By JAMES COOK
TRAVERSE CITY — Mushroomhead didn't start out as such.
Originally a side project for a band called Hatrix -- named after lead singer Jeffrey Nothing's real last name -- the band has had as many as 10 members at one time (now it has eight).
How it got its big break is another story.
After their first show as Mushroomhead -- where the band donned masks in order to open up for Hatrix -- they received a call from shock-rock stars GWAR to open up for them just four days later.
So in only their second on-stage appearance, they were playing in front of 2,000 people -- even though they had only five of their own songs at the time.
"People thought we were roadies of GWAR and chanting that we sucked," Nothing said. "The rest took off pretty quickly from there."
Coincidentally, GWAR rose in the same way -- as a costume-wearing side project that eventually overtook the original band's popularity.
Since then, Mushroomhead has gained a loyal cult following that keeps adding younger fans along the way. Sporting ghoulish, gothic and grotesque masks on stage, the metal octet has sold more than 800,000 units among their seven studio albums.
On Saturday, Oct. 1, they'll be headlining a tour that spots at Ground Zero in The Streeters Center. The other acts on the bill are Psychostick, Motograter, Blue Felix, Ventana and Tenafly Viper.
Tenafly Viper is a side project of Mushroomhead's other vocalist, Waylon Reavis, while Ventana includes Mushroomhead's Rick Thomas. Ventana and Blue Felix also are masked acts.
But in a show with a bunch of masked metal bands on the same stage, one other stands out.
"We're kind of the oddball in this tour," Psychostick singer Rob Kersey chuckled. "Everybody's odd, but we're the odd oddballs. Just expect the unexpected. There's a lot of jokes, a lot of gags a lot of fun stuff happening in between and during songs. Expect to smile a lot and have a fun time."
Describing their style a "humor-core," the group's songs are all funny, led by their hit song "Beer!"
Just an example from the lyrics of "Beer!": "They say beer will make me dumb. It are go good with pizza" with intentionally mangled grammar to emphasize the dumb part.
"Josh (Key) started writing a stupid little poem about how awesome he thought (beer) was and how dumb people get if they drink too much of it," Kersey said.
"The approval process for our songs is pretty simple," Kersey continued. "The big test is if it makes us laugh."
Any songs that delve into more serious subjects go into the band's side project, Evacuate Chicago.
"It was basically just me and Josh (Key) being dorks in high school and wanting to start a band," Kersey said. "We didn't want to be a band that was angry and pissed off. ... We'd rather laugh than be angry."
Tickets for Saturday's 18-and-up show are $18.