Interview: Mike Mushok of Staind Talks "Shame on America" Music
Tue, 06 Nov 2012 08:58:15
Staind guitarist Mike Mushok remains one of the most melodically intriguing and technically tight guitarists of the 21st century.
On Dysfunction, he siphoned eerie harmonics through a baritone wall of distortion, conjuring a style unlike anything out there. Meanwhile, Chapter V and The Illusion of Progress saw him expand Staind's sound into enthralling territory tempered by off-time riffing and layers of entrancing melodies. The group's most recent self-titled effort truly showcases just how mind-blowing of an axeman he is though with some ripping solos and a distinct six-string punch. Given his one-of-a-kind style, it was only a matter of time before he moved into composing.
Currently, Mushok is penning the music and soundtrack for director Fran Strine's documentary Shame on America [co-produced by Staind singer Aaron Lewis]. The film exposes the post-traumatic stress disorder [PTSD] epidemic plaguing young veterans coming home from the Middle East and demands for proper care for these heroes—which they haven't received yet. It's a powerful film matched by his powerful playing. For the documentary's music, Mushok's also collaborating with Pete Murray from Lo-Pro and legendary Megadeth bassist David Ellefson.
In this exclusive interview with ARTISTdirect.com editor in chief Rick Florino, Staind guitarist Mike Mushok talks scoring Shame on America and so much more.
Help Kickstart the soundtrack here!
How would you describe your contribution to Shame on America?
I'm doing as much as I can for Shame on America. I'm getting my ideas down now actually and trying to get music off to Fran as I finish it up. I'm also doing a couple of songs with Pete Murray from Lo-Pro. David Ellefson's playing bass on it. There's going to be a soundtrack that goes along with the film. It's cool to move into something a little different and use a lot of the music I've written that I have sitting around which hasn't been used yet. If it fits, that's great. I'm also writing new stuff.
Have you always wanted to get into composing?
I've met with a couple of composers. I'm trying to possibly collaborate with them on other projects. I'm doing Shame on America myself. Writing a score is definitely a bit different than writing a "song". With a song, you have an intro, a verse, a chorus, and things repeat. In a score, it's a lot more free-form. It's constantly changing and moving and taking you some place differently. That's what I'm attempting to do. I'm working my way towards that. Shame on America will most likely be a combination of both ideas.
Is it easier to write to the film itself? Or, is it more difficult to adopt someone else's mindset?
Fran's been sending me some clips. A lot of times, it inspires something to come out, and you'll write to that. Meeting with some of these other guys who do it, they all write to picture rather than simply writing music. A lot of it is sadder footage. I had some music I was working on in that vein. So I sent him that. Then, he sent me some unedited footage. Composers typically write to edited footage or something that's close to being done. There's a little bit of both going on right now.
What did the footage evoke for you when you first saw it?
It's pretty touching. Some of the stories about what these families and men have gone through are pretty incredible. It's very emotional.
What's the process like?
I watch the footage, play along to it, and see try to get a feel for it.
What's it been like meeting these soldiers at Staind meet-n-greets?
It can be pretty tough. We had this one gentleman who's been to a couple of shows. He broke down as he spoke of how much the band and the music mean to me and the experiences he's gone through. These are pretty tough dudes who are standing there sobbing about what they've experienced and seen. It changes you for life. Meeting some of these guys does to. When Fran asked me to do this, I said, "I'd love to do what I can to help".
What instruments have you been using?
I've been writing on electric and acoustic guitars. I've been using everything from my Baritone to a bunch of PRS guitars I have. Even a lot of the things I try to hold back a little bit with Staind, there's a lot of layering. I'm trying to build things up a bit, using different sounds and effects and trying to make it more interesting. When you're doing a Staind song, you can't really layer five guitars doing different things. A lot of it can get lost. You won't have it live. I've done it before on certain songs. It's not like I'm going to play this live with a band so it opens it up to do whatever I want. This is something I can really dive into.
Are there any composers you really dig?
I just met with Brian Tyler. I was blown away by his musicianship, musicality, and ability. I was really impressed. He's fantastic at what he does. He goes from composing scores to conducting them and playing every instrument on it! I want to take the music I have and either work with somebody or adapt in my own way to something we're trying to do.
What's it been like to collaborate with David Ellefson?
I just found out about that last week. I'm really stoked for it. He's such a good dude, and it's going to be awesome.
What have you been listening to?
I have Sirius, and I'll throw on Octane and see what's going on there. I did hear that new Deftones song, and I thought it was fantastic. I'm looking forward to getting that.
What's your favorite Staind record?
I'd probably say the last one. I'm really proud of it. I thought Chapter V was our best attempt at combining some of the heavier stuff with the more melodic stuff we do. I felt that about Chapter V.
Are you excited for the soundtrack?
See Aaron Lewis, Fran Strine, and David Ellefson discuss the film here!
Help Kickstart the soundtrack here!