Raging with J Mann of Mushroomhead at Mayhem Fest

Mushroomhead070514The mighty assault force known as Mushroomhead spent the summer terrorizing the country on this year’s edition of the Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival.  In addition to a powerful new album entitled The Righteous & The Butterfly, founding member J Mann has returned to the band on a full time bases.  We caught up with J Mann at the very first date of Mayhem Fest in San Bernardino to discuss the new album, being back in Mushroomhead after nearly a decade, the ongoing rumors of their supposed feud with Slipknot, and other raging topics.  Read on…

Introduce yourself, tell me what you do in Mushroomhead.
I’m J Mann and I’m one of the three vocalists in Mushroomhead.

mushroomheadj;1What are you looking forward to the most about touring on Mayhem this year?
Man! I’m looking forward to a lot of things. Most of all the sunshine, being outdoors. We’re usually a night time band, so it’s good to be outside. Obviously the bands are fantastic, we’re good friends with the A7X guys. Can’t wait to see Ice T and Body Count. Can’t wait to see Cannibal Corpse. We’re looking forward to mingling and hanging out with our peers.

What can one expect from your live performance at Mayhem?
Hopefully a lot of energy and good music. We try to give everything we have.

Let’s talk about the current album, is there any story or concept behind the title The Righteous & the Butterfly?
Well, there’s a story and concept behind the title – our original guitar player, his name was JJ Righteous. He being the Righteous. He unfortunately passed away and the Butterfly being like our band’s little sister and our drummer’s ex-wife, she passed away as well. She was our band photographer, she was with us from day one, with us all the time. So it was a tribute to them and it was also about getting back to our roots. Acknowledging the people that have influenced us in our lives, getting back to our sound and passion that created the band 20 years ago. It’s really about completing the circle.

mushroomheadj;2Select any two songs from Righteous & the Butterfly and what inspired the lyrics?
A lot of what I just said inspired the lyrics for sure. Also, I’d have to say that there’s a lot of – we’re not a preachy band, or a political band but we also – we’re more about a commentary about the state of the nation. I think that there’s definitely some nods to the Government and the problems that are going on there. False patriotism out of fear, things like that. There’s even nods to not religion, but faith. Getting back to losing people that you care about. It’s all written vague. It’s done that way intentionally, we try to write in riddles so that songs aren’t that well defined. This way, anyone can adapt a certain song to their life and however it reflects on them. It’s not just one thing only. It can mean six different things or it can mean one thing the first time you hear it and five years later you hear it again and it means something different because your life has changed. We try and write things that will adapt to people’s adaptation to their lives.

Your life has changed a lot since you’ve come back into the band. What made you decide to come back after such a long hiatus?
We always stayed working together. I’d do a lot of shows, especially Halloween shows, old school shows. We always knew we’d work together again, I never thought I was going to come back full time – but with the new guys in the band and the material they’ve played for me. I originally was going to come in and sing two songs and I think I ended up singing 12 or 13. I asked one day, “how many songs am I on?” They were like, it’s the whole record. I guess I was back. A lot of that had to do with timing.  We had all grown a lot, getting back to the roots, the people the album is dedicated to. But also the new material being so inspired to where it was like, you wanted to work on it voluntarily. It wasn’t a job. It was something you chose to do, not something you needed to.

mushroomheadj;3Did you play the Ozzfest dates?
We did Ozzfest in the states and we also did Ozzfest, we did Europe. We did Holland, Ireland and England.

What was it like playing Ozzfest, did you get to meet Ozzy?
JM: No but I spent a lot of time with his kids. [laughs] That tour was great, man. Definitely got to see a lot of great bands and met a lot of great friends. We became really good friends with the guys from Meshuggah on that tour and out of that we’ve worked together, Jens sang on a record following that tour. I put out a Meshuggah release on my independent label. A long standing friendship came out of that. That’s what I enjoyed the most about it.

What do you think that’s kept you guys such a strong unit since 1993?
We’re stubborn. People have told us to change, or follow a trend and we never did that. We just stuck to our guns. When you rebel on that level, you get laughed at in the beginning but after some time has passed you earn a little bit of respect. We have been doing this for over 20 years and now we’re more valid than ever, you know? Just stick to your guns.

mushroomheadj;4What advice would you give a young band looking for a record deal?
Man! Well, record deals are iffy. So much of it can be done on your own anymore with things like Bandcamp or these start up campaigns. I’d say just – don’t let anyone change your initial vision and don’t give too much away. Don’t give away your publishing and your merch. That’s all we have anymore. Record sales aren’t doing it. You want your publishing in case you get played on the X-Games or something and you want your mech because that’s what you survive on out on the road. Don’t give those away.

You probably have opened for every band you’ve ever wanted to. But if you could open for any band from now or the past, who would it be and why?
Faith No More. Now they’re touring again, and I guess they just played some new songs at Hyde Park over in England. I heard some of the new stuff, it’s great. They were a big influence on me. When I was getting into music, I thought back in the day you had to have long hair and spandex pants, wear makeup and stuff. Then I saw Mike Patton come out when the first Faith No More record came out. I’m like, this guy is busting people’s balls, he has a sense of humor and dresses however the fuck he wants and he sings all different styles of music. That made me go, maybe I could do this! Without having to wear hairspray and spandex and shit, this was the late 80s. Getting back to being around for 20 years.

mushroomheadjl5Would Mushroomhead and Slipknot ever want to do a tour together?
Corey has mentioned it and I’m very flattered by that. I’d love to. Skinny and I, our drummer, have a side project and we worked with Sid from Slipknot on it. I was fortunate enough to get to spend some time with Paul before he passed away. He was a sweetheart. All that drama was definitely media created. I think they pitted us against each other when none of it was really true. Once we sat down and talked to a lot of the guys, it was all like, we’re all in this for the same reason and that’s music. Corey has mentioned it and we’d definitely love to be on it. I’ve got nothing for respect for that band, I think they’re fantastic.

What bands are you involved with outside of Mushroomhead?
I’m in a band called Pitch Black Forecast with a drummer named Gene Hoglan, know him? He’s in Dethklok, Testament, Dark Angel, he’s with everybody. He and I have a band together and we’re going to be releasing a record at the end of summer. It’s called, “As The World Burns” by Pitch Black Forecast. That’s got guests from M Shadows from A7X, Randy Blythe from Lamb Of God is on it. Devin Townsend so there’s a little Strapping Young Lad reunion on it.

What label is it on?
It’s coming out on Ferocious Records. It’s a newer label coming out of Ohio.

Do you have any messages for Mushroomhead fans that may be reading this now?
I’d just say, this is my first record back with the band. It’s the first time working with Waylon, we’ve got a great relationship. Jeffrey and I have a great relationship, it’s stronger than ever. We’re really figuring out how to work the three singer thing. This new record, which I think is one of our best is just the start. I really think it’s going to grow from here. Stick with us and enjoy the ride!

(Interview and Candid Photo by Ken Morton – Live Photos by Jack Lue)

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