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  • Interview: Chad Gray of Mudvayne

    Fri, 28 Dec 2007 07:47:41

    Interview: Chad Gray of Mudvayne - Enigmatic vocalist talks fan-generated b-sides release and new material

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    Mudvayne vocalist Chad Gray is heavy music's Renaissance man. Not only has he created some of the most intriguing and intelligent metal of the last decade with Mudvayne, but he also fronts HELLYEAH, the ultimate supergroup featuring Vinnie Paul (Pantera, Damageplan), Tom Maxwell (Nothingface), Greg Tribbett (Mudvayne) and Bobzilla (Damageplan). In addition, he founded Bullygoat records, home to Bloodsimple. How's that for a busy schedule?

    While selling out theaters with HELLYEAH across the country, Gray managed to help compile a new Mudvayne release of b-sides, rarities, new tracks and live songs called By the People, For the People. In groundbreaking Mudvayne fashion, fans were allowed to pick what tracks they wanted to make the album online, and the band chose the versions. In addition, fan artwork adorns the cover. It allows hardcore fans clearer insight into the often elusive band, and will certainly hold them over until Mudvayne's next full length.

    From backstage at one of the many old theaters he's played this Fall, Chad sat down and gave ARTISTdirect a look even deeper inside Mudvayne, HELLYEAH and all things to come.

    How did the idea for a fan-generated album come about?

    We just had a bunch of drives and CD's sitting around. These contained pretty much everything that we've ever done: live versions, exclusive tracks, demos and unreleased songs. We just figured it would be cool for the kids to choose. Since we had every angle covered, they couldn't come up with something that we didn’t have a different version of. This record is for true, hardcore Mudvayne fans, and it derived from having all of this material.

    You guys have always been so meticulous about your music. Do you view this as a window into the band’s creative process?

    Absolutely, fans can see where the songs come from before they're completely realized. When you're demo-ing, you're just mapping and trying to get the bulk of everything down. During the demo process, you're not really worried about every little transition and every minute detail. After you get it down, you start tweaking stuff in the studio. This release gives the fans an idea of where the songs came from before they were produced high-end.

    You guys included interesting voiceover tracks before the songs explaining each version. The voiceover is similar to a commentary track on a DVD.

    We didn't know what to do with that. I thought it would make people crazy to have to keep constantly skipping forward. However, I figured these days you can put whatever you want on your iPod. You don’t have to put everything on there, but it is on there if you want it. I just looked at the tracklisting and said what I knew about the individual songs. I did the whole thing in about two minutes. There wasn't a whole lot of energy that went into it, but that's like the essence of this entire release. It is what it is.

    That fact speaks volumes though, because a lot of these versions are really raw and powerful like "Skrying."

    Well you're mapping at that demo point so nothing's finished. "Silenced" has a completely different chorus on this album. It all changes once you go into the studio and try to make everything timeless. I figured hardcore fans would really dig seeing where everything came from.

    Allowing the fans to create the artwork was another great way to encourage fan interaction.

    We had so much fan art that we wanted to give those people their day in the sun. They take the time to do that stuff for us and send it in. They go through the trouble of doing it, just out of pure passion. The only reason they do it is because they love the band. So we were like, "Why tinker with the art ourselves?" It's just like the songs; we had an endless supply of art that we could collage together. We did a contest for the cover, and it turned out great! It's got that vibe of "The People." Getting artwork together for a CD is one of the biggest headaches as it is. So this alleviated that (laughs).

    Is the one new track "Dull Boy" indicative of Mudvayne's next evolution?

    In the way we put our songs together, sometimes we’ll touch on something in the beginning that won't really realize itself until the end, and it's just foreshadowing what's to come. We’re big advocates of not giving it all away up front and letting things unfold during the song. We like bringing something that we might have just touched on at the beginning of a song full circle at the end. "Dull Boy" was an opportunity for us to take something from the new writing sessions, and foreshadow the next Mudvayne full length that's coming. There was some thought put into why that one was actually the song that made it onto "By the People, For the People." It's definitely a bizarre track. I was really happy that the label was excited about that song in particular. It's got the heavier edge too, and we like to lead with that. We're thrilled about it, and we're actually going to write some more, and see what happens. It's a process unfolding for sure.

    The acoustic version of "Forget to Remember" shows a different side of the band. Would you guys ever think of doing an acoustic record a la Alice In ChainsJar of Flies?

    I think if there was a band that could do it, we could pull it off. It's just a matter of being able to make things applicable to that scenario and translating songs to an acoustic vibe. With "Forget to Remember," we changed some of the melodies and played around with different notations and fluctuations. I didn't want to just record it like the actual record. We could absolutely do some kind of acoustic record someday, though. You never know.

    It's a testament to the song's strength that you can strip everything electric away and it holds up.

    For sure, and that is at the root of what we do. There are a lot of bells of whistles put on at the end, but if you strip those away, there still are songs there. If we were to do bells and whistles over acoustic stuff, it would be different percussion or something like that.

    "Goodbye" is one of the most ethereal and engaging tracks on By the People, For the People. What's the story behind that?

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