Rock and metal have had no shortage of supergroups over the past decade.
Many bands rely on the star power of their members. Occasionally one comes along that relies on the quality of its music and lets its personalities take a back seat. Saint Asonia is one such band.
Comprised of Adam Gontier (Three Days Grace) and Mike Mushok (Staind), along with Corey Lowery (Stuck Mojo) and Rich Beddoe (Finger Eleven), Saint Asonia have already lit up rock radio with the lead single—“Better Place"—from their self-titled debut album, which came out July 31. Now the band is preparing to hit the road.
We recently had a chance to speak with Mushok to get all the details.
GUITAR WORLD: You have a new record with Saint Asonia. How did this project came together?
I’ve played with Staind forever, and a while back Aaron [Lewis] said he wanted to pursue a country-music career. In the meantime, I write a lot of music and I was trying to think of different things I could do to stay busy and maintain a living. There are so many great singers I've worked with and toured with over the years that I've become friends with. I always loved the idea of what Slash did with writing songs with different singers, so I thought maybe I’d do that.
I started contacting some friends, and everyone seemed into doing it. Adam [Gontier] was one of the first people I got together with. We wrote some songs together and hung out for some time. Staind and Three Day Grace had toured together a lot over the years. It really went well. We ended up kind of losing touch for a period of time. When we did get in touch, we ended up with the same manager.
I was speaking to our manager about writing some more songs. Adam and I got together again and he really liked what I was writing for him. We ended up making a demo for RCA, and they were really excited about it. We continued writing and RCA wanted us to be a band. That led to us coming together. It was a long process to get to where we did the demo, but after that things went pretty fast.
When you were writing the material, did you have all the pieces of the band together?
The writing was just Adam and me. Some of the material was written on my own before we worked together. Adam also brought songs to the table. It was really a combination of old stuff I had, stuff he had and things we put together. We ended up with about 15 songs we demoed to the point that we could get them to Rich [Beddoe], the drummer.
We didn’t have a bass player at that time. Adam’s uncle and Johnny K ended up playing some bass on the record. Corey [Lowery] was really the first person who came to my mind because I’ve known him for years. He’s a great musician and a great guy. Corey’s brother Clint is a really good friend of mind.
In terms of filling these band spots, what do you look for first? Personality or chops?
As far as chops, I know Corey could more than handle it. It's really the whole package. After being on the road for 15 years, you realize how much personality matters. You live in close quarters together for weeks, months and years on end. If there is a personality issue there, it can make that experience tough, and it's tough enough already. All of that is important.
When you were writing the material for the record, did you consciously approach it differently than you would a Staind project? Do you try and tailor it to who you're playing with?
I did actually when writing with Adam. The arrangements are different and are a little more concise than Staind. That really was conscious effort. A lot of that came from working together. I’ll put some parts together and I’ll do things with the verse or chorus. But even with Aaron I always left it up to the singer as to how they want to sing over it.
The singer needs it to be a certain way to say what he wants to say. I think both Aaron and Adam make what I do better. I’ll come down with an arrangement and they will say “try this chord” or something. It enhances what I do.
How helpful is it to you, in terms of being with a new band, to work with Johnny K?
Johnny did two Staind records, and I’m really comfortable with him. He and I have written a bunch together and I’ve spent a lot of time with him in Chicago. That’s what led to have him work with us. I’m comfortable with him but not so comfortable that he doesn’t push me or the band for the best performance. He always keeps the process moving with ideas and trying different things. I always felt that Johnny brought good ideas to the table and helped make the songs better.
On the record or live, will Adam being doing some guitar work?
Not on every song, but there are definitely songs that can use it. Especially the songs he brought to the table, several started on acoustic. I don’t think we've decided if they’ll be acoustic live or how we’ll approached them. We’ll figure those out in rehearsal, I’m sure.
Have you been surprised in terms of how “Better Place” has done as a single?
Yes, but you never know when you put something out. I know I’m really proud of the record and it is sort of a shame that people don’t buy records anymore. From beginning to end I’m proud of how it came out. I don’t think there's any filler. You don’t know where rock radio is, though. It's getting tougher and tougher. So many other great bands, Disturbed, Shinedown, FIve Finger Death Punch, etc., also have songs out that are obviously going to do well.
Is there much of a difference between your Saint Asonia gear and your Staind gear?
No, I’m pretty much the same. I have had basically the same rig for 15 years. I have the Fractals now and I've been playing around with those. They really sound great. For fly dates those will work great. It's so difficult to get your rig around the country. I still enjoy just plugging into an amp, though. I've plugged into that Diesel VH20 and it just sounds great. I plug into my Marshalls that I’ve had forever and they sound great. Other amps sound good, but I really like what I have. If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.
Are you still using the baritone guitars?
Yes. On the last record I had PRS make a seven-string version so I could solo. I use my signature model when I don’t need to solo. For some of the lower-tuning rhythm tracks, I use the signature model. I’m always amazed that of all the guitars I bring with me the off-the-shelf baritone SE model still beats them all. In the studio is where you can really tell.
In my off time I started working with a custom guitar builder in Connecticut and we opened up a shop. He’s been building hand-made acoustic guitars. His name is Kevin Michael Clark. We will be launching that really soon. He makes a beautiful instrument. I have a degree in engineering and I worked for a year on the analysis of resonant frequencies of acoustic guitars.
You have a string of dates coming up. Any plans beyond that?
We are weighing some opening slot opportunities and we hope to announce that soon.