'Shroom to Grow: An Interview with J Mann of MUSHROOMHEAD

By Charlie Steffens aka Gnarly Charlie, Writer/Photographer
Thursday, July 24, 2014 @ 5:42 PM

“It’s almost beyond a band. It’s like a sports team almost. Everyone’s got to put the team first.”

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This could be MUSHROOMHEAD’s most memorable year yet. Their new album, The Righteous & The Butterfly (released on May 13, 2014) has charted higher in the Billboard categories of Indie, Hard Rock and Top 200 than any other release in its 20-year career. Earlier this year, the Cleveland, Ohio-based alternative/industrial metal band toured Australia for the first time, playing the Soundwave Festival. Original vocalist J Mann (Jason Popson) returned to the band in August 2013, putting an end to his ten-year hiatus. Along with vocalists Jeffrey Nothing (Hatrix) and Waylon Reavis, J Mann’s reentry has made MUSHROOMHEAD a band with three vocalists. With their slot on this year’s Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival, the nine-member pack of masked men-- Tom Shmotz (Schmitz) on keyboards; Steve “Skinny” Felton on drums; Rick “ST1TCH” Thomas on turntables and custom percussion; Tommy Church on guitar; Ryan “Dr. F” Farrell on bass; and Robbie “Roberto Diablo” Godsey on drums and custom percussion, will be seen and heard by tens of thousands across the country.

“I’m looking forward to the camaraderie more than the music,” says Mann. “I’m just so stoked that everyone’s so cool. I’m definitely stoked to see Ice-T every day, (and) to see CANNIBAL CORPSE. There’s bands I want to be on the side of the stage to watch too. I really just want to hang out with the metal brethren.”

Discussing the The Righteous & The Butterfly, Mann explains how the material resembles the MUSHROOMHEAD of earlier years. “It was definitely intentional, as far as getting back to the roots. I think we started by becoming music fans again. We started listening to a wide array of stuff. With so many members you have so many influences. Everyone was really open-minded. Everyone was also focused on getting back to ‘getting back’ to the roots and making a MUSHROOMHEAD record that wasn’t predictable or just one style. ‘Remember when we started this we wanted to be able to play anything? Well, let’s get back to playing anything, instead of having to write a song for radio or a song for the mosh pit. Let’s be able to write anything. Again.’ That’s what the goal was.”

The whole album was recorded in-house in the band’s own studio. “Three or four of the guys were playing engineer on it. So it was one of those things where we didn’t lock ourselves into the studio for six months to make a record. We’d work on it here and there, between shows and band obligations.”

“It’s definitely a pretty democratic process,” he says on the songwriting and recording process. “It’s really just about what the song needs and not having any egos getting in the way of that. As long as we’re all there to serve the song, then no one really has a reason to get upset, or there’s no animosity. And if it really comes down to how much you’re willing to contribute, and also how humble you can be, if you know someone can do it better. We’re all in this together.”

Mann insists that the ego-factor in the band is nominal among the nine members, and they get along in the studio just as they do when touring together. “It’s almost beyond a band. It’s like a sports team almost. Everyone’s got to put the team first. Like they say ‘There’s no I in team’--you can’t put you or your career or your ego first, or yeah, you’re not going to last. It really is important to approach it like a team and whatever benefits the cause. And anyone that truly believes in the cause is not going to have any problem with that. And if they do, then they’re a problem.”

“I would say that the most important thing is just showing up. I forget who said that famous quote, but the most important thing is showing up. So obviously the people that are there more get more time or space on it. It’s again about serving the song.”


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