Anyone familiar with Fred Durst knows he's no prude. The guy who did it all for the nookie used to emerge from a towering toilet in concert and has appeared in the porno film Back Stage Sluts 2: No Ass, No Pass. But when Durst saw the cover of Staind's 1996 self-released debut LP, Tormented, just before the New England-based band opened for Bizkit at a '97 concert in Hartford, Connecticut, even he was shocked. Apparently, the band's cover art depicting a bloody bible impaled on a knife and a Barbie doll hanging upside-down from a cross was a bit too strong for the God-fearing Durst, and after viewing the image, he tried to get Staind booted from the bill. He failed, and after watching the bands bludgeoning set that night, Durst changed his tune.
A few weeks later, he heard the groups new four-song demo, and realizing Staind's commercial potential, helped the group ink a deal with Flip/Elektra (Flip was the label that signed Bizkit). When Staind got ready to record their second LP, Dysfunction, Durst, seeing crucifix-impaled dollar signs, suggested they become more melodic. Staind complied without sacrificing heaviness, and recorded the brutally infectious Dysfunction. Tracks like Just "Go," "Home," and "Mudshovel" (the albums first three singles) recall both the eerie low-end sounds of Korn and the soaring grunge-metal of Alice in Chains. We recently caught up with the Staind's guitarist Mike Mushok to get to lowdown on amped-up noise, alternate tunings, the effects of fame, and life with Limp Bizkit.
Guitar.com: How would you describe your sound?
Mike Mushok: It's different. I mean, part of the reason I use two amps is to try to combine two different sounds. One is a little more heavily saturated than the other. The first amp I use is a Marshall JCM 800 100 watt head and the other is a Marshall 9200 power-amp with ADA MP1 pre-amp. What it does is fill in certain frequencies or things I'm not getting with just one amp. But I don't like it too saturated at all. On the first record I had a real saturated sound and I just didn't like it.
Guitar.com: What are you trying to do with your music?
Mushok: We just try to write good songs. It's all about having a good melody and good solid guitar parts and a good drumbeat. I take my guitar, I plug into an amp, that's pretty much it. We just try to do it in an old-school kind of way. We don't have a deejay or use samplers. There are some guys out there that use effects really well, but its never been anything I've been into -- probably more from a laziness standpoint. I'd just rather just pick up a guitar and play it.
Guitar.com: What did the cover of your debut album signify?
Mushok: It was signifying me with a lot of free time on my hands [laughs]. It signified somebody was having a difficult time in life -- somebody who was normal on the outside, but who had lost faith in life and people and had this place where [he or she] could do all these wacked-out, crazy things. And the cover is supposed to depict that place.
Guitar.com: Didn't you meet your singer Aaron Lewis under somewhat violent circumstances?
Mushok: We were at a party, and the host got very upset because someone kicked over a bunch of candles and spilled wax on the floor. He kind of freaked out because he thought there was some disrespect happening, and he wanted everyone to leave. He saw Aaron, threw him, and Aaron's head went though a wall.
Guitar.com: When did you start playing guitar?
Mushok: When I was six. And I took lessons for about six years while using an acoustic. I went through every Mel Bay book that ever was, and it was just boring. There was just no inspiration playing Red River Valley out of a Mel Bay book. My parents wanted to me play and paid for my lessons, and I grew up listening to what they were listening to, which was folk music like Jim Croce and James Taylor. But I started learning stuff on my own around age 12, and started playing in bands -- we played wherever we could, like for friends at little parties.
Guitar.com: Who were you inspired by?
Mushok: Tony MacAlpine, who had albums on Shrapnel back in the day. He was my guitar teacher for about a year and a half beginning when I was 14, and we became really good friends. He changed my life. I actually left college to play in his band for an album. [The album] never transpired, so I went back and finished school.
Guitar.com: You started out with MacAlpine and are obviously an accomplished guitarist. But you're not playing flashy music any more.
Mushok: No, and I love it. If you ask me what chords I play, I can honestly say I have no idea more than half the time. I'll just start playing something and if I like the way it sounds, that's the only thing that matters. I tune the guitar differently, so it's hard to gauge exactly what I'm doing.
Guitar.com: When did you decide that you were more into vibe and feel than virtuosity?
Mushok: Probably the first time I heard Tool, Rage, Korn and Deftones. I thought all those guys were amazing. And they didn't have to play in a really technical way. Alice in Chains and the first Pearl Jam record also did a lot to change the way I look at the instrument. I realized that the only person that wants to hear someone soloing for five minutes is another guy that does it.
Guitar.com: What's the coolest thing that happened on the road with Limp Bizkit?
Mushok: Aw, man it's nothing you can print, believe me. I'll tell you one thing that was cool. On the last night of the tour, I went up to [Bizkit guitarist] Wes [Borland] and said to him, "I wanna thank for everything you've done for us." And he said, "If you really want to thank us, find a band you like and do for them what we've done for you." I thought that was really cool of him to say.
Guitar.com: That seems like the ethic of the whole Family Values vibe.
Mushok: Yeah, it's awesome. That tour was such a good place for us to be introduced to a lot of other bands fans that might not have known or heard of who we were, and it's great that there's a scene where people are helping other people out. We come from a really small suburb and there were some bands helping others out, but a lot of the people don't have anything nice to say about anyone else. Music is supposed to be a way to express yourself, and we're all doing the same thing. We should support each other. What's cool is all these bands are coming together and helping each other out. And for a band like us -- a baby band at one time -- nothing could be better.
Guitar.com: What's it like to suddenly be recognized and appreciated?
Mushok: It's really weird. One of strangest things to me happened a few weeks ago when we were going to a radio interview in Seattle. We got in the elevator in the building, and these two girls saw us and starting bawling. They were all shaking, and one says, "Can I get a picture with you?" Were like, "Yeah, sure, but it wont come out very well if you keep shaking like that." That's so weird because we're just normal guys. There's no reason to trip.