Steve Brodsky has been in the extreme-music game long enough to appreciate that there are ground rules to follow when you’re on the road.
A big one is to be grateful that there’s still an audience for bands that don’t understand the word compromise. So while Brodsky’s new endeavour, Mutoid Man, isn’t playing major-league hockey rinks and finer football stadiums on its current tour, the veteran singer-guitarist isn’t complaining.
“We could be making about 50,000 more a night, but so far we’re having a great time,” Brodsky says on his cell from a tour van headed to Raleigh, North Carolina. “Even if there’s like 30 or 300 people, you always just add a thousand to the audience in front of you and pretend that’s who you’re playing for. It’s a good psychological trick.”
Brodsky, who’s in his mid-30s, has been in bands his whole life, his first high-profile act being Salem, Massachusetts’s metalcore pioneers Converge. The singer-guitarist would go on to form long-running extreme noise alchemists Cave In, a group with a discography as extensive as it is punishing.
That he’s having a good time today is important when one considers what kind of headspace he was in leading up to the formation of Mutoid Man. Although he’s a bona fide icon in the underground metal world, Brodsky found himself feeling adrift after members of Cave In started having families, which had an effect on both writing music and touring. He shook things up first by moving from Boston to New York City.
“I moved to New York because of a woman that I was dating,” Brodsky says. “We were in a long-distance relationship, so that helped expedite the moving process. But even before that, I’d always felt that New York might be a good place to live. Having grown up in Massachusetts, I was really comfortable there. So I felt that at some point it would be really good to throw caution to the wind and move somewhere completely new—to be a little out of my comfort zone.”
That led to his hooking up with Converge drummer Ben Koller, the two working on songs that surfaced on Mutoid Man’s 2013 debut EP, Helium Head. The reception was positive enough that the group enlisted bassist Nick Cageao and then got to work crafting Bleeder.
Those who like their metal raw, ugly, and aggro won’t be disappointed by the shock-and-awe brutality of “1000 Mile Stare” and “Dead Dreams”. But Mutoid Man also finds Brodsky branching out from the sound he’s famous for. “Bridgeburner” sounds straight from a time when every Chevy panel van came complete with mag wheels, an 8-track tape player, and a Viking airbrushed on the side, while the roiling “Beast” is galloping classic rock welded to crossover hardcore. The tech-metal clinic “Soft Spot in My Skull”, meanwhile, can’t decide if it wants to cut up another line of speed or load up the bong.
“I guess I didn’t know it at the time, but it definitely was a good move for me creatively,” Brodsky says of relocating to New York. “Just being in survival mode kind of kicks in all these new instincts that you’re not really very familiar with. You have to readjust from a creative standpoint. And that’s really exciting. Prior to starting Mutoid Man, I felt like I was kind of in a rut writing heavy music. Between the years of 2005 and 2011, I didn’t think I was coming up with anything that was really great in the realm of heavy music. And if I did, it wasn’t coming out at a quick rate. When I started jamming with Ben, something clicked, and I tapped into a well of heavy-music writing that seemed to be just sitting there waiting to be opened.”
Mutoid Man plays Venue on Sunday (August 23).