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Mushroomhead’s Skinny on Family, Legacy + More

Skinny with Jackie LaPonza (Photo by Chris Epting for Loudwire)

For 20 years, Cleveland’s metal outfit Mushroomhead have been creating mayhem across stages all over the world. Their complex sonic stew blends metal, industrial and other musical forms into an intense and ferocious stage show. At the kickoff show for this summer’s Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival tour, Loudwire sat down with original member Steve “Skinny” Felton, who has played drums for the band since the beginning. Check out our interview with Skinny below:

Skinny, a lot of young fans at the Mayhem tour this year will be getting their first serious dose of Mushroomhead.

Which I love. We think they’ll love the show even if they don’t know a lot about where we come from.

Talk about where you come from. How do you describe the wild and colorful history of this band?

When we started the band, it was very much a side project for everyone. Everybody was in other bands. We had some doom metal, extreme metal, black metal — whatever you want to call it, we had it. But I had a lot of ideas and I wanted to get really experimental and just get outside the box. I didn’t want to sound like Pantera or Nine Inch Nails. I just wanted to express myself as an artist and everybody else felt the same way. We never wanted people to have a preconceived notion of us. We wanted to be original. And the masks and costumes allowed us to feel differently and then the music ended up reflecting that feeling. So here we are, 20 years later. I think we made the right decision.

In terms of the stage presentation, is it fair to assume that Kiss and David Bowie were influential?

Hell yeah. Kiss was a huge influence for me. And another band that really influenced the visual aspect of Mushroomhead was the Residents. That giant eyeball thing they have really made an impression on me. Everything was always just so theatrical. Bowie was huge for us, too. All of these colorful elements were never intended to be a gimmick per se, but just things that add excitement to the music.

Did you ever see Kiss live, as a kid?

I did, but I don’t think I fully appreciated it. I saw them in Detroit at Cobo Hall in the late 70s and it definitely made an impression on me. All of that fire and blood and especially the music. I think that they really helped our band when it came to the packaging. We always have lots of ideas in terms of including cool things and picture discs and things like that. Often times, it’s the toy in the box that the kids want. Not the cereal.

You’ve got your teenage son out on the road with you right now. How has that been?

It’s been really interesting. He’s been working really hard out here on the road and I think he likes the guys in the band more than me! As the dad, of course, I’m always saying, brush your teeth and take a shower and clean up the bunk and don’t leave your shoes lying there! He’s a teenager, you know? But all that said, where having a great time and it’s amazing having him out here.

You’ve also got Jackie LaPonza from UnSaid Fate coming out onstage to sing with you.

Right. Jackie has been with me 10 years, I don’t know how she does it, and she is my son’s stepmom. To put up with me this long, she deserves some kind of award. But she kills it every night she comes up and does ‘We Are the Truth.’ I love having her on the road.

The video for the song ‘QWERTY’ got a lot of attention.

That such a cool video, isn’t it? And we really like playing that song onstage, too. It’s so odd and so quirky and allows for a lot of audience participation. We’re working it into the set really soon but I just want to say that the team that produced a video really did a kick ass job.

What was it like recently when the band played in Russia?

Amazing. Russia is where we have our Beatles moments. Literally, you have kids that are shaking and crying and screaming when they see us. It’s one of the most amazing things we’ve ever experienced.

Skinny, talk about the transformation that happens once you put the mask on.

Well, it’s game time. It’s a little bit murder and a little bit Darth Vader. You hear yourself breathe inside of that rubber mask and you feel your heart start to beat faster because it’s telling you that it’s time to get your game on. The second you put that thing on, it’s not like you become a different person, but you become unbridled. The mask just unlocks so much. It allows the real self to emerge onstage

One of our goals early on was to have something that had longevity beyond the music. The masks allow the show to go on forever. And I’ll say this too, when I drink too much, that’s not me. It’s a complete ass and it’s a bad version of me. But me with the mask on is me for real. It’s just a really extreme version of the real me but I’ll take it over the drunk me.

Thanks to Mushroomhead’s Skinny for taking the time to chat with us. Pick up the band’s new album, ‘The Righteous & The Butterfly’ at iTunes. See the remaining Mayhem Festival tour dates here.

Watch Mushroomhead’s Video for ‘QWERTY’

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