Penthouse Retrospective

by Tom O’Connell Originally Published: February, 2003

Mudvayne

Mudvayne first blipped onto the heavy-metal radar in 2000. With their latest release, the guys know for their horror-movie style look toward The End of All Things to Come.

Penthouse Magazine - February 2003Alien Nation of Mudvayne

Mudvayne, the dark progressive-metal quartet of gore-painted mathematicians, came to tiny Cannon Falls, Minnesota, 30 miles southeast of the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, to make some noise. Many big names in music — Nirvana, P. J. Harvey, Live, Soul Asylum — have come here before them to record. It’s home to Pachyderm, a cozy residential music studio (designed by a student of Frank Lloyd Wright’s) that was built into the side of a hill on 40 acres, complete with an indoor swimming pool and sauna, a spring-fed trout stream, bridges, and nature paths — an ideal place where bands can kick back in total comfort and live reclusively while they commit their art to posterity. Which is exactly what Mudvayne — drummer Matt McDonough, guitarist Greg Tribbett, bassist Ryan Martinie, and singer Chad Gray — did this past summer.

The members of Mudvayne hail from various Illinois back-waters, but all ended up in Peoria, where the band was formed. Gray was the last to join up. “He’s kind of a song-and-dance man,” McDonough says. “Actually, when we auditioned him he was trying to decide if he wanted to go do like a cruise-ship thing, like Love Boat — either do Mudvayne or Love Boat. I would have done the Love Boat thing,” McDonough adds with a laugh. “More girls.”

Self-taught guitarist Tribbett provides the group’s precise, studied, dissonant, crunchy vibe. His and Martinie’s experiments in polyrhythms and unusual time signatures give Mudvayne its unique sound. Many of the songs change key abruptly and unexpectedly, and often there’s more than one song structure going at the same time, making for a complex and challenging listening experience. Martinie (whose background includes high school choir, theater, and trumpet) explained the band’s theoretical approach in an interview with MTV.com (which described Mudvayne as “the John Nash of nu-metal”): “It starts out being a riff, and you start trying to figure out what time signature is it going to go into and how we are going to split it up. And then all of a sudden you have a 4/4 into a 5/4 into a 3/4 pattern. Well, how does that split up? …That’s a 12/8 measure. So now you create a 12/8 measure in another portion of the song that complements that 6/4, 5/4, 4/4. It’s just playing with some numbers.”

McDonough’s uncle was one of the first drummers for the band that would go on to become Cheap Trick; McDonough himself started out in his middle school’s drum-and-bugle corps. He says he’s as interested in the process and visual impact of Mudvayne’s music as he is in the music itself. He is, hands down, the intellectual heavy of the band. And his passions are obvious. His interests in metaphysics, the psychedelic-drug writings of folks like Terence McKenna, and film — most notably the works of Stanley Kubrick — inform Mudvayne’s musical and lyrical themes. Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey — in particular the monolith — was an inspiration for L.D. 50, the group’s full-length major-label debut. But, McDonough insists, “L.D. 50 wasn’t supposed to be like our own sound track for 2001. A lot of the influences that we gained from 2001 were more process-oriented, just getting into the head space of Kubrick, how he approaches his art.” Still, McDonough insists that Mudvayne is not pretending to be anything more than what it is: “We’re a heavy-metal band, and we will always be a heavy-metal band. A lot of the underlying intellectual thought about what we do is inconsequential.”

In November 2001 Mudvayne released The Beginning of All Things to End, which combined its self-released 1997 EP, Kill I Oughtta, with remixes from L.D. 50. (L.D. 50, produced by Slipknot drummer Joey Jordison, went gold.) Their latest album, The End of All Things to Come, was due for release a month after Penthouse spoke to each of the members. The glimpse of The End that we were privy to was the first single, “Not Falling” (featured in the recent horror flick Ghost Ship), which revealed a somewhat more melodic — though still very much angsty and Mudvayne-complex — sound.

Now the band, known for a stage presence that is part horror-movie clown, part Marilyn Manson-esque gothic, has adopted a new, alien — yet still creepy and disturbing-look. Last October, a month before the expected release of The End, the musicians were back in the thick of the music-industry grind, in L. A., filming the video for “Not Falling.” Here’s what they had to say.

Why were details about the recording of The End of All Things to Come kept so secret?

Chad Gray (a.k.a. “Chud”): We kept the whole world out of our little bubble just because, if you let Cannon Falls know, then you’ve got people coming out to the studio, which ended up happening. Word traveled through town.

Are you happy with the new album?

Ryan Martinie (a.k.a. “Ru-D”): It’s wonderful. We’re all pretty proud of it. …I think all of us have heard quite a few bands’ second-album releases. Sometimes it’s like a movie sequel — like Halloween II comes out and it sounds like crap…. Then there’s some bands that come out with a second album that works for them. We all feel that this album works for us.

Matt McDonough (a.k.a. “Mr. Spug”): This album has a different emotive quality. It’s more emotionally diverse. There are mellower songs and heavier songs than on the last record. I think we got into playing together more, being in a band, paying attention to each other, playing off each other — and I think that brought out more of that emotive quality.

Is it more melodic?

Greg Tribbett (a.k.a. “Guug”): I think it shows a lot of growth for the band, a lot more melody. I definitely wanted to bring in more melody and have Chad do more singing.

Chad: When it comes to those kinds of questions-as far as commercial, or selling out — for us it’s never been about money; we’ve always taken any money we’ve made and put it back into production. We just did what we do. The more I’ve listened to this record, the more it’s grown on me. I’m really proud of it. It is more melodic. I’m “singing” more on it. …When we went in to write the record, it was just coming out of me for some reason. I don’t know why. I wasn’t looking at anything as being a single, I wasn’t trying to sing from a commercial aspect. If people are thinking that we’ve done that, then we have a lot to lose. The way I like to put it out there is that the band is what it is — L.D. 50 has been written, and now this has been written. The next record could be completely different than this; it could be more rotgut, it could be more heavy, it could be way more mellow.

“Chad and I have 20 different images we want to do …. Actually, the band is a front for a government operation involving crossbreeding of humans and aliens.”

Ryan: Yeah, there’s more melody on this album. I think that’s what we were going for, and I know that we need that.

Whats it like being on the road?

Matt: You’re not part of the world; you’re disconnected, in the sense of living without consequence, which I find really invigorating.

Chad: Being on the road to me is like inviting 11 or 12 of your closest friends into your bedroom for three months. A bus to me is like a people aquarium, that’s what I call it …. I’d say my fondest memory was getting started, which was very exciting, very exhilarating. I remember tooling down the road and just looking out the window — you know, you can’t even help it, you’ve got that Bon Jovi song [“Wanted Dead or Alive”] ringing in your head, and you’re like, dude, I did it, I made it, I actually did something with this, I can’t believe it.

What don’t you like about being on the road?

Greg: Not seeing my wife.

Ryan: If your metabolism’s high, like mine, you have to shit a lot. So when you’re on the bus, not being able to take a shit for a few hours or having to use a Porta-Potty in 106-degree heat in the middle of the summer in Arizona — you know, that’s pretty horrible.

Don’t you have a toilet on the bus?

Ryan: You don’t crap in those! A lot of the buses don’t have “turd cutters,” as they’re so called.

What was it like touring with Ozzy Osbourne?

Matt: There’s a certain lineage, a certain tradition, being an up-and-coming band touring with Ozzy. But being on tour with Ozzy is just another tour to me. We see pavement, parking lot, dressing room. We go onto the stage, then back to the bus, then on to the next city.

Ryan: Ozzy was really cool. One night after a show we’re in the dressing room when all of a sudden the king of darkness walks in — in waltzes Ozzy, and we’re like, holy shit, we’re sitting in a dressing room with Ozzy Osbourne coming in to say hi. It’s pretty surreal. …He told us the story of how he broke his leg [during the 2001 Merry Mayhem tour, causing the cancellation of ten dates] — and I won’t go any further about that, but we know the story [laughs].

Chad: It was like meeting the devil [laughs]. His leg was hurting at the time; he talked about that and about the band. He loved the band, he was really into us, he really liked us as people and stuff. [The Osbournes] were all supercool, very caring, very wholeheartedly genuine people.

Does the bands Midwestern background have anything to do with the anger in your music?

Chad: Is our music angry? [Laughs] I guess there is a bit of angst in it. I’m sure there’s something there. Like the town I grew up in was all factory workers. Decatur, Illinois, man, “Soybean Capital of the World” — they claim that, that’s their name. It’s all industry and poverty. If you work at Caterpillar, then you rule; if you work anywhere else, then you’re shit. Of course, Firestone was there. I worked at Firestone. I built the tire that killed the people — literally. I built the Ford Explorer tire.

Greg: Yeah, I think there’s an aggression, and a lot of it’s from boredom. There’s nothing to do in the Midwest. You live around cornfields and go to the same bar, same nightclub, and that’s your life.

“Being on the road to me is like inviting 11 or 12 of your closest friends into your bedroom for three months.”

You guys are all around 30 years old. Is it weird playing for a mostly teenage audience?

Ryan: Playing to the younger fans is wonderful. We’ve always had a great time. They’re receptive, their minds are still open, they’re not so jaded and closed off to the world. They’re a little upset and trying to figure it out.

Chad: When we play shows, I look out at these kids, and they’re looking up at probably the most unstable person I know — myself — for guidance. It’s really weird for me. But I’m embracing that now. On the Merry Mayhem tour, in my bunny suit, I started telling the audience, “Go home and give your kids 15 minutes of your undivided attention and love your children and give ’em hugs” — I didn’t get that, man. I knew the Ozzy tour was an older tour, I knew the people out there were older people, and I felt like I wanted to tell them that. I had a lot of people come up to me after the show and talk to me about that — “Thanks a lot for making me remember my children” — and I’m like, shouldn’t you? Shouldn’t you love your kid? Don’t let a guy in a fucking bunny suit tell you, but I did. That’s how I feel about being 30; I feel older, wiser. I want to help people, give them direction. I think this record’s going to give them direction if they want to embrace it; or it’s going to weed out all the bullshit fans. This is going to be a record that’s going to bring our real fans closer to us, or fans that are on the fence are going to jump the other way.

Where did the idea for the bunny suit come from?

Chad: My road-kill bunny suit. I designed it…. Have you ever heard of the plushies [people who dress up in stuffed-animal-style costumes or use stuffed animals as part of sex play]? It’s kind of a plushy spinoff, like people who used to hump their teddy bear when they were ten years old.

Any weird run-ins with fans?

Ryan: Of course. I don’t think it matters what level you’re on — a little band or a great big band. I think everyone’s had an encounter where someone comes up and just adores you for the music they love. Nothing too scary though — it’s a little weird when people offer certain things or say weird things to you, or we’ll be doing a CD signing when someone starts screaming the lyrics to one of the songs two feet from your face. They’re screaming at you, and it’s just completely out of context. They’re standing in a glut of people, and you’re sitting at a table signing things and shaking hands, and all of a sudden someone starts screaming in your face.

Chad: Hero worship is so whacked out. I’m a pretty humble person; I’m not a rock star, I don’t care about that kind of shit. I’m a guy with a job, like a carpenter or trucker or whatever. I’m just doing my part to move the world.

Why the change of stage names and personas?

Chad: I think what it gets down to is that we’re making fun of ourselves. Those names were taken way more seriously than they were ever intended to be taken. We gave each other those names…. We’re very comedic; we’re all the time cutting up and being ignorant.

Matt: Chad and I have a laundry list right now of 20 different images we want to do…. The alien thing, as far as how the new promo pictures have gone, was very appropriate to the head space that we had coming out of doing the record; it just worked. The album artwork and alien theme will probably have some sort of influence on the live show … Actually, the band is a front for a government operation involving crossbreeding of humans and aliens.

Interestingly enough, you can still find “MuDvAyNe” with their own place to visit on the web. Don’t worry: We won’t tell your mom.