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Kerby’s Exclusive Interview With Mushroomhead Drummer Skinny

By Jeff Kerby, Contributor
Tuesday, November 21, 2006 @ 1:06 PM

"I say it all the time—those g

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Talk about misunderstandings.

The pervading perception that exists among fans and the media concerning Mushroomhead is that they are an earnest enough band who has spent the last decade basically riding the coat tails of their more popular masked nemesis, Slipknot. Separating the fact from the fiction regarding the group’s origins can be extremely difficult when there are obvious motivations for each band to claim they were somehow originators in this particular genre of metal. The popular perception though in the Mushroomhead camp centers around the time the band nearly signed with Roadrunner Records in 1998--eventually, talks between the two parties broke down, but one year later, Roadrunner located a nine member, masked band from Des Moines that did, in fact, bare a striking resemblance to Mushroomhead. Instead of saying that one group influenced the other or that maybe even one band even inspired the other, Corey Taylor, instead insisted that his band had never even heard of the Ohio collective until after they themselves had signed with Roadrunner and were working on their debut record. Although these events may have taken place seven years ago, the wounds are obviously still fresh, and the contentious nature of the relationships between these two groups has continued to endure.

As one band went on to multi-platinum status, Skinny and the rest of the boys in Mushroomhead have continued to cross the U.S. for well over a decade now sharing their metal, punk, industrial mayhem with all who identify and choose to bask in the band’s maniacal glow. Regardless of the size of the audience the band plays to, one can count on Mushroomhead to deliver the type of performance that will be memorable both visibly as well as sonically. Their latest tour is in support of the recent release, Savior Sorrow, which is an accurate representation of where the group is right now with its trademark blend of atmospheric metal that exudes creative intensity at every turn. It becomes fairly obvious while listening to Skinny that being considered an artist rather than simply a tool of the record industry is extremely important and that by his own definition of success, anyone who has the ability to express themselves and make a mark whether it be in music or some other form of artistry is embarking on a worthwhile path. For those metalheads out there looking to take note of a band who perseveres in the industry for the right reasons for once, a person could do much worse than looking to Mushroomhead and their desire to actualize their vision despite whatever obstacles might present themselves in the process.

KNAC.COM: If you had to pinpoint the reason a band like Mushroomhead has been able to endure out on the road for so long, what would you say? I know it isn’t always the cushiest of lives.

SKINNY: Yeah, we’re still waiting on that cushy life. I guess it’s just the fuckin’ determination of a band like us. We set goals that can be accomplished. We aren’t a million selling band or even a half a million selling band for that matter, but we do know our place in metal and the industry though, and at the end of the day it’s the commitment to ourselves to continue to create art that’s important. It ain’t the financial aspect that keeps us going—that’s for sure. We’ve been on the road for thirteen years now, and we’re on our fifth full-length record right now. I guess we could quit if we had the bank accounts to match it, but we don’t so…at the end of the day it’s just about artists and their determination to create because it ain’t about selling out or making other people happy like labels or others in the industry. We just do what we want to do on a daily basis, and to me that’s the definition of success.

KNAC.COM: Do you think that’s why fans get jaded with bands once they have attained a certain level of success? People get very possessive over groups that they enjoy—when more fans and money comes into the fold, long time fans tend want to create a backlash because they feel the group has somehow betrayed them.

SKINNY: Absolutely. It’s an underground type of thing, and not many fans know of these bands. Kids like to run around and cheer for groups and say that they knew a particular band before anyone else did. When other people start listening to them, they don’t like them anymore. That is just part of the underground industry, and it happens all the time when bands get popular--the major underground fan base will turn their back on it.

KNAC.COM: What does that do for a band such as yours who relies almost exclusively on that grassroots support?

SKINNY: It’s kinda crazy because we’re too heavy for mainstream and too mainstream for heavy. We are a serious borderline band. At the end of the day, we are just doing what we want to do, and that’s what’s important. We are just still out there creating art in the same way we were thirteen years ago.

KNAC.COM: That freedom is priceless too—it definitely shouldn’t ever be sold short. It’s gotta beat selling appliances at Sears.

SKINNY: Sure, and the definition for success is different for different people. Whether you hold certain accomplishments on a high level or not, at the end of the day, I’m still an artist. That’s true whether you’re diggin’ it or not. If I like it, then it’s cool.

KNAC.COM: That’s a healthy attitude considering everything in life is a variable---placing too much of a value in others has to be an exercise in futility.

SKINNY: Don’t get me wrong, I’d love the paycheck…but, you can’t miss what you never had.

KNAC.COM: When it comes to Mushroomhead, there are so many misconceptions with regard to how you formed and what prompted the band to come into being in the first place. Then, there is the whole idea that Slipknot were the originators in the whole mask/metal renaissance. Is that something that you spend a lot of time trying to dispel? Is it hard to reconcile?

SKINNY: The point where we’re at now is on a personal level, I don’t give a fuck. That’s just how the cards fell. Sure, we’ve been doing it way longer than them, but they were in the public eye before us. It definitely could have been different, and they could be living in our shadow, but…it went the other way. I can’t say that it’s not disheartening, but to be compared to something that you can’t even be compared to is kind of shitty. A lot of people aren’t artists. A lot of people don’t have creative integrity. People should be able to go, “shit, I don’t care which came first—the chicken or the egg. Fuck it. I like this one.” It is difficult though because every interview you do, that does get mentioned. Coming up though, I was into Kiss and Alice Cooper, and there were plenty of other bands way more talented than Slipknot that did it before that didn’t get the recognition. When we started doing it, there was GWAR and the Genitorturers—Manson hadn’t even broke yet. The whole preexisting theatrical element is kind of overlooked because of the blinders many in the public have on. Bands like Slipknot didn’t originate this mass theatrical metal thing. There are many more talented bands out there who did it before. We weren’t the first to do it, and we definitely won’t be the last either.

KNAC.COM: Is the whole idea that Slipknot somehow created something new perpetuated by the fact that they really haven’t ever came out and said that there were a lot of other bands out there who are similar in appearance that should get recognized as well?

SKINNY: Yeah, in the magazines and the promotional outlets, we don’t get a lot of love from the press usually because they believe, “Oh Mushroomhead is just a ‘wannabe’ Slipknot.” Some people just don’t have the integrity to actually listen to something and decide whether or not they like it based simply on the music. If neither one of us ever wore a mask, we would never get compared to one another. It would be like comparing Faith No More to Slayer.

KNAC.COM: Sure. The problem for Mushroomhead seems to be that although you were out there first, Slipknot broke bigger, earlier and unfortunately if that group isn’t going to set the record straight, there isn’t a whole lot you can do to change the perception of the people.

SKINNY: They’re never going to do that. That just isn’t the type of people they are.

KNAC.COM: If they had though, wouldn’t that have been the professional thing to do in that situation? I mean, they wouldn’t even have to say they weren’t first—they could just explain that there are other bands in the same arena and that they’re all cool—that type of thing.

SKINNY: It probably would have helped. They aren’t those type of people though. I say it all the time—those guys are the fabricated, N-Sync of metal. Everything they have ever done has been copied or fabricated or taken from someone else. They flat out went and got rid of the competition in their hometown by taking Corey Taylor and Jim Root from another band. As far as how they looked before Roadrunner, the clown was the only one wearing a mask. We all know the history, but the kids don’t. They way they portray themselves publicly…well, it’s not anything like they claim it to be.

KNAC.COM: In fact, everyone has something professionally that they have to deal with—but it would have to be hard to see a band that capitalized on ideas that you originally thought of become massively successful. Then, what do you do though? Isn’t speaking about it or contemplating it too much simply a waste of energy?

SKINNY: At the end of the day, that’s where I sit with it. It would have been very easy to just drop it and go, “Fuck it. They beat us to the punch. We’re never going to get out of the shadow of those guys and fuckin’ step up to the next level.” That’s not why we got into this though. We didn’t get into this to become the biggest band ever. We were in this to create art. It would have been easy to just drop our band or change our name or drop our masks, but that isn’t why we got into it. We got into this for ourselves. If you aren’t true to yourself, your music isn’t going to be true and neither is your artistic vision. It would be way easier to tuck your tail between your legs and run home than it is to continue something that you fully believe in whether the fans are buying it or not. At the end of the day, we do this for us.

KNAC.COM: When someone sees a Mushroomhead show, it becomes obvious in a hurry that there would be no other motivation for doing this other than a love of the music. The crowd sizes could be hit or miss depending on the promotion, but Mushroomhead manages to throw it down live regardless of all the other factors. I know that if I were to ask you though, I know you’d probably say that the size of the crowd is irrelevant.

SKINNY: Yeah, whether it’s fifty people or fifty thousand, we put on the same fuckin’ show.

KNAC.COM: Isn’t that the only professional way there would be to look at it?

SKINNY: I don’t know what the standard of professionalism even is anymore because when you look at the spotlight at the people who are supposedly professional like your Slipknots and shit like that, they aren’t pros—they’re just a bunch of hacks who got lucky. Honestly, if we would have broke before them, I don’t think they would have gotten anywhere. Our songs are way more radio and commercially friendly. As far as what other people think about professionalism, it is really about your true passion which is creating art and doing it. At the end of the day, we aren’t rock stars, we’re artists.

KNAC.COM: If you had broken first, do you see yourself as having eventually gone on to participating in a side project and crooning something like “Through Glass”?

SKINNY: No. Yeah, you can always do that later—the whole “Look at me, I’ve got more to offer than that.” Would those guys have really went out and did that type of an outlet if they really believed in what they were doing? Fuck no. To me, they were just using their success to fuel the fire for what they really, really truly wanted to do. We’ve had side projects and that kind of shit, but we aren’t pushing the record labels to get those deals too, so that we can have a sticker that says, “featuring members of Mushroomhead.” That’s not to say we won’t, (laughs). First and foremost with Joey from the Murderdolls or Corey with Stone Sour, if they didn’t have a desire to do these kinds of things, they wouldn’t leave what they had. It’s just fabricated. They all wanted to be known for themselves rather than just this mass band.

KNAC.COM: You’ve mentioned that your top priority with Mushroomhead concerns the idea of creating art. How important is the visual aspect of the band to creating the entire picture or creating art?

SKINNY: Well, I don’t want to downplay it because it’s a huge part of what we do. At the end of the day though, looking at something like Pink Floyd’s The Wall and being able to express yourself in a very multimedia type of presentation instead of just pressing “play” is important. Today, with the way kids are downloading, they don’t have the packaging to even look at, and they’re just listening to the music but the whole picture isn’t there. Even at that though, the music should be able to stand on its own.

KNAC.COM: Time tends to sort out those who primarily have a gimmick while remember those who actually produce memorable music—wouldn’t you say?

SKINNY: I believe that for us, we are already on that path. Our last album with Universal, XXIII, was really cool and had a lot of cohesiveness as well. When you listen to this new one, it’s like “these guys just fucking won’t stop.” It even surprises me when I listen to it. That surprises me because it isn’t anything I would have thought of three years ago. The only reason we were able to come up with these new ideas is because of our longevity and commitment to make music and art. We want to make something that we can go to bed and be happy with.

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