Interview: Paul Meany of Mute Math Talks Spirituality, the Keytar and Atari

November 20, 2006 · Print This Article

By Kevin Selders

Fresh off a 40-city headlining tour with Shiny Toy Guns, Jonezetta and The Whigs, Paul Meany, lead singer/keytar player/magician of the alt-rock band Mute Math, took time to share with Interference where he found the band’s hyper drummer, how the keytar has always been cool and details about the mysterious home-made instrument, the Atari.

Mute Math, a four-piece from New Orleans, also features Greg Hill (guitars), Roy Mitchell-Cardenas (bass) and Darren King (drums/samples/programming). The band’s sound includes hints of everything from DJ Shadow and Bjork to U2 and The Police. The band recently played Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza, the Warped Tour, England’s V Festival and the CMJ Music Marathon in New York City.

Mute Math’s self-titled debut is available on Warner Bros. The band will play Jimmy Kimmel Live Dec. 1. on ABC, tour with “How to Save a Life” hit makers The Fray through January, and visit Europe in February.

So, tell us, how was the CMJ Music Festival? What was the experience like for you guys?
There’s nothing more addicting for our band than playing shows in New York. I actually forgot that it was CMJ. We were in Times Square at BB Kings. It was splendid.

Your shows are so energetic – how do you keep the energy level up every night, as well as the spontaneity?
How do you get bulls to buck at a rodeo? And you should know it works on humans too.

Some of you have even suffered a few injuries during the tour because of your live show. Darren’s hand was all bloody toward the end of the show in Lawrence, Kan., yet he still managed to play the beat-heavy “Reset” with one hand. Explain how this is humanly possible.
It’s not. Darren was genetically engineered in an underground lab just outside of a small Siberian town called Fruscher. I found him on eBay.

How did the idea of MuteMath form? I know some of you were together in Earthsuit, which was very different sonically.
Well as soon as Darren arrived in the mail, we got to work. We wrote some songs, played some shows, found some more musicians, and before we knew it we had a band. I think in the beginning, Mute Math was just a side project for us, as we were spending more of our time trying to launch another band called Macrosick.

Some of your lyrics seem to have a spiritual side to them, Paul. It seems like a lot of bands – i.e. U2, Moby, Doves, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – are drawn to exploring that aspect of life, lyrically. Where does your inspiration come from for your lyrics?
I grew up in a very strict religious home. Had the do’s and don’ts of the Bible drilled into my head. I think, the older I got, the more suspicious I became of what all of that stuff was about, but was still strangely drawn to it. I have to assume everyone at some point in their life has had some tie in with religion whether they’ve embraced it or not. I think it’s a valid subject matter that intrigues us all on some level. As much bullshit that inherently gets attached to that topic, it’s still a part of me somehow, and when I sit down to write songs those ideas inevitably surface.

Musically, who are you influenced by as a band? There’s definitely a hint of the Police on songs like “Chaos,” and “Noticed.”
Well it’s no secret that we love the Police. They are in my opinion one of the classic bands who could write simple great songs and take it to new heights live. Other artists like Jimi Hendrix, The Who, U2, etc., all have written the text book on how to construct a complete musical experience.

Many people – fans and critics – are touting Mute Math as the “next big thing.” What’s it like hearing that, even before your debut album hit stores?
I think that phrase is way overused and doesn’t really mean anything anymore. I’m more concerned with just etching out a little nook in the music world where Mute Math can live and make music for a long time.

Your life on the road has been well-documented in your MySpace videos/iTunes podcast. You even rotate photos you receive from fans quite regularly on your site (many of which are quite good). How important is technology to the development of the Mute Math community you’ve created?
Actually, we owe a lot to electricity if you want to break it down. Forget about Tom [founder of MySpace] . . . what about Thomas Edison and Benji Franklin?

How was “Plan B” selected as the first single? There’s so many possible first singles on this album.
We didn’t select Plan B as the single, iTunes did. From the way I understand it, iTunes picks their favorite song, and you either go with it or you don’t get a single of the week. I like Plan B. It probably won’t end up as one of the officially released singles though.

You each play multiple instruments during your shows. Who plays the most instruments?
Out of necessity – Darren [King]
Effortlessly – Roy [Mitchell-Cardenas]
While wearing other instruments – Greg [Hill]
The wrong way – Me

Explain the keytar. How did you make it cool again? (If it ever was.)
I didn’t make it “cool again” . . . I just simply recognized an already existing phenomenon. I can’t take credit for the beauty in the flowers and trees just because I opened my eyes to see it.

Now explain the Atari.
I want you to imagine for a moment, if you will, a world where Atari games walk the streets of a red light district pimped by Radio Shack. The noises, the smells, the sights . . . That’s the Atari.

Your latest tour with The Whigs and Jonezetta winds up Nov. 19 at the Culture Room in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. What’s Mute Math’s next step toward world domination?
Getting our hands on a nuclear bomb.

For more information on Mute Math’s self-titled debut album and headlining tour, visit its official website or MySpace page.


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