Review: ‘Mind Over Matter’

Sumerian Records releases documentary about The Mendenhall Experiment’s founding member

Brandon Mendenhall’s inspiring story proves a disability isn’t a death sentence for your dreams.

Hard rock/metal label Sumerian Records continues its foray into film with the rock-doc “Mind Over Matter.”

The documentary shares the story of metal guitarist and Korn super fan, Brandon Mendenhall. The 35-year-old’s life seems almost too crazy to be true.

Diagnosed at the age of 3 with Cerebral Palsy (CP), Mendenhall faces mobility issues in his left leg and hand. One doctor went so far as to say Mendenhall would never be able to play an instrument of any kind. This prompted his grandfather to cut the strings off the young boy’s toy guitar. “He was just trying to protect me. He didn’t want me to get hurt.” Mendenhall explained.

The disability also effects his speech, earning him the nickname “Slimer” in school due to his drooling. Unfortunately, the bullying didn’t stop there.

The physical abuse by his peers came to a head when the neighborhood bully tied Mendenhall to his porch with a rope around his neck. Luckily, a boy, Jason Howard, from down the street stood up to the bully and saved Mendenhall.

A friendship soon formed between the two boys. It is Howard who introduced Mendenhall to what would become his favorite band. “One day I remember going over there and he was installing a car stereo, and he played Korn’s ‘Blind.’ I was like, ‘What is that?’ ‘Who is that?’ ‘Where can I get that?'”

As Mendenhall learned more about his favorite band’s members, he discovered lead guitarist James “Munky” Shaffer had an injury to a finger on his left hand. When Shaffer was young, he had an accident that shredded the end of one of his fingers. In order to strengthen it afterward, a specialist suggested an instrument. Shaffer began with an acoustic guitar, and the rest is history.

It was a slow process, as Mendenhall’s hand that was supposed to form the chords was his left. The fingers on the partially paralyzed hand all moved in a group, but after a few years of playing his guitar, he was able to move each finger individually. He still can’t play traditional chords, but utilizes drop tunings to play flat chords. Mendenhall said he owes his mobility entirely to the guitar: “Playing the guitar not only improved my mobility on my left hand, but I also saw a ripple effect throughout my entire body.”

Mendenhall claims the story prompted a sort of epiphany for him, and he bought an electric guitar with the help of his grandmother. It wasn’t until months into him playing that his grandfather found out.

Mendenhall still doubted his future as a professional musician. He decided he would move to Los Angeles and pursue a job as an audio technician. When his career stagnated, he unsuccessfully tried to audition for multiple bands before deciding to form his own.

Thus, the first lineup of The Mendenhall Experiment (TMX) was born. They hit the Sunset Strip, playing pay-to-play gigs.

In 2013, they got the news that they were going to play the Aftershock Festival in Sacramento, California. Mendenhall was over the moon to be playing at the same festival as his idols. Unfortunately, the band soon discovered they were playing on a side stage early in the morning. Besides sound technicians, no one was there. On top of that, the band was in a horrible car accident on their way back to LA. The strain of this disappointment and the trauma of the accident soon led to the demise of the lineup.

From this ground zero sprung the current golden lineup. Blind and partially deaf bassist Nathan Stockton clicked with Mendenhall over their disabilities and soon joined the band. TMX’s former roadie, Mario Lira, took up guitar while his son, 15-year-old Bruce tackles the drums in the band. The powerhouse vocals are created by the youthful Mario Valadez.

Things have been moving fast for the band ever since. Korn’s Schaffer secured TMX for the 2016’s Aftershock Festival, this time on the main stage. They won Guitar Center’s Battle of the Bands, and recently signed a distribution contract with LeQuid Bit Productions through Universal. Perhaps Mendenhall’s favorite accomplishment, however, is recording a song for their debut album with his inspiration, Munky Schaffer of Korn.

The story is insane and heartwarming sure, but all it takes is one song to hear that it is well deserved praise.

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