Friday, September 6, 2002

Interview: Mushroomhead

An odd band deserves an odd name. At least that's what Mushroomhead drummer and founding member Skinny thinks. He says fans all have their own unique interpretations of the name, and that's part of the band's mystique.

"That's one of those questions that's got a million different answers," Skinny says. "I always thought it was a cool name for a band. It has a lot of references and doesn't really pinpoint any. It was just one of those names we had, like if someone did something silly, you'd say `nice job, mushroomhead.' I just thought that it would make a great band name, so I used it."

The band, decked out in their trademark masks and makeup, is currently tearing up the second stage of Ozzfest with an odd blend of metal and art rock, laced with just a touch of hip-hop.

Even though Mushroomhead got started in 1992, their image often brings comparisons to one of today's biggest masked bands Slipknot. Skinny says that anyone who looks past the masks and listens to the music will realize there's no relation.

"We've been doing this for so long, and we've gotten comparisons all along," he says. "When we first started we were compared to Mr. Bungle and Gwar, then Manson, now Slipknot and Mudvayne, so we're used to it. People will be shallow, but the one thing I always tell people is don't judge the book by its cover. We're doing our own thing."

Skinny says Mushroomhead first donned the masks because they all belonged to other bands. They wanted to do something new and didn't want people to draw conclusions about what the music should sound like based on who the band members were.

"We put the masks on to hide our identities," he says. "If people didn't know who we were, it put more focus on the music."

Their brand of music is a little different from the current crop of heavy rock acts. Mushroomhead's major label debut "XX" provides new fans a retrospective of the band's 10-year career, pulling together some of their favorite songs from three independently-released albums. While it captures the energy of today's scene, there are also some strange twists and turns.

"We're strange dudes, man," says Skinny. "Ultimately, we don't want to sound like anyone. We want to sound like us. We purposely try to throw monkey wrenches in the machine all the time just to see what happens."

The eight-piece band's creative edge comes from a diverse membership, Skinny says. He thinks having a band twice the size of most other metal acts is a great advantage.

"Having a lot of members is what shapes (our music)," he says. "You get a lot of opinions, you get a lot of input, you get a lot of good ideas - sometimes too many good ideas. That's what makes us us - being able to syphon through all of the ideas and pick the good ones versus the bad ones."

While "XX" showcases diverse sounds, Mushroomhead's Ozzfest set puts the focus squarely on the heavier tunes.

"It's very high energy - screaming," Skinny says. "On Ozzfest, we only get 20 minutes, so we play the hard hitters and just knock 'em out."

He says the fan reaction at Ozzfest has been great so far, and they hope to land a larger slot on the tour next year - hopefully in support of an album of new material in June.

"Ozzfest is definitely a place where we need to be," Skinny says. "Our goals right now are to get in the studio over the winter, record the new record, get back out on the road and try to get on Ozzfest next year."

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