Back in 2005, metal-leaning hard-rock troupe Mudvayne found themselves in unfamiliar territory. They had just released Lost and Found, which sold close to 152,000 copies in its first week. That sales total was more than enough to land the LP at #2 on the Billboard albums chart. Sure, it wasn't the elusive #1 opening they'd been hoping for, but it was still a monumental feat for Mudvayne.
That week, it was Mariah Carey's The Emancipation of Mimi that took the chart's top spot, with more than 403,000 copies flying off store shelves. Finishing third, behind Mudvayne, was 50 Cent's The Massacre.
"I remember that day, when we found out we'd gotten #2. It was like, 'Oh, man — #2,' and we were all pretty bummed," frontman Chad Gray recalled. "But I told the guys, 'You know what today is? Today's the day that 50 Cent and Mariah Carey learned who Mudvayne is.' 50 Cent was the #3 album that week, and I guarantee you he went, 'Who in the hell is Mudvayne?' Maybe even Mariah Carey went, 'Who's Mudvayne?' "
Since then, Mudvayne have expanded their fanbase through constant touring and a stint on Ozzfest. And they've been dormant for so long, perhaps fans will race right out and pick up their forthcoming album, the Dave Fortman-helmed The New Game, when it drops November 18. With Slipknot earning the first chart-topping debut of their career a few weeks back and Metallica topping the charts this week with their fifth straight #1 opener, perhaps this time around, Mudvayne can do what Mariah prevented them from doing three years ago. Still, Gray isn't holding his breath.
"I've never had a #1 record. ... #2 was pretty cool, but ultimately, it's not super-important to me to have a #1 record," he admitted. "It'd probably be good for the band, but the whole climate's changed since then. I think that we have one of the most loyal fanbases ever, and we have fans that like to be challenged. At the end of the day, it really doesn't matter to me, man. I would like to have a #1 record, but it's been three years, and I almost can't remember what a Mudvayne release feels like. Maybe we've been gone too long?"
But if The New Game does open on top (which might be hard, considering "American Idol" champ David Cook, Kelly Clarkson, Beyoncé and Nickelback are all eyeing that same date for their efforts), Gray wouldn't complain. "It would let me know that the fans still believe in what we do," he said. "But we're coming out at a weird time, towards the end of the year — there will be lots of stuff dropping that week. I don't think we know what we're up against at this point."
He did, however, know that November 18 would not be the day 50 Cent's Before I Self Destruct is due.
Mudvayne are giving their fans ample incentive to help them in their cause. The boys have concocted a scheme that they hope will discourage fans from illegally downloading the disc, while at the same time saving them some cash — it's called "The Album Is the Ticket" program. When a fan buys The New Game, they'll be able to purchase tickets to the band's upcoming tour — which kicks off October 28 in El Paso, Texas, and will feature the reunited Snot and 10 Years in the opening slots — and will earn membership to the band's fan club, where a number of free goodies await.
"Giving back is kind of the theme of this whole record," he said. "We're just trying to help people who are getting squashed. This economy is affecting everyone, and we're not Bill Gates over here — driving Ferraris and sitting on a pile of money — but we're trying to do new and creative things just to help our fans out and drive this market a little bit. When you buy the record, it will be your ticket into the show, and we're saving you some money."
So how does the new material sound? "It sounds great, man — I love it," Gray said. "It's just surpassed my expectations, and I'm really proud of it. It's obviously a more mature record, because we've matured since the last one. We're just pretty tuned in to what we do now. It's not easier for us to write records, but I think we understand each other better, so it kind of makes it a little easier. But it's still calculated. We're just refining what we do.
"The key is to keep moving forward," he continued. "It's the same type of Mudvayne, where we don't question what we do. Things are still as disjunctive as they ever were, but the spaces between the craziness are a little more fluid. They kind of slide into each other a bit easier, so it makes it seem more like it's a little straighter. But if you really get into the nuts and bolts of what we're doing, I think it's just as intricate as anything we've ever done."
With Mudvayne taking up most of his time for the foreseeable future, Gray said his other project, Hellyeah, has been put on the back burner for now. But that band — which also features former Pantera kitman Vinnie Paul and Mudvayne guitarist Greg Tribbett — won't be in storage for long.
"Everybody in Hellyeah knows we're absolutely planning to continue," he said. "I think we'd be shooting ourselves in the foot and letting down a lot of fans if we didn't continue it. Our first record sold 330,000 copies. ... That's a pretty good indicator that you should keep writing records."