Interview: Mike Mushok of Staind Talks "Battlefield of the Mind"
Tue, 23 Apr 2013 12:24:29
Wednesday, April 24 at the Whisky in Hollywood at 7pm, filmmaker Fran Strine's riveting documentary Battlefield of the Mind will finally see its formal Los Angeles premiere. Produced by Staind singer Aaron Lewis and Strine, it's an honest look at the horrors our soldiers face upon coming home and suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. The film shines light on a crucial issue in the hopes of effecting true change. In addition to the screening, for one night only, David Ellefson [Megadeth], Sal G [Staind], Troy McLawhorn [Evanescence], Neil Godfry [Lo-Pro] and Pete Murray [Lo-Pro] with headliner, Eye Empire performing original songs from the official Battlefield of the Mind soundtrack.
The movie also features original score and soundtrack songs composed by none other than Staind guitarist Mike Mushok. Mushok stands out as one of the most proficient and powerful guitar-slingers of the 21st century. He can elevate a massive arena-size melody, but he can also shred and burn with the best of him. He's the rare six-string talent who can churn out a big hook and also set the fretboard on fire. It was only a matter of time before he tried his hand at film scoring and he knocks it out of the park.
Mushok also recently joined legendary Metallica bassist Jason Newsted's new band, and it's a match made in metal heaven.
ARTISTdirect.com editor in chief Rick Florino spoke to Mike Mushok about Battlefield of the Mind, working with Jason Newsted, and so much more.
Get tickets for the show here!
Purchase the film and soundtrack here!
Watch the video for "No Words" below!
Since it was a new endeavor, did it turn out the way you'd envisioned it or was it different from your initial thoughts?
The one different thing about composing for Battlefield of the Mind was Fran was under such a time crunch so he didn't have anything edited. He was just like, "Write sad music! Think one-to-three minute pieces". I basically did that. I think there was one thing I wrote to video. Other than that, I wrote pieces and sent them to him. He liked them, and he used them. Whereas the other short film I did was already put together, they weren't on such a time crunch. I was actually able to write to video, which is the way it's usually done.
Was it easier having the video?
I didn't think either were that difficult. When you have the image, you know where you want to start and end and bring out the kind of emotion for what you're seeing. With Battlefield of the Mind, I had pieces and things I'd come up with while actually doing it, and I recorded them. Pete Murray [Lo-Pro] and I worked a lot together on Battlefield of the Mind, between doing a couple of songs for the soundtrack and him helping me with some of the other layers that went on to the instrumental music I was doing. He's a really talented guy, and he helped make what I was doing better. We forged a great working relationship through doing Battlefield of the Mind.
The score and soundtrack show a different side of you. This isn't simply Staind transmuted to film. It's another facet of your playing.
Right, I don't think it was at all. It was fun to do. It always seems like there are time constraints with everything. Even playing with Jason, the first time I played with him was seven weeks ago. Now, we have an album done and sixty dates booked [Laughs]. It seems like a lifetime ago!
How did "Tear it Down" come together?
It's funny. The song "Paper Wings" from the last Staind album had a different verse to it. Aaron didn't like that verse. He ended up taking the bridge and making it the verse. He changed the order of the song. I had this really cool thing I loved, but we didn't use. When we were on the Rockstar Energy Drink UPROAR Festival, I'd gotten to where I've learned Pro Tools and I'm coming up with music all the time and recording. One of my goals was to come up with some kind of riff to go around that verse from the original "Paper Wings" that I really liked. "Tear it Down" came out of that. Fran asked me to do a couple of songs with Pete. We toured with Lo-Pro. I've loved them and Pete's voice ever since I heard them. I was excited to do that at the time. I sent Pete a few ideas. "Tear it Down" was one of them, and he gravitated towards it. I was in Los Angeles, and we got together for an or hour or two, went over arrangements, and put it together.
What's the story behind "No Words"?
That was a riff I had kicking around from years ago that I completely forgot about. I have all of these tapes laying around. Every now and then, I'll put one in, listen, and see if there's anything good on there that I never used. That was a song I'd written a long time ago for Staind that I'd never used. I'd forgotten about it. It came up, and I recorded it and sent it to Pete. He did a good job with both of these songs.
What about "Wake of War"?
That was a song that Troy McLawhorn basically wrote. He said I want you to play whatever you want over this. I did some overdubs and the solo. I played throughout the entire song and said, "Whatever you guys want to use is cool". They manipulated what I did a little bit, and that's what you end up hearing.
Did you and Pete click instantly?
It was easy to do. Besides being a super talented kid, Pete's a super hard worker. There were two things I recorded one day and I asked him, "Could you throw an electronic beat on this?" I had it back like an hour later. I loved working with him. It worked out very well.
How do you typically come up with solos?
It depends. A lot of it is on the fly. Then, I'll go back and pick out parts. I'll improvise over a song four, five, or maybe six times. Then, I'll go back, listen to it, pick out pieces I like, and build it from there. Certain solos are improvised, but it might not be executed perfectly. I'll learn what I did and play it as well as I can.
Again, it's another side of your playing…
Even playing with Jason now, I'm doing things I've never shown or done in Staind. It's cool. When Staind started, I really didn't want to. I'd done that for so long. The music at the time didn't have solos in it. I didn't care. I didn't need to solo. I didn't feel like I wanted to show that part of what I did at all. The funny thing is Aaron always pushed me. He was like, "Dude, you should shred on something!" It didn't seem to really fit on the Staind music. Playing with Jason, it fits and feels good. On the last Staind record, it fit and felt good—same thing with what I did here. It's fun to be doing that again. It's another way to express yourself.
What was your first meeting with Jason like?
It was kind of surreal. I had to go to Los Angeles for some meetings. I did a video lesson for a company called JamPlay out of Colorado. I had a day in between the lesson and going to Colorado. I called Pete Murray to get together. A day later, I got a call from management about doing this with Jason. I called Pete back like, "Uh…" I didn't really tell anybody I was doing it because I didn't know what was going to happen. I told Pete because I was excited. Instead, I came up North for the day. When you pull into Jason's drive, you think, "This guy's from Metallica!" How many years did I watch him on television and listen to their songs? He's an iconic figure from the biggest metal band ever. Jamming was funny. It went really well. Besides that, I get along great with everybody. It's great. Once you hear everything together on the album, you're going to love it.
What's your favorite song from the Metal EP?
I've always been interested in hearing other music. Before I even got the call, I saw his name and that he had a new song. I had to hear it. I heard "Soldierhead", and I was like, "This is awesome!" I was excited when I got the call. That's definitely fun to play.
What's your favorite Mike Mushok song?