Sit Down Series: J Mann of Mushroomhead

Continuing on with my interviews from this year’s Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival, I sat down with J Mann of Mushroomhead for an incredibly fun and insightful interview. We spoke about everything from Mayhem Fest to Faith No More to Corey Taylor, and even Jackass.

Alex Obert: What do you think of the lineup for Mayhem Fest this year?

J Mann: I think it’s phenomenal. Some of the bands I wasn’t that familiar with until the tour started, but I think they’re absolutely kickass. It’s great to see a lot of the young bands being on my radar for the first time. There’s fans in attendance that maybe came to see one or two bands and I think they’re gonna leave here liking at least a dozen, if not more. It’s versatile and it’s got some old-school legendary stuff like Cannibal Corpse and Korn and Ice-T, but then it’s got a bunch of great, young bands like Upon a Burning Body and Emmure. I think it really covers the last twenty five years of extreme music.

Alex Obert: I feel as though Mayhem, being a more recent festival, was somewhat of a response to Ozzfest becoming more and more sporadic over the years.

J Mann: We played Ozzfest in 2002 and I will tell you so far that my experience on this festival exceeds that. Ozzfest was very cool, as far as a great festival with a bunch of heavy music and stuff. There was a little more politics behind Ozzfest. If you weren’t chosen, then a lot of the younger bands would have to buy their way onto a tour. That doesn’t exist on this tour, all of the bands are hand chosen by the people that put the festival together. And the other thing that I’ve noticed about this festival is that it’s got a real family type vibe. Everyone that’s a part of the staff, the sound guys or the crew or catering, everyone’s been together for seven years. It’s cool seeing their relationship together. It gives you the impression that if you do your job at this, you’re gonna be a part of it again and again and again. I know most of the bands that are playing it have played it before. So I think it’s really cool with the loyalty that they have.

Alex Obert: Avenged Sevenfold is on this year and has been on previously. I understand you met them in 2002.

J Mann: Yeah, we’ve known those guys a long time. They were just kind of kids when we met them, actually. I think we took them out on their first national tour. It’s really cool to see how well they’ve done in a professional sense. But I think it’s even cooler just to have seen them grow up and also know that they didn’t turn into some egomaniac rockstars. They’re still the same guys we met, they’re just better musicians. (laughs)

Alex Obert: Mushroomhead has a new album out called The Righteous & The Butterfly. Can you take readers through the development and writing of Qwerty in the studio?

J Mann: We’ve always been big fans of movie soundtracks. Angelo Badalamenti, he’s the guy that did Twin Peaks and a lot of David Lynch movies. Obviously Danny Elfman, he’s done Tim Burton movies. We’ve always been interested in that type of music. I think that Qwerty is definitely a tip of the hat to Danny Elfman. It’s got that circus vibe, a surreal vibe to it. Lyrically, I would have to say that it’s kind of a commentary on this whole false patriotism that’s going on right now. You’ve gotta be pro-American, but you can’t challenge your government anymore. For me, patriotism is challenging your government. I think it’s important that people know that on this festival, we have this thing called Metal of Honor. It’s possible to support the troops without having to support war. I think that’s where people get confused a little bit. We absolutely support our troops, but I question the motives behind the people that are putting them in harm’s way.

Alex Obert: So Qwerty is influenced by Danny Elfman, I take it you’re a Simpsons fan?

J Mann: Yeah, definitely a Simpsons fan. That show has managed to stay funny for twenty five years without having to use the bathroom humor of South Park. And I love South Park, but it’s got a be a lot harder to do it when it’s like, “Okay, we’re on at 7 o’clock at night. We’re on regular television.” I think what they’ve done there is great.

Alex Obert: What are your thoughts on the Simpsons/Family Guy crossover episode coming later this year?

J Mann: I actually didn’t even know about it. I really don’t watch television, but it’ll probably be cool. I know that Seth MacFarlane, I know that he grew up as a real big Simpsons fan. So I think that it’ll probably be done well. He was obviously inspired by it, so it should be interesting.

Alex Obert: With one of your favorite bands concerned, how did you discover Faith No More?

J Mann: I actually discovered them when The Real Thing album came out, I was still in high school. And I was getting ready to go off to college to be a journalism major because I really just wanted to be a writer, I just wanted to write. And I realized that kids my age, my generation, they were reading books anymore. To get anyone to read anything, you almost had to make a record or get on a stage and deliver it to them that way. I think getting in a band had a lot to do with wanting to be a writer. When I was getting ready to go to school, Faith No More put out a VHS tape called You Fat Bastards. It’s them live in England in 1990. When I saw Mike Patton and I saw that band actually live, I was just absolutely blown away. You have to keep in mind, this is it the height of hair metal, bands like Warrant and Motley Crue and Ratt and Skid Row. You had to have leather pants and big, poofy hair and makeup to be in a band. So when someone like Mike Patton came along, he didn’t take it that seriously and he wore whatever the fuck he wanted. Crossing different styles of music, I thought that was inspiring. It’s like, “Wow, you don’t have to look like a queen to be in a band.” (laughs)

Alex Obert: What do you feel made Mike Patton the best choice as the singer for Faith No More after previously going through a couple?

J Mann: I would say his versatility. He’s got a wide array of influences, he’s got like a six or seven octave range. There’s really nothing he can’t do. And that band was always interesting, musically. I don’t think anyone else could really have fit every style that the band was playing.

Alex Obert: In Mushroomhead, you have various stage names. What are some of your favorite stage names of the other musicians throughout the years?

J Mann: There’s funny ones. I guess some of the funniest ones are the old punk ones. Sid Vicious is a great name. When people were running out of names, they had names like Chuck Biscuits, who was the drummer for Danzig. That’s a good one. There was another LA punk dude named Cliff Hanger. A lot of the silly punk stuff, it’s really juvenile and then made them up when they were really young. I think they’re kind of entertaining.

Alex Obert: You have a history with the late Ryan Dunn of Jackass. How did you meet him?

J Mann: I actually met him, believe it or not, through a guy named Nathan Wessel. He was at the Pittsburgh show. He’s a pro BMX rider and Ryan always liked BMX. Obviously a lot of the Jackass/CKY guys are skateboarders. So I met him through Nathan and we just hit it off. We worked on a record label together and just hung out. It was kind of like when you meet somebody and it’s like you’ve known ’em your whole life. He went to high school in Westchester, but before that, he grew up in Ohio by us. He liked having another Ohio guy around to talk to cause he was always outnumbered by Bam and those guys.

Alex Obert: Where were you when you got the news of his death?

J Mann: I was at home, I don’t even know if I believed it for the first twenty four hours. It was such a shock. It just completely caught me off guard. Nathan and I, we went to the funeral. It was just sad, it was tragic. And not only that, but he was with a guy named Zachary in the car and he was another good friend of mine. Zachary was a standup guy, he was a rager, but he was a Navy SEAL. He was one of the baddest motherfuckers I’ve ever met. Unfortunately, people don’t realize Ryan wasn’t alone when it happened. We lost two great people that day.

Alex Obert: How would you compare the similarities between Jackass and a Mushroomhead show?

J Mann: I think Jackass was a lot more spontaneous and there’s a lot more humor in it. That’s not to say we don’t have a sense of humor, but with Jackass, I think they were just trying to be funny and be themselves too. What we’re trying to do is not that we’re not trying to be ourselves, but we’re trying to portray an alter ego. It’s a lot more similar to an actor playing a character. When Christian Bale goes home at night, he’s not Batman. But when he’s got that fuckin’ suit on, he is. So it’s kind of like that.

Alex Obert: There’s a lot of talk about Mushroomhead and Slipknot and Corey Taylor, but I want to take it from a different angle. What are your thoughts on Stone Sour?

J Mann: I love Stone Sour. Skinny’s actually a huge Stone Sour fan. I think Corey’s got an amazing voice. I’ve been impressed with everything he’s done. We’ve always liked that band. Unfortunately, the media was trying to create controversies and gossip. It’s funny because I had an opportunity to talk with some of those guys about it and actually have a pretty good laugh about it. We even have a side project where we worked with Sid from Slipknot, he’s on it. I got to meet Paul before he passed away. It’s a shame because he was a hell of a guy. I think it’s really big of Corey to even mention our name and mention the possibility of a tour or something like that. Obviously they don’t need us to help them fill arenas, they’ve been doing that for a decade. So I think it’s pretty cool for him to do that knowing that he’s got nothing to gain for it other than good karma and just being a standup guy, which he is.

Alex Obert: In closing, what do you have to say to readers who have never been to Mayhem and may want to attend in the future?

J Mann: Just come with an open mind. You might come here and say, “I only wanna see that band and that band. I’ve already made up my mind about this band.” The music here is nonstop, that’s the other thing that’s great, there’s not a lot of downtime in between sets. As soon as the last note rings off one stage, the first note starts on another. You’re getting like thirteen hours of nonstop music. It’s versatile, it spans twenty five years, it’s got a little bit of everything. Don’t pass judgment until you’ve actually encountered it because I become a fan of bands that I thought I’d never listen to. I think they’re all great now.

Alex Obert: I’d love to thank you so much for your time.

J Mann: Thank you, man! It’s a pleasure!

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