Interview: Mutoid Man
I got on the phone with Stephen Brodsky (Cave In), Ben Koller (Converge, All Pigs Must Die), and Nick Cageao of Mutoid Man to talk about their new album WAR MOANS (out June 2nd, via Sargent House) and their upcoming tour with Helms Alee. Mutoid Man is excited to be joined by Orange County’s own Painted Wives July 11th at The Constellation Room in Santa Ana, and July 12th at The Casbah in San Diego. Steve is also proud to have worked alongside Painted Wives, writing songs which will appear on their next album.
Hey, I’d like to thank you guys for taking the time to talk with me. It’s a pretty big honor, I’m a huge fan of you guys!
S.B. No problem.
Just gotta get it out there, the new album WAR MOANS is awesome!
S.B. Thanks, dude! We’re pretty excited about it. We’re probably more excited about it than we’ve ever been. So, thank you.
I hope none of this comes across as lip-service, but I think in a lot of ways Mutoid Man is kind of like the perfect introductory metal band. When BLEEDER came out two years ago, everybody I played it for loved it, even people who had never really cared to listen to metal before. How do the three of you manage to come up with such creative music that’s still so catchy?
S.B. Well, we definitely enjoy each other’s company, and we like hanging out and playing music together. And I think that’s just part of it you can kind of hear that translating through the riffs, you know, all the parts we come up with, and the overall sort of vibe. Definitely helps when you like your band. I think a lot of the music we enjoy involves heavy, fun, fast, punk-metal-hardcore-riffage with, you know, semi-melodic vocals over it. So, just blending the heaviness between hardcore and metal with melodic vocals, that’s what we’re going for.
And is that kind of the process that went into WAR MOANS, too?
S.B. Yeah, absolutely. I think with WAR MOANS the big difference on this record was that I was introducing vocal ideas and lyric ideas much earlier in the process for everybody to kinda jump in on and have their two cents on, so that when we got in the studio it wasn’t like this big surprise, you know, “Oh, that sounded cool! That goes over that riff. Okay.” I think it definitely helps open things up.
I read in other interviews that you guys only had nine days to do BLEEDER, were you on a similar schedule with WAR MOANS?
S.B. Oh, we did tracking for WAR MOANS in about two weeks—that’s 14 fuckin’ days—and we had great ambitions to have the same experience as BLEEDER in terms of recording it in its entirety and mixing it all in that time span, and, you know, we got all bloated with our production. We spent about three days getting the perfect reverb sound for Ben’s snare. By the time we knew it, the clock had been all eaten up. We actually had to go back and have Kurt [Ballou] fix it like a month later. Here, Ben’s got a better answer.
B.K. Yeah, so, the problem was we had to start a Kickstarter campaign to buy the actual Tama Bell Brass Snare that Lars Ulrich used on THE BLACK ALBUM, and that sucked up a lot of energy and resources. So after we did that it was all good to go.
Oh wow, I didn’t know that. That’s actually pretty cool!
B.K. It was tough, you know, but we managed to outbid Jay Weinberg.
With WAR MOANS, I picked up on not just like a thrash metal thread, but kind of like an ‘80s hair metal thing going on. Not like ironic or cheesy, but in a fun way. The way I would say it is you guys are trying to capture and embrace that ‘80s bravado. Is that accurate?
S.B. Yeah, man. I mean I’m a ‘70s child, so I was young and dumb and full of cum growing up through the ‘80s, and one of the first records I truly adored was probably APPETITE FOR DESTRUCTION, so there is definitely a little bit of that spirit in WAR MOANS.
And is that kind of how Marty Friedman came into the picture?
S.B. The story with Marty is that we were playing a venue in St. Louis called Fubar, and about a week later Marty was supposed to play a show there. And we saw it on the calendar, and we were like, “Dude, we gotta leave him a CD!” which is . . . it’s just playing yourself, because we never do that, I mean what are the chances that Marty Friedman was going to get your record if you leave it at some club, you know? We did just that, and not only did he get the CDs, but he listened to ‘em and apparently dug ‘em enough to get in touch with us and say, “Hey, I wanna write some songs with you guys,” which is fuckin’ mind-blowing. And so we went back-and-forth for about a year trying to work that out, and our schedules just kind of overlapped in ways where we—we couldn’t actually work on a full piece of music together, but he ended up ripping us that fucking awesome “Rusted Pieces”-type lead over the title track, and yeah, man, the fuckin’ young metalhead in me is just whoopin’ out over it still.
Marty isn’t the only guest on the album, there’s Ben Chisholm and Chelsea Wolfe, they pop up in a few songs. You and Ben [Koller] played with them in the Blood Moon tour, what was it like doing that and what made you want to bring them on board for WAR MOANS?
S.B. Oh, the Blood Moon tour was great. It was kind of like Converge giving new life to all the weird, bastard-style songs, all like the weird deep cuts and stuff. And I think it’s something they’d talked about doing for a while, and it was such an ambitious project that I think it kinda took a minute to really get it together, but that was a blast, yeah. And we definitely got to know Chelsea and Ben from that project, and I think when it came time to record “Bandages” and “Wreck and Survive,” which are kind of the more oddball tunes on the record, we thought it would be kind of cool to make them even weirder and add some more mutation to them. To make them stand out even more in that way. And not only were Chelsea and Ben on board for it, they turned around some really cool shit very quickly. Yeah, stoked! Stoked they were a part of it. They’re also our labelmates, too. It’s a big old family affair.
So you guys have the tour coming up, and I don’t know if you guys remember this, but on your last tour when you came out here to L.A., at The Echo, someone brought a blow-up doll, and it ended up on the stage and Ben was drumming with it. Do you guys run into that kind of stuff pretty often on tour?
S.B. I’m gonna hand you over to Ben ‘cause I think he’ll be pleasantly happy to be reminded of that memory.
B.K. What happened? What did I do? Are you bringing up a terrible memory and traumatizing me?
Well, it’s not terrible for me, but it might be for you. During the BLEEDER tour when you guys were at The Echo in L.A., someone brought up a blow-up doll and you ended up drumming with it.
B.K. Oh yeah. You know what, I like when people throw shit at me on stage ‘cause, you know, I won’t say no to a prop. Give me a horsehead, a blow-up doll, or some kind of drilldo and I’ll do something like that with it. I used to love MacGyver as a kid, so I like to take whatever someone gives me and make something useful out of it, like make a kind of tool out of it. So the blow-up doll was my partner in drumming that night.
Image courtesy of Joseph Simpson
That was a good bit of improv on your part.
B.K. Well, thank you. I appreciate that.
What really stood out to me about that wasn’t just how weird it was to have a blow-up doll on stage and you drumming with it, but your guys’ audience engagement is awesome! And you guys always seem like you’re having the time of your life up there. Is that something that just happens naturally when you’re on tour? Where does that energy come from?
B.K. It’s really natural. I mean, we’re just so thrilled to be playing with each other that it really makes us happy just being up there, and we try to just let that show when we play. And as a fan of music, and as bandmembers, we’ve been to maybe thousands of shows between us, and the best ones are always when the band is super loose and engaging the audience and everyone’s having a good time. And I don’t want to see a band that’s just playing a record by the numbers, I want to see a band that’s happy and tight and engaged and just stoked to be there and stoked to interact with the audience. So that’s what we try to do, just try to have fun, try making a worthwhile experience for everyone. Everyone’s happy!
Yeah, I was certainly happy. Ben, since I’ve got you on the line, I have to ask. Between Mutoid Man, Converge, and All Pigs Must Die, how do you make time?
B.K. I’m also in Killer Be Killed, and drummer for the Two Minutes to Late Night house band. And I’m also in the band that plays underneath the stage along to Metallica in case something cuts out during their set. They go to my track, and people wonder—they see Lars get up behind the drums, but they don’t him going, and all the sudden they sound really good, and that’s because they actually cut to my track when I’m playing along underneath the stage, and they’re like, “Wow! This sounds so great! But Lars isn’t doing anything, what’s happening?” And then Lars fixes his shit, gets back on the drum set, and then it’s bad again, and people wonder what the fuck happened. That’s ‘cause they cut to my drum track under the stage, ‘cause I’m playing along the whole time.
I’m really glad you told me that, you know, I was always wondering about that myself.
B.K. Yeah, Steve does it for Geezer Butler, and Nick does it for that dude from Yes, I think. Oh, gosh, sorry, Rush. I get those two confused.
Speaking of Two Minutes to Late Night, how did that come about?
N.C. What I think it actually comes down to is that Steve was giving guitar lessons. Jordan [Olds] had an idea for a talk show. Steve then said, “Nick is a piece of shit and would be really good at being a piece of shit on camera,” and then Jordan was like, “Hey, you can be the host,” and then I was really bad at it ‘cause I didn’t practice my lines, and then I became the co-host, Jordan became the host, and then we became the house band! Sums it up pretty good, right?
Yeah, I’d say so. Can we expect an episode three anytime?
N.C. Oh, you can absolutely expect episode three! Actually, bringing up Jay Weinberg again, he and his dad are actually going to swap places, so Jay is going to play in the E Street Band, and Max Weinberg is going to play in Slipknot. Yeah, Phil Towle, the therapist from Some Kind of Monster, he’s actually going to be on the show, too.
Hey, Nick. I’ve got a question specifically for you. I read on one of your Instagram posts a while back that you’re going to be singing more this tour. Got any surprises lined up with that?
N.C. No, I’m actually just trying to help level up the Mutoid game! Steve’s giving me some pointers on some vocals, and I’m just trying to make it sound thicker as we play live.
I just want to thank you guys again for taking the time to talk with me. I really appreciate it, this is a huge honor for me. I’ll catch you guys on the 11th at The Constellation Room.
S.B. Sounds great, man. Thanks for the call and for the support.
Yeah, thank you.
S.B. All right, take it easy.