Keeping secrets in the age of social media is almost unheard of. Which is why it was such a shock in mid-May when a teaser video announced the arrival of Saint Asonia, a new act featuring frontman Adam Gontier (formerly of Three Days Grace), guitarist Mike Mushok (Staind), drummer Rich Beddoe (formerly of Finger Eleven) and bassist Corey Lowery (whose long resume includes Eye Empire, Stuck Mojo and Dark New Day). The band then made its live debut just days later at Rock on the Range, one of America’s premier hard rock festivals, and announced the July 31 release of its self-titled, debut album through RCA. As the release date nears, the band has announced its first tour, set to kick off in August, and Mushok recently called in to chat with Live Metal’s Greg Maki.
LIVE METAL: A couple months ago, I was at Rock on the Range, so I got to see the debut of Saint Asonia. As you were walking out onstage for your first show with this new band, what was going through your head?
MIKE MUSHOK: “Let’s go kill this.” Yeah, I was just excited to just get up there and play these songs.
How do you think it went?
I don’t know. What did you think? You were there.
I thought it was a lot of fun.
Cool. Thank you. Listen, I was pretty happy with it. We were able to actually to—’cause it was filmed for AXS TV, so they kind of pulled us aside afterwards and said, “Hey, do you want to watch it?” This was our first gig ever. I need to hear this if—I don’t know how many people watch AXS TV—but I just want to make sure that if this is getting taped, people are gonna see that it’s cool. And everything I saw, I was real happy with it. Even though it was our first gig, it felt good to me. So I was pretty happy with the way that it came out.
It was kind of remarkable how in this day and age you pretty much kept this band under wraps until a few days before that first show when the announcement was made. How were you able to do that?
I’ve never been on Facebook. I don’t have Instagram or any of those other things So for me, it’s real easy. I don’t feel the need to tell everybody what I’m doing every second of the day. I just kind of go through my life and do what I’m gonna do. And I don’t even know if there was a conscious effort for that to happen. I think we just kind of went through what we were doing, and then at the end, it turned out it was done like that. I didn’t even mention it actually when Staind was doing some things and I think I was writing with Adam. Nobody picked up on it, and we just followed through with it. Next thing you know, we wanted to make the announcement and do the show, and I thought, “That sounds like a good idea.” So that’s kind of how it happened.
You were kind of the initiator of this band, right? You reached out to Adam to see if he wanted to write some songs?
I did. I was reaching out to a bunch of different singers at the time, just because I wanted to try and write with some different people. Adam was the only one who wasn’t currently in a band. All the other guys were in bands. We really kind of hit it off. He was trying to do a demo for RCA. I wrote a couple songs. We did the demo; RCA really liked it and wanted us to write some more, and that’s when we said, “Hey, let’s pursue this.” He knew Rich, the drummer. He had played some shows with Rich on his own. So Rich came in and played drums on it, and we did the record. We got Corey, actually, after we did the record. So that’s how it came about.
As you were writing, was there a conscious effort to try to separate this material from Staind and Three Days Grace, or did that happen naturally just from working with somebody new?
Yeah, there was not. It was really, “What do you like, Adam? What do you want to sing over?” “I like this song. I want to sing over it.” “OK, cool.” There weren’t a lot of discussions about anything. It really was just pretty natural. I had a bunch of music, we got together, I wrote him some stuff, I played him stuff that I had, we decided what he liked, and we started building on those ideas. Adam came to the table with some great songs of his own, too, that we recorded. Between that, there was more than enough to make a record.
One of the things you started doing more of on the last Staind album and continued on this album is playing more guitar leads and solos. What is your approach to that part of it?
Yeah, you’re right. I’m having fun doing it again. I always say if you went and saw Staind back in the early days, I think I soloed from the beginning of the song to the end. I kind of got a little tired of it. But it started to become fun for me again, and I’ll be honest with you, the funny thing is I remember that’s something Aaron always wanted me to do. “Dude, you gotta solo.” “I don’t want to.” So it kind of came together where it’s actually fun for me again and I enjoy it. There were definitely spots in some of these songs where–do we put a vocal part here, do we do a solo? We did what we thought was right for the song. You don’t want to try and force anything in there. If it feels right, then that’s what we’ll go with. So it was what felt natural and what we thought the song needed.
They stand out to me as being tasteful, and like you’re saying, fitting the song.
Cool. That’s good to hear ‘cause that’s what it’s supposed to do. I don’t need to have a minute and a half of me shredding. Although that wouldn’t be bad. (laughs) We’ll save that for the instrumental record.
Earlier this week, the first full tour for the band was announced. Are you looking forward to getting out there and hitting the road with these guys?
Yeah, for sure. I think it’s gonna be great to be able to get out there and play some of these songs, and hopefully reconnect with some old fans and hopefully make some new ones along the way. That’s really what it’s about–hopefully getting some people that are into what you’re doing and want to come out and support us. I’ve been very fortunate in my career that we’ve had people that would do that, and I hope that continues and we’re able to do that.
Since this is a new band, you’re going to be playing smaller venues than you’ve been used to playing in the past however many years with Staind. Are you looking forward to that part of it?
Yeah, for sure. It’s funny. When I played with Jason Newsted, we were playing some of those, too. There were some great, huge festivals, but I remember our first gig was (laughs)—it was different for me. It was great, but it was just weird ‘cause there’s literally somebody like a foot away from you with a cellphone camera recording every mistake you make (laughs). Do you really need to do that?
You’re gonna be playing a couple Staind and Three Days Grace songs on this tour?
I think there will be some of that. I don’t know exactly how much of either. But especially for Adam, he’s so recognizable with some of those songs, and we might throw a Staind song in here and there. It’s fun to do. Hopefully, we can make it enjoyable for the audience, too.
Is there one of his songs that you’re excited to get a chance to play or a Staind song that you’re looking forward to hearing him sing?
He loves this one, and it’s a pretty obscure Staind song, too. Staind’s never played it live, but it’s one of his favorite songs. It’s a song called “Please” from “Chapter V.” We haven’t actually said we’re going to play it yet or anything. but I would be surprised if at some point we don’t play it, ‘cause he actually sent me versions of him playing it himself on acoustic. Adam really likes that song, so that might show up one of these days.
I’m sure starting this band now is a lot different than it was way back when because you guys are established names. But it still is a new band that you have to build. What are the biggest changes you’ve noticed from starting a band now to when you were coming up back in the ‘90s?
The glaring elephant in the room is that nobody buys records anymore. How people get their music is obviously the biggest thing, and honestly, that’s what makes it harder. People are still getting it, but I think that there’s so many other things out there for people to consume.
I don’t know if this true or not—in rock anyway—but especially in top 40, I don’t think people are fans of bands; they’re fans of songs. I think in metal and rock, people definitely still become fans of bands, but it’s just harder.
(With Staind) we had songs that we wrote that we liked that got played on radio. We’d come to town, people would know those songs, they’d come see us and get the record. That kind of changed when Staind started to cross into different formats. You get a perception that you have all these fans out there that are not. Those were people that were fans of that song, and at the time, the only way to get that song was buying the record. So that’s how you sold millions of records. But that had to change. Now people can buy a song or they get it for free or they stream it, so I think that’s why you see those sales numbers go down.
I think the idea for us is to just go out there, play shows, connect with those fans that hopefully we had before and maybe make some new fans along the way, and hopefully grow it that way. It’s a completely different time and age, and social media and all these other things that I don’t know anything about.
Long term, where do you see this band going?
Hopefully, we can go out there and get these shows under our belts and hopefully start to build that fan base so that we can go out and do some good shows on our own. Hopefully get to Europe and try and build it there, which is always a challenge. And just continue writing and hopefully writing great songs. I don’t know. Right now, we’ve got to get this first tour under our belts. We’ll see how that goes and kind of one step at a time here. Get the record out, and hopefully, it’s perceived well. Like I said, I’m really proud of the way it came out. I do feel like however you can get it, whether it’s streaming it or free or whatever you do, I think it would be cool if people get to listen to it from beginning to end, ‘cause I’m pretty proud of everything that’s on there.