By JOHN BENSON
Staind guitarist Mike Mushok can't remember if the rock band has ever played Youngstown before.
"I'm not sure if we have or not," said Mushok, calling from Lake Tahoe, Nev. "I'm going to say probably not."
Considering the post-grunge act has probably played a thousand or so dates since the turn of the century, you'll have to cut the founding band member some slack. Still, and perhaps oddly, he's apologetic when discussing the fact Staind's upcoming show Tuesday at the Chevrolet Centre is probably the group's Mahoning County debut.
Dude, your band is known for angst-ridden anthems and emotionally-draining aggression. Don't go Alan Alda on us. You're a rock star living the rock 'n' roll life.
Whereas this may have been true years ago, Mushok is currently awaiting his wife to give birth to twins. So much for the after-party hi-jinx but then again, Staind always seemed to be cut from the same anti-materialism and anti-celebrity cloth that defined the grunge era of the early '90s.
The band's journey began around the same time Mushok met Aaron Lewis at a Christmas party. It would be years before Staind's 1998 debut "Dysfunction" started turning heads in the hard rock scene, which at the time was decidedly nu-metal friendly. The band's sophomore album "Break the Cycle" produced anthemic-based singles "It's Been A While" and "Outside." Staind was on its way; however, over the years that have followed, the band has separated itself from many of its peers.
Importance of melody
"We really started to adapt when we realized how important melody was to song and even into the music itself," Mushok said. "Even a lot of the stuff I come up with, I try to think that there's melody in just the music alone and try to interject that into the great melodies Aaron comes up with, even if it's just something playing in the background. Just something to make it a little bit more interesting or might grab your ear at some point."
He added, "I just think it's trying to focus on writing the best songs you can and just realize you play for the song, you don't need to show off."
Mushok goes on to talk about longtime Journey drummer Steve Smith, who, well, plays in Journey, which in the '70s and '80s -- for good or bad -- produced as basic a bar-band sound as you can get. The Staind guitarist said he heard Smith recently on another project and was blown away at his ability. From this he learned a valuable lesson.
"It doesn't mean you have to show off your chops all of the time," Mushok said.
Perhaps it's the impending fatherhood talking or the fact the band is getting older, but there's a sense of maturity among the Staind members that makes you think they could be around for years or decades to come.
"It's one of those things that I guess time will tell," Mushok said. "I have to say that I'm really happy that we're still here and we're still around and we're still doing what we're doing. I give credit to anybody who can do well in this business. I don't care if it's Kelly Clarkson or Metallica, it's not an easy business to be able to have success and maintain success."
He added, "I feel fortunate that we can still maintain some level of success. And we owe that to having really good fans who allow us to do that."