SCENE IN THE DARK was lucky enough to get a moment to speak to producer and guitar player Mat Mitchell before he heads out on the road with Maynard James Keenan and his wild, wooly, and wonderful ever-evolving project Puscifer. Check out what he had to say about life in the desert.
Jennie O (SCENE): Saw the Kimmel performance last night. Everything seemed to go really well. How did it feel?
Mat Mitchell (Puscifer): It was fun. It was really relaxed y’know, it felt like a club show. Which is new for us so we really had a good time with it.
SCENE: The audience was receptive to the new material?
Mat: Yeah absolutely.
SCENE: What’s it like to be in such a bafflingly fruitful desert out there?
Mat: It was great. Y’know Maynard draws a lot of attention from his other bands and getting to be a part of that is awesome.
SCENE: What were the advantages of being removed from the metropolitan environment for this particular process on this album?
Mat: It absolutely helped. You can hear it in the music. Getting away from the distractions and getting away from the excuses of having things to do and places to be allowed everyone to kind of focus and relax. It made the process go quicker and I think the quality was better.
SCENE: Maynard had said in regards to that there was less pressure on the process out there, that you wouldn’t necessarily push a take like you would in the studio, that you could take breaks to hike and things like that…
Mat: Yeah because you’re not looking at the clock. You’re not paying by the hour kind of thing. In that regard it was just way more relaxing and comfortable, that you’re not thinking about time. But at the same time, like I said before, it almost made things go quicker because you weren’t distracted by anything.
SCENE: How did it work for the group dynamic?
Mat: I think better because you kind of get a family vibe; Cause you’re having all your meals together, you go on walks together, it becomes more of a family thing.
SCENE: The first album had a lot of bravado and cheeky swagger and sexuality but this album seems to have a heroes journey feel to the sound, like a desolation and an existential humbleness, almost like the ideas are the result of battle scars, what was the motive behind this change of pulse?
Mat: I think just like any record its experimentation and figuring out what you want to say. The first record was more like you said: more sexual and groovy and this one, I’m sure part of it was the environment that we were working in, but it just kind of naturally turned into what it did.
SCENE: It seems to have grabbed people at a sort of emotional level, seems to be a kind of ‘mood of the times’ album. Did you feel when you were making the record that it was turning into something bigger than initially planned?
Mat: Absolutely. About two weeks in we were pretty excited, as everyone is when you’re working on a new project, and we set our goals and expectations pretty high and we felt we were meeting them. We were pretty happy pretty early on.
SCENE: What element of the material did you think was most important to explore or be loyal to when you were recording?
Mat: The lyrics and vocal sound and vocal textures are obviously huge because they are such a focus, but my personal flavors and tastes run around drum sounds and bass. The rhythm section pockets. Making sure the rhythm section is strong and is what I want it to be.
SCENE: What track are you most proud of in that regard?
Mat: I like Toma a lot. We had two different drummers on that (Jon Theodore and Sarah Jones) one for each different section which was kind of new to me. We’ve had multiple drummers on a track but they are typically playing over each other. Having section by section be by different drummers was a unique thing. I think it really worked out; you hear it in the result.
SCENE: This album has a new wealth of sounds and textures, what were some favorite toys you brought to the table this time?
Mat: Being tech driven, I’m always looking for the next tool that going to help write songs. Having Josh Eustis on board, having him more involved with this album, he brings his own palate of tools. Specifics would be his Opti Track we used quite a bit; I have a Buchla synthesizer that I used quite a bit. Those would be the two tools that got a lot of hours on the record.
SCENE: With the proliferation of electronic music in the digital age, this album seems to really balance both digital and organic elements well. What is your take on the trend of electronic music in the industry and do you think there will still be a place for music as we know it?
Mat: Absolutely. If you listen to pop radio right now and its dance music that we’ve been hearing for years but now its pop artists singing over it. I think just like any type of music, people are going to get tired of it. It will morph and transform and people are going to want to hear whether its hard rock guitars or acoustic instruments, I think tastes are going to change and we’ll take the best and mix it with what people are missing.
We try to do that. It’s just balancing. I really like electronic stuff. I like heavy electronic stuff and then you mix in banjos and mandolins. I like the contrast and I like the way the sound together.
SCENE: 20 years after industrial kind of hit its peak many different kinds of artists are taking a page from that style to give their music a certain edge. What do you think of industrial productions styles being used in a variety of genres these days?
Mat: That’s kind of where I come from so I love it. I love heavy drums and bass and the industrial scene kind of peaked on that. And to get back to what we were saying earlier about the styles changing, industrial kind of went away and now people are using their favorite spices from that style to use in their music which I think is great.
SCENE: What has been the most rewarding thing about Puscifer for you personally?
Mat: Just to do what I love with people I respect and enjoy working with. We all admire what each other does and then we can all do our thing and come together on a project that is really close to everyone’s heart.
SCENE: So the tour starts next week?
Mat: Yep we start in Austin next week.
SCENE: What was the thought process in regards to bringing this album to the road?
Mat: We wanted to figure out a way to match the imagery to what we feel the sonic landscape is and how to present that in a way that is unique to us. We tried to make it something that would be a good accompaniment to the journey this album goes on in your head.
SCENE: Will it be similar to what we saw on Kimmel?
Mat: No, not at all actually.
SCENE: What songs are you most looking forward to playing live?
Mat: I liked the more electronic songs that we did. Like Monsoons, Oceans, and Horizons. The instrumentation is really fun to play live.
SCENE: Will we hear most of the album on the set lists?
Mat: Yeah there is a fair amount of the new record and our favorites from the first album and the EP.
SCENE: Well I have a group of friends who helped me brainstorm for this interview and we are all chomping at the bit.
I just wanted to congratulate you on a really impressive work of art. We love it very much.
Mat: Well thank you for reaching out.
Interview by: Jennie Orton