Interview: Staind Guitarist Mike Mushok on Coming Full Circle with New Album and Tour
A few weeks prior to the start of the Mass Chaos Tour, co-headlined by Staind and Godsmack, Staind guitarist Mike Mushok phoned in to discuss the making of the band’s new self-titled album, which came out last September.
Staind marked the seventh release from Mushok, vocalist Aaron Lewis and bassist Johnny April, who are now joined by their new drummer, Sal Giancarelli.
Over the course of 16 years, Staind have sold 15 million albums worldwide — three of them debuting at No. 1, and charted nine Top 10 singles, including four No. 1 songs. “It’s Been A While,” their powerful ballad, became the most played rock song of the decade.
The new disc entered the charts at No. 5 and is described as a return to the hard rock sound with which the band made their mark. For Mushok, it’s all about the songs and the collective efforts that come together to create the music.
Johnny K produced you again. How does working with him push you creatively?
I really enjoy working with Johnny. Even outside of the band, he and I work on things together, so I definitely respect his talent, who he is and what he’s capable of doing. As far as inspiration, one thing I really liked about him when we did the last record was that there’s always an idea there. He’ll be the first to tell you he might throw an idea out there just to see where you take it. If we start to stall or fumble along the way, he always says, “What do you think?”
I’m never going to say that what I do can’t be improved upon. That’s why I like working with somebody else — because I believe that two minds are better than one. I’m always open to suggestions and at least trying something different, and in the end, weighing your options to see what you like the most. I think that’s the most important thing he brings to the table.
Is there a track you think best represents what this album is about?
I think the single “Eyes Wide Open” encapsulates what the record is. It kind of captures where we are right now. But it’s hard to pick one. To this day, nothing has changed in how we go about writing and recording. I’ll come up with an idea, bring it to the band, and if Aaron likes it and wants to sing over it, we pursue it. I’ll usually have a few changes — intro, verse, chorus kind of thing — and from there we have a decent body of a song. We’ll either refine it or change it if it needs to be, and continue on and try to get an arrangement to where we want it to be.
After writing a bunch of stuff, we took a break for the holidays. I came up with that riff during that break and played it for them when we got back. We put the song together, made an arrangement, and once we had that, we recorded the guitars, put drums to it, recorded the bass, I redid my guitars and refined them — overdubs and solos and whatever needed to be done — and the last thing that goes on is the vocals. That’s the way we’ve always done it.
How far do you take the arrangements onstage? Do you stay close to what’s on the album?
We’ve always been a band that’s stuck to what’s there and not really changed it that much. For better or worse, that’s the route we’ve always taken. The song is what it is, and we do our best to represent that.
Guitar solo: Yes or no?
No. I can’t say I haven’t done it. There was a time touring when it was more of a tribute to Dimebag, but that was mostly because it was fun and in tribute to him. I don’t really do a solo. Guitar solos have made me bored; there’s not a lot of people who can really pull it off. It seems a little indulgent to me. I don’t need to do that. I think when you write a song, if there’s something you want to play, put it in the song and focus on that.
You read music. How has that served you?
I don’t know. I look back at when I started playing guitar, and I really haven’t read music in I can’t tell you how many years. I question it sometimes. The first six years or so that I played I went through all these music teachers and books. I started very young, at 6, and I think you could probably take it from me that I’d still be in the same place that I am now, so … not that I’m discouraging anybody from doing that! But for me, personally, for what I do, I knew that I wanted to play guitar and it was more the vibe than the ability to read music.
Aaron recorded a country album. Is there a guitar album in your future?
I don’t know if it would be a guitar album, so to speak. I definitely talk to other people about doing things. There’s down time, he goes out and does his thing, and it’s great to be with the family and I love it, but I need to work too, so I’m trying to figure out now exactly what that’s going to mean.
There’s a couple of opportunities I’m working on and we’ll see where it pans out. Currently, we have this tour coming up and we’ll figure out which tour we’ll do after that and continue to grow the record.
MASS CHAOS TOUR DATES:
April 13 Augusta, GA @ James Brown Arena (w/Halestorm and Man Made Machine)
April 15 Estero, FL @ Germain Arena (w/Halestorm, Man Made Machine)
April 17 New Orleans, LA @ UNO Lakefront Arena (w/Halestorm, Man Made Machine)
April 18 Lafayette, LA @ Cajundome (w/Halestorm and Man Made Machine)
April 19 Bossier City, LA CenturyLink Center 99 X Fest (w/Halestorm, Man Made Machine)
April 21 Lubbock, TX @ Lone Star Amphitheater (w/Halestorm, Man Made Machine)
April 22 Belton, TX @ Bell County Expo Center (w/Halestorm, MMM)
April 24 Beaumont, TX @ Ford Pavilion (w/Halestorm, Man Made Machine)
April 25 Laredo, TX @ Laredo Energy Center (w/Halestorm, Man Made Machine)
May 1 Corpus Christi, TX @ Concrete Street Amphitheater (w/Halestorm, Man Made Machine)
May 2 San Antonio, TX @ Illusions Theater (w/Halestorm, Man Made Machine)
May 4 Lexington, KY @ Rupp Arena (w/Black Stone Cherry & Brook Royal)
May 6 Evansville, IN @ Ford Center (w/Halestorm, Brook Royal)
May 9 Battle Creek, MI @ Kellogg Arena (w/Halestorm, Brook Royal)
May 11 Nashville, TN @ Bridgestone Arena (w/Halestorm, Brook Royal)
May 12 Huntington, WV @ The Big Sandy Superstore Arena (w/Halestorm, Brook Royal)
May 13 Binghampton, NY @ Broome County Arena (w/Halestorm & Brook Royal)
May 15 Syracuse, NY @ Oncenter (w/Halestorm and Brook Royal)
May 16 Manchester, NH @ Verizon Wireless Arena (w/Halestorm and Brook Royal)
May 18 Bangor, ME @ Waterfront Park (Hellyeah and Brook Royal)
— Alison Richter
Alison Richter interviews artists, producers, engineers and other music industry professionals for print and online publications. Read more of her interviews right here.