Mushroomhead’s Skinny: Pandemic Forces Me to Be More Creative
Mushroomhead's Steve 'Skinny' Felton was the latest guest on Full Metal Jackie's weekend radio program. The drummer and lone constant in the band discussed how the coronavirus pandemic has forced him to think and create differently, and how the challenge is, in a way, welcome.
Skinny also touched on Mushroomhead's progression as they near the release of their eighth album, A Wonderful Life. For many of the band's members, they've spent time on the road in Mushroomhead, but not the studio. This was Skinny's first chance to create with these musicians, which also helped yield a 17-song album.
Read the full chat below.
Of course, obviously, the world has changed so much in the six years since the last album. What makes A Wonderful Life indicative of the time we're living in?
Isn't it fun? It almost puts the exclamation point at the end of it for me. Is the glass half full, is the glass half empty? It really seems like a sarcastic title in these modern times, doesn't it?
We try to leave it open for interpretation as well. We want the listener to kind of take their own journey with that title as they listen to the whole album and decide for themselves. Some songs are wonderful and others maybe not so much as far as being able to relate day to day but it sure does seem kind of tongue and cheek with what's happening right now.
There are new band members performing on this record and there's returning band members on there as well. How did those fluctuations make you creatively sharper?
This time around it was a lot of fun. We went back to our roots and did a lot of experimenting. With new vocalists came new possibilities, so there was a lot of experimenting with layering, stacking and even harmonizing.
Ms. Jackie’s been on the stage with us touring for the last six years and now Mr. Rauckhorst has hit a little over two years of touring [with Mushroomhead]. During the time over the last two years, we did a lot of the writing and arranging and we did a lot of it while we were on the road.
We were even fortunate enough to record some of this stuff — some of the vocals got recorded at Abbey Road when we were in London on tour, so we worked while we were touring. The two of them being so diverse brought a lot of new flavors and new textures. Sometimes Steve and Jackie harmonized together and it's a brand new color on the Mushroomhead palette.
Mushroomhead, "Seen It All" Music Video
The album is 17 tracks that span over an hour of music. In a soundbite society like ours, what's the risk and payoff in releasing such an extended piece of work?
It was extended by four tracks. The original version is 13 songs and the other four were a bonus. We just felt that taking five years in between putting out new music that we wanted the fans to really hear where we were coming from. Everything that we laid down while we were in studio together that was pretty close and things that we really felt passionate about, we just really wanted to share with the fan base that we already have.
Now, I do understand some people are a bit ADD — they get 30 seconds in and they want to hear the next thing and want to hear the next thing. By this being album eight, we've learned a little bit more about our own patience. We're trying to make things that we can be proud of 10 years later and we're not so worried about being a flavor of the week or keeping everyone occupied.
A Wonderful Life is one of those albums that if you sit down and you take the entire journey and look at it as a whole, you'll get a really fresh perspective on an otherwise older band.
You're extremely hands-on with literally all aspects of Mushroomhead — writing, performing, producing, and promotion. How has the way Mushroomhead defines you as a person changed over time?
I don't know if I've really changed personally that much. [I] keep my nose to the grindstone and I still work 15 hour days. It doesn't matter if I'm working on editing video or audio or capturing vocals, or filming something that's literally between the cameras and the microphones — where am I gonna point these things at today type or attitude.
I do step back sometimes and look at it and I'm kind of blown away — where does the time go? This year will be 27 years of Mushroomhead performing live and hopefully we get to actually do a show this year during all the craziness.
As an artist, I've definitely progressed along with the times. The coolest attribute I think about staying in it is the technology and being able to record on the bus or just record an idea as soon as the inspiration strikes versus 20 years ago when we were still using tape machines.
I've got two-inch tape staring me in the face everywhere from our first four albums. If we weren't as fortunate as we were to capture that initial impulse.... if anything, it's made me more of a workaholic.
Mushroomhead, "The Heresy" Music Video
The coronavirus has completely changed life for all touring musicians. What has been the biggest adjustment for you to make by not being on the road?
You know, it seems like a really extended period between tours. We usually do about 120 to 180 shows a year depending on what's going on. We're very active in touring the club scene, especially in the United States. It's just where we're at market-wise right now. We love playing the clubs.
The uncertainty is really crazy because you hear something different every day as far as all festivals are off until next year. And then as those conversations go, is that even the case? The uncertainty of it is pretty frightening.
But in the same breath, I'm a little intrigued by it and up for the challenge on how to continue to push myself as an artist and as a band without the end goal of getting on the road. There's a lot more to creating and a lot more to making music than just getting out on a stage. God bless it — that is one of the most wonderful things I have ever done, being about to share a stage with my bandmates and share a stage with crowds of people that actually like our music. It's one of the best feelings in the world without a doubt.
There's a lot of other things to focus on and to try to keep moving forward with being creative and finding other ways, to in looser terms, exploit your own media. Thank God for the Internet. What would we do without the Internet? If this happened in say 1993, I can't even imagine what the world would be like without being able to share some sort of art forms the way we do. It would be really really crazy.
So, if anything, I'm glad it's happened at this point in my life, this whole COVID stuff. I'm glad it's now, not 20 years ago or 30 years ago. I think of that often.
Thanks to Skinny for the interview. Pre-order your copy of 'A Wonderful Life' here and follow Mushroomhead on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Find out where you can hear Full Metal Jackie's weekend radio show here.
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