Lost in the High
Progged-out heavy rockers Mutoid Man talk strains and the art of restraint.
A long-simmering side project, Mutoid Man is the demented brainchild of Cave In vocalist/guitarist Stephen Brodsky and Converge drummer Benjamin Koller, whose union within the confines of a single band was aptly described by one reviewer on Punknews.org as "like having Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen play on the same team." Rounded out by lightning-fingered bassist Nick Cageao, Mutoid Man deliver howling psych-metal burners in unholy time signatures that, though stilted and staggered (as in “Friday the 13/8”), don’t come close to slowing the band’s speedy assault.
Given this, and the (literally) face-melting cover art of the band’s 2013 debut, Helium Head (Magic Bullet), it’s hardly surprising that the members of Mutoid Man have as many stories of getting space-shuttle high as they do memorable riffs.
“When I was in college,
I was like, ‘Give me that four-foot bong—I’ll smoke it,
I don’t care!”’ Koller recalls. Later, things got dark: “It affected me in ways I didn’t enjoy,” so he stopped. But Koller only recently discovered that different strains produce different effects. “I learned about sativa and indica, and I realized: ‘Maybe I just had indica over the last few years, and that’s why I hated it.’”
“It’s crazy,” Cageao agrees. “It’s so scientific: This one will get rid of your anxiety, this one will give you anxiety.” The bassist doesn’t seem particularly prone to the latter— probably because he has a mom who was chill enough to smoke pot with him while he was growing up. “She hadn’t smoked since my brother, who’s 14 years older than me, was born—so the first time I smoked with her, she was a one-hit wonder!”
For his part, Brodsky has been taking a yearlong break from pot (until tonight), but he admits to having written most of Helium Head “while I was high off my gourd”—a condition that seems to have been par for the course with him. Brodsky remembers a particularly twisted adventure that he had in Europe.
“I ate a bag of pot. By the time we got to the show, my head was leaving my body.”
“The first time Cave In ever played Brussels, I had bought a bag of weed,” he says. “I knew we were going to be approaching this checkpoint, and I figured, T can’t smoke all this right now, because if the van is filled with pot smoke, they’re gonna know something’s up.’” So rather than jeopardize the gig, Brodsky decided to eat the evidence. “I’ve got some Mars Bars here,” he recalls thinking. “I’ll just wash it down with some chocolaty snacks.”
“Super Troopers style!” Koller interjects with a cackle.
“So I ate a bag of pot,” Brodsky continues, “and by the time we got to the show, my head was leaving my body. The tour manager was like, ‘Dude, you’re turning green.’” Brodsky managed to make it onstage and turn on his amp. “It was like hearing electric guitar for the first time—I was like, ‘THIS IS AMAZING!!’ We started our set, and I was probably five or 10 seconds behind at every single point. People were legitimately bummed out, wanting refunds.”
Were his bandmates angry? According to a grinning Brodsky, they were just stunned: “They had never seen someone so fucked up before.” They had a long time to marvel—the high went on to last 52 hours. ^
Back From Black
While playing in a previous band, drummer Koller ate a pre-show cookie—and blacked out mid-song. “I came to and everyone was staring at me: band, crowd. The bass player mouthed, ‘Drum fill!’ and mimed the fill, and I was like, ‘Oh yeah!’ and came back in.”