Mutoid Man is the best band you might never see. The three-piece is made up of Stephen Brodsky of Cave In, Ben Koller of Converge/All Pigs Must Die, and Nick Cageao aka the best soundman in all the land at Brooklyn metal bar, Saint Vitus. The band has played exactly one show and recorded one album. Then Ben moved to California and their future is ??????. We tried to get an answer to some of those many question marks from Stephen Brodsky. We also talked about the band’s weird, fucked up timing changes, Super Nintendo, and angry Cave In fans.
Mutoid Man’s debut/possibly final album, Helium Head, is out on November 29 from Magic Bullet Records. You can stream a brand new song from it, “Scavengers,” below.
Noisey: So, Mutoid Man. It’s kind of a supergroup of sorts.
Stephen Brodsky: That’s flattering, yeah.
It’s you from Cave In, Ben from Converge, and Nick. Has Nick been any bands that I’d know?
He did play bass for Ace Frehley’s band.
I’m assuming not KISS.
Yeah, maybe it’s Frehley’s Comet? You might have to do a little research on that.
[Note: A little research on that turned up no such thing. It was his solo tour, where he got to play a few dates.]
But it seems that right after you started up, Ben moved to California. So what the hell? Are you guys still gonna play?
Well, we’ve just got a pricier guarantee, that’s all. [laughs]
Do you plan on touring?
I think maybe the idea would be to get some shows on the west coast which would be fun and everyone is down to play. It’s just a matter of logistically working out. Because we had that one show at Saint Vitus at the end of September.
How many shows have you played total?
Just that one as a full group. But then Ben and I actually played some of the Mutoid Man songs at a solo show I had at Saint Vitus last year as a two-piece. It was like, three or four of the songs that ended up on the record.
How did the project start in the first place?
Well, Ben was playing in Cave In for a few tours that we did. And this was in ‘05, ‘06 when Cave In was touring on Perfect Pitch Black. J.R. at the time was living in Germany and he was just kind of off the grid. The record came out and the band decided that we wanted to do something to push the album. Ben was on board to play with us. So that’s kind of how the musical chemistry between he and I started. And then two years ago, I moved to Brooklyn. He was living in Brooklyn at the time. We both shared a rehearsal space. We were like, “Man, why don’t we get together and jam and throw some riffs at each other?’ That was it.
And you guys made your “debut” on Jimmy Kimmel Live.
Mutoid Man "performing" on Jimmy Kimmel Live. (Claps count as performing, right?)
How did that come about?
Exactly in the opposite way that it was intended. Basically, we got invited to the show by Chris Maggio who’s playing in the band Sleigh Bells. He gave us the invite. I was out in L.A. Ben and I had nothing else going on that night and just thought it’d be a fun, cool experience to hang out with Chris and see what it was all about. So when it came time for the actual taping of the performance, we were like, “Man, the last thing we want is to be on camera right now. We’re gonna stand in the back.” So we’re in the back of the performance area and these people come around and they’re like, “OK so just so you know, this is where Jimmy’s gonna come out and introduce the band and talk a little bit.” And it happened to be right where we were standing.
What would you describe your sound as?
It’s like mutant thrash punk with a love for twisted numbers and time signature warpings. If I would come up with a riff, Ben would be like, “Can we fit that into 13/8?” OK, let’s try it! We’d stretch and mess with riffs until they were in a time signature that was messing up my brain in a good way. And that was the great thing about writing the stuff with him. He’s got a very strong songwriting sensibility. He would just twist and tie my brain into knots and I’d think over these riffs and song ideas until they felt like second nature.
So now that Ben moved, how seriously are you guys gonna take this project?
I think we’d like to do the group as much as possible. Realistically speaking, yeah, there’s a logistic factor involved where we’re a bicoastal unit and Ben is the drummer of Converge. Converge is his number one thing at this point. He’s been with those guys for ten years so it’s understandable.
Why’d he move out again?
I think he and his lady just wanted a change. He loves Vegas. He’s actually really good at gambling. He’s a solid gamer.
Is he like Rain Man?
[laughs] He’s just got...All right, so me, Ben, and Kurt from Converge shared an apartment in Watertown, Massachussetts at one point. That was when I first met Ben. This was when Drowningman were recording their “worst album ever” on purpose as a way of getting out of their contract with, I think Equal Vision, at the time. I’m not exactly sure. But whatever the case, they were signed to a label, they weren’t happy about it, so they were recording their worst album ever so it was this total mindfuck shitshow of a recording. Ben and I did a cover of “Ziggy Stardust” and “The Spider from Mars.” We covered that song but changed all the lyrics around to reflect the history of Drowningman and Kurt recorded it on his Pro Tools rig which was set up at the apartment at the time. So that was our very first recorded collaboration.
So another thing I remember about that time was I was really wrapped up in playing these old Super Nintendo games and trying to go back and beat Zelda and Metroid and I remember Ben was living across the hall from me. So I would hit him up for like, “Hey, do you have any tricks to get past this level? I can’t warp to this mountain or whatever.” So he’d be like, “Oh yeah, yeah. You just do this.” Or he’d look through an old Nintendo Power and hook me up. So I was like, “Oh man, this guy’s got a brain for video games.” He’s just a natural gamer is what it comes down to. So I think Vegas is a good place for him to be close to.
What’s his game?
He’s big into poker.
Your projects have a reputation for scrapping everything and starting all over again for each release. Is that deliberate?
Yeah, like a destructive nature, kind of.
Right. Almost like a phoenix rising from the ashes.
Well, it’s funny. My girlfriend’s got this book of—it’s like an astrology book. And for every day of the year, there’s a description of a person’s personality, their astrological signs, and other notable humans who were born on the same day. So I was doing a little reading up on mine, which is April 9.
Who was born on your birthday?
I wanna say Charles Dickens, but I’m not sure.
[Note: A little research turned up that Charles Dickens’ birthday is February 7.]
Yeah, so I’m a fire sign by nature. So fire tends to be a very destructive element. So I think just from what I read about this day in general and all the sort of coordinates surrounding it, it described me as having a very destructive side. So it kind of goes along with what you were saying.
This genre has a super easy fanbase to piss off. You try something new and people just want the first record over and over again. Obviously Cave In was a band that went all over the place. What were your dealings with fans? Did people come to your Jupiter tours wanting to hear Until Your Heart Stops material?
There was a degree of that. And to be fair, if somebody loves a record and they go to see the band that made that record and that band’s not playing anything from said record, they have a right to be upset.
Right, but also, audiences aren’t entitled to anything.
Yeah, I think at the time, Cave In was in a position where artistically, we were just trying to go forward and push ourselves as artists and as a group because when we finally settled on the lineup that we‘ve been for the past 15 years, we just felt like, “Oh man, this is great. We’re all comfortable with each other, musically and as people and the musical world is our oyster.” So it was a very forward-thinking time. And I think maybe we got a little caught up in how intensely, in how far we could take the reinvention of our sound and what we could do with our instruments.
Was it a deliberate choice? Were all the members of the band comfortable shifting sounds?
It was pretty unified because our lives were becoming more intertwined. We started spending more time together, doing more tours, and the band started to attract more attention. So as a result, our listening tastes tended to merge together and we were discovering new records together and really vibing out on older stuff we’d loved for a long time. It had a lot to do with finding the right personal chemistry. We were also young and sponge-like, taking in all these different musical influences. And in hardcore and metal, you watch a band like Dillinger play, or Botch, and these guys would just blow people’s minds with what they were doing with heavy music. It was humbling. It was like, man, I don’t know if we can top Until Your Heart Stops when it comes to that particular sound. Maybe we should just cut our loses and trip out a little bit.
[Note: A little research turned up that yes, Botch did in fact fucking rule.]Mutoid Man’s first show ever. Uhhh...yeah, do yourself a favor and watch this.