Waylon Reavis has blazed his own trail when it comes to his career in the music industry. He rose to fame as the vocalist for Mushroomhead after taking over the reigns from Jason “J-Mann” Popson in 2004. The early years were a trial by fire but Reavis quickly rose to challenge and captivated audiences around the globe with his powerful performances. Reavis served as co-vocalist for Mushroomhead from 2004 to 2015 and appears on the albums “Savior Sorrow” (2006), “Beautiful Stories for Ugly Children” (2010) and “The Righteous & The Butter?y” (2014), as well as other projects including Tenafly Viper, which also featured former Chimaira bassist Jim LaMarca.
After his departure from the band in late 2015, he set out on a quest to forge his own musical destiny. Pouring his heart and soul (not to mention countless man hours and quarts of blood, sweat and tears) into his quest for musical exploration paid off in spades — A Killer’s Confession was born! The band, consisting of consists of Waylon Reavis (vocals), Jon Dale (drums), JP Cross (bass), Matt Trumpy (guitar) and Paul Elliott (guitar), unleashed its debut album April 28th via EMP Label Group, the label founded by Megadeth bassist David Ellefson. “Unbroken” was produced by Reavis and the song “A Killer’s Confession” was co-produced with Thom Hazaert, Engineer/Mixer Richard Easterling (American Head Charge, Doll Skin, Emperors and Elephants) at Richmond, KY’s Third Sky Studio.
Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with Waylon Reavis to discuss his life in music, breathing life into A Killer’s Confession, the challenges he has faced along the way and what lies ahead for him musical.
Let’s start at the beginning. How did music first come into your life?
That’s a really good question. As a kid, we had a piano in the house and my sister Amy took lessons. She tells me that when I was a little fella, we’re talking 3 or 4 years old, after she would practice and everyone would leave that they would hear the piano going off. It was from me banging on it! Throughout that, she started to hear chords and notes. Remember, I was just a little fella and nobody was teaching me how to do this and I was figuring out how to put together notes to make a chord, all on my own. At the same time, my dad was saying, “The boys aren’t going to play music. They are going to play football and the girls will play music.” He didn’t want me in music, so I never really pushed on him for it, which would come into play later in my life. He wasn’t really happy about the decisions I had made to become a musician. We ended up resolving that on his deathbed, which is awesome. We talked about it and I asked him why. He really just wanted a good life for me and was just scared that I wouldn’t ever accomplish anything. He said, “If I knew you would have ever gotten this far, I would have supported you but I always thought it was just a fad.” [laughs] That’s kind of how it all started. I come from two families, my dad was divorced and a Southern Baptist and my mom was a Jehovah’s Witness, so, especially on my mother’s side, everything was the devil. [laughs] I wasn’t really allowed to listen or watch too much. I didn’t even truly learn when my birthday was until I was about 7 years old because we weren’t allowed to celebrate it. Birthdays were off-limits and you didn’t celebrate that kind of stuff. I was very sheltered. I couldn’t watch certain programs or listen to certain music.
As I got older, I started sneaking around and listening to Metallica, when I was around 15 years old. Music became a big part of my life as a teenager. Music for a teenager is a big thing! I started seeing these local bands and I had no clue you could do this. I never realized that you could pick up a guitar, have someone play drums and write your own songs. I had no clue how to write a song or anything like that! I had this moment when I was like, “Wow!” Then, my buddy got me into Marilyn Manson and Korn. They were on tour with Danzig. It was May 5, 1995, and that was the first national concert I ever went to! I snuck out of my house and said I was going to spend the night at my buddy’s house and we went to see the concert. Korn was opening the show and they were playing the self-titled album. By the time they had gotten offstage, my whole life’s path was set for me, if you catch my drift. It was one of those life-changing moments for me. That was the moment when I realized there was nothing more important than doing this, other than raising my children and all of that. I’m so thankful for that and I have so many good memories and so many bad memories! [laughs] I wouldn’t change a thing! If it hadn’t been for everything that happened before today then I wouldn’t be right here, right now speaking with you.
As you said, you experienced ups and downs along the way. What served as fuel for your creative fire?
That’s a great question! I live off of emotion and if I’m not really feeling my life, meaning that I’m not really into a project I’m doing, it’s going to reflect in the music. What’s really fueled A Killer’s Confession is that it all comes back to being on me. With Mushroomhead, it was Steve [Felton]’s project and vision. They created their sound long before I came around. I added to that. I’m not trying to be arrogant but it’s not something I helped create along the way. A Killer’s Confession has brought me back to what I want to do. Lyrically and creatively, it came back to me like it had when I was first starting but now everything I have learned from Mushroomhead also comes into play. Now I know how to properly do things in the studio and stuff like that. I can take all that experience and put it into this project. The inspirations come from dreams that I have. We’re in a great space creatively. I will lay back and have a melody in my head and somehow, in my dream state, I’m able to put my words to it. The words tell the stories of these things that are weighing on my mind. For example, “1080p,” off this album, is very much about social media and the loss of a connection between people these days and how you are glued to what social media is telling you. A Killer’s Confession has also allowed me explore my inner demons and dealing with myself. I think it’s my inner-psyche speaking now. I’m lucky it’s been coming to me so easily and once it’s there, it’s there. I feel like I have so much to say but I’m such a sporadic guy from one moment to the next, I feel like the back side of my mind put it together for me! [laughs] There was a point where I was talking to them and we had seven songs for the next album and we hadn’t even released the first one! They have started turning new stuff over to me, which I’m loving, and it’s really good too! I’m not even gonna lie. I called and said, “You motherfucker! I love it! You made it that fucking good that it’s going to be that much harder to write! Fuck you!” [laughs] It’s one of those situations.
What goals or aspirations did you have when you went into this project?
I wanted this to be the greatest thing I have ever done. I wanted this to be the culmination of everything I’ve worked so hard at over the years and didn’t quite get there. I wanted this to take all those failures and achievements and put them together. This is what everything I have worked for over the years has become. Everything I have learned and everything I have strove to achieve has come together to become the greatest thing I’ve ever done. I really think this project suits me as a vocalist. Style-wise, with [Matt] Trumpy and the guys I work with, they get it. They get what type of vocalist I am and they write for that! They really try to cater to who Waylon Reavis is as a vocalist. I can’t be more thankful to have that because it could be someone just throwing some shit together on Pro Tools, chopping it up and changing what you thought it would be. These guys sent me full songs and allow me to see it through before any changes are made. There are times when a part may not be working for me or I don’t think it sits right. They allow me to work the song through, so that I can get the full idea through. I’m very proud of this project and I really believe it’s the best thing I have ever done and it’s just getting started!
What are the biggest challenges you faced in bringing A Killer’s Confession to life?
With this project, my wife and I quickly learned, to get our shit together and have the right equipment. It was very expensive to put it all back together because I was a vocalist. I understood this was my project. The guys I choose, who I call The Chosen Ones because they really are, they were the right people at the right time! Aside from that, it came down to getting the right equipment. None of these guys had a lot of money and we pretty much dumped our entire life savings into this. Usually, that is something you would do over time through playing shows. I wasn’t really given that option, if ya know what I’m saying! [laughs] We had to get it all together and it was definitely stressful. Ya know, the band has really only been together since September. Think about that and look at how much we have already done! It’s unheard of to be able to create a band, tour, be in the press, write and album and finish it, all starting in September. The album has been finished since December. You see, we had A Killer’s Confession, we did it and when we released that on October 30, 2016, they were already writing the songs for “Unbroken.” I got that in mid-November. I went in after Thanksgiving, somewhere around the 10th of December, and we finished it. That’s how long it was to write the album! He had like 30 days to do the album and I did the vocals in like two weeks altogether.
Where are you headed creatively in the future with A Killer’s Confession?
Oh my god! Like I said, we are already moving ahead. I think it’s going to be more refined. “Unbroken” had more of a raw edge to it because it was done so quickly. Moving forward, it’s still going to have the A Killer’s Confession sound but it will be more refined. What I love about [Matt] Trumpy is that he takes what I love the most about music, the Korn sound, and mixes it with that Meshuggah anger. He has realized that I am a huge Maynard [James Keenan] fan and he pulls a certain Tool/A Perfect Circle element into it with some of the flows he does. I have named the style he brings me Perfect Kornshuggah! [laughs] I think it’s going to blossom and become its own thing. I think it’s going to become a band where you hear it and you know it’s us. It’s hard to put into words but I’m excited about it! Like I said, their songs floored me so much I had to tell my guitarist “Fuck you” for being so good! [laughs] It really was, man! It’s not this factory type of bullshit where I am just trying to push music out because I have to do it because I have to do another tour cycle.
We have a plan — 10 years, 10 albums and out. I don’t really want to be out but that is my goal; I want to do an album every year. We are living in the age of ADD. Kids today, their opinions change, so you might as well change with them, as quickly as you can! Keep that new material running and have something new for tomorrow! Every time we finish an album, we are starting another album. If a major label comes along and decides they want to throw in to work with us, that’s something I would be very welcoming to do because it’s something I’ve never done. I feel, as a musician, you should never stop learning. Don’t ever think you’re the best you can be and you know more than everybody else. I constantly want to learn and I want to learn from somebody, so if that opportunity ever popped up, I would totally take it. I think it would be a very good educational experience for me in the group. I tell guys to always be on the lookout to learn something new and watch other bands. You don’t want to steal styles but be influenced by them and learn from it. If somebody’s doing something you really enjoy, find out what it is about it that you’re enjoying!
You do what you love and are someone who isn’t afraid to put their nose to the grindstone to make things happen. What is the best lesson we can take from your journey?
First of all, don’t burn your bridges. No matter how mad you get, don’t do it. We’ve got to be better than that. Learn from me. Secondly, remember the people who put you there. Love them and treat them like family! Those fans will stick by you and will pick you up when you fall. Always be good to them. Don’t put yourself in the position to make them look like fools, don’t treat them like fools and damn sure don’t money gouge them! Be there for them because they give you the opportunity to be a force in their life. They are the whole reason you are there. Honestly, that has been the key to my success. I love my fans and they know it! They are the unofficial sixth member of my band. I don’t try to cut them off from it. They’re just as much a part of the group as the group is. I try to connect with them whenever possible through social media. I tried to welcome them into my personal life as much as I can. I love them and I want them to get the opportunity to meet me. I’m nobody special. I put my pants on one leg at a time, I eat hamburgers and God knows I fart! [laughs] When they walk up to me, I don’t want them to be afraid. I want them to feel like they know me because that’s the way I’m going to treat them. I’m going to treat you like you’re an old neighbor or an old friend! Some people call it a flaw but I really think it’s been the key to my success — treating the fan as a person, not a commodity or a paycheck.
As you said, you are fairly transparent when it comes to your life. Are there are misconceptions about yourself?
Oh, yes, of course. A lot of people see the Mushroomhead stuff and the evil eyes … there’s a look I give. They don’t realize that I’m just being entertaining. With Mushroomhead, people love to pay to get scared. They do! They like that intensity! So yeah, there are misconceptions. My family even has misconceptions. My stepmother, for years, just thought the whole thing was done about the damn devil. I’m not the devil, I’m just lil’ ol’ Waylon! A lot of people had misconceptions about that and there were lots of rumors but that’s just people talkin’ out the back side of their face. People just need to read between the lines, man. Entertainment is just entertainment, it is. What I’m giving you when I doing the via feed on social media, that’s the dude you are going to meet! That is him. There is no act or bullshit there. I’m just being me! I talk like a broken wheelbarrow, I scream like a demon and I sing like an angel! I’m sorry! [laughs]
You are on the front lines as a working artist. What are the pros and cons of today’s music industry?
The first con is … get your head out of your ass and realize, if you’re my age, that this is not the industry you grew up with. It’s not. I think Ice-T said it best, when he said music is going to wind up being free one day. We’re just going to end up giving it away. No one buys CDs these days or at least no where near the way they did in the past. Get over getting rich, the drugs, women and fancy cars. Get over that shit! Do it because you love it! It’s a hard road. When you get on the road, you’re going to miss the ones you love. I love my fans and my band but when I’m gone, I miss my kids and my family. The only way I can make this work is by being on the road, which means I’m gone. You’ve got to love what you do because you’re going to be one of the loneliest individuals on the planet if you go and do this. You can surround yourself with a bunch of yes-men who can be your fluffer for your ego! [laughs] It can be a very lonely place. I’m lucky because I treated all as family and I try to stay close to my family and band. The motto of the company, AKC Global, is “Be loyal to your job and love your family.” I say that because the more loyal you are to your job, the more money you are going to make and the better you will be able to take care of your family. By the end of the whole journey, it’s all going to be one! It’s all going to be family. Keep your head in the right spot and push forward! The other important thing to remember is not to mimic what’s going on any given time. If you’re mimicking what is going on right now, you’re already 10 steps behind anyway. The greatest thing about being a musician is figuring out who you are and what your sound is. When you figure that out, that’s when your career starts being defined. I think that’s happening for me right now! It’s funny. I’m in the studio now and it feels like it’s something I should be at 25 years old. I’m like, “Lord, just give me some more years!” [laughs]
We wish you the best, Waylon. I look forward to seeing where you take A Killer’s Confession in the years to come!
Thank you, man! I really appreciate you taking the time, brother! Take care!
For all the latest news and tour dates for A Killer’s Confession, visit the official website at www.akillersconfession.com and follow the band on Facebook. Be sure to follow the continuing adventures of Waylon Reavis via Facebook!
Jason Price founded the mighty Icon Vs. Icon more than a decade ago. Along the way, he’s assembled an amazing group of like-minded individuals to spread the word on some of the most unique people and projects on the pop culture landscape.