The term “Great American Hard Rock Band” gets thrown around very loosely these days. Very few bands can truly live up to that name. With so many different sub-genres under the umbrella of rock n’ roll, it’s easy to become complacent and bored –looking for that sound or tune just like the one you play over and over again in the car, on your phone or in your head because you just can’t find anything as good as “that song” or “that band.” And you wait…you wait for the next new group of players to cultivate music that is distinct, pulls you right in and creates a sound all their own.
They have to be solid; there’s no denying when they stand together you see them; there is no ambiguity. You know who they are because they’ve left a mark, something deep and ingrained in your psyche. No matter how many times you wash yourself with other music, the songs you truly love are imprinted — you keep going back because even though you know that “mark” has been burned into your mind, it’s okay. You wear it like a badge of honor. It’s like being…Staind.
The meat and potatoes of American rock n’ roll can only be described by the hard-working middle class, or in other words; most of us. Staind exemplifies the true core of what a great American hard rock band is. Just the mere fact that they hail from Massachusetts evokes that masculine, concrete feeling of security; they’re not going anywhere. Staind has shape, form and structure.
Moving forward through the years, Staind has built a fan base with a very far reach. They’ve sold 15 million albums worldwide, had eight Top 10 singles across multiple formats, including three songs which all hit Number One, and wrote the most-played rock song of the past decade, It’s Been Awhile. When they decided to put out their seventh studio album, the self-titled, 2011 release, STAIND, Aaron Lewis, Mike Mushok, and Johnny “Old School” April, dug deep into the dark recesses of all things “Staind” to produce yet another masterpiece. It cost them dearly. Staind, lost their drummer, Johnny “Old School” April in the process. Mike Mushok was in the thick of it with all his band mates during the writing/recording process. Though he’s come through to the other side, looking back, it’s probably not the best of memories. Yet there is a sort of release when letting go of the past. They’re all older, wiser, and more settled. Lewis has his pet projects on the side and Mushok seems content.
“It kind of feels about the same now all that is behind us,” says Mushok. “The big difference now is that Aaron’s doing a solo thing and it kinda cuts down on the time that we have to go out and play. That’s probably one of the biggest changes — which is good and bad. It’s good to be able to be home with the family a little bit more, but it’s good to work too. We lost our drummer making the last record. That was probably the biggest change that we’ve gone through in that time. Yeah, it was like showing up and not everybody being on the same page. It’s a lot of years of being together.”
“A lot of things have gone on over the years that kind of led to him ultimately leaving but we have Sal Giancarelli — yeah, Sal. Irish kid,” laughs Mushok. “In fact, it’s funny. You mentioned Los Angeles. Sal — we were playing a show at the Palladium in ’99 with Sevendust and Sal was living out there. He’s from upstate New York, like Syracuse area and he had moved out to Los Angeles with his band. His things weren’t going great and he came to the show. And we were kinda looking for a drum tech, and he’s a great drummer. And he’s like, ‘Yeah, look, I need a job. I’ll do it.’ This was in ’99. He’d left a couple of times to pursue some other musical things that he was doing that never really ended up panning out. And he’d been Jon’s tech that whole time, but always a fantastic drummer. We always knew that. And so when this happened he really was the logical fit. And now he’s playing for us. Yeah, it’s good. I’m happy for him. It’s not like learning a new personality. We know each other. He’s part of the family. So it’s really worked out well.”
It has worked out very well. Mushok, along with the rest of Staind, recently hit the touring circuit with old buddies Shinedown and Godsmack, for 2012 Rockstar Energy Drink’s Uproar Festival. How does one prepare for something called Uproar? “The same way I do anything — just go up there and play,” smiles Mushok. “I’m just looking forward to getting in front of some people and looking forward to some good crowds.”
I’m just looking forward to getting in front of some people and looking forward to some good crowds.
For anyone who has yet to set foot into one of these festivals, Mushok describes them as comfortable and open. “Most of them are at these amphitheaters, so they have the pavilion inside and the grass up further back. I think it’s a really good way for — it seems like a lot of tours are going this way and trying to put together larger packages and trying to let people’s dollar get spread a little bit further; get a little bit more bang for the buck and be able to come in for a day and see a bunch of bands. It’s Shinedown, Godsmack and us, so it’s a pretty big bill. And then Papa Roach is on it and a ton of other bands.
“We just did an enormous festival in Australia at the beginning part of the year. I think there was 93 bands on it,” states Mushok. “And that was like just a traveling circus, because it was six or seven cities and there was shows between. And obviously, you’re literally traveling with all the bands at the same time on this thing because in Australia there are no buses, so everything’s a flight. So everybody’s on the same flight together, everybody’s in the same hotels together. It was cool. It was definitely like a summer camp type of atmosphere. So this is probably similar but on a smaller scale, and a little different. But
it’s fun. Like I said, I think that mostly it just gives the consumer more bang for the buck. You get to come in and hear music all day long.”
With bands playing all day long and the beer pouring as well, some days can be a little challenging, to say the least. And though Mushok is an old pro at it, things can still get very messed up. “I’m not even sure what time these festivals even start, to be honest with you,” he says,, “but a lot of times they do like an 11:00 or 12:00 thing. So that’s why sometimes — and we’ve done it — playing at some of these things can be pretty challenging, because you figure people get there at 10:00, 11:00 in the morning, and they start tailgating, and they’re hammered by 2:00 or 3:00, hung over by 8:00. If you’re going on at 9:30 or 10:00 it’s tough sometimes. We just did a co-headliner with Godsmack, called the Mass Chaos Tour, so being with them again is actually gonna be great. We go back a long way with them. Way back. We kind of come from the same area and really kind of came up together. We played the local stage on a Warped Tour with them back in, like, ’98. They played some shows with us in Springfield. And then they kinda took off, and we went and did our record, and really came up together. We had a tour we did in, like, ’01 — and crossed paths. And then really just life happens and you don’t speak for a little while. This tour we just did with them, Mass Chaos, came up, and we just did that six-week run and had a great time with those guys.”
While Mushok and Staind bring the house down every night they’re on stage with the Uproar Festival, their set is not as long as people might think. “That’s the one thing about the festivals, is that everybody doesn’t get to play as long as they normally would if it was their own show,” Mushok says. “I think we have, like, 45 or 50 minutes. So I think we’re gonna go out there and play some of the stuff you’d expect us to play, and play some of the new material, and probably keep the set a little bit on the heavier side, since that’s what the lineup pretty much is, and go out there and have a good time.”
The closest the Uproar Festival gets to California, is Phoenix, Arizona. What is it about the Golden State? Nothing comes here unless it originates here; are we that jaded? “California is kinda too cool for hard rock,” laughs Mushok. “We actually just did a festival, end of last year, in Los Angeles at Irvine Meadows — Epicenter, I think it was called. That was a big rock festival.. And that was fun. It was good. These alternative bands come in they sell out Staples Center. But it’s not really like that for rock. It’s more a Midwest meat and potatoes type of thing.”
If there is one thing Mushok is very humble about, it’s the band’s fan base. His belief is that the fans allow them to do this; allow them to go, play, and continue on the journey, because it’s been 16 years of writing, recording and touring for Staind. It’s what they do, and if you love what you do, you’re already ahead of the game. No one is promised tomorrow; it’s about the mark you make today.