Early days (1996–97)
Mudvayne, formed in 1996 in Peoria, Illinois, originally consisted of bassist Shawn Barclay, guitarist Greg Tribbett and drummer Matthew McDonough. The band's original lineup finalized when Chad Gray, who was earning $40,000 a year in a factory, quit his day job to become its singer. In 1997 Mudvayne financed its debut EP, Kill, I Oughtta.
During the EP's recording Barclay was replaced by Ryan Martinie, former bassist for the progressive-rock band Broken Altar. After self-distributing Kill, I Oughtta, Mudvayne adopted stage names and face paint.
L.D. 50 (1998–2000)
In April 1998 local promoter Steve Soderstrom introduced Mudvayne to its original manager, Chuck Toler, who helped obtain a contract with Epic Records and record the 2000 debut studio album L.D. 50. For the album, Mudvayne experimented with a ragged, dissonant sound; a sound collage, prepared for the album, was used as a series of interludes. L.D. 50 was produced by Garth Richardson, with executive production by Slipknot member Shawn Crahan.
L.D. 50 peaked at No. 1 on the Billboard Top Heatseekers chart and No. 85 on the Billboard 200. The singles "Dig" and "Death Blooms" peaked at No. 33 and No. 32 on the Mainstream Rock Tracks chart. Although the album was praised, some critics found the band hard to take seriously.
To promote L. D. 50, Mudvayne played on the Tattoo the Earth tour with Nothingface, Slayer, Slipknot and Sevendust. Nothingface guitarist Tom Maxwell became friends with Mudvayne vocalist Chad Gray, and they explored the possibility of a supergroup. The following year, Nothingface again toured with Mudvayne; although plans for a supergroup continued, they were put on hold due to scheduling conflicts. Gray and Maxwell had discussed five names for the group, and Mudvayne guitarist Greg Tribbett approached Maxwell "out of the blue" to join it. Although Nothingface drummer Tommy Sickles played on the group's demo, the search for another drummer began.
The End of All Things to Come (2001–02)
In 2002 Mudvayne released The End of All Things to Come, which the band considers its "black album" due to its largely-black artwork. Isolation inspired the album's songs. During its mixing, Gray and McDonough stopped at Bob's Big Boy and Gray remembered overhearing someone "say something like, ' ... and he's got to cut his own eye out'". When he asked McDonough if he heard the conversation McDonough said he hadn't, and Gray thought it was someone discussing a scene from a screenplay.
The album expanded on L.D. 50, with a wider range of riffs, tempos, moods and vocals. Because of this experimentation, Entertainment Weekly called this album more "user-friendly" than its predecessor and it was one of 2002's most acclaimed heavy-metal albums. The music video for the single "Not Falling" demonstrated the Mudvayne's change in appearance from L. D. 50, with the musicians transformed into veined creatures with white, egg-colored bug eyes.
Lost and Found (2003–05)
In 2003 Mudvayne participated in the Summer Sanitarium Tour, headlined by Metallica, and in September Chad Gray appeared on V Shape Mind's debut studio album Cul-De-Sac. The following year the band began work on its third album, produced by Dave Fortman. As for the previous album, Mudvayne withdrew to write songs; they moved into a house, writing the album in four months before recording began. In February Gray and Martinie expressed an interest in appearing on Within The Mind – In Homage To The Musical Legacy Of Chuck Schuldiner, a tribute to the founder of the metal band Death, but the album was never produced.
In 2005 Chad Gray established independent record label Bullygoat Records and Bloodsimple's debut album, A Cruel World (with a guest appearance by Gray), appeared in March. On April 12, Mudvayne released Lost and Found. The album's first single, "Happy?", featured complex guitar work and Gray described "Choices" as "the eight-minute opus".
In August former Mudvayne bassist Shawn Barclay released his band Sprung's debut album, mastered by King's X guitarist Ty Tabor. That month rumors spread that Bullygoat Records would release We Pay Our Debt Sometimes: A Tribute to Alice In Chains, with performances by Mudvayne, Cold, Audioslave, Breaking Benjamin, Static-X and the surviving members of Alice in Chains. A spokesperson for Alice in Chains told the press that the band was unaware of any tribute album, and Mudvayne's manager said that reports of the album were only rumors.
In September the band met with director Darren Lynn Bousman, whose film Saw II was in production and would include "Forget to Remember" from Lost and Found. Bousman showed them a scene of a man cutting his eye out of his skull to retrieve a key. When Gray told Bousman about the conversation at Bob's Big Boy two years earlier, Bousman said he holds his production meetings at the restaurant and Saw II was based on a screenplay he wrote years earlier. Gray appeared briefly in the film, and the music video for "Forget to Remember" contained clips from Saw II.
The New Game and Mudvayne (2006–09)
In 2006, Gray, Tribbett and Tom Maxwell were joined by former Pantera and Damageplan drummer Vinnie Paul for the supergroup Hellyeah. On March 8, when Mudvayne and Korn performed at the KBPI Birthday Bash in Denver, Thornton waitress Nicole LaScalia was injured during Mudvayne's set. Two years later, LaScalia filed a lawsuit against radio-station owner Clear Channel Broadcasting, concert promoter Live Nation, the University of Denver and members of Mudvayne and Korn. During the summer, Gray, Tribbett, Maxwell and Paul recorded an album as Hellyeah. After a tour with Sevendust, Mudvayne released the 2007 retrospective By the People, for the People (compiled from selections chosen by fans on the band's website). The album debuted at number 51 on the U.S. Billboard 200 chart, selling about 22,000 copies in its first week.
After Gray and Tribbett returned from touring with Hellyeah, Mudvayne began recording The New Game with Dave Fortman. After the album's 2008 release, Fortman told MTV that it would be followed in six months by another full-length record.
For its self-titled fifth album Mudvayne hoped to create a "white album", describing its cover art. Mudvayne was recorded in the summer of 2008 in El Paso, Texas. The album, printed with blacklight paint, was only visible under a black light (a light whose wavelength is primarily ultraviolet).
In 2010, Mudvayne again paused to allow Gray and Tribbett to tour with Hellyeah, and because of the supergroup's album releases the band would be on hiatus until at least 2014. With Hellyeah, Tribbett has recorded three albums: Hellyeah, Stampede and Band of Brothers. Gray has contributed to an additional fourth and fifth albums, Blood For Blood and Unden!able. In 2012, Ryan Martinie toured with Korn as a temporary replacement for bassist Reginald Arvizu, who remained at home during his wife's pregnancy. The following year Martinie played bass on Kurai's debut EP, Breaking the Broken, and in 2014 Tribbett left Hellyeah.
In a new interview with Songfacts in 2015, Gray said that Mudvayne's return seemed unlikely: "I don’t know if the full band will [ever reunite]. Who knows — they might be putting something else together. We were talking for a while and that whole thing with Greg [Tribbett's 2014 departure from Hellyeah] went down and everything kind of fell apart. Our relationship, which was the only truly solid relationship in the group, although Matt [McDonough] and I are still great, Ryan [Martinie] and I still briefly talk. I mean, the only way I personally would want to do Mudvayne is if everybody licked their wounds and got over it. There's a lot of things in that band that tore us apart. Maybe Mudvayne was the martyr for people that stopped supporting music. You sell 159,000 records the first week, and then the next record is like, 'Whatever, f—k it.' Maybe it's a subliminal message if you don't support things... Mudvayne's probably bigger now than it ever was. So, people want what they can't have."
In 2015, former Mudvayne members Tribbett and McDonough formed the band Audiotopsy with Skrape vocalist Billy Keeton and bassist Perry Stern. Audiotopsy describes its sound as "progressive hard rock."