After leaving behind the aggression of its early years and scoring a string of massive hit singles, including “It’s Been Awhile” and “Outside,” Staind returned to its dark, heavy roots on last year’s self-titled album, the band’s seventh and arguably the strongest record of its career. This spring, Staind will co-headline the Mass Chaos tour with its Massachusetts brothers Godsmack, with support from the up-and-coming Halestorm. Guitarist Mike Mushok recently participated in a teleconference with journalists to discuss the tour, the new album and more.
On whether co-headlining tours have become a necessity to survive in the music business today:
MIKE MUSHOK: I mean, my opinion of it is it’s something we’ve always tried to do. We basically put through the best package we can. And I think in this economy, it’s tough for people to have extra money to be able to go to a show. It’s kind of like a little bit of a luxury. So, I mean, the more bang for the buck you can give them, I think the more likely chance you have of getting people there and, hopefully, give them the most value for the dollars. So that was really the idea for us, and we had this record and we were looking to who we could play with, and Godsmack was like, “That would be fantastic if those guys wanted to do it.” So we went and put it together.
On crossing paths with Godsmack over the years:
I remember hearing those guys locally on the radio. We were trying to get our stuff played, like right around the same time, and, I mean, our first, I think we played a Warped Tour, like on the local stage together. I think we did some show in Springfield together, and then kind of didn’t really see each other until … We were just about to put out our second record—theirs had just come out—and we did a tour together in 2000 and really became good friends. In fact, (Godsmack frontman) Sully (Erna and I) stayed in touch for a bunch of years after that, and we kind of lost track of each other, and it came to this opportunity again to play together. … I just thought it was a great way to reunite with these guys, and, I mean, I think that between all the bands on there, you’re definitely going to have heard some of the songs that are played during the evening before. So it should be fun.
On how fan-friendly the Mass Chaos tour will be:
I think we’re going to let the fans actually play the shows. I’m just going to sit in a La-Z-Boy on the side actually and watch them play. No, I don’t know. I think it’s kind of cool that the way things are nowadays. You can put this stuff out there and let some of the fans who are creative be a part of it, and some of the poster submissions, especially, some of them were great, I thought. As far as the tour goes, I think we’re just going to go out there and do our thing.
On new drummer Sal Giancarelli:
Well, look, Sal has been with the band since ‘99, and previous to that, he was in bands that we used to play gigs with. So we always knew he was a great drummer, and even during his career as being a drum tech, there’s been a few times along the way that he had other bands that he tried to pursue a career in music, which he always wanted to do, and used being able to be a drum tech as a way of getting out there and kind of getting some of his stuff out there. And even along the way, I mean, there was a couple shows where John was sick; I mean, it wasn’t the first time Sal played with us. He’s sat in before on one tour, I think, specifically that he played a couple of shows.
So, look, we’ve always known that he was a great drummer, and when it came time, it just seemed like the perfect fit to go from behind the drums to playing them, because he knew all the material and we knew he could more than handle it. Personality-wise, I mean, he’s the same guy. We had this thing that we joked about on our website, these webisodes, where we made him seem like this big egotistical guy and wanted to name the band after him, so it was all a joke. I mean, Sal’s the most quiet, down-to-earth guy you’ll ever meet, and he hasn’t changed one bit. And that’s another reason why. Sometimes when you introduce someone else, it’s a whole other personality. We knew his personality. He’s been on the road with us for 12, 13 years. … He was already part of the family.
On comparing Staind in 2012 to Staind when the band began:
Well, we have a new drummer now; that’s one big difference. Look, I think what we tried to do on this record is kind of come back to what Staind of ‘99 was. I mean, that was really the idea behind it, to kind of get a little more aggressive, and really the reason why we started the band was to kind of play more aggressive music. We kind of went on this journey, and I think the last record, “The Illusion of Progress,” really kind of took us as far away from that as we could have gotten, almost. And, look, I enjoyed the journey. I love some of the songs on the last record, but I think after kind of completing that, we said, “Let’s kind of come back to why we started the band,” and that’s really what the idea was behind the album. And, look, obviously now (vocalist) Aaron (Lewis) has a solo thing going on, so that kind of ties up his time, so it makes it a little more difficult to get all the time we need for Staind. So those are really the big differences.
On changes within the band while making the new album:
Did anything change? No, we made the record basically the same way we always make a record. I’ll come in with a bunch of ideas. We kind of get together, figure out what Aaron likes and wants to sing over, and then pretty much finish them and start tracking. Making the record was pretty tough. I mean, losing (drummer) Jon (Wysocki) along the way wasn’t easy. We had a deadline to meet for the label. Aaron put out the solo record.
As far as problems go, I mean, I don’t know. … You play with somebody and you’re around somebody so much, I mean, there’s always issues. Did they go away? I mean, look, we just deal with them. We’re all adults. We’ve been able to maintain this for a long time, and I think that you have to pick your battles and know when to do it and know what’s important to you. I think between (bassist) Johnny (April), Aaron and myself, I mean, you can say pretty much what we want to each other and realize that the band is what’s important. And that’s why people ask me when we’re doing the record, they thought we were going to break up. No, we knew we had to finish the record, and that’s what we wanted to do, but you kind of work through all of those things. So, and with that, it takes people making compromises and being able to admit sometimes when you’re wrong and being able to give in.
On making the new album self-titled:
We really wanted to kind of go back to where we started as far as a band, and I think with that was kind of why we ultimately decided on having it self-titled. I mean, there was talk about it being called “Seven” because this is the seventh record, and that’s what the seven demons on the cover kind of represents, is that. And so that’s kind of how we incorporated it.
On Staind’s longevity:
You know, look, honestly I think that we, and obviously I think Godsmack is going to make this a great tour … and Halestorm, too. … But, I mean, look, obviously I think all three of us know that if it wasn’t for the fans, we wouldn’t be here. They allow us to do this. Those are the ones that buy a ticket, come to the show, support the bands, and, I mean, that’s why we’re still around, obviously. We do our best to write the best music we can. I know (Halestorm frontwoman) Lzzy (Hale) and (Godsmack frontman) Sully (Erna) do, also, and you try to put out the best product that you can, and you hope that people like it and want to listen to it and be a part of it. So we’ve been fortunate so far, and hopefully, we can continue.