Mudvayne frontman Chad Gray doesn't have time for the delicacies of political correctness. "You look at what's going on in the world today, and sometimes the only explanation that makes any sense at all is to just point your finger at people being f**king crazy!"
But make no mistake, when you point one finger at someone else, you're pointing three at yourself, and Gray isn't about to deny the manic zeitgeist that overwhelmed his lyrical process throughout The New Game [Epic Records], the band's first studio album in three years and fourth full-length studio album overall. Featuring the lethal first single "Do What You Do," the album is an electrical storm of musical fury, a lesson in controlled chaos that tempers hard rock, heavy metal, prog rock and sadistic splatters of pop into an onslaught of metallic highs and emotional lows, rushing surges and pronounced blows. The album ups the ante for Mudvayne, one of the most creative and distinctive bands in the aggressive music world with sales exceeding 5 million units worldwide.
"It's been said that music should charm and flatter the ear," explains bassist Ryan Martinie. "We want to do that very thing, to grasp you and spin you into oblivion with a contrast of movement and momentum. There has to be something effectual there. We want to keep people interested and engaged through every individual song--to let you off the hook is good, but only if you're still swimming around and want to bite back down on that hook. Every song has its own personality, its own force, its own being. It's a living entity unto itself that lives in the larger microcosm that is Mudvayne. It is its own presence."
That presence permeates The New Game. The band produced the album with Dave Fortman (Evanescence, Slipknot), capturing the wily charisma and hyper-kinetic energy of a band who survived their seven-year itch by embedding their claws into the heart of their music. And it shows. "In some ways, this is the most accessible record we've ever done... And I mean that in a positive way," offers drummer Matt McDonough. "We've done it by honing our arrangement skills and making our music quickly accessible. I don't want to say we're less esoteric, but on The New Game we've stripped away a lot of the extraneous stuff. Instead of making people try to figure out what we're doing, we're explaining it better with our music. By focusing and streamlining our sound, we've found the quickest way to explain what we're trying to achieve as artists."
As musicians, McDonough, Martinie and guitarist Greg Tribbett haven't shifted their songwriting focus from what they've always tried to achieve. In the words of the bassist, "it's an honest representation of who we are as people. We love getting high on music, whether it be crazy blast beats, European black metal, dance music, electronic music, or stuff we grew up with, like Van Halen, Rush, Iron Maiden and Metallica. The things that we like to hear are the things that come out when we write together, and when you put them together, it's Mudvayne."
At the lyrical helm of Mudvayne is Gray. While he echoes his band's sentiments in regards to their songwriting process, his personal inspirations cast a darker light on The New Game. "There is an overall vibe of chaotic helplessness, loss and fear, and that's not something that I've experienced in putting a record together before. It's always been more esoteric and universal. I felt like there was a more human feel to Lost And Found, but this album is more about the inner workings of people. The album has a lot of anger and frustration, and there's a sense of wanting to kill, but it's through the eyes of different crazy characters."
Gray elaborates: "'Dull Boy' is the crazy guy just losing mind, like Jack Nicholson in 'The Shining,' 'A New Game' is just twisted, then you've got the political songs from the perspective of a world leader, then the political songs from the perspective of being in the service. It's killing at different levels," Gray explains. "Just because you're not pulling the trigger doesn't mean you're not killing people. I started to analyze all the different levels of consciousness and what made people feel and act that way. The album is like a psychological profile of a lot of different characters."
Work on The New Game began in Chicago in August 2006, then ended in a remote corner of Idaho not far from the Canadian border seven months later. It was there that Gray became a little too close for comfort with his inspiration for "Dull Boy." "In Idaho, Greg and I stayed in a modular house about a mile back from the main house, where Ryan and Matt stayed. I didn't leave that place for two or three weeks, except to go to the gas station to get beer or whatever, and one day it just hit me--six feet of f**king snow on the ground, barren nothingness as far as you can see, and I just lost my shit, just sat there on the couch and started saying, 'all work and no play makes me a dull boy...' I don't remember consciously thinking about it, I just remember saying it, sitting in front of the sliding door, a wall of snow in front of me, and lyrics going through my head."
While the rest of Mudvayne didn't necessarily share in Gray's emotional catharsis, they know where he's coming from. Sort of. "Unlike any other band I know, Mudvayne is singular in the sense that we've written and recorded every record in a completely different place in the country," recalls McDonough. "We wrote L.D. 50 in Peoria [IL] and recorded it in Vancouver; we wrote End Of All Things To Come in Minneapolis and recorded it in Southern Minnesota; we wrote Lost And Found outside Santa Cruz [CA] then recorded it outside San Francisco; we wrote in Chicago and Idaho for this album and recorded in New Orleans; and we just did our new album [more on that in a bit] in El Paso and Phoenix.
"That said, every place we record in absolutely affects the creative process and us as people. We're in a new environment and there are all kinds of things to experience. That's part of what makes Mudvayne, though. Being in this band is a lot about not having expectations and dealing with change, and a lot about adapting and learning how to work with the forces that are coming at you."
Although recording for The New Game began in 2006, fans may wonder why it's being released more than a year-and-a-half later. After completing The New Game, the band--on a creative roll--went back into the studio to record another Mudvayne album, due for release in 2009.
"Someone may ask where Mudvayne went, well, we went into the Mudvayne woodshed and wrote two records!" says Martinie. "It's been different, but it's been great, it's being able to have our cake, and eat it, too. We got to have something that we love, that is a part of us, and we're able to connect with it at a personal level before we go out and give it to everyone else after we've had our chance to live with it. It gives the whole album more of a cliffhanger feel for us, sitting on the edge of our chairs for a year-and-a-half going, 'This is our record, we love it, but what's everyone else going to think of it?' The New Game was our baby, it still is, and we're proud to put it out and let everyone else enjoy it for a while."
So while one baby grows, Mudvayne have another baby in the oven... How's that for f**king crazy?