banner ad
banner ad
banner ad

INTERVIEW: J-MANN of Mushroomhead, June 2014

| 27 June 2014 | Reply

Bands gain and lose members all the time.  Usually there is tons of mudslinging and bad feelings, but in the case of Mushroomhead and one of the vocalists J-Mann, it was the opposite.  He joined them on more than one occasion at local Cleveland, OH shows, filled in when they needed the help, and has now comeback full-time for the recording of a new disc and a summer long stint on the Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival.  We caught up with him as he prepared to board the bus for a summer away.


Toddstar: Thank you so much for taking the time out for us. We appreciate you taking time out. We know you’re busy getting ready to hit the road tomorrow.

J. Mann: Oh, yeah we actually leave tonight. Yeah. We’re playing in Wisconsin tomorrow night. I think it’s about a 10-hour drive from Cleveland. We’ve got to leave probably like 2:00 a.m. or something like that.

Toddstar: Oh, cool okay. Let’s jump into it then. You guys dropped a new disc not too long ago, The Righteous and the Butterfly. I’ve noticed a few things that have blown me away, but what kind of things can you tell us about the disc that just listening to it a few times you might not grasp or you might not catch on to?

J. Mann: I would say what we really tried to do was create an album. I don’t know how many bands really try to do that anymore. A lot of bands will just focus on maybe creating a single, and just throw the album up around that. This is actually an effort to make it a listening experience. Almost cinematic is I guess what our goal was, to almost have it play like an audio movie.

Toddstar: You took some time off and you came back. What was it like getting back in the studio with these guys and doing what you do best?

J. Mann: It was like when you see a friend you haven’t seen in a while but you pick up the conversation like it was yesterday. We’ve been friends for so long. We’ve worked together for so long. Even when I was away from the band, I would still do a lot of local shows with them. I always stayed in contact with working … I went on a couple side projects with a couple of the guys. I was never really gone in the as far as our relationship went. You know what I mean? I was just gone from the public eye with the band, but I was really always there with them. It was like riding a bike. It’s one of those things you don’t forget and it comes naturally. I think that’s why I enjoy making music with them so much. I’m not going to say it’s effortless because it’s a lot of work, but you’re so inspired to do it that you’re anxious to bust your ass on it.

Toddstar: That’s a great segue way for me because you were one of the guys who left a big band, but you left on good terms with everybody. It was one of those things where, like you said you did one-offs. You filled in for shows when you needed. You don’t see that in today’s day and age. What is it about the combination of you guys that made that easy to do?

J. Mann: Especially with Skinny. Skinny and I have not only worked with Mushroomhead, but we’ve had multiple side projects. I think we have four side projects together. It’s like maybe when you find true love with a girl. It’s when you find that creative bond that’s got that same type of connection. You know what I mean? When you find something that you connect with creatively that well, you can hang onto it real tight.


Toddstar: Sure. Earlier this year, you guys hit Australia for the first time on Soundwave.

J. Mann: Oh, that was incredible.

Toddstar: How did that go over? How did the people in Australia accept Mushroomhead?

J. Mann: It was phenomenal. It exceeded my highest expectations. We were overwhelmed by the fans, by the response, by the comradery with a lot of the other bands which was great. It was awesome.

Toddstar: You hit it real early. You hit it a couple months before the album came out. Did you debut or promo some new material to see how it would be accepted in a live situation?

J. Mann: On the festival tours, obviously there’s so many bands everyone’s set was shortened. I believe we did 30 minutes. We couldn’t play too much material, but we did debut a new song off the record. We were playing We are the Truth. Jackie Laponza was on tour with us. That’s Skinny’s girlfriend. She’s from a band called UnSaid Fate. She performs the song on the record. We figured hey, we’ve got her with us. We may as well play this one. That’s why we chose that. The response to the song was really good so that was exciting.

Toddstar: You put two singles out from the new album. Again, the album is The Righteous and the Butterfly, “Qwerty,” and then “Out of My Mind.” How has the response been to those two singles? Because “Qwerty,” it blew me away, just the visual in the video as well as the single itself.

J. Mann: Yeah. Actually, I think the label chose that one. Like I said, to us, we didn’t even really know that the single was. The label wanted “Qwerty,” so that’s what we did the video for. Then satellite radio picked up on “Out of My Mind.” We actually just filmed a video for that, I think it was a week and a half ago. I think they’re almost done editing it, so I’d imagine that’s going to be available in the next week or so. That’s a really cool video. It’s got a big heavy, like Pink Floyd, The Wall kind of feel to it.

Toddstar: You guys have never shied away from making a production out of your videos.

J. Mann: Oh no. A big part of the band is the visual aspect. I think a lot of that had to do with we’ve been a band for 21 years, so we’ve grown up on music from the ‘70s and ‘80s. We grew up with Kiss and Alice Cooper and Gwar and bands like that. To us, it was like we really wanted to give fans their money’s worth when they came to a show and really wanted to make it more than just a rock band.


Toddstar: You’ve got a huge festival coming up. You guys are jumping on the Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival.

J. Mann: Yeah, very excited about it.

Toddstar: How big a step is that for the band at this day and age when bands come and go, yet like you said, Mushroomhead has been out there over 20 years. What’s it like for you guys to jump on a festival like Mayhem?

J. Mann: I love playing festivals. Headlining you wait all day to play. In a festival, you get up and you play. In our case, we’ll probably be off work by 3:00 p.m., and then you really get to just spend the day hanging out with fans, getting to know the other bands, watching other bands. It’s great because you get to be a fan again. You’re not just going to your job. You do your job, and then you punch out and you go and make the most of the day. At the end of the day, we’re all still huge music fans.

Toddstar: Any cities you’re looking forward to hitting that you haven’t seen in a while?

J. Mann: I’m looking forward to all of them, but I’m definitely looking forward to the west coast. That’s always a good time. Basically, we just make the most out of any city we’re in. That’s crucial that whatever city you’re in needs to be the most important city of the tour that day.

Toddstar: I know Detroit is looking forward to you. I know you guys come in and you play shows, up in Flint or other venues.

J. Mann: Oh yeah. The Machine Shop up in Flint, that’s a great place. St. Andrews is great. We just played at Harpos. I heard they might be tearing that place down though, but I’m not sure.

Toddstar: I’ve been there a lot, and I think it might need it.

J. Mann: Yeah. To be honest with you, I prefer St. Andrews to Harpos. I think that’s a really cool club. It’s got a good history behind it. I’ve actually gone there to see bands, like driven from Cleveland to go see bands. Last time I was there, I saw Meshuggah. I think they were playing with Gojira or Baroness. I think it was Baroness. That was a great concert.


Toddstar: Cool. Again, here in Detroit, we can’t wait to see you guys destroy our Mayhem stage once again.

J. Mann: Detroit’s always been good to us. Honest to God, it’s one of the first out-of-town cities we’ve played outside of Cleveland. The first time we played Detroit, we actually played there with Gwar. That was fantastic.

Toddstar: Very cool. Looking through everything, you’ve always been the guy with the white face with a little bit of black, the whole dead presidents look. This new album, you’ve gone with a much darker look. Is that something you decided, or is that something you guys collectively said let’s change this up a little bit?

J. Mann: I think they were leaning on me. They wanted me to do a mask thing. Not only that, but being gone as long as I have, in that time, there have been a ton of groups that come out with a similar look, whether it’s Twizted or … There’s quite a few bands out there that are doing that. I think it was important to maybe make the Mushroomhead look be a little more cohesive. Also like I said, being gone as long as I have, I didn’t want it to come across like I’m jumping on someone else’s bandwagon.

Toddstar: Is that something you designed, or is that something you guys said “Here you go, come up with something?”

J. Mann: A guy named Jason Kisner that actually does the masks and everything. I basically just gave him an idea of what I was thinking might be cool. Being a singer, I was trying to keep the mouth somewhat exposed. My idea was I want it to be almost like a helmet. I basically told them something along the lines of that movie 300. He mixed that up.  People tell me a lot that it’s similar to a character named Magneto. It’s just like a hybrid of something. I think it started with me trying to think of something like a warrior’s helmet.

Toddstar: Definitely, when you hit the stage, as I have seen you guys do on tours past you definitely pounce the stage like a warrior.

J. Mann: Thank you.

Toddstar: When you guys are going out again … Like you said, when you do festivals you have shorter sets. Are you guys going to be able to bring some of the new stuff out for this festival? Are you guys planning that?

J. Mann: Oh, absolutely. Yeah, we’re definitely going to try and play as much as we can. Right now, we’re trying to talk about having an A, B, C set. Since we can probably only play six songs a day, we’ll probably switch it up with the new material, and try and play different ones in every city, just so we can play more of the album. Obviously, that’s the record we’re promoting. We’re all really proud of it. Not only that, but the best part about it is having three singers. These songs were written for three singers, as to where in the past it was two. It obviously works better when it’s actually music designed for three, instead of us just stepping on each other figuring out who can fit in what on the older stuff.


Toddstar: Let’s talk about you for a second. You’re getting ready to hit the road. You’re going to be out a little while. When you look around your house, what are a couple things you think to yourself I cannot leave home without this?

J. Mann: Well unfortunately, you can’t really bring a lot with you. I’m a huge vinyl collector and a huge vintage toy collector, so I think that’s the stuff I miss the most being on the road. I’ve basically got a room that is just like a museum. Obviously, you can’t play vinyl on the road, so I’m going to miss my record player. I’m going to miss my record collection. I’ve got a lot of really cool toys and stuff. I’m still a big kid.

Toddstar: That’s what it’s all about. If you left your iPhone, iPad, iPod, whatever i-device you have, if you left it behind an event, and someone went through your music list, what would be the oddest thing they would find in your iPhone?

J. Mann: Oh wow, musically. I have so much stuff on it. There’s probably a lot of things people might not think I’d listen to. There’s this misconception that metal bands only listen to metal. Obviously, that’s not true. I like a lot of jazz like Coltrane and Miles Davis. I like songwriters. I’m really into lyrics, so I like people like Nick Cave and Tom Waits and things like that … Shane MacGowen. They’re all some of my heroes. I mix it up pretty good. I’ve got a pretty wide variety.

Toddstar: Cool. Who made you want to stand behind a microphone and do this J?

J. Mann: Here’s the thing. Growing up as a teenager in the ‘80s, it was not something I was interested in because back then, you had to have big fluffy hair, and wear Spandex pants and makeup, and I was like fuck that. Then I saw Mike Patton live at Brixton Academy VHS tape. That’s when I realized okay you don’t have to be one of these poofy guys, and you don’t have to take yourself too seriously. He also was really versatile with his style. I would probably say Mike Patton.

Toddstar: If there was one song in the history of time that you wish you had written or recorded or been a part of what would it be?

J. Mann: Oh wow. That’s a good question. I don’t know if I could really narrow it down. There’s definitely a lot of songs. I would almost say it would be easier to pick albums. There’s been some albums like the first Mr. Bungle record is unbelievable as well as the California record that they did. I’m a huge hardcore fan. Integrity, a Cleveland band made a record called Those Who Fear Tomorrow. That is definitely up there high on the list. I really can’t just pick one though. I would say that those two records are probably in my top five records of all time.

Toddstar: Cool, okay. You mentioned it. What’s it like being the third wheel? You guys have three vocalists. What’s that like when you record or you hit the stage and there’s three of you running around like madmen just doing what you do?

J. Mann: It works surprisingly well like I said. Even before the album, I had done shows with Waylon. Obviously, I have a history with Jeff. For well over a decade, we worked together. That was no problem. It was really being able to work with Waylon, and he’s been incredibly accommodating. Even before I came back, I wanted basically both their blessing. I didn’t want to seem like I was going to come in and step on anyone’s toes. I only agreed to do this if they wanted me there because I didn’t want there to be any resentment. As far as the studio, we’re really just out to serve the song. Not only that, but we’re all pretty established in our style, so when we hear certain parts of a song, it’s pretty obvious who would be the strongest point on that part. It wasn’t really that hard to decide who should do what and where. It was actually obvious almost.

Toddstar: Oh, cool okay. I got one more for you if you don’t mind. I know you’re busy.

J. Mann: Sure, no problem.

Toddstar: At this point, you did the Mushroomhead thing for a long time. You’ve made this successful. You took a step back, and then you jumped back in the fray. You’ve got this great album out. You just did Australia for the first time. You’re getting ready to go on the Mayhem again. For you at this point, with everything going the way it is what’s the meaning of life?

J. Mann: The meaning of life? The meaning of life to me is just to try and leave a mark. I think that is one of the coolest things about creating music or creating anything, whether it’s a movie or a script or a book, but leaving something that’s going to outlast you, and just something that 50 years from now, people could rediscover and realize that you were here. I guess that’s probably it, just trying to leave a mark, leave something behind.

Toddstar: Very cool. Listen J, I really appreciate you taking time out for me.

J. Mann: Thanks for you taking your time.

Toddstar: We look forward to seeing Mushroomhead on Mayhem July 17th here in Detroit.

J. Mann: All right, sounds good man. I look forward to seeing you. Make sure you come and say hi.

Toddstar: Will do J.

J. Mann: All right, take care man. Have a good day.

Category: Interviews

About the Author ()

ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

Leave a Reply

Please verify you\'re a real person: * Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.

banner ad
banner ad