Theoretically, Mudvayne could have a new album in stores next week if they wanted to. Problem is, the alterna-metal outfit doesn't want to. They're not ready to part with it yet and won't be for a while — despite earlier reports that the band's fourth studio LP would be finished in time for an early 2008 release.
That's because frontman Chad Gray has had a change of heart. He'd like to tinker with the songs the group has worked on, and he wants his band to come up with even more material he can work with.
"We basically have a record done, but I stepped away from it for a while, while doing this Hellyeah thing," he said, referring to the side project he's touring with through early December that has him and Mudvayne guitarist Greg Tribbett teaming up with Nothingface guitarist Tom Maxwell, Damageplan bassist Bob Zilla and Pantera kitman Vinnie Paul (see "Vinnie Paul Returns To Make 'Hellacious' Magic With Hellyeah"). "I started seeing some themes inside of what we were doing that we could, like, really go for. I kind of pulled off the initial direction and concept for the record, and I started seeing some things I was really into. I need more content, so I can go as far as I can with the concept of the newest record."
While he wouldn't discuss the forthcoming album's concept, he did explain that it won't be a concept piece as we've come to know it: "It's not Pink Floyd's The Wall," he said, "but it means something to us. One of the great things about Mudvayne is [our fans] know something's in there — we just don't tell them what."
But if they did decide to issue the album — the follow-up to 2005's Lost and Found — as it exists, Gray still thinks "it would surprise a lot of people. There's some f---ing home runs on the record." He said the material is a little more complex than typical Mudvayne fare — which is the way he wants it.
"Ultimately, music is art," he said. "If you're creating it for other people, you're missing the whole damn point. It has to mean something to you first. We've always written for ourselves. We never wrote for radio; radio came to us. This record is a really important record — as they all are — and now I've wrapped my head around it and have brought some other outside ideas into the mix. With this new record, I had one thing I was drawing material from, but the more I stood back and stared at it, the more I was like, 'You know what? I can introduce this and this, and I can expose this process of thought.' So this thing, to me now, has become a lot bigger than what it might have been before. It might have been a little more linear. Now it's growing, and I'm really excited about it."
Basically, if you're looking for cookie-cutter metal, this isn't the album for you.
"Music isn't always about being easy. Art's not always easy," Gray continued. "You can look at a Georgia O'Keefe [painting], and it's right there. If you look at a Jackson Pollock or a Barnett Newman, it's a whole different bag of tricks. And to try and really get where the artist is coming from isn't easy. That's what we've tried to do with our music — challenge our listeners a bit. There's enough cattle-call stuff out there, and we like to try and challenge our fans. Because of that, we haven't sold millions of records. You go one way or the other. You can write no-brainer, 'Did it all for the nookie' stuff and sell 8 million records. That appeals to more people because not everybody wants to think or work for entertainment."
Given all this, Gray can't even guesstimate when the LP will be in stores. He's on the road with Hellyeah until the holidays and plans to hit the studio with Mudvayne in January. But there's still a lot of work to be done. So in the meantime, the band will release By the People, for the People on November 27, "to remind everyone the band's still together." The compilation disc will boast a track list chosen entirely by Mudvayne fans (via the band's MySpace page), as well as two new songs: "Dull Boy" and a cover of the Police's "King of Pain."
" 'Dull Boy' was actually written for the new record, and it's kind of cool because it kind of foreshadows what's to come with Mudvayne," Gray said. "Not to give anything away, but it's just a little piece of this new record that we're putting on this compilation set. It's kind of weird, and it has some themes in it that are pretty accurate to where we want to go or where we hope to get to. It's got a big chorus with a cool hook. It's badass and has a bizarre verse. It's a real brooding song."
Gray said the idea behind By the People, for the People was born out of a conversation the band had concerning the many hard drives full of songs they've amassed from various recording sessions over the years.
"We have a lot of f---ing music," he confided. "I think it's a great idea to have our fans pick the track listing, because our fans are very, very loyal, and they have been there since the beginning. This is for our fans, something we wanted to do to give back. We'll let them pick the tracks, and we'll determine what version they're going to get — whether it's a live version, the demo version, an acoustic version of a song. There's going to be a pretty extensive amount of stuff on it."
He said the effort may even include versions of Mudvayne songs no one outside the band has heard before. "There are versions of songs that don't have the same choruses," he explained. "Like 'Silenced' [from 2002's The End of All Things to Come] — it has a completely different chorus on the demo version. You'll be getting a behind-the-scenes, sneak peek into the creative process and be able to see how the song developed."
The Police cover, Gray explained, was originally tracked back in 1999, but the band re-recorded it for By the People, giving it a different sound.
"At first, we did it just for the hell of it because we loved the song, loved the band. It's a great title and a great track," he said. "But stylistically, I have changed over the years. I sing differently now than I did in '99. My attitude is different, and I look at things differently. I'm older, not as angst-ridden. I look at the world differently and I look at life differently. I wanted to do it over, the way we see it now, and the music's completely different now. It's a lot more mature, and I can't wait for people to hear it."