Tim Dodderidge recently spoke to Darren King, drummer of MuteMath, to get an in-depth look at the band’s current tour with Civil Twilight and the process of making their most recent album, Odd Soul. They also talked a bit about theology and how not only King’s beliefs affect the band, but also how all of his musical influences combine to help perfect MuteMath’s signature sound and live show.
You guys are currently on tour with Civil Twilight. How’s that been so far?
We’re on our very first show and I’m excited. Of course, they’re kind and cool. Right now we’re kind of a mess – getting all of our production together and our new lighting – so it’s a bit chaotic here today at the first show. We’re just ending the Honda Civic Tour, and that was about as cozy and easy as a tour can possibly be. I enjoyed it, but we only played for 30 minutes every day, so I look forward to getting to play a full set. Because after five songs, I’m just getting warmed up (laughs).
What was it like supporting Linkin Park and Incubus on the Honda Civic Tour?
They were both great. They were the two nicest bands we’ve ever toured with, and they were certainly gentlemen. We went camping on our day off and realized they certainly are at a different level as bands, and it was fun to hang out with them. I needed to get back in shape, so I was kind of easing back into drumming for those shows.
You released Odd Soul last year. How is the album different than your first two releases?
The biggest difference is that we self-produced it entirely. All the other albums were co-produced with other people. While we did bring help at the end on a couple songs and in the mixing/mastering phase, we recorded everything alone in our home. We worked pretty diligently in that regard, and despite the lack of help, we were in a much healthier, easier situation than if we worked with a producer.
What inspired the title of the album?
It came from the stories of our childhood adolescence. I always felt that I was a strange kid and that some day I would feel normal. But I feel like what’s weird about me is that – from the core of me outward – with everything that I do, normal is a facade. I just feel like I’m an odd soul, a weird core of who I am. I feel out of place often.
How did the departure of guitarist Greg Hill affect the band and the writing/recording process for Odd Soul?
It was terribly sad when he left. Greg and I grew up together in Missouri. He was one of the main influences to get me to start drumming; he was one of the main reasons why I picked up drumsticks. And I didn’t see it coming. We had our struggles and our disagreements, and I thought things were getting better. In fact, I think that he was in the process of distancing himself and things were getting more peaceful. Suddenly, one day we ended up in an argument, and in that time I realized how fortunate I am to be in a band, and that as soon as Greg left, how quickly the whole band could end. It made us all grateful. It made Paul [Meany, vocalist/keyboardist], Roy [Mitchell-Cardenas, bassist] and I have a new perspective on what it means to be musicians and tour, writing songs and working together. We’re thankful for that. But I still miss the guy.
Your sound is very unique, blending elements of rock, blues, indie, and electronica. Where do all of your sound’s influences come from?
All of the above and more. Oftentimes, when we write a song, it’s interesting how we have something in mind that we want it to sound like – a certain group or a certain thing – and the final product sounds nothing like that. I’m not sure exactly if that’s a good thing. But it sounds nothing like the influences we’re trying to draw from. The biggest goal we had with this record was to try and make something that translates well live, and was still like our live show felt – we never had as much energy and intensity as our live show did.
What would you say are some of your biggest musical idols? Why?
John Lennon, Brian Wilson, Gene Krupa, Mozart, Charles Mingus. All the great drummers. All the great rock drummers, like Keith Moon. All the great modern drummers, and all the creative people. LCD Soundsystem. All the great songwriters – Iron & Wine is one of my favorites. We get to play a show with them in Mexico City on the same stage, and I can’t wait to hear those songs live. I’ve never seen Iron & Wine live before; I think he’s the best lyricist living. Leonard Cohen. I could go on about all of my favorites for various reasons. The things they do that I love makes me feel very inferior (laughs).
Do you consider MuteMath to be a Christian band? How does your guys’ faith affect the way you write, record, and play music?
No, I don’t consider us to be a Christian band. We don’t play in churches, or at Christian festivals. We were raised in church, though. I have two different definitions of being Christian. My Jewish friend joked that he is Jew-ish (laughs). No matter what, he would play this certain part in the Jewish culture. And for me, there’s this Christian culture and way of looking at the world that I was so deeply entrenched in and this way of life that made me feel so valuable, that I cannot fully submerse myself in that. Even if I’m doubting or struggling, I’m doing that in such a Christian way. So there’s that part of it, and I call it “Chrish” culture, or “Chrish” roots.
Then there’s this whole other thing, the real question: do I believe in sin, do I believe in the punishment of sin, do I believe in Hell? All of this stuff. Throughout my life, the older I get, the harder it is for me to be comfortable. There’s a verse in the Bible where Jesus says that you would never give up your kid and you’re going to love your kid, but, well, there’s this heavenly father that’s so much better than that. And I have a hard time coming to terms with the idea of a loving father that would allow anyone to make the mistake that would send them to eternal torture. Because I have a daughter, and though I could never predict how bad she would be, I would never let my own father get in the way of it.
If I were to break down my actual theology, I think it would sound a bit strange, and maybe even unbiblical to some, but I like it. A lot of Christians would probably consider it to be unchristian, but I don’t. I think it’s an improvement on what I was raised as, and I think that’s how it should be; each generation gets a better idea than the previous one, and it’s okay that the old idea goes away. Maybe someday I’ll have the opportunity to explain the whole thing, but that’s where I am.
If it works for you, then that’s great.
Is there anything else you want to say to your fans?
Come to the show. There’s nothing I hate more than when a fan finds out the day after that we just played in their city. That’s torture to me.
Man, I hate that.
Yeah, and thank you for doing the interview to make sure that doesn’t happen (laughs).