Interview: Mike Mushok Discusses the New Staind Album and a Guitar Solo Contest for Fans
Staind guitarist Mike Mushok said making the band's new self-titled album was the most difficult thing he's ever done.
During the sessions that spanned in earnest from January to April of this year, the band split with drummer John Wysocki, and lead singer Aaron Lewis had to find time to promote his Top 10 country solo EP, Town Line.
On top of everything, the band — now comprised of Mushok, Lewis and bassist Johnny April — faced a deadline, something its label, Flip/Atlantic, has never set before. The upshot was Staind met the deadline and the new disc is set for release on September 13.
Mushok, who was taking a day off at his home in Springfield, Massachusetts, took a few minutes to talk with Guitar World about the band, guitars, the album and a promotional contest that will result in a Staind fan playing a guitar solo on the lead single, “Not Again.”
GUITAR WORLD: Why did you want to become a guitarist?
I was drawn to the guitar by folk players — Harry Chapin, Jim Croce — people my parents listened to. My uncle was a singer/songwriter with an acoustic guitar. He sang and wrote stuff, and I loved that. Then I heard Led Zeppelin and Van Halen. The first time I heard “Eruption,” I was like, “What is this?”
So was it the technicality or the showmanship that peaked your interest?
The technicality. I started taking lessons when I was 6. I worked on it for six years and learned probably every Mel Bay music book there was. I thought I was suppose to read music, so that's what I did. I knew I wanted to play and that's how I went about it, because that's what I knew. I always thought that if I went and took that away, it wouldn't change anything that I do today, but at 6, I wasn't listening to records and learning songs.
That method kind of gave me the foundation, but everything changed when I started taking lessons with Tony McAlpine. He's from Springfield also. When I got with him, I started to learn all the Yngwie songs and spent 10 hours a day in my room practicing. After six months, we would sit there and jam back and forth and try to out solo each other.
Tony actually asked me to join his band. I left college and was about to do that but got a call two weeks before I was suppose to join and was told that all they needed a keyboard player, so I ended up going back to college and getting a degree in electrical engineering. I translated that 10-hours-a-day practicing to studying.
Do you remember your first guitar?
It was a Fender Bullet. My parents found it one year for Christmas and they gave me the receipt, which I have sitting right here. They framed it and gave it to me. I'm going to date myself, but I'll read it to you. It was June 5, 1982, and it says, “One Fender Bullet with case and a Vibro Champ amp, $364.” They bought it while we were on vacation in Cape Cod at a little music store there.
I also had a nice acoustic guitar that I saved up for. I wouldn't eat my lunch and saved the lunch money for it. I bought a Guild D40 that I still use.
Tell us about the guitar you most use now.
I have my own Signature Paul Reed Smith baritone guitar. The baritone guitar started off like a secondary instrument for me. I mean it's not the type of instrument you will buy for your first guitar when you first start playing. I got it because I wanted to try something different back when the band first got signed. We wrote all our songs, and still do, on a baritone guitar.
In fact, when we went to make the new record, we had a bunch of baritones there from other makers, and I'm telling you, my model — and this is not a commercial — was the best-sounding guitar ever made. It really held up. When you're in the studio, you can hear what's better, and the guitar sounded great.
The new CD will be released in September. How did he recording sessions go?
We started in Aaron's barn in Western Massachusetts. We worked with (producer) Johnny K again. We worked with him on the last record, and, for me, he was real easy to work with. He did the engineering and he was the guitar tech. So Johnny brought in his own gear, compressors and stuff like that, and we tracked the drums there. I did my guitars in our rehearsal space in Springfield because it was closer for me to drive to every day.
Anyway, we demoed everything in December and had 17 or 18 songs by Christmas. Aaron, Johnny and I came back in January and went over the songs. We chose eight or nine to go over. Aaron and I wanted to change some arrangements and we were on the same page.
During the sessions, it was clear Jon (Wysocki) wasn't ready or on the same page, and the motivation wasn't where it needed to be. After thinking long and hard, we decided to do something different and decided to split up and do all the parts separately.
I worked up at a studio in Springfield and Aaron worked in his barn, and that's how we kind of finished the record. It was the first record we had a deadline with the label. They wanted the finished product by May 1, so we had to get it done. We thought we weren't going to be able to do it, but we did and turned it in and they accepted it and were happy with it. That was cool because getting a phone call from the label asking for more songs is never fun to receive.
It ended working out, but I would not like to live January to April of this year again. It was miserable.
One of the things we want to touch on is regarding the Indaba Music contest where fans submit a recording of their guitar solos through Aug. 10, and the winning solo will be mixed into the single “Not Again.” How did this come about?
We were thinking of different and cool ways to get fans involved with the music. Someone from the label told us that 30 percent of our listeners are male guitar players. I don't know how anyone knows that, but we used that and sent out the announcement. I know if this had happened when I was a kid, I would have loved it, because it gives people a chance to show off.
I was listening to some of the submissions today, and there is some decent stuff out there. It's a cool opportunity for people to put their take on it and cool to hear what other people have to offer.
So how do you really feel about the contest?
I'm just hoping someone doesn't outdo me, because this is the only gig I've got. [Laughs]. But I'm sure someone can, because there are a great guitar players out there. I'm just fortunate to where we are and what we do.
Is there a Staind tour coming up?
We're all kind of scattered right now. The record comes out September 13, and we have shows every weekend that month. In October we go to Europe and go out for a little jaunt after Thanksgiving up to Christmas. Then do some shows here and there and then Australia in February. In March we'll go out to do a headlining package.
The new self-titled album by Staind will be released September 13 on Atlantic Records.