Mike Mushok talks Saint Asonia, Rock On The Range debut, tour and more

With Staind on hiatus indefinitely and ex-Three Days Grace singer Adam Gontier looking for a new music project, he has connected with Staind guitarist Mike Mushok and he two have united to form Saint Asonia with Corey Lowery and Rich Beddoe.

Their self-titled debut released in July and they’re currently out on the road to support the album and we recently sat down with Mushok to talk about Saint Asonia and what’s on the horizon.

FRR: We are here to talk about the new project, Saint Asonia, which has been very well received so far. Kind of a new project for everybody, I know you’re working with Adam and a bunch of guys. Who made the first move in setting this up?

Mike Mushok: I called Adam, actually. I knew once he left Three Days Grace…look, we had toured a bunch together back in the day, Staind and Three Days Grace…and I’ve always been a fan of not only the band with Adam but his voice, his melodies, his lyrics, and what he did both in the studio and live I thought he was a great front man also.

Aaron was promoting his country career so I have all of this music and I just called him up and said “Hey do you want to hang out?” I hadn’t seen him in a while because like I said we had toured together. I was actually out playing with Jason Newstead. Our tour ended in Toronto and I said “I’m gonna be in the area, it’s our last show so I can stay in town for a couple of days kind of hang out” so that’s what we did and that’s how it all started.

Things went really well, we just kind of got reacquainted, worked on some ideas, pretty easy. He made some suggestions, started coming up with stuff pretty quickly. Fast forward, he had a thing with RCA so we went and did a demo, I’d written some more songs for him and did a demo and they really liked it and that’s kind of when we figured it was going to be at the end that we’d make a record. So this January we went in in Chicago we did the record, and here we are.

FRR: So that was 2013/2014 when the talks initially started? At the end of Gigantour?

Mike Mushok: It was at the end of Gigantour, exactly it was. We kind of didn’t do anything for almost a year but that was when the seed was planted. We got together, we worked out some stuff, and you know Adam went through a bunch of personal things and that’s kind of what- he had some things he had to deal with on the personal side and that was last year, probably around the summer time and you know we stayed in touch and we talked and I had stuff, Staind did a tour last year and so after that we kind of got regrouped again and I started writing some different things for him and that’s what led to us going to do the demo.

FRR: How hard was it to keep this whole thing as secretive as you did for as long as you did, especially in today’s world of social media where everyone seems to know everything?

Mike Mushok: For me, I had none of that so it was real easy. I mean, I’ve never been on Facebook and I’ve never seen what Instagram is or Twitter- I don’t do any of that stuff, you know what I mean? So for me, it was real easy. I just kind of go about my day but it was true, our manager was like “oh we finished the record, nobody really knows about this.”

It wasn’t like I was keeping it a secret or anything- I had mentioned it. I remember doing some press for some Staind shows and they were like “What are you doing?” and I said “Oh, I just did a demo with Adam and we’re writing some songs” but nobody really picked up on it. It wasn’t like we were trying to keep it a secret but nothing ever really came out about it, you know what I mean?

FRR: That’s surprising that nobody really picked up on that- come on, you’re working with Adam. I can’t believe nobody put everything together!

Mike Mushok: Yea, no, nothing came of it! And the manager’s like “oh we can try to make it more of a surprise thing” because we’re ready to go out and work.

Does that make it a bit less stressful when you don’t have to worry about lots of questions, we can wait and now the record is done we can talk about it- a little bit less stressful that way?

Mike Mushok: Nah, I don’t think so. It wasn’t very stressful for me, it was fun. I knew what we had and I was very excited about it, so that makes things a little bit easier going in. If I would send Adam music to a song or we were together working on it or whatever, if he liked it he’d have lyrics written in a half hour, forty-five minutes and they were usually great. You kind of knew what you had and with that I just felt comfortable when we went in the studio. Listen, things changed a little bit, but for the most part we kind of knew roughly what we had going in.

FRR: You’ve obviously worked with Aaron for a long, long time with Staind and then you worked with Jason Newstead. Is there any difference writing songs with Adam as opposed to other front men, or is it pretty much the same process?

Mike Mushok: That was the thing- it was pretty easy. It wasn’t really much different I consider my job is that I have to come up with music that whoever it is will be inspired by it and want to sing over it. The problem I have sometimes is I’ll write something seven different ways or whatever just because I’m not sure, so it’s really good to get with that person finally and say “hey look, we can go this way” and they say “no, no that’s the way right there” and make suggestions and help guide it to where they want it to be for them to be able to sing over it.

That was the thing with Adam that was pretty easy. I would play him something and if he liked it he might have a couple of suggestions, a couple of changes, we would do that and we’d either demo the song or change it right then and give it to him and he’d just go write melody and lyrics to it.

FRR: Your debut was Rock on the Range, which is the biggest show you could possibly play for your first show. Take me through the feeling you got when you walked on the stage, you hadn’t been announced, you were billed as the special guest- what was that feeling like?

Mike Mushok: Exciting. We were ready, we had rehearsed and I think everybody was pretty comfortable with what we had to do. I think we did six or seven songs, at this point we’ve all done this, so to get through a half hour set list was fun- it was one of those you blink and then it’s over, so it was really exciting.

I’ll tell you the one thing I was annoyed by was that we had a backdrop made and it was real windy and it was kind of raining on and off and they flew it for the first song, they didn’t even want to fly it for that, but then I turned around and it was down. That was the one thing that bothered me, was our backdrop but other than that it was fun to go up there and be able to finally play these songs live.

FRR: Nice. And if the backdrop is the biggest thing that goes wrong during the show, that’s a pretty good thing. There are so many things that can go wrong in a first show.

Mike Mushok: We’ve brought out…we’ve all done this, we know enough guys that we had good guys working for us up there that we all knew we could rely on and trust and that are pros so with that comes some security as well.

FRR: This fall you’re hitting the road on your first tour with Seether for a couple of dates. What better way to make a statement for that first tour- you guys all go back so far, so it’s like the perfect combination for a tour.

Mike Mushok: Totally. It was great. Shaun called and said he wanted us to do the tour, which was fantastic. So you’re right, yes, we’ve done a lot of shows with those guys so it’ll be great.

Mike Mushok: We have a little headlining thing coming up here starting next Friday so we’re starting to rehearse now and getting ready for that a couple weeks, then a couple of weeks off and then right in to the Seether thing.

FRR: So lots of touring coming up for you guys, aside from that what are the plans down the road? Is this a long-term project?

Mike Mushok: Yea, that’s definitely what the plan is. Besides some songs that we did finish and record but didn’t use, there were some other songs that we had been working on that at the end of the day we didn’t need for this record but there are plenty of other ideas out there and Adam’s always writing, I’m always writing. We’ll be on the road, that’s pretty much what I do- if I’m away from my family I’m going to utilize that time I pretty much play guitar all day long and record and work on music so we’ll all be out there together so that’ll be a great time to share some of that and start getting some new ideas together.

-Reggie Edwards