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Kerbyís Exclusive Interview With Mudvayne Drummer Matt McDonough

By Newsferatu, Writer
Wednesday, March 22, 2006 @ 1:57 PM

"I really appreciate a person

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When Mudvayne first broke out in a huge way on the Merry Mayhem Tour with Ozzy Osbourne and Rob Zombie in late 2001, the band was quickly labeled by some as being nothing more than mundane purveyors of the same make-up wearing, nu-metal sounding music that was exactly the type of music that was increasing in popularity at the time. Of course, no one in the recording industry had a problem with that perception then as it was that very image which was instrumental in selling records. Fast forward a few years though--and, of course, the musical climate has changed and many groups originally identified with said genre have had to either expand their sound or watch as legions of their fans invariably leave in order to move on to the next trend. Regardless of the constant state of flux the recording industry continually finds itself in, if one judges primarily by sales, one would have to assume that Disturbed, Mudvayne and System of a Down have all managed to continue to remain relevant and connect with a substantial fan baseóface it, someone has to be buying the records.

At the core of Mudvayneís sound is drummer Matt McDonoughóthe bandís timekeeper is also responsible many times for being the groupís spokesperson as well. Having a reputation for being possibly a less than forgiving interviewee, Matt proves here to be more than amiable as he sheds some light on his views regarding fans, the spontaneity of a given moment and how to best take advantage of the opportunity a person is given at any particular place in time. This attitude has doubtlessly served him well over the last ten years as Mudvayne has gone from their humble beginnings in Peoria, Illinois to become a band that not only has continued to champion a substantial fan base but has also recently found itself garnering an MTV 2 award as well as being nominated this year for a Grammy in the category of Best Metal Performance before eventually losing out to Slipknot. If that wasnít enough, their most recent record, Lost and Found debuted an number two on the Billboard chart and has since sold hundreds of thousands of copies all of which seem to have given Mudvayne a level of credibility within the industry that may have seemed less than likely even a few short years ago.

KNAC.COM: I read in one article where you said something to the effect that in certain ways that ďinterviews are as important as the music.Ē What did you mean by that?

MCDONOUGH: The idea is to actualize a medium, so any media that is communicating what Iím doing as an artist or what Mudvayne is as an entity, should be appreciated as being representative of that--just like the music is one facet or side of that coin. An interview should be the same type of thing too.

KNAC.COM: So what youíre saying is that you shouldnít have to be subjected to the same twenty questions the guy just asked the country western band that came through town the week before?

MCDONOUGH: It isnít so much being subjected to it as much as I can only be as effective as what the medium allows. Theyíre doing themselves a disserviceóthere is an opportunity that happens in any situation where something is being created, and it is a special thing that is only happening that one time. What the situation ultimately becomes has to do with the chemistry of the people who are involved in it and the people who are making it, and if youíre not going to take advantage of that singular moment to get something special out of it, then youíre selling yourself short. Youíd be missing the whole idea of what being creative is all about. You have the opportunity to actualize something that has never been actualized that can only happen as part of this one moment. If someone doesnít appreciate that, wellÖ

KNAC.COM: You mean like the times you feel like referring someone to the web site because you feel like discussing how the band first came together is a waste of energy?

MCDONOUGH: Sure, I think itís a waste of time if the whole thing is rote and then itís like ďgo to the website and read our biography.Ē

KNAC.COM: Donít you think that this whole idea of singular moments and spontaneity translates well to a musician when he takes the stage? Shouldnít a band always be prepared to let a moment take them somewhere as well even if it isnít necessarily planned?

MCDONOUGH: Absolutely. The idea is to try to maintain an open, receptive headspace where you can actualize whatever may be available to you at the time. In that sense, you donít need to try to control it but just be aware that this might be a great opportunity to connect with this person or have that experience. You arenít trying to control the situation as much as you are maybe trying to take it and spin it. Outside of that, with the live show, the idea is that if you have the idea that this is a special moment that you have an appreciation of, you already have the type of respect that kicks up the level of energy that is being experienced or translated. I mean, I donít know how psychologically energy is translated between the fans, but I think most musicians that go onstage have some type of feeling of give and pull. If youíre going onstage thinking that each performance is a singular thing that is important and not just another job, then maybe you already have a leg up on the game already.

KNAC.COM: That would make sense, I mean, if you want to punch the clock, there are plenty of opportunities to punch the clock in society.

MCDONOUGH: Absolutely.

KNAC.COM: It would seem like half the beauty of music would be the opportunity to let something spontaneous or artistic occur whether that moment happens in front of an audience or in somebodyís living room.

MCDONOUGH: It is a special moment. When was the last time Mudvayne and Korn played a gig together in Albuquerque? When will it ever happen again?

KNAC.COM: In fact, you guys just toured with American Head Chargeóa band who Iím sure could attest to the fragility of life and circumstance as well as anyone out there making music right now.

MCDONOUGH: YeahÖIím not trying to dictate anything religious or spiritual, but strictly on an empirical level, I just appreciate the reality of things always changing, and the moment being precious, special and unique. Wherever you want to go with that or conjecture with it, I leave that up to the person to make of it what they want. From the level of just appreciating life and just finding the positive, maybe that is something that each person can just look at in their own headspace. I think thatís important in the sense of asking the question, ďwhy do we get together to celebrate music and listen to a concert? What is this about?Ē Obviously there is something positive about people wanting to get together. We are all celebrating together.

KNAC.COM: Whatever that variable is, it would have to be the reason several hundred people are standing outside right now in the cold well before show time. I mean, they have to know they arenít going to be seeing anyone from the bands walking around over there.

MCDONOUGH: Yeah sure. Obviously, there must be something else going on, but I think Iíd leave it to each individual person thatís experiencing it to make of it what they want and to take it and internalize it and make it their own and value it and quantify it and realize that this is what it means for them. Maybe some people sleepwalk through the entire experience and donít even realize why theyíre here, but if youíre paying attention to it and appreciating it, then how much more can you get out of what youíre doing?

KNAC.COM: Is your primary obligation to the fans to just express yourself in as pure of a way as you possibly can? Isnít the rest basically left up to the interpretation of the audience anyway?

MCDONOUGH: Yeah, I mean, Iím not trying to make anyone think a certain way.

KNAC.COM: Isnít that the basic understanding though?

MCDONOUGH: I would hope that is the basic understanding. Unfortunately, some people have unrealistic expectations.

KNAC.COM: I would say those expectations to should translate to both sides of the stage as well. If Axl Rose tries to be Jim Morrison and incite a riot, that certainly suggests a behavioral expectation on his part, you know, and if a lead singer tells the audience to calm down or theyíre going to stop playing, the relationship changes. In those cases, you are doing something in order to engender a specific, desired reaction.

MCDONOUGH: Absolutely. Iíve seen certain bands get mad that people out in the audience are moshing, so they stop the show and ask everyone to take a step back and mellow out. Then afterwards, the crowd goes fucking ballistic and pelts the stage with garbageóthen, band has to leave, and itís the end of the show.

KNAC.COM: In reality though, who are you to say that in that situation? You arenít security--you arenít my dad--thatís not what I want to hear from you--thatís not why Iím there.

MCDONOUGH: Totally. Exactly. Well, I mean you would think so, but some people want to be told what to do. The same might be said for why certain people need religion or certain people need George Bush. Itís not really my place. I really appreciate a person who shows up to the concert with some degree of autonomy and who wants to have their own experience and take something away from it.

KNAC.COM: Do you see that as being kind of a scarce commodity though - independent thinkers in general?

MCDONOUGH: I think that has probably been a scarce commodity throughout the whole course of human history.

KNAC.COM: You absolutely donít believe that it is any worse today?

MCDONOUGH: No, I donít think so, but I also donít think that itís my place to judge, really. Iím not trying to change people. You said it best, Iím just doing my thing, and all I can do is be sincere to myself and create and express what Iím feeling.

KNAC.COM: I guess the only reason I would think of it as potentially being a personal issue for you is if in some way you felt that more people had begun to close themselves off from wanting to connect with anything that might be in any way different or mind expanding.

MCDONOUGH: Yeah, that becomes personal then. The whole thing is subjective thoughómy experience is as subjective as the next fanís at that point.

KNAC.COM: How do you reconcile the artistic with the business end of things though? It would seem like the packaging and the game might bother you more than it might other musicians.

MCDONOUGH: Well, you just reconcile it by placing it in its proper context of recognizing the power and how everything is part of the medium.

KNAC.COM: So youíre saying that by the eighth interview that youíve had where everything starts to sound the same, that you arenít a little edgy and totally wish you were doing something else? Isnít it just an obligation to serve the greater good?

MCDONOUGH: Well, I donít knowóitís an obligation. I guess it is my responsibility to go through the process of being uncomfortable, pissed-off and aggravated by dumb interviews. Whatever, maybe some of those people will pick up on it, and maybe it makes them a better journalist or opens up their eyes, so they can actualize more effectively within their media. I donít know. Itís not my place to say how those things work, as far as my personal level of enjoyment, it would be a lot better to have an interview like this one. Unfortunately, itís the radio ones, and itís the U.S.--we do so much better interviewing out of the country.

KNAC.COM: Do you think that has anything to do with the perception that many people outside the U.S. are generally better informed about issues and for that matter generally make for better conversationalists?

MCDONOUGH: Unfortunately, that is a big part of what is required in journalism is being informed. Itís only going to be as good as the mean level of conscious headspace that weíre talking about, you know, if the person isnít college educated or schooled in that area, youíre only going to get out of it what is put into it.

KNAC.COM: When you get fans who come up to you who have been touched by the music in some way but who also may not be the most able to express themselves verbally, donít you have to be a lot more forgiving or empathetic in that situation?

MCDONOUGH: Well, they are bringing something different to the table, you know, they arenít doing a job. You can have a passion for your work or the people youíre interviewing, but with a fan, youíre dealing with someone that supports you and is touched by what youíve done, so there is some instant personal experience that goes along with that. That has to be approached with some level of respect, and sometimes thatís hard when youíre talking about a massive age difference where I am probably old enough to be the father of most of the fans of my music, so their experience is going to be a lot different than mine, so yeah, you try to be sensitive to that and respectful. A twelve-year old kid isnít going to have the depth of life experience to appreciate the depth of certain things that youíve gone through. You just let that kind of be what it is. With the fan, its all about what they have been able to take away from it--maybe if you can spin it or contribute to that, it would show a side to that that they havenít realized. Most of the time with the fans though, they just want to ground the connection that they have to the music.

KNAC.COM: Does that make the relationship more authentic to know that you actually exist as a person?

MCDONOUGH: For them it does, sure. Iíve never really been on that side of the fence. As a fan of music, and Iím still a big fan of music, Iíve never been one to sit around the bus at a concert. I would go to the show and stand in front of the stage and when it was over, Iíd get in my car and drive home.

KNAC.COM: That was always enough?

MCDONOUGH: Yeah, probably ninety-percent of the crowd that comes to the show is like that, but then there are just those other ten percent of the fans who have to stand outside the bus.

KNAC.COM: It would be interesting to pinpoint what the primary differences are between those types of people.

MCDONOUGH: I donít think that is something I should ever express in an interview because unfortunately, however you want to talk about it, there is probably going to be some type of negative connotation. There are people who for them the art is enough. I never understood, who was that guy who wrote that book about John Lennon in the early nineties about his private life?

KNAC.COM: Albert Goldman?

MCDONOUGH: Yeah. I remember when that book came out, you know, ten years before I had a record deal and was just a kid in the basement making music. I remember even then, you know, I wondered what fucking value does that have to a fan of John Lennonís or the Beatles music? What good does it do to know all the horrible things that were said about him whether it was true or untrue? Why does that need to be publicized? Why does there need to be that information?

KNAC.COM: Because I donít want there to be an icon named John Lennon who is somehow placed on a pedestal over the rest of humanity. It seems like a great equalizer.

MCDONOUGH: Why would people want to buy the book and read it though? I remember that my grandmother gave me the book and I just looked at it and just couldnít figure out what value it had. I guess for me on a personal level as an artist that makes records, I donít think that whatever I do outside of what I do on a public level of making music--I donít really see how where I live or how old I am or what my sexual persuasion should have any value to a fan. Iím just another dude, outside of this one thing that we appreciate which is Mudvayneís music. I guess getting to the bottom line of what that is might touch on what weíre trying to translate.

KNAC.COM: Maybe people need something more than the music itself can provide. In Lennonís case, he is almost a religious figure in many ways.

MCDONOUGH: Exactly. Like the thirty missing years in the life of Jesus is important when youíre discussing the Sermon on the Mount. I donít know where that comes from.

KNAC.COM: In truth, that specific author has written about many different subjectsóone being Lenny Bruce. I think within the first fifty pages, there was drug use, oral sex and implied homosexuality, soÖthe whole book is about seven hundred pages so you kind of get the idea about how much it could degenerate from there.

MCDONOUGH: Yeah, you have to wonder in that case where the supply and demand for that thing comes fromóitís just a symptom of what our need or desire and culture for that type of experience. Why do we need reality TV? I donít know. I donít watch any of it.

KNAC.COM: Do you think that maybe real life isnít real enough? You know, go to Wal-Mart, see your wife, work your job---is that not enough of an experience?

MCDONOUGH: Exactly. Maybe you just donít realize at that point what the value of every single moment and the people around you truly is.

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