What obstacles have you faced while reaching for your goals? Has a health condition ever come between you and your dreams?
For Brandon Mendenhall, guitarist of Los Angeles rockers the Mendenhall Experiment, being born with cerebral palsy means managing his creative ambitions alongside the neurological disorder that affects movement, speech and posture. In a new film documenting the musician’s quest for music industry success, Mind Over Matter, members of Mendenhall’s favorite band, Korn, add to his heartwarming story of triumph over adversity.
“I don’t think anyone with a disability wants pity,” vocalist Jonathan Davis says. “But if I’m being completely honest, when I first met Brandon, I was like, ‘Oh, that poor kid.’ But I respect the fact that he didn’t let that get in his way, or let it get him down. It’s not even an issue now. Through the years, I don’t even see the disability anymore. He’s proven himself.”
Davis knows firsthand just how hard Mendenhall’s worked. Starting out as a regular hanger-on at Korn gigs, the struggling musician first got the group’s attention with a large tattoo of the band’s two guitarists on his back. From there, the the nü-metal mainstays watched in amazement as Mendenhall ascended from novice string tinkerer to formidable riff-maker.
“When I first met Brandon, I didn’t think he would accomplish this much,” the singer recalls. “I would always see him hang out on the side of the stage, being at shows. He was one of the fans that was always around, and we get to know them after so long. Brandon would always be there. I would see him on the side of the stage, and I would say ‘What’s up!’ to him.”
The Mendenhall Experiment dropped their self-titled debut EP in 2017, preceded by the encouraging metal anthem “Seize The Day.” It’s a stirring feat for the band’s namesake musician, who literally used guitar playing as a method of rehabilitation for his left hand, at one time left totally paralyzed by the movement disorder. (“I did research and read about open tunings and drop tuning, and I realized that I can use those formats to maneuver around my disability as a guitar player and songwriter,” Mendenhall told LA Weekly.)
Davis identifies with using pain as an advantage. After discussing a pivotal scene in the movie in which Mendenhall comes to realize his dream recording session with guitarist James “Munky” Shaffer, Davis talks about being bullied as a child for being different, and he describes the underdog mentality it instilled in him.
“When I was growing up, I always felt different,” Davis reveals. “I always was looked at different. I wasn’t like everybody else. For him, it was as a kid with a disability. For me, it was being that weird kid. [Mendenhall] has gone through more than I ever will, but that feeling of alienation, I can totally relate with him. Music is our salvation. Music is that one thing that we hold dear to our hearts.”
Indeed, if there’s anything the guitarist’s story in Mind Over Matter serves to underscore, it’s the seemingly transcendent power of music in helping people overcome even the most intimidating of personal challenges.
“Remove his disability for a moment,” says Ash Avildsen of Sumerian Films, who released the movie. “This film reminds us [of] the unbreakable spirit it takes to try and make it in a band. It reminds us how hard the music business is. Brandon has persevered through all the odds he was born with. It reminds us that we have no excuses to not keep striving for what we want in life. Mind Over Matter is a testament that your journey is never over as long as you have the will to carry on.”
Mind Over Matter is out now, and you can check out the trailer below.