all there and Skinny is our producer/engineer of the record. We still mix at a different studio, but we do all of the production and recording at ours.

Shauna O’Donnell: I LOVE TO HEAR IT WHEN A BAND IS VERY HANDS ON WITH EVERY ASPECT OF THE BAND.
Stitch: Yeah, with us anytime we go out, we need an outside look on it. We never liked the outside look. You can bring in an outside photographer and then when you see the pictures it’s like “Icckkk!” We will do it ourselves because we know how we want to look, how we want to sound and we know how we want to be presented. We get what we are trying to do and a lot of people don’t. It’s more rewarding when you are in 100% control of your creative image and how you want to be portrayed. There is so much misinformation out there and everyone gets their information from Google now. You never know where to find real information half the time. We find mistakes all the time. We play at clubs that are still using photos from seven years ago.

Shauna O’Donnell: EVERYTHING ON MYSPACE IS UP TO DATE RIGHT?
Stitch: Yeah, everything on Myspace is up, we also have a Facebook, but it’s not very image based.

Shauna O’Donnell: “YOUR SOUL IS MINE” IS FEATURED ON THE SAW VI SOUNDTRACK.
Stitch: It wasn’t in the movie, but it was on the soundtrack. We did a video for it as well that was kind of based around some of the ideas of the movie. We did the video ourselves with the help of our mask maker Dave Greathouse.

Shauna O’Donnell: I WAS GOING TO ASK YOU IF YOU DESIGNED YOUR OWN MASKS OR IF YOU HAD SOMEONE THAT DID IT FOR YOU.
Stitch: It’s kind of like a 50/50. We don’t physically sculpt them, we have a mask maker and a production company that does that for us. We are definitely hands on with saying what we want the character to look like and with different renditions of the mask. We have an outsourced mask maker who has been making our masks for the past ten years.

Shauna O’Donnell: IS IT UNCOMFORTABLE TO WEAR WHEN YOU’RE PLAYING BECAUSE YOU GET SWEATY?
Stitch: Oh yeah, absolutely, with me I have the headphones with the wire on them. To physically keep those on my head without falling, I have wire ran around my head holding them on that is literally cramped on and tightened. I do it myself. It gives me headaches sometimes and it’s kind of a pain in the ass, but it’s all for the love of being that character and looking the part. I’m wearing calf high boots, a shirt, a coat, pants, eye make-up and a mask. I have to walk into that club that may or may not have air conditioning that night down in the south. It’s like a hundred degrees in there and there are people sweating their asses off wearing tank tops and shorts. We come rolling in wearing all this military gear. It’s hell, but it’s for the love of doing it. You just look past the restriction and the heat. Everything kind of gets you into the moment. It keeps you in shape though, that’s for sure.

Shauna O’Donnell: HAVE YOU EVER EVEN ONCE PLAYED A SHOW WITHOUT YOUR MASKS?
Stitch: Not as Mushroomhead, never, not since the first show back in 1993. They weren’t the masks that they are now, but there was always a mask and a costume in this band. We have side projects that we do different things with. Some of the side projects don’t have costumes.

Shauna O’Donnell: WITH THE WAY THE MUSIC INDUSTRY IS TODAY AS WELL AS THE ECONOMY, BANDS ARE RELYING MORE ON MERCH SALES AND TOURING TO MAKE AN INCOME AS OPPOSED TO RECORD SALES. DO YOU FIND THAT TO BE TRUE IN YOUR CASE?
Stitch: Absolutely because we will draw between four to seven hundred kids a night, yet the album sales don’t really reflect that. We will kill on our merch and that is basically what keeps our lights on. You can’t download it or steal it. It is owned 100% by us and that is where we see our biggest form of revenue. Even with the money you are making at the shows, you are paying for a truck that is rented that holds our gear, a tour bus that we rent from a company, you’re paying your drivers and your crews. Three quarters of the money you are making at the show is going into your expenses. We as a band rely 100% on our merchandise to keep us doing this. Every four or five days I’m giving our bus driver another $1,000 for gas.

Shauna O’Donnell: YOU RECENTLY HOSTED MTV2’S HEADBANGER BALL. HOW DID IT GO? DID YOU ENJOY IT?
Stitch: Yeah, it was weird this time. We have hosted Headbanger’s Ball and MTV2 Rock when it was on. We have done the hosting thing two or three times in the past eight years. A few years ago we would go to MTV Studios in New York City and do the whole experience. Part of the whole coolness of doing those is going to MTV, talking with the VJ and saying “Wow! I’m at MTV Studios! I’ve made it.” You have that vibe or feeling. What they do now is, anyone who is going to host has to pre-film themselves. It was the weirdest thing ever to set up a production room and sit there. They sent us four questions via email and they were like “Here’s the questions, but answer them like you’re just talking about them.” That’s just weird because you are talking to someone that is not there and it isn’t like someone is sitting there with a microphone asking “So how was it recording the album and tell us a little bit about your masks.” It’s a lot easier for answers to roll off your tongue when it’s something like that as opposed to having to sit there in front of a camera. We did so many different takes and we didn’t like the way it came out, so we basically edited the footage all artsy and weird like we like things. We re-wrote the answers the best we could and kind of did it commentary style so that when you watched it on Headbanger’s Ball it kind of looked like when you watch a DVD extra commentary thing. It kind of had that vibe, which was way more in the realm of us because it seemed so fake and so boring having all of us sitting in a room talking into a camera to someone that is not there. It was so impersonal and it bums me out because when I grew up MTV was THE source for music news and bands. They used to be so embraceful of heavy music and push the darker side of things. Now it’s all rap and pop. They put Headbanger’s Ball on at 3am on a Monday. Who the hell is up at 3am on a Monday? It is still cool to be in the realm of those things. We are doing enough to be noticed, to be doing that for Headbanger’s Ball and to have our video debuted on it, but I was kind of bummed because the experience of doing it wasn’t there this time.

Shauna O’Donnell: IT WAS COOL THAT YOU WERE ABLE TO PREMIERE YOUR NEW MUSIC VIDEO FOR “COME ON.” I FEEL THAT HAVING VISUAL IS SO IMPORTANT. YOU WANT TO HEAR THE MUSIC, BUT YOU ALSO NEED THAT VISUAL. IT SEEMS LIKE NOT TOO MANY BANDS ARE PUTTING OUT MUSIC VIDEOS ANYMORE. THEY ARE SO EXPENSIVE TO MAKE, BUT BANDS ALSO COMPLAIN THAT THERE ARE NOT AS MANY OUTLETS FOR THE VIDEOS AS THERE USED TO BE. I MEAN THERE’S YOUTUBE BUT..
Stitch: You’re right because everything that happens is immediately on YouTube the next day or five hours later. People don’t have to tune in and get excited waiting up all night. I used to do that for bands all the time. When I was way younger I would hear that Nine Inch Nails was going to do an interview and I’d stay up late to watch it because you couldn’t watch it anywhere else. The convenience of these things becoming so accessible is definitely taking the passion out of fans and their music. There’s no connection there. These kids have their Ipods full of 10,000 bands that they may or may not own the records to or they don’t really get into the bands as much to where it becomes their lifestyle. When we were with Universal Records we did a video for “Solitaire” and it cost $300,000. Now bands are having their buddies with their high def cameras film them in their basement and call it a day. I love when videos were mini movies. They really helped stamp a visual on a band, now it’s like it doesn’t matter, we are going to throw this band in a room, we are going to film them, edit it and it is going to look like someone’s home movies. There’s our music video, it cost $2,000. Some of these bands do the amateur filming and it’s like “Eeesh!” Some people have good ideas and have good taste, but the quality is being sacrificed with photography and things like that. Usually you have to hire a photographer and pay them for the day and then you get you’re badass photos. I’ve seen bands and I don’t get why they do this, but I’ve seen bands that do their promos photos with their IPhones. It’s like really? Eight megapixels on your phone camera? Come on! Even with fans at shows, eight years ago when you take pictures with fans you get a couple pictures because they have disposable or digital cameras. Now it’s like every kid you run into wants to take a picture and it takes them twenty minutes to figure out how their phone works. You have to sit there and wait and then their drunk friends try and use their phone camera, their flash doesn’t work and you’re still standing there waiting. These kids don’t need all these tools on their phone. They need to make a phone call and that’s it. I’m always nice about it, but it’s just like “really?”

Shauna O’Donnell: YOU ARE CURRENTLY OUT ON THE ROAD TOURING.
Stitch: Yes, we are three weeks into the tour.

Shauna O’Donnell: YOU’RE KNOWN LARGELY FOR YOUR ELABORATE AND INTERACTIVE STAGE SHOWS, SUCH AS THE WATER DRUMS AND THE “BOOTY SHOW.” WHAT ARE YOU GUYS DOING ON THIS TOUR TO OUT DO YOURSELVES?
Stitch: We have put a little bit of upgrading into the water drum trick. We did an overhaul on those with better lighting, actually we put LED’s in there instead of our normal flood lights. We got these waterproof LED’s so they change colors, they strobe and they are really bright. They are really effective now that we can select a color for the mood of a song. We did a couple other lighting upgrades for the stage. Our light show definitely started falling apart so we brought it back up to par. We got some new costumes and masks. Our shows are always high energy, but they are really amped up this time because we are playing new material and a really long set. We are close to the hour and a half mark right now. We are out trying to rekindle our name and pull in new fans. We are out here acting like we are doing it for the first time again. We are paying attention to every little detail.

Shauna O’Donnell: YOU ARE COMING OUT WITH A WHOLE NEW ENERGY. THE ONE SHOW THAT I WISH I COULD ATTEND IS YOUR ANNUAL HALLOWEEN SHOW.
Stitch: Those are always awesome because they are in our hometown, it’s at the end of the tour and it’s in a big theatre. It’s always sold out, like 3,000 people. We do an insane amount of production. We have artists and theatre production people back home that do stuff for Broadway plays and stuff like that. They literally sit at home while we are on tour and we are constantly making calls saying “We want this!” We will rack up a $10,000 bill just with the show. We make a good paycheck that day so we can afford to do that because we like making those shows special. We like keeping Cleveland in the realm of “this is our home and we only do this show here.” We do crazy snow machines, cold bars, set changes, costume changes and we have an insane amount of lights brought in.

Shauna O’Donnell: AREN’T YOU FILMING THIS ONE FOR A DVD THIS YEAR?
Stitch: We filmed last year for a DVD, but the problem with that always becomes that we usually find friends of ours who are in film schools that can get free access to cameras, but because they are our friends half the footage comes out cool and the other half is not really DVD worthy. We film it every year and you always see some footage tied into the home videos that we put out, but we really want to release a DVD with the entire live show with multiple camera angles. That’s the problem with being DIY, there are so many hats to wear and then you always overlook the most important ones. Were spending all this money on the show and it looked awesome, it was badass, it was the greatest show ever and it wasn’t filmed.

Shauna O’Donnell: THAT’S ALWAYS THE CASE ISN’T IT?
Stitch: It’s always the case! Then the only footage you can see is everyone’s distorted camera phone video on YouTube.

Shauna O’Donnell: ALONG WITH THE PICTURES.
Stitch: Along with the pictures. That’s another thing, when I go to shows I watch the show and people are on the phone the whole damn time. Enjoy yourself; you paid $30 to get in here.

Shauna O’Donnell: ID LIKE TO THANK YOU FOR THE INTERVIEW. YOU’RE A REALLY GREAT GUY.
Stitch: Very cool!

Shauna O’Donnell: IS THERE ANYTHING YOU’D LIKE TO ADD OR SAY?
Stitch: Pick up the album. I believe we just got the album reports for the first week and it charted at #44 on Billboard. We were hoping for the Top 40, but we were four off dammit!

Shauna O’Donnell: YOU WERE CLOSE THOUGH.
Stitch: It’s so hard these days to even chart and a #44 slot. Fifteen years ago would have been like 100,000 records and now it’s like 10,000 records. I think we did 12,000 records the first week or something. It’s just crazy how the industry has changed. Bands used to sell a million their first week because there was no way to get it. You didn’t even know what it sounded like until it came out. You waited in line for the record store to open so you’d be the first one to get it. I used to do that stuff all the time because it was exciting, it was fun and it was part of the experience of being in a band. It’s definitely a dead practice.

Shauna O’Donnell: I USED TO DO THAT TOO. I TRY AND GET AS MANY OF THE BANDS EXPOSED AS I CAN AND I TRY TO DO MY PART, BUT IT GET’S HARD. I HEAR BAND’S STORIES AND IT’S HEARTBREAKING BECAUSE THEY WANT IT SO BAD.
Stitch: It is because we are just out here trying to create art for people. People get the wrong idea too, they think just because I’m inMushroomhead that I probably drive a Corvette or Ferrari and I have house and all this stuff. No, I live in a one bedroom apartment and I drive a Toyota Corolla. It isn’t anything lavish. When you really break it down, we make minimum wage like anybody else at a day job. The only trade off is that we are doing what we love. It’s disheartening when you are getting in your thirties and you’re making as much as a kid working at Taco Bell.

Shauna O’Donnell: YOU WATCH THE VIDEOS FOR RAP ARTISTS THOUGH AND THEY HAVE ALL THIS GOLD ON, THEY ARE DRIVING A FERRARI AND THEY LIVE IN MANSIONS. I’M THINKING “WOW, WHAT ARE THEY DOING DIFFERENTLY THAN THE BANDS I TALK TO?”
Stitch: The thing is, half of that crap is all a front. None of that is their stuff. Even on the MTV Cribs show, I was reading that half of the time those houses and cars aren’t even the artist’s. It’s all set up by the production company to look like that. They paint up that lifestyle. Most of the hip-hop artists are indebted to their labels for so much to get that popular. The thing with rap music too is that you only have to pay one or two people, the producer that is writing the music for you and then whoever the voice is or the artist. With us you have eight guys, a six member crew and you have all this other stuff. There is a lot to it. It’s funny because when you see MTV Cribs for rock bands, you are seeing their real homes and it is basic looking stuff. You go to these rappers and it is so over the top that it almost angers you. There is no way anybody needs that much money. Twenty years ago rock was ruling America. The mid 90’s were my favorite era because I was in my teenage years. Everything was so honest, angsty, dirty and really rock star based and now there are no rock idols anymore. There are no bands that are coming out that are the next Ozzy, Alice Cooper or Nine Inch Nails. It’s all this flash in the pan stuff that is gone in two years. There is really nothing to believe in, follow or be inspired by. I find lately that the music I buy is a lot of European bands from Finland, Sweden and Holland. They are really doing stuff that is interesting as hell. It's all overseas, but none of it is over here.

Shauna O'Donnell: WHEN I VERY FIRST LOOKED AT YOUR PICTURE, I THOUGHT YOU WERE FROM EUROPE. DO PEOPLE THINK YOU ARE A EUROPEAN BAND?
Stitch: No, not really, that is definitely a first. I feel we would have a better career if we were to be in Europe more. It’'s so expensive to get there. Europeans love American bands, especially this heavy genre. Over in Europe they still do huge festivals with tons of bands that 30-40 thousand people come out to. Festivals that if you did them in America, you’d have a thousand kids at. It definitely makes me jealous because I feel we’re on the wrong side of the globe.

Shauna O’Donnell: AUSTRALIA IS DOING GOOD TOO. IT’S THE BIG THING RIGHT NOW.
Stitch: Yeah, we have a mask site where we sell replica masks that we do ourselves and 20% of the orders come from Australia. That is a country we have never played in. We have never even touched Australia, but we are selling albums there and people are collecting our $300 a piece masks over there. Things come in waves and shifts and I’m really hoping that this rap/pop thing dies down. I hope some real music written by real people can take the forefront. The thing with popular music too is that it usually isn’t written by the artist, it’s written by a bunch of suit and ties. They are saying “This is what is going to be popular, this is what we are going to push and this is what we are going to make kids buy.” It works because they shove it down everyone’s throats. If you play anything over and over again, everyone is going to fall in suit.