Mushroomhead’s J Mann talks about new album “The Righteous & The Butterfly”

J Mann is one of three vocalists for the industrial heavy metal band Mushroomhead. The masked group recently released their 8th studio album titled “The Righteous & the Butterfly” which entered the Billboard charts at #20. The band will also be a part of this year’s Rock Star Energy Drink Mayhem Festival. Media Mikes had the chance to speak with J recently about the upcoming tour, the new album and how he ended up rejoining the band after almost a 10 year leave from the group.

Adam Lawton: What were some of the things that led to you rejoining the band full time again?
J Mann: I think a lot of it had to do with timing and maturity. We have all grown as people. We never drifted as friends during the time I wasn’t officially in the band. I would get up there and do shows with them when they were in the Cleveland area and what not. We never lost contact we were just doing different things for awhile. We had talked about working together again and the timing just seemed to work out. We had the 20 year anniversary of the band coming up at that time and then we started working on a new record. Originally I got asked to come in and sing on just a couple songs. We got in there and it was just so much fun and very reminiscent of 1993. We all re-found our passion. Making this record was just a lot of fun. After a few weeks we looked at how many songs I was on and it ended up being like 11 songs or something like that. Being on that record led to me doing the 20th anniversary tour and things just sort of snowballed and before I knew it I was back in the band.

AL: Having not worked with the band in the studio for almost 8 years what were those first sessions like?
J Mann: A lot of it was like riding a bike but I was also working with some guys I had never worked with before. Church and Dr. F were still kind of the new guys. What was cool with those guys is they joined a band that was already established. They were instrumental in getting us back to our roots. They rained us in and brought the band back to what it was originally about. That made things very exciting for me. We all had the same goal in making a great record.

AL: Were the tracks that you sang on pre-arranged or did you bring in your own material?
J Mann: When I came aboard the band had been working on the instrumental portion of the album for almost a year. There were some scratch vocals laid down by Jeff and Waylon and I sort of filled in the holes. We all would talk after working on the songs and we all just looked at the big picture as to what would serve the song best. Sometimes Jeff was writing for me or I was writing for him or Waylon. We all worked together real well and because we have been around each other for so long we are comfortable enough to where we can work like that.

AL: What was the bands main goal with the release of this album?
J Mann: We really wanted to get back to our roots with this record. We wanted to revisit whatever it was that made us initially want to work together some 20 plus years ago. However while searching for that spark we also didn’t want to sound like some dated dinosaur. I think there was a time when the band may have gotten caught up in whatever trend was happening at the time but then we realized that we lost a lot of the things that made us who we are and what our fans liked about us. This new album brings all those things back with a fresh take.

AL: With Mushroomhead being a very visual band have you guys shot any videos for any of the new songs yet?
J Mann: We have shot one video so far. We had been sort of holding on to it until the album release but it’s out now and fans will definitely want to check that out. It’s for the song “Qwerty” and it’s got a really scary vibe to it. We shot it at a haunted house in Cleveland called The Fear Experience. Stitch who does our sampling and art design is the director there. He designed all of the rooms which was great as it was like a built in. There is a little girl in the video that was just a trooper throughout the whole thing as it took us a couple days to finish. The video is very dark.

AL: The band is a part of this year’s Rock Star Mayhem Festival. What can fans be expecting from the bands performances?
J Mann: I am really looking forward to being a part of this year’s tour. We just played over in Australia as part of the Sound Wave festival. A lot of the same bands that were on that are also going to be on Mayhem Festival. It’s going to be almost like a reunion with those bands. Of course Avenged Seven Fold who we took out on their first national tour is going to be cool to be out with again. It’s awesome to have watched those guys blow up. It’s just going to be a great summer.

Keanu Reeves and Mark Mann talk about working together on “Generation Um…”

Keanu Reeves is known for his films in franchises like “The Matrix” and “Bill & Ted”. In this film “Generation Um…”, he plays a much different role within this character piece. Mark Mann is the writer and director on the film, which is his feature film debut. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Keanu and Mark on the film and what we can expect.

Click here for our interview with Adelaide Clemens & Bojana Novakovic

Mike Gencarelli: Mark, tell us how did “Generation Um…” come about for you?
Mark Mann: Alison Palmer (Bourke), the producer on the project, gave Keanu the script to look at as a friend at first. He liked it and said he wanted to meet with me. We had a coffee and it was sort of monumental coffee. We riffed creatively for a bit and found out that we got along well. We shared visions for the characters and the story. So after that he decided to do the film, which was great. He was perfect for the role. So we went out and made a movie [laughs].

MG: Keanu, what was it that really drew you to the role of John?
Keanu Reeves: I liked so many things about the character. What stuck out for me was the writing, the structure, the humor, the humanity and the way the story was told. With John, in particular, I had a great sympathy for him. He felt like a character that was hyper-aware. He was trapped in his past, maybe with his confidence or trapped in his life.  He was seeking a connection, a friendship or something that we might think of as simple but is fundamental to life. I felt like a lot of people could relate to him. I also felt that since this took place in New York and it was more personal and I liked that.

MG: Any challenges with shooting in New York?
KR: [laughs]
MM: I had no issues whatsoever [laughs]. New York is a great place to shoot. Just because you are shooting there doesn’t mean that it is going to behave any different than New York does. It seems to add attention to the frame. We were using New York in a somewhat unorthodox fashion, with shooting in the park, running down streets, driving over bridges and staring at trains. In general, I think that New York tolerates you if you shine at the end of it all.

MG: Keanu, this is a real change from some of your past action driven films; was it a challenge taking on this character piece?
KR: I wouldn’t really say a challenge but more of an opportunity. What struck me was getting a chance to actually shoot the footage that John does in the film. That was a very unique situation for me and it was something that I really appreciated and enjoyed. The trust that Mark put into me was great. He was like “Ok Keanu…go shoot!” We shot on Super 16 with a lot of wide angle lenses and fixed perspectives. So we get to learn about John through the camera but also get to learn about the other characters from John’s perspective. For me that was very unique, fulfilling and a fun opportunity.
MM: What was interesting about that, as well, you will notice in the film that he bundles that into the character. You watch the character developing his own feelings through the camera itself.

MG: Mark, what was your biggest challenge taking on your first feature film?
MM: I would have to say just making a film. It is an impossible pursuit. Once you start getting into it there are so many things going on at the same time. It is like you are one with the inside of your head with little tentacles extending out sort of taking of the form of all these different people all handling various tasks. It is impossible…
KR: No it’s not [laughs].
MM: Yeah it was easy. It was like butter [laughs].

MG: Keanu, I loved the chemistry between you and your leading ladies, Adelaide Clemens and Bojana Novakovic. What did you do to form that bond between the three of you for this film?
KR: We started with the audition process. Mark went on search for Violet and Mia. Luckily, I was a part of that process. He asked me to videotape the actresses that came in to meet on the project. It happened with both Bojana and Addy that there was a nice simpatico between us and we got along right away. They were interesting and loved the material. As me moved forward in rehearsal and just hanging out, everyone seemed to be on the same page. We just got along really great, so that was really cool. Mark really let me in and be a part of the creative process and I really appreciated that as well.
MM: That was part of the fun though. The film ultimately is what happens between the people making the film. It was just great. Having Keanu, Adelaide and Bojana together work through it all in rehearsals and then turning on the camera and watching them do it was amazing.

MG: Mark, you also wrote the screenplay. How much did it change throughout the production?
MM: The script was god. It was bible. It didn’t change.
KR: Urgh…writers and directors, they say that the script is god. [laughs]
MM: [laughs] If you asked me the question as a director, I might have a different answer but in terms of writing you have to have a moment when you can be a writer. That is what writers do.
KR: It was just really a great script. One could think that it was improvised since the words are just so great.
MM: There are also a lot of moments of silence in the movie and I had to try to push it into direction. But there were these long moments with Keanu, Bojana and Adelaide where they are just there and they are doing what they are doing. That is not something you can write. It was very exciting to see them take the implications that I wrote and then completely bring it to this magically level where they were and just embodied these characters.
KR: Human animal footage [laughs].