Converge and Cave In have a long "incestuous musical relationship," as the latter's singer-guitarist Steve Brodsky puts it. Growing up together in the Nineties New England metal/hardcore scene, the two outfits have shared band members and overlapped in supergroups like Old Man Gloom. Their latest crossover is Mutoid Man, a swaggering riff monster that Brodsky and Converge drummer Ben Koller Frankensteined together a few years ago out of beloved scraps of Seventies hard rock, mathy Aughts metal and old-school video games like Smash TV, whose virtually unkillable boss lent the band its name.
When the group – originally a two-piece, now a trio with the addition of bassist Nick Cageao – dropped its debut EP, Helium Head, in 2013, it was unclear if the band would be a one-and-done phenomenon or if it'd be around for the long haul. Mutoid Man's raucous new full-length, Bleeder, set for release on June 30th, suggests the latter. Fusing Cave In's high-flying melodicism to Converge's knotty riffage, the album rumbles and soars like Mastodon stomping Queens of the Stone Age in a prehistoric Soundgarden.
Below, you can stream the song "Sweet Ivy," which according to Brodsky was inspired both by level two of the video game Contra and a female acquaintance named Ivy, and read our chat with the jocular trio, touching on everything from the musical joys of Nintendo to the gruesome dangers of drum stools.
Are you guys all big gamers?
Nick Cageao: I grew up watching my brothers destroy video games. I was OK at some but they were amazing. Ben and Steve are light years ahead in the being good at games department. Ben's Tetris skills are phenomenal.
Ben Koller: I was completely obsessed with Nintendo when I was a kid. I've played games here and there pretty consistently but not in the past few years. Being married with two kids and playing in four bands [Mutoid Man, Converge, All Pigs Must Die and Killer Be Killed] pretty much occupies 100 percent of my free time. I still have pretty sick Tetris chops though. I encourage anyone to bring an 8-bit Nintendo console and a copy of Tetris to the Mutoid Man merch table. If you can beat my score, you can have a free shirt.
Steve Brodsky: Not only is Ben a savage drummer, he's like Fred Savage in The Wizard.
Do video games influence the band musically as well as thematically?
Koller: I've been pretty obsessed with classic 8-bit Nintendo game themes lately. Playing along on drums to those songs is an interesting way to get inspired musically. Some of the weird rhythms I've found in the games have bled over into what I play in Mutoid Man.
When Mutoid Man started, it seemed like it might just be a fun, one-off project. Are you guys surprised that the band made it to a second record?
Cageao: Every day.
Koller: Not at all. Our momentum after the first record was too massive to silence. We're like a dick pic on the Internet. You can try to hide us and delete us all you want, but the fact of the matter is we're here to stay and eventually we'll surface somewhere.
Brodsky: I'm mostly surprised at how quickly it came together. We finished in nine days – some people take that long just to map out click tracks.
How would you describe the band's sound to someone who's never heard Mutoid Man?
Cageao: Meth addiction?
Koller: Combine every leg split Jean-Claude Van Damme has ever done in a movie and imagine what that would sound like musically in your brain.
Brodsky: The ghosts of Sir Lord Baltimore and Captain Beyond on a sonic pub crawl.
Did you try to do anything in particular differently between Helium Head and the new one?
Koller: Not really. We still sound like Van Damme doing splits, except maybe a little deeper and more influenced by classic thrash metal.
How did Nick come to be part of the band? What has he brought to it?
Cageao: Nothing. He's a loser.
Brodsky: Nick actually mixed the very first [Mutoid Man] show [in 2012 at NYC metal club Saint Vitus, where Cageao serves as sound man] when we were a two-piece called Narcoleptic Beagle.
Koller: He pays us $100 per day to play in the band. He brings a huge package, ferocious slap bass and tarantula-like fingers blasting on the frets.
Steve, would you say that Mutoid Man has become your main band at this point, rather than a Cave In side project?
Brodsky: Mutoid Man is taking on a life of its own and I'm excited to see how far we go. And there's plenty of love for Cave In within this band – I think at one point we were covering almost three Cave In songs in our set, so it's not a matter of choosing one over the other.
Since the new album’s called Bleeder, when’s the last time you guys bled for music?
Cageao: I'm very clumsy. Always bleeding.
Koller: I like to think that all three of us have literally and figuratively bled for our music ever since we picked up our instruments. A good amount of the music I've played in my life has very much been a labor of love, and I've been in plenty of bands that have put in countless hours of work with little or no financial gain. I would never change a thing, though, since music is one of the only things on this planet that can stay completely pure, if you so choose.
As far as literally bleeding, I've done plenty of that too. At the last Mutoid Man show my drum seat completely broke off the stand and the throne hardware entered me about six inches. I had to go to the emergency room to have it surgically removed.
Not really. That would have been cool though.