INTERVIEW: Staind taking a reunion one step at a time, set to play Aftershock

Staind, Mike Mushok, Aaron Lewis

Staind. Courtesy photo.

Mike Mushok may be the most enthused man alive for the reunion of early aughts hard rock mainstays Staind.

“I mean, I wanted to do it all along,” the Staind guitarist said of kickstarting the discussions to get the band back together. “It was just about trying to figure out the right time, and what made the most sense.”

Aftershock Festival
Slipknot, Staind, Blink-182, Korn & more

11 a.m., Friday, Oct. 11-13
Discovery Park in Sacramento
Tickets: $99-$500.

The Massachusetts band recently announced it will play at just two fall festivals, coinciding with the 20th anniversary of its major label debut, Dysfunction. It will join fellow rockers Tool, Korn and Slipknot at the expanded Aftershock Festival in Sacramento in October. Mushok joins original vocalist Aaron Lewis and bassist Johnny April, along with longtime drummer Sal Giancarelli. He said the decision was less of an “if” and more of a “when” the band members would be able to align their various projects to make the reunion a reality.

“Aaron and I had been talking on and off for years about when we were going to do this or how it was going to happen,” Mushok said. “There’s been other times when it’s gotten close and it just didn’t work out.”

Mushok is eager to get back out on the road with the band he cofounded some 25 years ago. Staind was discovered and signed by Limp Bizkit’s Fred Durst. The band’s debut album produced hits “Just Go” and “Mudshovel.” Then the band exploded with 2001’s Break The Cycle, selling 716,000 copies its first week on the heels of “It’s Been Awhile.” Staind broke through with a mix of post-grunge melodies and nu-metal aggression, along with Lewis’ dark and intense lyricism. The band was also buoyed by a healthy influence of acoustic flavor.

In terms of an extended reunion, the band is taking a wait and see approach before diving in fully with writing and recording. That’s because Lewis has gone on to have a successful solo career following the band’s disbanding. Mushok also has a new band, Saint Asonia—a name that translates to the the saint of tone-deafness.

“I think we’re going to dip our toes in the water and see where we’re at,” Mushok said. “Aaron still has and will always have his solo thing, and I have Saint Asonia just finishing up a record now as well.”

The combination of a new music industry landscape and Staind fulfilling its obligations to its former label creates an open-ended set of options for the band on how it wants to move forward.

“We don’t have to put out an entire record—we can put out whatever we want, whenever we want, however we want to do it,” Mushok said. “I think the freedom to be able to do that is nice.”

When Staind went on its initial hiatus in 2012, it created some very immediate realities and decisions that Mushok need to make. Mushok joined a number of projects, playing with former Metallica bassist Jason Newsted as well as Saint Asonia with former Three Days Grace frontman Adam Gontier.

“When Staind stopped playing, for me it was like, ‘That’s how I made a living,'” Mushok said. “‘I have a wife, I’ve got kids; I have to figure something out.'”

He said he didn’t have to change much about his own songwriting process as the scenery changed around him. Instead, the new bands picked up different inflections from the people Mushok worked with. Saint Asonia is finishing up its sophomore release now and Mushok said all that’s left is to return to the studio to complete the overdubs and guitar solos. The project with Newsted, meanwhile, is not only a great opportunity but has exposed him to a different kind of creative process.

“He wrote everything, and you would come in and learn what he did,” Mushok said. “You could kind of put your own flavor on it and add some things, but for the most part, that was his vision of what he wanted it to be.”

Mushok says Newsted’s hands-on approach challenged both of them. The many moving parts had to be delegated.

For Staind the creative process is very much a collaboration between Mushok’s guitar playing and Lewis’ melody and lyrics, with both bringing parts to each other and improving them. The process would take some odd turns, with Lewis adding parts during recording, but that it’s always worked out in the end.

Mushok has been a visionary of hard rock guitar songwriting, taking the down-tuned rumble of bands like Korn, reaching even lower at the suggestion of Lewis and experimenting with a variety of alternate tunings to create a unique sound.

“The different chordings and voicings is what led to a lot of the different tunings,” Mushok said. “Sometimes I’d just tune a guitar differently and write a song around that tuning.”

Mushok said that this experimentation has made for some difficulty replicating the sounds on stage, which is why he’s finally decided on a single tuning he prefers best.

“I think I had 23 different tunings I used with Staind, which made my tech’s life and touring really difficult,” Mushok said.

Would a veteran musician like Mushok feel any nerves getting back on stage with his band for the first time? The guitarist, known for his powerhouse head-banging, said it would usually phase him, but this reunion might be different.

“If you’re prepared, and you’ve practiced, all that usually goes away and then it just becomes fun,” he said.

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