Editor’s Note: This interview was an honor and a privilege as we received the opportunity to talk to one of the more esteemed guitarists in modern rock history in Mike Mushok. Fans know and remember the timeless riffs of Mike Mushok from Staind and now jam out to his riffs in Saint Asonia. Naturally, we know and get those nostalgic goosebumps from Staind from songs such as “It’s Been Awhile”, “Outside” and “Fade”, and now fans are raving over the single that Saint Asonia released entitled “The Hunted”, which features Sully Erna of Godsmack. In this interview with Madness To Creation, Mike Mushok of Staind and Saint Asonia talks about the creation of “Flawed Design”, how he wants to improve as a guitarist, along with addressing some fan questions, and sharing his wisdom on mental health awareness. Fans can find Saint Asonia at the following locations:
Madness To Creation: Mike, how’s it going today?
Mike: Hey, what’s happening?
Madness To Creation: You have released “Flawed Design”, what is the most major growth that you have seen in Saint Asonia?
Mike: I don’t know, we just try to write the best songs that we can and putting out the best material that we can, overall this record is a little bit different from the last one. Adam Gontier(vocalist) wanted to work with some different people, which is what we ended up doing, so I think that’s a little bit different for us, just having those different sounds, and they’re composed a little bit differently, other than that, we are just happy with how it came out. We put a lot of hard work into getting it to where it is, and we are pretty proud of the final results.
Madness To Creation: You all released the music video for “The Hunted” which has Sully Erna of Godsmack, what was the coolest thing about working with him and what was the most challenging and rewarding part about that track as well?
Mike: I’ve known Sully for a long time since I’ve been in Staind and Godsmack kind of came out at the same time, we’ve known each other for a lot of years, that song came about when Staind was on a break and just writing with other singers, I mean that’s how Saint Asonia started, Sully was one of the guys I was writing with and so was Adam, I was on the road and Sully had that track and I just happened to hop on it one night and we were near Chicago and a friend of mine named Johnny K, who produced the last Saint Asonia record and the past couple of Staind records, said “Come on, let’s go”, we went to a studio and spent a day there, we didn’t have the music done, we kind of rearranged it then, we kind of sat on it for awhile, and we were doing this record, and our manager was like, “what about that song you did with Sully”, and Adam heard it before and he always liked it, so we kind of gave it a facelift and kind of rewrote it again a little bit, and Sully was on tour in Europe and our producer went over there and he re-sang his part, and there you have it. That was really how it kind of came about, it was a song that was kind of kicking around for a minute.
Madness To Creation: You mentioned about rewriting the parts in “The Hunted”, would you say that you’re a perfectionist in the studio or what are some of the nuances that you pay attention to in your guitar playing?
Mike: Some of my favorite parts of playing are the secondary or backing parts, is what I call the ear candy, the kind of stuff that kind of bubbles underneath in the background, it’s just stuff that makes it more interesting for me, so I really enjoy doing that and layering different guitar parts, I feel that it does have to be perfect *laughs*, I mean it’s going to be here forever. I think that between myself and the producer or whoever that we are working with, you do your best to make sure that you’re in tune and in time as best as humanly possible, I mean you know with Pro Tools, everybody just goes in and moves around stuff where it needs to be, but you still try to get there on your own.
Madness To Creation: Tell me in your career one guitar riff that you’re most proud of, whether it’s with Staind or with Saint Asonia.
Mike: In this record, I really like the riffs in “Justify”, there was one on the last Saint Asonia record called “Let Me Live My Life”, I thought that was a cool one, I just like riffs! I like writing cool guitar riffs, and hopefully they are, and that’s what I try to do, I try to make the music as cool as possible. and then you have Adam who tries to make the coolest melodies possible, we just try to make the music interesting hopefully. There was a song on the last Staind record, one called “Failing” that had some cool riffs, “Paper Wings” on that one was cool, I don’t know, I just like heavy guitar riffs.
Madness To Creation: I do have a fan question that ties in somewhat, it’s from Travis Weidow,, he asks, “how fucking rad is it to work with Adam Gontier”?
Mike: *laughs* Adam’s great, he’s definitely in a great place, he’s really easy to work with, I mean it’s been a good experience, I think there’s been a really good relationship and respect developed between us over the years, I mean that’s where it started for me. I mentioned “The Hunted” and how I did that with Sully, I just had all of this music and I was just trying to write with different singers at the time and Aaron Lewis was pursuing a country career, and Adam had just left Three Days Grace, and I met with him and played with him on some music and that’s what ultimately is what turned into what Saint Asonia was, we demoed some of these songs, and the label that he was on had heard it, and they wanted to put it out, and that was what the beginning of what became the first Saint Asonia record, it was how we started.
Madness To Creation: One more fan question from Barrett Chaise Stephens. He asks the question: What was the decision making process of heading back into a heavier direction? This album is filled with what could be considered as a continuation of Three Days Grace “One X” mixed with Staind “Break The Cycle” and “Chapter V” vibes.
Mike: Where people played a part into each of those bands that you mentioned came up with what that sounds like, some of that is going to translate because that’s who we are, but as far as the writing process, for me it’s always been the same, I just write as much music as I can and present to Adam over what he likes and what he wants to sing over, “does anything need to be changed, do you like one part of this song over another, just let me know, we will work with what we have and develop and mold it into what it needs to be into something that we’re happy with”. Like I said, it’s always in a selfish thing in for me, I just want to write something that I can listen to at the end of the day and be proud of it and enjoy, because I always enjoy music and listen to music, and to create music that I want to listen to.
Madness To Creation: Music helps me get through and it’s such a powerful thing. Madness To Creation is focused on mental health awareness and suicide prevention. What are some things that help you get through those tough times?
Mike: I think there needs to be a little bit more attention paid to that personally. It’s one of those things where a lot of people deal with a lot of different issues and they internalize them and don’t let them out until it gets to a point to where I don’t want to say it’s too late but it becomes hard to deal with, but listen, what are the alternatives, if you have to go see a therapist or talk about it or try to get it out, and not everybody can afford that, I mean that’s not cheap, and I don’t even think a lot of health insurance, if you have it, covers a lot of that. I mean it seems to be an issue in our country, I mean if you travel a lot and be in major cities, I was just in San Francisco, I mean there’s a lot of homeless people everywhere, it feels like it’s a mental illness thing too, I mean I don’t know how much of it is self-induced, but it’s just sad, all of these people out there and forgotten about. I have no answers for it, but I feel like there’s obviously a larger issue that needs to be addressed and the fact that you guys hopefully have some people to talk about these things to hopefully work through them to help them realize that there’s going to be a better day out there, you just gotta get there, I don’t know if I answered your question though *laughs*
Madness To Creation: You’ve been in Staind all of these years and have done Saint Asonia for awhile, do you have stories where fans come up to you and say, “thank you for your music and for helping me get through”?
Mike: Since I don’t really write the lyrics to the songs and with Staind, we had a song about a man that took his life and the mother came and told the story, and I know with Aaron after some of those things, he kind of withdrew a bit because he was like, “I don’t know if I can take hearing all of this stuff”, I remember when we wrote our first record, a lot of that came out in those lyrics, I mean when you’re in a basement and just writing music that you thought was cool, and you don’t realize that what you’re saying in those lyrics is going to connect with so many people on such a personal level, and sometimes you’re not prepared for that, I mean we were just playing clubs in Springfield, Massachusetts, and when all of sudden there’s all of these people coming out of the woodwork coming up to you and telling you how much you’ve helped them. I mean I think it’s great if anybody can find any comfort in knowing that they’re going through what you’re going through, and I’m not going to speak for him or Adam, but I feel like they use it in such a way to get some of those things out, and that they find a benefit or a comfort in helping them get through, whether someone felt that way or gone through those same type of experiences, just knowing that somebody else is out there.
Madness To Creation: Another fan question: Shamus Garrity asks, “Would there ever be a mega tour with Staind, Three Days Grace and Saint Asonia”?
Mike: I don’t know! *laughs* That would actually be cool to do double duty, we’ll see, you know what I mean? I mean back in the day, we toured together, that’s how we became friends.
Madness To Creation: Amber Lyons asks, “Are you or Adam single?”
Mike: No, I’ve been married for 17 years and Adam’s married as well. Happily married!
Madness To Creation: What does the rest of 2019 look like for you?
Mike: Well, I finished the last couple of Staind shows for the year, that went really well, Saint Asonia had a show in Oklahoma City, we’re going to try to get some other things on the books, but it doesn’t seem like there really isn’t anything shaping out the way we wanted, but next year the main goal and the main focus is to get out there to let people see and hear what the band is and what the new record is about.
Madness To Creation: Let’s say Donald Trump comes out to a show and gets in the mosh pit, how are you going to react?
Mike: *laughs*, I don’t think I have to worry about that happening. But in all seriousness, I’m proud of “Flawed Design” and how it came out, I hope everyone digs it!
And there you have it! On Saturday, May 2nd, Saint Asonia will be appearing at the Epicenter Festival in Charlotte, North Carolina. For tickets and further information on the festival, click here.