Skinny and Jackie of Mushroomhead Interview – Leeds Brudenell Club – 16-07-1920th July 2019 1 By Tom Hewick
The other day Donk and I had the absolute pleasure of sitting down with Skinny (Steve Felton) and Jackie LaPonza from Mushroomhead before their set at the Brudenell club in Leeds.
He talks about Abbey Road, new Masks and who would join him on the run in a zombie apocalypse!
Tom – So, Mushroomhead, how’s it going?
Skinny – Excellent, yeah excellent. Got some sleep finally!!
Tom – That because you played London last night?
Skinny – Yeah it was the first tour of the show, so you know we had three days of getting from America to over here, basically zero sleep, yeah but it was good. A real good show and it was nice to actually get some rest afterwords.
Donk – Was it a decent turn out?
Skinny – Yeah it was pretty solid, for sure. For a Monday night it was great!
Tom – Ah yeah it’s Tuesday isn;t it?
Donk – Yeah Tom, not even midweek yet! Ha.
Tom – So where are you heading next?
Skinny – Manchester tomorrow. Yeah it’s just the 7 shows in the UK, it was all built around the festival that got cancelled, was it Amplified?
Tom – Yeah we had press for that so were going to be there too.
Donk – Yeah it’s been cancelled for whatever reasons.
Skinny – Yeah so 40 bands are looking for shows now! Where did we get put? Asylum? That’s where our show got booked too on that Saturday so we still are playing.
Donk – Do you know if anyone that was going to the festival have got refunds and are coming to that show?
Skinny – I don’t know, no. I mean I don’t even know how it worked out with us. I just know the thing got cancelled and we were like ‘Woah! Try to get us another gig coz we’re guna be there!’ So they filled it in with something so thats cool. Its a smaller venue but it’s fine. We’re used to the smaller venues coming up through the states playing the clubs, so it’s fine. Ha. (Laughs)
Tom – So you’ve been together, going, for 26 years now?
Skinny – Yeah 26 years on stage this October.
Tom – Are you planning to do anything for that?
Skinny – No, not really. We’re basically focusing on this new album for Napalm.
Tom – Yeah we were going to ask about that.
Skinny – Yeah, which will be coming out in hopefully late April. So you’ll see us a lot next year if everything goes to plan!
Donk – So will that mean another tour in the UK?
Skinny – I certainly hope so yeah. We’ve set ourselves up with a storage facility called Capture Live over in Essen, Germany. So we’ve got all of our drums, water drums and a lot of the back line equipment is stored there so we don’t to ship it or bring it over anymore, so the plan is to come back once or twice a year whether it is straight UK or Europe or a mix of the both. But yeah, you guys should plan on seeing us a lot more.
Tom – Nice one! So hows the new album coming? Is it all written?
Skinny – Great! There’s probably 80% of it written, and a lot of it’s been recorded too. So, actually yesterday, which added to the sleepness (laughs) before the first show, we went to Abbey Road for the afternoon to record some vocals.
Donk and Tom – Awesome!
Skinny – Yeah we were gonna do some piano work as well but we just didn’t have a whole lot of time. But either way, we tracked some vocals for the new album at Abbey Road yesterday and it was pretty awesome! (He was very excited about it. Who wouldn’t be?)
Donkl – Yeah it’s Abbey Road!
Skinny – Right?! Yeah! It’s actually our second time there and the first time around we did some stuff with her (Jackie) and she’s actually got two songs on the new album that are recorded at Abbey Road. Two outta the four recorded there. It was epic! It was just great. Even just walking the halls and being there. You get the feel of the nostalgia. You look on the walls, it’s one of the things ya know, everyone says ‘The Beatles, the Beatles’, but you forget about all the orchestras that did all those movie scores there, and it is so many! (approx 180 according to Wikipedia, including Star Wars, Harry Potter, Lord of The Rings, The Avengers and Fast And Furious!)
Every time I looked at another poster I was like ‘That was done here too?!’ Unbelivable, from Star Wars and Indian Jones and all the Harry Potters, it was a lot! And when I started to look it up online the list is huge. We actually got to check out the room in which they do the orchestras in and they were setting up for one, I’m not sure who was conducting or what it was for but they were tuning this big, grand piano and you could just hear the reverb in the room every time you pluck a note it made your hair stand on end, it was awesome!!
Tom – That just sounds awesome! Can we expect to hear anything new on the next album either heavier, weirder or more experimental?
Skinny – Well, I mean it’s very Mushroomhead (laughs) ya know weird and dark and experimental in itself ya know? Like all the past albums, we don’t really stick on one style or tempo ya know? There’s a lot of doomy gloomy stuff, that’s a little bit slower and then there’s some real up tempo in your face stuff. I will say that everything this time around is very focused. And you kind of get the direction of the song with in the first thirty seconds in.
And it wasn’t really something we were going for, like saying ‘lets write a bunch of stuff for radio rock, or festival style songs’ A lot of the record just, I like to say, is just kinda writing itself. And any time it seems were spending a lot of time on it, or we are putting too much effort in to it, that one goes to the bottom of the pile, the good ones just happen ya know? And it’s like ‘where did that one just come from? I wanna write five more like that one!’ But that’s not how it’s done, it just happens.
Or if it is then it sounds contrived, ya know? And it’s like, it sounds just like those last four songs and we don’t want that. We’ve been doing this a long time and our attention spans are kinda short too, ha ha, so if we can’t keep our own attention we’re not guna keep anyone elses! (laughs)
Tom – How long have you been writing the new record then?
Skinny – Er, I’m gonna say since maybe last March or April but with all the touring…
Donk – Yeah, I was gonna mention all the touring you did last year.
Skinny – Yeah we hit four to five tours a year and they’re typically a month long sometimes five weeks. Like this year alone we did two in the states, four weeks of our own, then we were off for about five weeks and then we were out with Insane Clown Posse there in the states on Fury Fest, that was really fun. And that was like five weeks so we didn’t get a whole lot of writing done there and then we had a month off before we came here so it’s just in and out. In the states we’ve got a portable recording rig that we bring with us on the bus and depending on how you can get into your groove for the day, sometimes you can get a lot of stuff recorded or at least ideas.
The Fury Fest thing wasn’t set up that way, we were second outta five ya know, and we were the only Metal band on the whole thing, everyone was very Hip-Hop but we cross over pretty well with their crowd. I notice that with a lot of the crowds from Hip-Hop to Electronic to, shit, even like Death Metal we’ve got all those influences so we kinda work with everyone. It was a lot, a lot of fun. A couple of those guys were on the tour when we were here at the end of ’17 with ICP. Yeah it was ICP, Ouija Macc and us, I forget who the others were but it was just nice to see those guys again, a big family reunion! Woop Woop! Family! It’s just – ‘Fun!’ (Jackie) – yeah fun. Those guys go through 400 2ltr bottles, a night!
Tom and Donk – Whaaaaaaat?!
Jackie – Yeap 400!
Skinny – 400! And at the big shows they can do 800! It’s insanity! They’ve got semi-trucks coming in and fork trucks unloading them. They’ve literally pallets as big as you and there just handing them up on to stage, its a sight to see! Ha.
Tom – That’s insane!
Skinny – So yeah when we get off of this we got two weeks off, well not quite, more like one week off. And then Jackies band, UnSaid Fate, has a show in Cleveland and then the following weekend we do the Gathering Of The Juggalos with the ICP again and we are on the main stage the same night they are and that’s really a sight to behold it’s a week long party…
Jackie – And the we have that festival in the West Virginia mountains..
Skinny – Oh yeah, so it seems like every two to three weeks we have a one off show and then in October Mushroomhead go off on their annual Halloween tour, so we’re pretty busy! It’s like you get a few days here and there to focus on the record and then back out to the shows! So if everything goes right it will be turned in to Napalm early next year and hopefully out by late April.
Donk – Have Napalm had much influence on the album or are they just leaving you to do your thing?
Skinny – Yeah, they’re pretty like, ‘you guys do your own thing. You’ve been doing it long enough!’ And I think that’s part of why they signed us. They like what we do so we just go and do it. Everything has been really cool and I think it’s been a really positive shot in the ass for the band and the band members. It’s like ‘We just got signed again! We gotta whole new lease on life’ and ya know, we’re 26 years in and this will be our third major record deal ya know, it’s a good eye opener. It makes me excited, it makes the band member excited and want it! ‘Alright someone believes in us again!’ After being in the same place for so long things get stale, you guys know, it’s just like anything really!
Tom – Who are the main song writers in the band then? Or is it a collective writing process?
Skinny – Yeah, we definitely all contribute. It’s not equal, maybe one song three guys put together. There’s never really any ‘Hey I wrote this at home, check out this song.’ Maybe someone would bring an idea to the table but those are rarely used. There’s something about when a few of us sit in a room together and just hash out some riffs or some beats or even a vocal melody. Sometimes Doctor F will just be sitting there playing piano and I’ll be like ‘Hey, play that again!’ then ‘hey let me record that and make a loop’ and half hour later we’ve got nearly a full damn song. Sometimes it just happens that way. It’s very much a group effort. Not ever song is all eight of us, that never works! Just too many cooks. So a few guys will get together, it’s always a different mix too which is nice, especially having a few different drummers.
Like Doctor F he’s damn near perfect pitch so not only can he play bass, piano and guitar, he can play drums and he can sing really well too! Even if we have a rough idea he will grab a mic and lay out the harmony as well and say ‘This is a part for you. A part for Stevie.’ Most of the time it works out. He’s brilliant.
Jackie – He’s the Doctor
Skinny – Ha, yeah he is the Doctor.
Donk – Yeah we could use one of those. Ha.
Tom – Yeah we could haha.
Skinny – If you can find one, get em, keep em!
Tom – I watched your Tour Bus Invaders video from the other week. It was when you were on the ICP tour. And you were talking about how with the new album would come new masks and characters. Can you tell us anything more about that? Or is it all hush hush?
Skinny – No, I mean character wise we are still working on the development of it, but….
Jackie – There’s the new guys..
Skinny – Yeah, there’s the two new guys we’ve played around with different looks on them both and I’m not a hundred percent sold on either one of the looks yet but every album we do a new set of masks even if it’s the same members or whatever everything gets to morph and change a little bit. This time around, actually last time too, the artists name is Jason Kisner, Kisner13 on Instagram. Amazing sculptor. Amazing artist. So we’ll sit with him and get our head casts done, he comes over with clay and it gets plastered on.
Tom – I’ve had a face cast done and that was weird!
Jackie – The Doctor is in!! (Doctor F walked in to the interview and said hi. Another nice guy!)
Skinny – Yeah the head cast thing is real fun to get done! Especially as it starts wrapping around and you feel it heating up! Everything becomes a little more quiet! Some guys do better than others getting theirs heads cast but yeah we’ll end up with a stone bust of ourselves and he’ll come over with clay and just start sculpting. Sometimes it’s just pictures of things, whether it’s video games or movies for influence and kind of just tweak it from there. The main thing is to always incorporate our logo with the X’s. Sometimes guys just have the Xs some will have the teeth as well. That’s pretty much the only I say we’ve gotta have. Gotta have the logo in there at some degree.
And then I give him (Jason) some free reign too and say ‘What do you think? You know these guys and their personalities, ya know, what can you come up with?’ And he’s come up with some pretty cool concept stuff. I’m really looking forward to it. For this tour, well the last year of touring, has been the transition masks. The Devils. So we all match basically and that’s all been done purposefully. It focuses on the whole unit, the whole band instead of one individual guy. We like that. So when the album comes out it’s like Heavy Metal Mortal Kombat, bring back some old members. There’s always new characters and then there’s like the upgraded old ones, basically the same like mine. It’s still got the dreads, it’s still very much like a skull face but it’s a little more beefed up, a little more evil this time around.
Donk – Yeah?
Skinny– Yeah! Everythings got a little bit more scary. We’re definitely sticking with the dark element, ha ah.
Tom – Well you actually answered all the questions I had without me having to ask them!
Skinny – right on!
Donk – I have one. You wake up and it’s been a zombie apocalypse, what are the three things that you grab first?!
Skinny – Her (Jackie) My Mask and my dog! Ha!
Jackie – Haha Ms Peanut
Skinny – Yeah, my dogs not with me this tour.
Jackie – She goes everywhere else with us, just not overseas. We don’t know how to deal with her on the double deckers (tour bus) stairs and stuff. She would get kicked down the stairs and stuff.
Skinny – That and the international laws especially when we go from country to country to country and your bringing a dog. You have to get quarantine and all that stuff. We looked in to it for Australia and they don’t let anything in there! Yeah so Ms Peanut, she’s got her own Instagram page! You can follow her adventures with us all around the states, she’s on every tour. And yeah, even the biggest, meanest heavy metal guys are like ‘ah its a little doggy!’ Haha. She a grumpy old girl. She’s 13 now and has been all over. Been on 20 different tour buses easy!
Jackie – She runs the band, ha.
Donk – Well that is us then! Thank you.
Skiny – No guys thank you for your time, we really appreciate it!
Skinny and Jackie were so nice and made us feel so at home and welcome back stage at the Brudenell in Leeds. After the interview we made our way outside and had a quick drink while waiting for the venue to open.
I don’t know how many of you have been to the Brudenell in Leeds, but the stage ain’t exactly huge and I was wondering how in the hell Mushroomhead were going to all fit on that stage, but they managed it! It was the first time seeing the band live and I remarked to Tom, who agreed, that they sounded so much heavier live than on the records etc.
They also put on one monstrous show! Water drums. Guitarists climbing the rafters. Jackie walking on the crowd. Yeah, it was a great show and I really can’t wait to see them again next year. Fingers crossed we get to have a chat then as well 😉