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Staind’s Mike Mushok Says New Album Is Their Best Yet — Exclusive Interview

P.R. Brown

It’s been more than 15 years since Staind erupted out of Massachusetts. Today, after selling more than 15 million records worldwide, they’re back with an explosive self-titled album [due Sept. 13th] that hearkens back to their ferocious debut while also mining plenty of new, heavy ground.

‘Staind’ is a nine-song musical monster that rips and roars like the rock and roll animal that it is. According to lead singer Aaron Lewis, it’s “one of the heaviest collection of songs we have put together.” The album, produced by Johnny K [Disturbed, Sevendust], sees the band to returning to their sonic roots, when songs like ‘Mudshovel’ launched the multi-platinum band’s 15-year career.

Staind guitarist Mike Mushok spoke with Noisecreep about the new album.

Based on reports, it sounds like there was a lot of tension throughout the making of this album. True?

Absolutely. It’s hard to say exactly why. I think it’s because this is the first time ever had an actual deadline when it came to making a record. We usually just do it the “Staind” way – whenever we want. But this time was different. The label knew that Aaron [Lewis, vocals] had a busy solo thing happening, and so they really wanted us on a specific schedule to get this done. The other thing was, this is the first time we’ve ever had an A&R person involved from the record company.

We’ve always kind of been on our own. That added some tension too because we didn’t know what it would be like to have a guy from the label come in and start giving opinions and making comments. But when he heard the first five songs, he loved them. And when he heard the single, ‘Not Again,’ he said, “That is a number one active rock song.” That was amazing to hear. With as much craziness as we had making the album, that helped.

So having a deadline really influenced the record?

It did. In a lot of ways, too. Aaron was so busy doing his solo thing that when he’d get back to working on our record, he was letting lots of stuff go right down to the wire. As frustrating as it is with him, and we’ve been together 17-years so I can say this, he waits until the last three weeks to get a lot of the work done. It makes me nuts, but he does it. And he comes up with amazing things. It’s like in college, if the college labs were due Monday, he’s the type who would wait until Sunday night to bust out something amazing. Because he’s been thinking about it a lot up for weeks before that.

Did the tension influence the sound of the album?

Johnny April, our bass player and me were talking about this last week. He’s totally convinced that the sleepless nights, the grease, the aggravation- that it’s all there in these songs. And the new record includes a little documentary so people can truly see how all of this came together.

Listen to ‘Eyes Wide Open’ from Staind

This is your first new album in three years. Did you take a different creative approach to writing the songs?

I think we all did. I heard Aaron say, “This is our 7th record – I’ve said it all before. How many ways can I say “pain”? (Laughs) But then he went ahead and came up with some really incredible words. As for me, I might tune a little differently, looking for new ways to express songs on my guitar. We just pushed each other across the board to do something special. I hear it in Aaron’s vocals. You believe everything he is saying. And when we sat down to arrange, he would tell me to forget our older patterns of doing things.

I know exactly how to write music for him since we’ve been together so long. This time he said. “Write it how you like it. I’ll figure it out from there.” And that so that process resulted in something a little different, too. Something fresher. Also, our producer Johnny K worked unbelievably hard, trucking back and forth between Aaron’s studio up north and where I was working. That guy was always doing double-time.

What else jumps out at you on the record?

There’s a long riff in the song ‘Failing.’ I just love how the parts flow. I did this solo that Johnny told me to take from the bridge and just jam out on through the rest of the song. It was so much fun to play, I made a lot of noise on it, there’s some great Wah-Wah pedal – I’m very proud of that solo. Then there were some solos Johnny really loved on the demo so he made me go back and recreate those. All kinds of fun moments on there.

What’s the feedback been like so far?

Every time we do a new record, I get a bunch of friends together in my house. People I’ve known since the beginning of the band. And we crank it, for honest opinion. I trust these people. And everyone was totally excited. The gut reaction was, it’s the power of the early records, but with a modern edge. And that’s just what we set out to do.

Listen to ‘Not Again’ from Staind

Sounds like the only real collateral damage in making the record may have been parting ways with your drummer, Jon Wysocki.

Definitely a strange way to end the making of this record. Our friend Will Hunt from Evanescence, filled in for some shows. That was great, and now Jon’s drum tech, Sal Giancarellia is going to sit in for some shows we’ve got. He’s a great drummer, we’re not sure what will happen in the future with auditions or anything, but he definitely knows what to do in this band. He’s worked for us since 1999.

Where do you think the album ranks in the Staind collection?

If you’re putting out a record that you don’t think is the best you’ve ever done, then you’re not done – you need to go back and make it better. Stepping back and listening to this, I can honestly say I think it’s our best yet.

‘Staind’ will be out September 13th via Atlantic Records. Pre-order the album at this link.

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