Mushroomhead Reinvents Themselves Once More On ‘A Wonderful Life’

Metal visionaries, Mushroomhead have never had the same lineup across two records, but that was always the whole point and a principle to the nature of their music.

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“Mushroomhead was always made to entertain and experiment,” founding member Steve Felton, better known as ‘Skinny’, told American Songwriter. “It was never meant to be four guys playing together forever.”

This exact approach is what has given Mushroomhead longevity in the metal scene, as well as leading Skinny and his newest mushroomheads to their eighth studio album, A Wonderful Life out now on Napalm Records. 

The record is beastly with 17 tracks in total, including four bonus tracks that are equally as special to the group as the other 13 initial tracks written exclusively for the record. “When we decided on putting out bonus tracks, we wanted to treat it more like an extension of the album instead of just putting a sticker on it,” Skinny explained. “Because these songs mattered to us, they were close to our hearts and we spent a lot of time on them.”

A Wonderful Life was written over the course of two years, mostly on the road in Europe.  The group always tours with a rig so they are able to write, record and refine their songs as much as possible, enabling them to record in studios anywhere on tour, like Abbey Road in London, where they recorded vocals for the single “The Heresy” from the new record. 

“It was a great experience,” Skinny said about recording at Abbey Road. “We went twice over four years and the first time we were there it was just surreal, a pinch myself kind of moment. We ended up recording vocals in studio B, which is where Dark Side of The Moon was recorded, so that right there was really nostalgic. The moment you hear the opening line of ‘The Heresy’, I can see myself sitting in the Abbey Road studio when we recorded. It’s so special.”

A Wonderful Life ushered in new members, guitarist Tommy Shaffner and vocalist Steve Rauckhorst, who were part of the Mushroomhead road crew years ago. Mushroomhead also sealed the permanency of longtime touring vocalist Jackie LaPonza.   

“Those guys have been in the Cleveland scene for like 20 years and we’ve been friends forever,” Skinny explained. “They were actually part of our road crew 17-18 years ago, so there was no getting to know you period.  We’ve all been on buses stuck with each other overseas and same with Jackie, she’s been touring with us for over six years, so it was easy to work with all three of these guys. It was a seamless transition.”

With nearly double the traditional four-person lineup, Mushroomhead still takes a very collective approach to songwriting, explaining it’s always experimental and everyone bounces ideas around, truly utilizing each other’s strengths and willingness to mix things up.

“Everyone comes in with no idea is wrong and no idea is permanent,” Skinny said. “With that mentality things lend themselves to the progressive evolution of the songs.”

“And we have stumbled upon some cool combinations like that,” he continued. “One that stands out to me is Steve and Jackie together.  They have incredible harmonies and abilities, blending and stacking octaves, using whispers. Everyone was just ready to experiment and collaborate. The songs really wrote themselves.”

The first single from the record, “Seen It All” was one of those cases. Easily one of the bounciest tracks in the 17-track lineage, it was best suited to kick off Mushroomhead’s latest triumph and adventure. 

“We wanted to lead with something that was upbeat and catchy as well, something in your face, kind of aggressive,” Skinny said. “And it just had a lot energy and excitement.”

“The Heresy” followed and quickly became a favorite among fans with over a million views since its June 5 debut. The vivid and provocative video highlights the vocal style and sophistication of LaPonza with stirring visuals, brought to life from the inner layers of Skinny’s creative mind, which called for an additional two-minute intro for the video.

“I’ve had the vison of putting a baby in a bomb for quite some time,” he laughed. “And everyone was like ‘what’s wrong with you?!’ But we pulled it off, we made sense of it. I think the song lent itself to the visual. And the lyrics were written long ago but it’s crazy how they fit into modern times.”

With present-day times constituted by isolation, quarantine and a nationwide zero tour policy, Mushroomhead is trekking along into “video territory”.  With the new record out, they are gearing up to make some equally exciting music videos that take a hint from “The Heresy”. “We have a focus and we are ready to do some more videos that are just as striking as ‘The Heresy’”, Skinny explained. “And we’re going to try to bide our time and just make art a different way until everything settles.”

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