New label. New singer. Things have changed a bit in the Mushroomhead camp. It seems like the changes have been for the better as the band's new record Savior Sorrow is a pretty great affair. New singer Waylon Reavis has an excellent voice that blends well with as mainstay vocalist Jeffrey Nothing. I spoke with Jeffrey last week by phone to find out about the new developments.
antiMUSIC: It's been a little while since the last record, 2003's XIII. What's happened since the end of the tour for that record and the sessions for this one?
Jeffrey Nothing: We had a member leave and we were dropped by Universal, which was kind of a mutual thing because we thought they didn't really do anything for us on the last one. So there were a lot of changes. We toured a lot for XIII but we didn't start making Savior Sorrow until about a year and a half ago which puts us on tour now.
antiMUSIC: How did you find Waylon?
Jeffrey Nothing: We had his band for a couple of weeks on our tour and we had a show in his hometown and then we took them for 13 days. After that tour they were looking for a place to record their new demo and they chose our studio. And as we were recording, J mentioned how much he sounded like him when he was doing the heavier stuff and we thought so to. So we just asked him to join and that was on his birthday. And that was two years ago and Savior Sorrow ended up coming out on that day so it's kind of a crazy coincidence in a way.
antiMUSIC: How did the energy change when he came aboard?
Jeffrey Nothing: I think it was a big change. But when we first formed, we really didn't want any boundaries as far as vocals or anything. And J did some great work with us but he was kind of one dimensional because he stopped rapping and pretty much wanted to be a hard core voice. And Waylon can flat out sing and harmonize with me. There's times you can't really tell on there who is singing instead of being kind of obvious.
antiMUSIC: Tell us about the new record. For new listeners such as myself, how does this record compare to your past works?
Jeffrey Nothing: I think it's a continuation of XIII in some ways but also going back to the self titled and our first couple of self-released projects. I think it's realizing the original dream in a way and taking us to new places. We never really did an all-acoustic song before like "Embrace the Ending". We feel like we have more songs suited to being a radio single now than even when we were on Universal. I think it's our best thing to date.
antiMUSIC: What's your favorite cut on the record or maybe the one you feel represents your band the best?
Jeffrey Nothing: I think it's a cross between "Save Us" and "Embrace the Ending", just because the feel of it and what we're saying in the song. I like the whole record really. There's some records I like how they've flowed but this one just has a really great feel for a one-time listen instead of picking a song at a time.
antiMUSIC: Any significance to the title Savior Sorrow?
Jeffrey Nothing: There's a few things. Planned or not, we're doing some numerology on t he last few records. XX was supposed to mean the eyes but ended up being thought of as being 20. At the same time, the name XIII, because it was seven back from 20 and then we were going to continue it backwards, the VI in Savior is actually the Roman Numeral 6 and we even emphasize that in the graphic. And then Savior Sorrow is mostly saying Save Your Sorrow or with everything that's happened to us in the past, we're probably stronger than ever, so it's pretty much saying "f" your pity in a way.
antiMUSIC: How does the writing work within Mushroomhead?
Jeffrey Nothing: It will start out a jam session with Gravy and Skinny just rocking some ideas. Maybe Pig Benis will join in some times and then mostly Skinny but sometimes I'll sit in. And we'll just build the riffs into a song skeleton and then as we go, we'll bring in the vocal ideas and keyboards and the hoo-hah, we call it. It's like icing on a cake.
antiMUSIC: Considering you have a few more members than the usual, is it often difficult to come to a consensus when everybody starts putting their two cents in?
Jeffrey Nothing: Usually we don't throw away much stuff. I think there's maybe two that we ran out on time on. We take the kitchen sink theory and just throw everything we have and see what sticks.
antiMUSIC: How do you and Waylon work out the vocal lines?
Jeffrey Nothing: Waylon had never been in a band with another singer and I had been there with J. So there's really one time where he had actually read my lyrics and then he wrote his after that. Otherwise we just always presented the song as we saw it as a whole. With Waylon, he's really good melodically but he'd come up with some words that I'd say to try and think a little deeper and maybe go for the fifth or sixth idea and he was happy with his first. Sometimes I'd just take what he had written and write it as if I was going to sing it but just write it with him in mind singing it. So I wrote a couple of songs completely on the record but it's good to have the clay to mold and another tool to use.
antiMUSIC: There was a bit more of a distinction between J Mann and yourself vocal-wise. I find it hard to distinguish between Waylon and yourself at times. Was this done or purpose?
Jeffrey Nothing: Yeah, there's moments like in "The Need" in the ending where it's both of us at the same time and it sounds like one voice because we both had the same view on it. It's a good surprise really.
antiMUSIC: There's a real variety of moods going from the aggression of "12 Hundred" to the real atmospheric "Embrace the Ending". Is it important to the band to vary the sound while still following under the structure you've built for yourself?
Jeffrey Nothing: I just like to make it more or less an emotional roller-coaster and I think we try to do that musically as well as lyrically. I think it's really the role of Mushroomhead to always push it in never sounding just like us in the next song. And I think there's a lot of bands that get into that safe mode, which is what a lot of people might be into in that last record. I never want to do that. I think it brings a lot more to the table when you try new things.
antiMUSIC: You've changed the outfits and masks again. Was there a theme or some sort of guideline you had to stick to when designing the new outfits?
Jeffrey Nothing: I think sometimes I'll come up with a million ideas. Sometimes they stick and sometimes they take a while to fester and I thought of a few of the things we finally incorporated. And I'm fine with things happening better late than never. But with XX and XIII we really just changed the insignia and rode that look for two albums. At the same time, we put in the XX look, we really wanted to get away from looking like somebody that came out who might look just like us. Now after two records and a few years, we're going back to where we were and going back to being individuals in a sense but also keeping the X face incorporated and just changing up the outfits because it's time.
antiMUSIC: Tell us about Mushroom Kombat. You guys video game freaks?
Jeffrey Nothing: Yeah, a few of us are a little bit more than me. I'm pretty faithful to Tetris. There's a few people on the bus who could probably go on the Internet and win a lot of the challenges on there with the video game freaks. I just do it to kill time once in a while.
antiMUSIC: What are the plans for the band for the foreseeable future?
Jeffrey Nothing: We really, truly hope to get to the rest of the world. We've been to England and Europe….there's 8 or 9 countries on our list. I want to see Japan and Australia and hopefully Russia. But we're also going to do a lot more of America. This is kind of a last minute tour after some failed lineups in terms of bands. But we're going to have part two of the DVD while we're out here and we're always writing so I'd say there's lots in the future.
antiMUSIC: Anything you want to tell us?
Jeffrey Nothing: I'm just glad you like it and I hope the rest of your audience will give it a shot.
Morley Seaver and antiMUSIC thank Jeffrey for taking the time to do this interview.