Staind Guitarist Mike Mushok Talks Getting Heavy for "Staind", His Favorite Red Sox Game, Touring with Korn, and Stephen King's "Dark Tower" Series
Fri, 02 Sep 2011 08:54:17
When it comes to six-string mastery, Staind guitarist Mike Mushok stands alone.
Mushok is a rare breed whose technical prowess and songwriting ability are equally unparalleled. He can shred with the best of them, but he also can write an unforgettable song. Ever since Staind's major label debut, Dysfunction, Mushok has been pushing the boundaries of modern guitar playing. However, on the band's seventh studio album, Staind [Due out September 13, 2011 Buy it here], he builds a bludgeoning and classic collection of riffs, hooks, and solos. "Eyes Wide Open" hits with a Pantera-style intensity before crashing into a fret-burning solo. On "Not Again," a clean bluesy segue plummets into an intense lead. However, Mushok's work on "Failing" is the stuff of legend. After a haunting wah pedal intro, he scratches out an inventive and infectious solo. This is his best work, and he deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as classic players as Jerry Cantrell, Kirk Hammett, and Dimebag Darrell.
Mike Mushok of Staind sat down for an exclusive interview with ARTISTdirect.com editor and Dolor author Rick Florino about his axe-work on the new album, his favorite Red Sox game, touring with Korn back in the day, and Stephen King's Dark Tower series.
On Staind, did you get to try anything on the guitar that you'd never done before?
It was really about coming up with heavy riffs again. I used my baritone guitar for pretty much the entire record. For soloing, I used some PRS's that I had and whatever various guitars were around that fit the part. Amps were the same. We focused on creating the best songs we could.
What's your practice routine like now? Do you spend a lot of time working on your own songs?
That's basically it. Practicing is usually trying to come up with songs and ideas. There's a little bit of soloing in there, but it's nothing like it used to be. It's more about coming up with cool riffs and ideas and recording them.
What was your vision for "Paper Wings"?
Initially, that was something completely different musically. That's the one song on the record like that. It was really heavy. It sounded like a riff that could've been off of Paranoid. It was this real low Black Sabbath-style riff that went into this arpeggiated chord part. Everybody loved the heavy riff, but Johnny K came back and said, "Everything Aaron sings on it sounds bluesy. It doesn't really fit with the way the riff is". I was like, "Let's rewrite it". We rewrote the verse first, and we ended up rewriting pretty much the entire song. We originally tried to keep the same riff in there as the intro. It was probably my favorite music. However, the intro riff we loved to begin with didn't really fit anymore. It felt out of place with the chorus and the bridge idea. We came back after the weekend and we had to come up with something else for it. We came up with that intro riff now. "Paper Wings" was the song that probably caused the biggest rift between Aaron and me. He took the bridge and made it the verse. He made the outro a pre-chorus. It got down to the end, and that's the way the song stayed. He loved the bridge and wanted to sing over that as the verse. It's cool the way it is, but that song took a minute there to figure out. We have this whole other song that we never ended up even using though.
How did you come up with the solo for "Not Again"?
Actually, that solo was improvised. I went back and relearned it. It was literally one take. I'd gone home and worked on some other stuff, and Johnny was like, "I love what you have here". I'd basically put everything down for Jon to play drums to it. As far as the Indaba Music contest goes, it wasn't easy to pick a winner [Laughs]. There were so many great solos.
How did you initially get into heavy metal?
I would say it was probably Van Halen or Led Zeppelin. Then there was AC/DC's Back in Black. The one thing I do remember is hearing Van Halen for the first time and just being blown away by it because of how amazing the guitar playing is. The guitar tone on it is just unbelievable.
Had you already been playing guitar at the time?
Yes, for a long time! I started when I was about six-years-old. I did about six years of acoustic guitar and probably every Mel Bay music book that there was [Laughs]. As I got to be ten or eleven, I started learning things on my own and that kind of thing. That was when it got a little more exciting more me. It was something I always wanted to do and was drawn to. I began practicing on my own rather than being made to practice.
Do you have a favorite musical moment on this album?
There's one thing that was a lot of fun to play. When we were doing "Failing", it goes into that breakdown on the bridge, and Johnny handed me an XLR 3-pin connector. It's basically this little tube. He was like, "Just make noise, solo, and do whatever you want to do". It was a lot of fun! That was completely improvised. We had a wah pedal making noises. I did three or four takes and picked what's there. From the bridge to the end of the song, there's soloing and noises going on. That stands out as something I remember really enjoying because we did it right then.
What was your favorite Red Sox game that you've attended?
I was at game four in 2004 when they won The World Series for the first time in 86 years. It has to be that! I went to St. Louis, and one of my buddies had season tickets. He invited me. My wife went with me, and I was six rows behind home plate. That was definitely it. I was actually there that year in the ALCS when they beat the Angels. Big Papi hit a walk-off. Alter Bridge was actually playing across the street from Fenway Park at The Avalon, which is now The House of Blues. A bunch of the players went over there and we all hung out after that game.
What do you remember most from the World Series game?
It's funny. You know what I remember the most? Standing there after they won and watching them celebrate on the field was awesome. I also remember how cool the people in St. Louis were. My wife and I went to a bar before the game. I had on a Red Sox hat, and everybody was just so nice. You never would've gotten that if you went to New York [Laughs]. They were like, "You guys are going to take it today. You deserve it".
Was The Sick and Twisted tour with Korn in 2000 a particularly special tour?
It absolutely was! I remember getting that tour and how excited that was. This was a band we used to play covers of in bars in Worcester [Laughs]. I'll never forget what happened when we did the Worcester Centrum show. I don't know how they did it…There was a whole back section of kids in the arena that decided to jump the barricade onto the floor at the same time! Maybe it was a couple people that decided to do it and everybody followed. Nobody could stop it! I remember starting the set, looking up, and seeing this whole sea of people coming over the wall where the seats meet the floor and rushing the stage. It was awesome [Laughs]. We told Korn we used to play their songs. Part of the way through that tour, we went up and did "Need To" off of the first record in the middle of Korn's set. They took a break while we played it. We got to do a Korn song during their show!
What are some of your favorite books?
The only books I've really ever read more than once are The Dark Tower series that Stephen King did. I loved that series! The Stand was awesome. That's the thing about Stephen King. He has these characters who tie in from book to book and they reappear. That's what I thought was cool about The Dark Tower series a lot of the characters from The Stand were in that also. I haven't read them in so long. I remember Desperation had the cop in the desert. If I remember Flagg was in that cool. He always the Walking Man who pops up in other books and other places. It's hard to find time to read now having kids. Unless I'm on a plane or on the road, especially in Europe, there's down time and I'll read.
Are you excited for Staind?
Check out our exclusive interview with Aaron Lewis of Staind and Corey Taylor of Stone Sour and Slipknot together here!