Posted December, 2011
Johhny April, Aaron Lewis & Mike Mushok - Photo by PR Brown
Staind. The band is synonymous with tough, take-no-prisonerrs, in your face alternative metal. The music is often described as raw, angry, heavy, even emotional and elicits the same feelings from their fans and their detractors alike.
Like any successful, well-established band, Staind has experienced highs, lows, ups and downs. With the release of their self-titled seventh album, the band has gone back to their roots while simultaneously finding themselves at new crossroads.
This week, I caught up with band guitarist, Mike Mushok, while Staind was on a brief tour. We talked about reaction to the new CD, the tour and the future direction of the band. From the git-go, it’s abundantly clear to me that Mike is all about family. This was evident in his answer to me while, in making small talk before I asked him questions that I know he had to have answered a million times before, I asked him if he was tired of the road yet.
“Nah. Look, it’s always hard being away from home and family – especially close to the holidays. But, no, we’re doing alright right now.”
What’s been the reaction to the new CD so far?
“It seems to be good. When we’ve played a bunch of the stuff live, it seems to go over really well. I think the new CD lends itself to being played live. We’ve been doing a handful of songs off of it and the response seems to be really good. I know they’re fun to play!”
Are there tunes that the crowds react to more than others?
“Yeah! The song, Paper Wings, seems to go over really well. The single, Not Again and Eyes Wide Open we’ve been playing so, yeah, it’s been a good response.”
We talked briefly about the kind of venues Staind has been playing on this short tour.
“We’re doing a scaled-down version right now – doing radio/present shows for different radio stations with different bands. It’s not like there’s really a specific package. We just went out and did some of these shows with other bands hopping on with us here and there. It’s a shorter run. There’s a proper tour planned this spring.”
On this tour and the spring tour, what can fans expect from a Staind show?
“I think the spring’s going to be a little bit more elaborate than what we’re doing now. Right now, we’re just out there playing, really. We’re trying to put together a decent production for the spring – basically, the put together the best set we can. There are some songs that have gotten us to this point that we feel we have to play along with the new songs that we’re trying to throw in there and some stuff we not have played in awhile. Hopefully, it will make for a good show for everybody.”
I commented that, from what I’ve read in interviews with both him and Aaron, that this new album is going back to the roots that got them to where they are today.
“Sure, it was definitely meant to go back to kind of why we started the band which was playing more aggressive music. That was the game plan and that was what we set out to do. I think we got there. It was a nice return.”
I haven’t seen the documentary but I’ve read about it. It seems that, at least from the view from the outside world, there is concern that Staind may splinter after the tour next year. How does Mike respond to those concerns?
“Who knows what the future’s gonna hold? I can tell you right now that I think we’re in a fairly decent spot. Look, Aaron’s got his solo thing that he’s doing and I know that he’s enjoying doing that. We’re enjoying being out here playing these songs. There’s always the intention of us doing another Staind record. That’s what the intent is as of right now when as I speak to you.” As a he laughed, Mike added, “A year from now? I can’t tell you! But, as of right now, that’s what the game plan is and that’s kind of always the way it’s been. I’d like to think that that is where we’re headed. Aaron and I have spoken of this. When we get together, we make music that we both enjoy playing. We kind of intend continuing to do that. Could that change? Absolutely. Right now? I don’t think that’s going to happen but who knows?”
When I commented that I had read that Mike was working on some good solo stuff as Aaron was, his response revealed his love and deference to Staind.
“You know, it’s funny. I just kind of started trying to pursue doing a few different things. I have a few things going now but nothing that I even really want to put out there until I know a little bit more about where it’s (Staind) going to end up or what’s going to happen with it. Really, him (Aaron) doing that (the solo work) led me to writing a lot and figuring out where I can use some of this other music that I do that we don’t end up using.”
Does Mike feel that when he and Aaron go and do their own thing that it helps bring some freshness to Staind in the studio?
“I don’t know. It feels kind of the same to me when we get together. One thing that’s really nice about it is that I get to spend a little bit more time with my family. On the other hand, this is how I make a living so I need to work, also. But I’m sure there’s something to be said about, as with anything, having some time apart makes it a little bit easier, a little bit better when you get back together.”
On and off the record, Mike mentioned his family a lot. I asked him how has becoming a dad of twins affected him personally and if it has affected him as a musician and how he views his career.
“Well, it’s definitely made leaving and going out on the road – which is why you start doing this, writing songs and being able to go out and play your music – it’s definitely changed that and made it a lot more difficult to be away. When you have a wife and you don’t have kids, she can come out and things are a lot easier. Once you have kids, everything changes and pretty much everything is for them. That’s really the way it is. I need to be able to provide for them and, like I said, hopefully raise them into good people and provide a decent life for them.”
I asked Mike if the twins have said or done anything that makes him sit back and go, “Mike, why did you wait so long to have kids?!”
“Just them being around, you know? I’m glad that we had them when we did and I had a chance to go out and play and do this. It was something that, with me being away and traveling a lot, it took us a while to get married and it took us a little while to have kids. It was one of those things we knew that we wanted to do but we wanted to try and do it at the right time. As far as that goes, I don’t have any regrets. I feel that I’m better prepared for it, also, having them when we did.”
What has Staind not accomplished that they still hope to?
“I gotta say the biggest thing – there was a minute where we had it but it got away from us was the success that we had outside of the United States. When Break The Cycle was doing what it was doing, it was there. Then the thing kind of got dropped on the label side and, probably, management side at the time when we moved forward from there. It feels like – outside of the United States – we’re fighting to build that back now for awhile. I’d say that’s probably the one thing that would be nice – to feel like that was a little bit more stable than it actually really is. It’s something that we still aim to try and do and work on trying to do.”
For the gear-head readers of Boomerocity, I asked Mike what gear he’s using on this tour.
“You know, if you saw me, I don’t know, ten years ago, it’s pretty much the same thing that I had then, other than guitars. I’ve changed guitar manufacturers. But my amps, I still run two amps. I run a Diezel VH4 and a Marshall JMP-1 through a Marshall power amp. They’re both on all the time. I have different sounds for each of them and blend them together.
“For effects – I actually need to change my effects and I’m looking into it. The ones I have are so old that they’re starting to break down. Right now, I’m using MP1. I’m looking into changing that out.
“Guitar wise, I have a signature model with Paul Reed Smith – the Mike Mushok Baritone model. It’s pretty much my main guitar.”
I popped the Boomerocity “legacy” question on Mike, asking him what he hopes his personal legacy is – as well as Staind’s – after he’s dead and gone.
“I look at it as my biggest job in life is I have twins who just turned five and it’s, hopefully, raise responsible, good people. That is the biggest goal that I have – is making sure that they are taking care of themselves and to be good people.
“As far as the band goes, I hope that people can look at us as a rock band that wrote good music and songs that people like to listen to. For me, it’s pretty much that simple. We always go in and try to write good songs – something that, hopefully, people will want to listen to.”
Judging by the current tour and sales of Staind, it would appear that the legacy is well in place.
You can catch Staind on their current tour and find out what their 2012 tour plans are by becoming a free member of their online community at www.staind.com. And, if you haven’t picked up a copy of their latest album, Staind, yet, you can read the Boomerocity review of it here.