Interview: Mutoid Man [October 2015]

By Dave Bull

Supergroup Mutoid Man took some time out of their busy tour schedule to talk to us before their London Underworld show. Deep in the dark recesses of the Underworld back-stage, we talked computer game bosses, dolphin ejaculate and discussed the pros and cons of the ‘flying tomato’.

The band consist of vocalist Steve Brodsky (Cave In), drummer Ben Koller (Converge) and bassist Nick Cageao, a sound technician and relative no-body who Ben and Nick recruited for bass duties after he jokingly offered ‘if you ever need a bassist’. Needless to say, they did, and the three piece are now taking the world by storm with their riff-tastic comedy infused prog rock n’roll.

To those who haven’t checked out Mutoid Man, how would you describe your sound?

[Ben screams a throaty scream]

Nick: Dolphin cum

Steve: All and none of the above, We like to talk about ‘Go Pro’ a lot and dolphin cum and now Sargent House (their record label).

How did you guys meet?

Nick: In a Russian bath house.

[Ben laughs]

Ben: Yeah Nick was whipping me with some leaves one day and I thought man this dude has some strong fingers. He must be good at bass. I heard the smack of Nick’s towel against Steve’s balls and I said I gotta meet that man.

Your tour dates are pretty relentless, with shows every day. How has it all been going?

Ben: It’s been really good. We’ve never been to these places before so seeing them has been really cool. We’ve done 20 shows in 20 days, and the US tour was 25 shows. So we’ve been playing a lot.

Steve: We were quoted somewhere saying days off are for the weak, so now we have to hold up to that.

How does playing in Mutoid Man differ from your other projects? (Cave In, Converge, All Pigs Must Die)

Ben: This is my busiest band. The most full time out of any of them.

Steve: Yeah same.

What was the inspiration behind the name Mutoid Man?

Steve: It’s the boss character at the end of level 1 of the classic video game Smash TV. It’s a half man, half tank. I spent so many quarters trying to beat that motherfucker!

I read that your creative process had been fine-tuned and Nick’s odd way of doing things took some getting used to? What has he added to the mix?

Ben: Oh he was very strange. First of all, he played an upright bass with a Flanger pedal, and we were like “no dude, you need to play real bass, and you need to put your balls away.”

Steve: His balls are always out. He does weird things like shower whilst doing a handstand and puts his ass right up to the shower head.

Nick: You gotta get that bum hole clean.

Steve: He’s toned down down a little bit, but he’s still the bright eyed bushy tailed one of the band who keeps us old guys feeling young.

“Super groups” seem to be all the rage these days. Is collaboration purely musical or is there an underlying factor that audiences are harder to please, having insatiable appetites for new music, what with millions of albums at their fingertips with Spotify and YouTube?

Ben: There’s a lot of bands out these days and lots of bands copy each other’s sounds and aren’t doing anything original. It’s a challenge to not just be white noise. There are like 600,000 other bands who are like metal or punk or hardcore or whatever sub-genre they call it.

Steve: We try to to be different, fun.

Nick: We have a pretty good bullshit filter between the three of us as well. Like “nope that sounds like ‘St. Anger” or like ‘Death Magnetic’.

Steve: As a fan of Converge, I get to encourage my favourite parts of Converge with Ben and vice-versa with Cave In.

Ben: One of my favourite riffs on ‘Bleeder’, Steve was like “I got this riff, I’m not sure about it, It’s OK,” and I was like “What the fuck are you talking about, it’s the best riff.”

Steve: It probably could have found its way on to ‘Jupiter’ if I had written it 15 years ago.

What are the main themes explored in your new album ‘Bleeder’?

Steve: Feeling like you’re turning into a reptile, I was also very influenced by the movie ‘Her’ where a man falls in love with an operating system, but I flipped that around and thought what if a robot fell in love with a human, so explored that idea a bit. What else… paranoid androids.

What about the song ‘Surveillance, is that about being watched by the state?

Steve: No, actually that’s the one influenced by ‘Her’.

Nick: Which one? Is that the one where they fly the kid out to the middle of nowhere to that weirdo’s house?

Steve: No, that’s ‘Ex-Machina’, it really got my gears going.

Nick: That was fucking awesome, we should write the next album about that.

Steve: I want a whole room full of hot fucking robots.

Nick: Dude, right? Sex toys of the future.

The sound in ‘Bridgeburner’ is huge. How do you achieve this with one guitar? Did you still use your flying tomato pedal?

Steve: The flying tomato made it on to the record, it’s kind of a wild one. I don’t usually keep it on the board. I got it from a boutique pedal shop, it is literally like pedal mountain. We would just hook them up and if it worked, it worked.

Ben: There was the ‘pizza riff tits’ pedal right? And the ‘pepperoni phaser’? Yeah, and the stuffed crust weiner which gave a really scabby tone.

The guitar parts are very technical and don’t lend themselves to easy vocal overlays, do you enjoy pushing your abilities technically, and how do you ensure you achieve a fair balance between style and listenability?

Steve: Nick comes up with riffs that scramble my brain, as our playing backgrounds are a little different, which is good as it gets my mind going in new ways. As a guitar player this is the best thing in the world as we are inherently lazy. I also took guitar lessons for a little while from a bonafide shredder who lives in Brooklyn. That was super helpful.

Nick, has Mutoid Man been quite a surreal experience? Are you still ever star struck by working with Steve and Ben?

Nick: Ben teabags me while I sleep sometimes. I mean it’s always a little bit surreal. One of these guys will do something on their instrument and I’ll be ‘what the fuck’. At this point, I really hate them both, and we’re only doing this for money…It better come soon! Seriously though, it’s a really cool thing, and I enjoy it every day. I’m glad these guys put up with me and my shenanigans, and my balls.

Who are your inspirations musically?

Ben: Too many to name, a combination of a lot of different people I guess. Gallagher as in the one who smashes water melons, and Liam and Noel Gallagher, and Rory Gallagher. Only Gallagher’s. Mike Gallagher is cool. There’s some good Gallagher’s.

Nick: Patrick’s awesome, our driver.

Something that has been on our radar this week, is the announcement of the Download Festival headliners, and how there is a continuing lack of imagination for who should headline, with the ‘old’ classics being recycled for the last few years. Who would you like to see step up to the plate and take over the headliner mantle?

Nick: I love Maiden and Sabbath! Rammstein, I’ve never really cared about musically, but they put on an incredible show.

Ben: I would almost prefer to see a band like Rammstein as they put on a spectacle, or Slipknot where they have a big stage, and cool stuff to look at. If you’re 10,000 feet away, it doesn’t matter who’s playing.

Nick: I can’t really think of any new bands that would be suitable.

What things do you never leave home without when going on tour?

Nick: Rocks. And I’m not talking about crack. I carry around rocks with me, and I collect them as well. [Sure enough, his pocket was full of little stones and rocks)]. I collect them from all over the place, and I leave them in places like Pittsburgh. Baby wipes, ear plugs, cordyceps (a fungus that lives on caterpillars in the high, mountainous areas of China), mushrooms, Alpha Brain (purportedly enhances memory function) which is good when I’m on tour and have to remember a load of lyrics.

Palm Reader, a UK Hardcore band, who we know quite a lot about already, but what can people expect from Olten and Closet Disco Queen?

Nick: Palm Reader have been with us on every date of this tour. Ben helped me yesterday to take a photo of my balls on their phones which they had left back stage. A real, ballsy move. We’ve been waiting ever since Chicago to play with Coke Goat, but it hasn’t happened yet.

Try these three interviews

Interview: Greywind [Reading 2016]

Interview: Arcane Roots [Reading 2016]

Interview: Trash Boat [Reading 2016]