Getting Lost And Found With Mudvayne

As their latest album title, Lost and Found suggests, it seems that Illinois metallers, Mudvayne, have lost their alien alter egos and found another direction in conveying the Mudvayne-sound. Bassist Ryan Martinie talks about the latest album, their writing process, musical influences, The Sopranos and finding a new CD to add to his collection. Martinie is speaking to me from South Carolina, currently on tour,  “We’re playing shows, but tonight’s our last night, and then tomorrow, we’re making an appearance on Conan O’Brien -it’s our first time on the show, so we’re looking forward (to it) and, it’s also my birthday…!”

It’s been three years since Mudvayne released their last album, The End Of Things To Come. In that time, the band have managed to get their name on this year’s line up for Ozzfest, toured with Metallica, received the first ever MTV2 award and even had a brief, but poignant appearance on the hit show, The Sopranos. “I don’t watch TV, but it’s great to be a part of it and getting that popular culture stamp of approval. I heard that the actor on the show (Robert Iler) likes our band, and that it was his idea to put us in there, so that’s really cool”.

While writing their latest album, Mudvayne rented a house in California, living and working together 24/7. “At home we live about four minutes from one another. We’ve been together as a band for a long time… nine years – me, for six. We’re pretty used to each other by now… we party together, if we fight, we’ll make up.”

Critics have described Lost and Found, as the quintessential nu-metal album of the year. It maintains the band’s catchy, melodic, slow and heavy riffs, combined with Chad Gray’s unique vocal range. “The album’s so diverse and it leaves a lot to interpretation. I like that space, a medium to interpret things the way we want. I wish to give that, and I know we all wish to give that to the audience and not try to have to explain everything.”

But even though some of the songs on the album (Happy?, Determined) sound a little more commercial than the songs on their previous albums, it seems Mudvayne still haven’t lost their familiar “math-metal” sound. “I think that our drummer Matt (Matt McDonough) coined that term because what we put out there involves lots of ‘math’. Most of the time – ninety-nine to one hundred times, the writing process for us, is not getting caught up in, ‘okay, we want this part to be 5/4’ – We’re not that ideological about how we work. Ideas for us are free flowing and not about getting caught up in mathematical terms”.

In other words, it’s not contrived. ”-Yeah, that comes afterwards, where we’ll write a riff and then Matt will say, ‘we’ll that’s in say, 5/4’, or whatever – after the fact of the actual written process. So to be described as being ‘math metal’ is really contradictory to how we work.”  He continues, “We invite any kind of space. We don’t close ourselves off. If something were to come up that’s interesting numerically, then I think we would jump at the chance of using that too, but that’s not the process of writing that we use”.

Which probably explains why the songs on the album sound so diverse. When asked which bands influenced them the most during the creative process, Martinie explains that is where the band’s individual music tastes come into play. “I think our tastes are so broad as music fans. There are great musicians in all genres of music.  All of our musical experiences get added to our whole musical endeavour. So us together, being who we are, and the different tastes that we all have, are really diverse.” He admits, You know, I think there’s parts of us that like different types of music – and that reflects in our work. We decided to do a variety of ideas and really just try to create some space from that lifelong aspect of where the band is, what it does together, and from what I know we all grew up listening to, there’s a lot of melodies in that”.

So what sort of bands do Mudvayne like? “Oh, you name it…” I start rambling a few band names off the top of my head like Slayer, Metallica, Megadeth… He quips, “Sure but those are just ‘metal’bands…! There is a lot of other music that I like and grew up listening to – Ella Fitzgerald is one of them… You name it, if you have a look at our selection, you’ll find pretty much everything…”

If that is so, I ask him if he has the latest Me First & The Gimme Gimmes album, Ruin Jonny’s Bar Mitzvah, because they mentioned Mudvayne in the album’s artwork. There is a long pause before he answers in disbelief, “Is that true? -What band is that?” I explain to him that The Gimme Gimmes are the side project band for NOFX’s Fat Mike, Lagwagon’s Joey Cape and Dave Raun and Foo Fighter’ Chris Shiflett, and tell him that they thought Mudvayne’s rendition of the traditional Jewish song, Hava Nagila was much better than theirs. After a short pause Martinie gives a long, appreciative laugh, “Oh, that’s great! Any kind of homage between bands is great. What most people don’t know about us is that we find those types of things really funny -we love that tongue and cheek humour!” Ryan asks me again what the name of the band is, and writes down the details, “That’s great. I’m going to have to buy their album when I get back home!”

While Lost and Found may be the ambiguous title to Mudvayne’s latest album, it turns out to be us, who has lost our preconceptions, and found a new liking for them, unmasked, and for being who they really are.