Mon, 07 Dec 2009 09:29:14
Mudvayne exists in their own universe.
It's a cosmos where polyrhythmic, off-time riffs orbit around mind-bending bass lines fused to pummeling percussion. At the center of this chaos symphony, painful, poetic and utterly poignant words emanate from vocalist Chad Gray. He's the captain of this dark and weirdly enlightening trip through the psyche.
That trip has become even more personal on the band's self-titled fifth release due out December 22, 2009. On the record, "Beautiful and Strange" pulsates with a psychotic energy that shifts from verse to verse electrically, while "Out to Pasture" snaps necks in the most beautiful way possible. Then there's album closer, "Dead Inside"—a somber acoustic dirge that shows just how deep Mudvayne can dive into Hell.
Mudvayne is this band's masterpiece. Vocalist Chad Gray sat down with ARTISTdirect.com editor and Dolor author Rick Florino for an exclusive interview. Chad spoke about Mudvayne, his personal creative process and why we all need time to just sit back and actually think.
This album feels like the culmination of everything that Mudvayne has been working towards for the past decade. Everything comes to fruition here.
Mudvayne isn't the kind of band that's trying to keep in the now—what's going on now. We just do the things that we do and put them out. It's like I've said to you many times before, Rick, we don't really question what we do. Therefore the criticisms just fucking bounce off of us like we're super people because it doesn't matter anyway. We're doing what we want; we don't give a fuck about what anyone else wants. It's important to our artistic integrity to do the things that are important to us.
That shines through on this album. "Beautiful and Strange" pulls the listener into the record immediately. The same sounds begin and end the album, making it a complete thought.
Yeah, there's a thread of themes to this record. We don't like to stay right on the path. We like to veer off and do our own thing—especially me with lyrics. I like to write about things that I still want to write about, and I just try to bring them back to the theme and the concept of the record somehow. If I wake up one day and I want to write about whatever, then I write about that. I just figure out a way to twist it back in to where it has something to do with what we have in our heads about what we're going to do as a band [for the entire album]. It does tend to hit some valleys and veer off to the right and the left, but I feel really good about the record. Basically, like you were saying, it's a complete thing. It's cohesive and together.
There are all of these wonderful little detours from that main road though, and those detours give the album a lot of color.
I think that's important. Sometimes you lose that when you're writing about one specific thing from point A to point B as the entire record. Point A to point B has to be the song itself. I've said it before many times, each song has to be its own global hole, and each individual global hole makes up the universe of the record. Everything has to be unique. That brings the color, and that brings the different flavors that make the whole record interesting.
Were you reading or watching anything while you were writing these lyrics?
Yeah, I was [Laughs]. I was reading, and I was watching. That's all I'm going to say [Laughs].
You always are. Does reaching outward allow you to gain an inward perspective on what you're writing about?
Absolutely, I think everybody needs a handle. Everybody draws inspiration from different things. We just don't draw from music. You know what I mean? I don't draw inspiration from other music. I don't listen to other music when I'm writing. I don't listen to other music when I'm tracking. It's turned into pretty much my whole life [Laughs]—to either be writing or recording a record. I don't listen to a lot of music anymore. I listen to my solids. I could live with that first 25 years of music that I have for the rest of my life—Metallica, Clutch, Mötley Crüe and the thousand other bands that I'm not thinking of right now that fell in before all of this started. There's a handful of current bands that I really listen to. I'm not trying to be a music snob at all; it's just there's so much out there that I don't really know what to listen to. So I might get turned on to something and I'll listen to it, but I don't draw inspiration from anything new that's going on because I don't feel like anything within me is broken. I'm not reaching out trying to find something new to grab on to. I think you've got to look in to figure that out.
It's another introspective record. You go deeper on each album, but you bring the fans closer.
Definitely! Mudvayne, on a level, wears their lives on their sleeves. It allows people to get close to us.
You provide the fans with an outlet that way. It's great we have Mudvayne for that.
I think it's great too! If I ever see negative comments, people are like, "L.D. 50, L.D. 50, L.D. 50…Why aren't they writing L.D. 50?" We've already written that record [Laughs]. You know what I mean? I think this is probably the most retrofitted record that we've written since L.D. 50. But, this band has been a continuous growing process for us. For us to go back and write that record might appease a lot of people, but it might alienate a lot of people, and it doesn't really do anything for us. We've already written that record, and it was our youngest record. It's the first thing that people ever heard from Mudvayne. So people that first heard Mudvayne on L.D. 50 hang on to that record so hard. It's the first thing they ever heard and the first image they saw, and they relate to that thing. We're not those people anymore. We're still that band, and we still love that record, but we can't be that record anymore. It's gone too far away from that. I don't want to disappoint anybody, but don't jump off the train just because it switched the track. Hang around. There's a lot of good things to come.
Think of how much you've learned in the decade since you wrote L.D. 50. You couldn't write that record again because you're not the same guy.
Exactly! That's what I'm saying. We can't physically write that record anymore. We're not those people. I'm not the person that wrote that record. I've got more life experiences, I've got more memories, I've got more knowledge—I'm not a scrappy young kid pissed with angst like I was back then. As I've gotten older, my anger has turned to more frustration. Because of my life experience, I'm more in tune with things that are going on around me. When you see the things that are going on around you more clearly, there's still anger but it's a very frustrated level of anger. It's because as you get older you're going, "Why can't you figure it out? It's really not that fucking hard. Why are there so many steps? Why are there so many hurdles? Why is there so much red tape? Why can't you just do it?" I can't write that record again because, exactly like you said, I'm not that person anymore. I'm a different person so I'm writing these records.
Mudvayne's honesty comes through in that. You're making what comes natural.
That's part of the ride. We've all seen it with every band that we've ever been into. I went through it. I went from fucking Kill 'Em All to Ride the Lightning to Master of Puppets to …And Justice for All to the fucking Black Album. That was their biggest fucking record ever, but that was the one where I was going, "Why can't you write fucking Ride the Lightning again?" I've been that guy. They've already done it. They've been there, and they moved on.
Where do you typically write lyrics? Is it all in the studio or are you constantly jotting down ideas?
I always write with music. I'll have ideas. I'll get thoughts and concepts and start building on them, but when I actually sit down to write the lyrics outside of an idea or spot that I want to end up, I always do that with music, either in the writing studio or recording studio—whichever we are in. I wrote probably five songs for The New Game while recording. For Lost and Found though, I had the whole record done before we even went into the recording studio. That was great. It was probably the most comfortable record I ever wrote because I already had everything written out. Little parts change. Greg basically sits by the machine and tracks the vocals as I write them. I sit and write. Because I kind of know where I'm going, we'll just go for it. That's how the lyrics come about. As melody comes in my head, lyrics generally come with it. It's a matter of tapping into something. You're tapping into a really cool energy—that is the music. I'm sitting right there, and I'm ready to do my part. The music filters through my head, and I hear melodies. From melodies, I get literal, lyrical ideas. I might have an idea, but I actually start penning the lyrics right there as I'm listening to the music. It gives me a little hand, and I follow it wherever it's taking me. Obviously, more aggressive music tends to lead to a more aggressive style of lyrics. More mellow music leads to darker lyrics.
What's the story behind "Dead Inside?"
Greg actually wrote those lyrics. I changed some of the lyrics in the verses and in the chorus. I wrote the bridge, but that's actually a song he's had for a long time. We just decided to do it. I've always loved the song. I was like, "We should do this song. It's a great song." Finally, Greg was like, "Yeah, let's do it." He's that kind of dude—strong, silent. He speaks through the guitar. He wrote that song while we were recording Lost and Found. He lived on this little houseboat, and I remember him telling me he wrote the song on the roof of it. He played it for me and I loved it. It's really dark; it sounds like something that I would write. The melodies and lyrics reminded me of something that I would write. I feel like it was cohesive to what we were doing and that we should do it. It makes sense and fits on a Mudvayne record—as much as that song could fit on a Mudvayne record. It's acoustic guitar and vocals; it's the first time we've ever done it.
"Burn the Bridge" also stands out. It's a real church-burner metal track.
Yeah, it is! That song reminds me of old Mudvayne—especially the verses. Writing it, I hated that fucking song. I was like, "What the fuck are you doing?" I don't really start getting in tune with a track until I'm sitting down getting ready to write lyrics. I thought, "How the fuck am I going to write to this?" [Laughs] We get through it though. We just keep working and working.
"Heard It All Before" is a journey.
"Heard It All Before" is awesome. I love that track. It's so funny because people can call us whatever they want to call us but the hook of the song is "I've heard it all before." It takes forever to get to the chorus. It's like fucking forever before you actually get there.
Every song is a ride in its own right. "Out to Pasture" is probably the most cinematic song you've ever written.
I love "Out to Pasture." That's my favorite song on the record. I love the verses, and the chorus reminds me of one of my favorite songs from The End of All Things to Come—"Skrying." It just happened that way. The misdirection between the verse and the chorus is awesome. There's not a lot of melody; it's just disturbing, fucked up, weird and cool. There are no big sing-y parts. It's just in-your-fucking-face.
Have you been writing anymore lately?
No, we haven't. We haven't done anything. We're not even doing anything behind this record. We're not touring, we're not doing shit. We're just putting it out.
It's a good way to let people live with the music.
It's the anti-climax of Mudvayne—the ultimate anti-climax, put the record out, don't do anything. It doesn't necessarily pay the bills, but it's the ultimate statement of what we're about. We don't believe in the fucking hype. We've covered a lot of territory in the past year, and we're like, "See ya!" I'm not saying we'll never do it again, we will. I'm sure we'll eventually tour behind this record, but it's not going to happen any time soon. Let people live with the music. Let it sit, and let it fester a little bit, and hopefully people are excited about it. You've got to be careful nowadays because everything about the world is very fast food. You've got to be careful about how long you're gone.
At the same time, you don't have to do things like everyone else does.
We just don't feel like doing it. We need a little space and a little break, and it fits the vibe of what we do.
It's the whole feed me, feed me, feed me vibe. If things are moving so fast that you don't ever really let them unfold, you could be missing so much. Sometimes you've got to slow down. Some of the greatest, most powerful people in the world set aside time just to think. I think that's important—to do nothing but think. Just take some time. Hold on my calls, let me sit here and think about what I'm doing. Let me just chill.
Check out Rick Florino's new novel Dolor available now for FREE here…