Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Look Back with Malevolent Creation

Here’s another interview from 2004, this time with  Florida Death Metal institution Malevolent Creation.   If you’re a regular reader here you’ll know this is not the first time we've looked back with MC,  that previous interview can be found here.   This one, which was conducted around the release of the ‘WarKult’ album is both hilarious and borderline ridiculous.  Everyone knows MC main man Phil Fasciana has his own way of writing and especially rewriting history, but this is almost too much.  

Since this interview took place much has happened with MC.   A few live albums have been issued, they’ve done two studio records with Bret Hoffman back in the band, one of them was a reunion of sorts (‘Doomsday X’) featuring several members of MC’s past.  Most recently the band released  Invidious Dominion’ and continue to tour in support of it. 

None But My Own/MM: Take us back to the cycle for ‘The Will To Kill’ the tours, the reactions to Kyle fronting the band etc.

Phil Fasciana: Well right after we made the decision to have Kyle let it rip with us we actually had a tour booked with Marduk, it was like 30 dates and after that then we went out with Immolation and Aborted.  Now both these tours were before we went in to record ‘The Will To Kill’ and he just kicked ass so massively on tour it was like we were reborn, it was just so heavy! So when we got home we started to put everything together and then went back on tour for the record, we did Europe and we did a tour with Cannibal Corpse as well as a small headlining tour in the US.

Everything has just been a lot smoother since Kyle’s been in the band and even though we’re a half assed band as it is-I mean I don’t even know how we pull off what we pull off (laughing).  But because we’re so dysfunctional it just works!  When we get together we get to it,  I mean Rob is in Tampa,  Dave’s in New York and me and Gordy and Kyle are here in Ft. Lauderdale but we manage to make it work.  I wouldn’t want any other musicians in the band right now and although it gets a little expensive running the way we do, it’s worth it!

Now one of the things that got me excited for ‘WarKult’ was knowing Dave Culross was behind the kit, again.  And while there are millions of great drummers out there,  Dave definitely adds something to the bands he plays with.

For sure man, he’s one of my favorites as well.  I’ve played with many great drummers but when I play with Dave, he’s just the drummer for our band.  We let him do whatever he wants because it just always sounds right.

I’m sure that helps the live show as well, I mean not having to worry about the drummer.

Dude, he’s even better live, you know that.  When he left I feel we lost some of our confidence and it’s always hard for someone to come into that situation and try to play the way he did.  But we just got home from a tour and it was great from the first song to the last.

Now I’m sure his coming back to the band may have something to do with the current state of business with Malevolent Creation being signed to Nuclear Blast.  Was that an issue, having the business taken care of?

Well Dave was around for some of our bad business decisions when we were signed to Pavement!  I mean we really slit our own throats with them (laughing)!  We never made a penny with all the releases we did on Pavement and unfortunately Dave was on just about all of those releases and everyone in the band was always like “what the fuck” ya know?  It was terrible being on a label that can’t promote you, did nothing for you and their distribution was ass too.

So when we did sign to Nuclear Blast we did let Dave know that we were signed to a real label again and you’ll never have to listen to another kid saying they can’t find the record again.  But we’re a Death Metal band all we really need is distribution and some promotion and the rest is up to us!

So how was the first phase of touring for the ‘WarKult’ album?

The shows we did were based around the festivals, we did Graspop, Fury Fest in France and With Full Force in Germany and a few more in Germany and Switzerland.  It was only two and a half weeks but it was killer, we played great and got to see a shit load of our friends while we were there.  I mean there were tons of American bands doing the festivals, Exodus was there Hatebreed, Testament we’re all sitting around joking that there’s no scene in the US because all the bands are here!!

You also did a hometown record release show, how was that?

It was killer but it was so fucking hot we almost died!  Kyle just about did, he passed out on the last song, he did this long scream and then he just went “BOOM”!  I thought it was the PA or something (laughing)!  I went off stage to catch my own breath and he (Kyle) comes up to me with this big mark on his face saying “dude, I passed out” and I was like “what??”  But I didn’t even see it because my hair was in my eyes and I hear shit like that all the time on stage but fuck, was it hot! 

So let’s talk a little about the writing of ‘WarKult’, what was the first song written?

“Shock and Awe” was the first one, written by Rob and I in like ten minutes!  We were getting ready to go to South America for the last album and he was hanging out at my house and I had a riff tape, pulled one out and he had something for it and we just played it, then the two of us went to our warehouse and recorded a one song demo without drums.  But there were a few changes along the way.  After that we all started writing by ourselves and then we ended up getting together eight weeks before we started recording to go over everything,  so we wrote it all in like under two months.

At what point is Dave back in the band?

We had like five songs we had demoed and sent to him, so he knew those and he got to Florida like six days before we went in to record…

What about the rest of the songs?

We showed those to him when he got here (laughing) he learned the last five songs in those six days!

No shit??!!

Yeah, but that’s what we wanted, we wanted it to be spontaneous and we wanted it to be an exciting recording and it could have been a fucking funnel, a total disaster but we were confident in the fact that, we felt together, we could do this.   And to some extent that we could still do this under the gun and just let it rip and the record is the results!  There’s song that was written the day before we went it, I had a riff that we just had to use so we made a demo of it the night before and listened to it in the studio the next day and laid it down, this is the song “Captured.”

That’s one of my favorite tracks on the album and I’ve read a few reviews where the writer mentions the song as a stand out as well.

I had the one riff in there for so long and we just had to make it work and I’m glad we did.

Now you kept the same production team from the last record so was that a case of “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it”?

Yeah it sucked because we didn’t get to spend a lot of time on the record because we had a lot of problems like damaged hard drives and shit.  The whole album was edited and mixed in like two days which was all we had left from the planned five days and we were already over budget so we couldn’t do much more.  So it had to be done that way, but it would’ve been cool to have a few more days to mix it comfortably but the whole process was nerve wracking so at least now we could laugh thinking about it.  I’m just glad it came out as heavy as it did.

I suppose I could guess as to why Bret is out of Malevolent Creation for good, but what is your take on everything?

Dude, the kid was just a complete drug addict and a total bum, he lived on Gordy’s couch and man, he didn’t leave that couch for like nine months straight (laughing)!  I mean he’d be blowing off rehearsals and all he had to do was get up off the couch and get into Gordy’s car.  We had written fifteen songs for ‘The Will To Kill’ album, made demos of all of them for him and he couldn’t even face us, this is how twisted and out of his mind he was, Gordy’s telling us “the dude is a wreck, he’s snorting his fucking brains out” and then Gordy tells us he’s waking up to go to work and Brett’s just coming home with people Gordy didn’t even know, just these scary motherfucking people (laughing)!  But he wouldn’t even rehearse so there was no way we were going to try and do the album with him.

I guess the age old question of “how can someone so smart be so dumb?”

Dude, drugs, what can I tell you?  I mean I’ve had my own issues and my own problems but this kid is brutally out of control where it’s scary to be around.  Put it this way he made traveling very uncomfortable for everyone, I mean we like to party and have a good time but he was just way over the top with everything…Rob and I always say if we could write a book about this dude we’d be rich (laughing)!!

Seeing that he was putting Bret up, I have to ask, where exactly did Gordon Simms come from? He’s been in the band for awhile now, but I don’t think I ever knew where he came from?

Gordy lives here in Ft. Lauderdale and I knew who he was, he’d played in a bunch of local bands but nothing too popular, but the way he got in the band was because of Brett!  He started mooching off Gordy way back when sleeping on his couch and Brett thought “If I could get Gordy in the band then that means I have free room and board forever”!!   I mean at the time we weren’t even looking for a bass player, Rob and I were writing back then and going over shit with the drummer and we thought we’d just play the bass ourselves on the album and look for someone when it came time to tour.

But Brett was just constantly breaking our balls to get Gordy into the band to secure that fucking couch (laughing)!!  That’s how it went down man, but the good thing is Gordy’s a great dude.  At the time we didn’t really want to bother with getting someone new in the band, but in the end Gordy came in and had learned everything on his own so we just started jamming.

Don’t ask me why but he still feels like the “new guy”, even more so than Kyle!

(laughing) I know he’s a quiet guy that just goes with the flow; he’s just one of those people you don’t meet too often, totally honest and just cool as hell.  I mean he’s slow as hell he does everything in slow motion, he’s like a sloth (laughing) but a great guy.

If you would, I’d like to get a 2004 perspective on the Malevolent Creation back catalog. I suppose let’s start way back with the 1987 demo, do you ever listen to that these days??

Not really, man I don’t even think I have copies of them. I do have a few of the 1989 demo. I lost a lot of shit due to an air conditioner blowout at my old house!

No shit?? That really sucks.

Yeah I had a bunch of stuff in a closet, all the demos I was trading back in 1986/87 just fucking gone because the air conditioner broke while I was on tour in Europe and all that shit just got soaked, everything got flooded all my carpeting and shit had to be taken out.  I lost a ton of old Malevolent shit, all the shows we played before the first album recorded at the Treehouse in Hollywood, FL.  There were like 25 shows all gone.  But musically to get back to the question the 87 demo was a mixture of Kreator and Slayer just faster, we were little kids then trying to fit in with those bands.

1989 Demo

’89 demo was when we had Lee Harrison (Monstrosity) on drums because we moved to Florida in 1988…

Now you were one of the first bands to re-locate to Florida, right?

Maybe, all I know is I had family down here so I coaxed everyone into coming down here and what can I say, Ft. Lauderdale seemed a hell of a lot better than Buffalo, NY!!!  We had just gotten out of school and our drummer quit, we couldn’t find anyone in Buffalo so we gave it a shot.  But Lee joined us back then and the 89 demo was more of the same as the 87 demo, just a little better (laughing)!

1990 Demo

That one we got Scott Burns to work on it and we got a record deal with Roadrunner.  All we wanted to do then and to this day was get heavier, ya know?

OK, how much do you miss the following scenario: get a band together, jam, play live pool money together to record a demo on cassette and if it’s good enough, send it to some labels and see what happens?  I mean these days it’s everything is a CD and they look great but for the most part sound like shit!!!

Yeah man there was a lot more leg work for sure!  I’d work all week and then use every dollar I had to mail demos everywhere.  We didn’t do much mail for the first demo but by the second I had gotten turned on to the whole underground by Pat from Hellwitch!  When I met him down here he was like “you idiot, you have to send this shit out”!!  So he gave me magazine addresses and that got me going…

I first heard about you guys through Thornado

Wow man, exactly ya know? But back then it was exciting and cool to package everything up and today it’s way more convenient so I have to agree that back then bands had to work a lot harder.

So to keep it going some seventeen years after that first demo came out has to make you feel good knowing you did it the hard way!

Yeah man we busted our fucking balls doing it!

That brings us to the debut album, 1991’s ‘The Ten Commandments
 We do the demo, get signed and had some more songs to write and we worked on these songs for like three or four weeks before we were set to record and during this time Bret would not rehearse with us!  And we were flipping out and he kept telling us “Ah, I’m just saving it for the studio” like he was going to go in there and magically all the long screams and shit were just going to come flying out like nothing!

And this is from a dude who drank and drinks alcohol every single day, constantly, smokes cigarettes, snorts coke (laughing)!!  So the first song of the session is the song “Malevolent Creation” where it’s got that really long scream at the beginning and he didn’t even make it past that!  We had been in the studio for two weeks busting our asses putting the album together and all we needed to do was the vocals to complete it and he lasted maybe an hour and a half!  Scott Burns starts screaming “PHILLLLL, get in here”!!!  He say’s you better call Monte [Conner] at Roadrunner and tell him you guys are going home because your boy’s cashed, he can’t sing…    

You must have been fucking devastated!

We were, we all just were totally devastated! He [Bret] was going to commit suicide…

For real?

Yeah, that’s the thing with him he just lets people down constantly, the stories could go on forever man, it always comes back to that book Rob and I should write!  I mean to this day we still collect the drunk and coked out of his mind voice mail messages he used to leave us, fuck, they’re unbelievable we can put them on and laugh for hours!!!  Which only means we’re losing our minds as well (laughing)!!  But it took an additional four months or whatever to complete the album.

How about listening to the album today?? How do you feel it holds up?

Fuck, listening to it today I think it’s still a good sounding record!  I mean it’s not like it was ever some monumental ground breaking release, but for us it meant a lot and it was a great mixture of our styles.  It’s a total Death/Thrash Metal album where you can hear the Kreator, Slayer and Destruction influences with our own twist.

Next was 1992’s ‘Retribution  

For that one I had written two songs when we started having problems with our Drummer, Mark Simpson who played on the debut.  Jeff Juskiewicz was out of the band and we had Henry from Devastation down here jamming with us, but he didn’t work out because he had too many problems at home.  The guy was like 21 years old and had like four kids at home and we had to tell him “dude, this ain’t gonna work out.”  So Rob Barrett and Alex Marquez were good friends of ours and they came to see us “rehearse” one night when we didn’t have a second guitarist or drummer (laughing)!  So those guys had their band Solstice going and knew a lot of songs from  our first album so they just jumped in and we started bashing it out and I was like “you guys want in,  because we have an album that needs to be written in like six weeks!”

So they’re in and Scott Burns comes down and ‘Retribution’,  I ain’t shitting you was recorded and mixed in,  like,  five days!  Drums were recorded in something like eight hours, guitars were done that same night with one track me and the other Rob, solos came a day later and bass was laid down super fast and we just worked fast and went with it.  I think the only thing that took really long were the vocals because Brett needed to take a few days with them.

Next comes ‘Stillborn’ which was released in 1993, and many, many people really had a beef with that album, how do you explain it?

Man, there were just so many problem around that time…it’s hard to even pin point all the shit surrounding the band back then.  Jason, our Bass player at the time, he wasn’t even at any of the rehearsals because he was living with this psychopath bitch who was running his life because he choose not to work and was being a bum and had to abide by her rules.  So he was not with what was going on, Bret we had to beg to come and rehearse and at that time he was so fucked up on drugs it was unbearable!

It was a joke, I mean I knew it was the end that saying you can’t polish a turd rings true! Bret had no enthusiasm whatsoever as he’s laying down vocals and it was a miracle we even got anything out of him to begin with…

OK, so I have to interject, why did you release the album?? Did you HAVE to?

Well, when we were working on the music we thought everything was going well but you know I guess I really don’t know what to say.  But the record came out and it really set us back some, I mean the whole process of writing, recording and then releasing it, man I can’t even explain all the shit we went through.  And it’s funny because we were up there for four weeks and it felt like four years (laughing)!  I fucking wanted to jump in the lake that was behind the studio, I wanted to fucking kill myself (laughing)!!

 And then when I heard what was coming out of the speakers I was dying, I did my best man that’s all I can say.  Jon Rubin, who played second guitar on the album and I were the only ones who knew what was going on.  Did you know we actually tracked the whole album with “Crazy” Larry Hawke on drums?

No, I never knew that, what the hell happened?

Dude, he does the drumming on the whole album right, so we go in and listen to the tracks and we found three songs where there were mistakes.  And, of course, this is before Pro-Tools and all that, right?  So the tracks had to be redone, but the problem was he [Larry] thought he was done with the tracks so took off with two chicks he met up in Gainesville, he thought they [the tracks] were fine and there were no mistakes.

So Larry ends up getting a DUI and since he had no license he gets arrested, thrown in jail and we couldn’t bail him out so we were fucked!  We’re in the studio going “Oh my god, now what” and we had to leave him in jail.  We go home and the only way to salvage anything is to have Alex play on the record. Alex had told me he was practicing and all that so I mailed him a tape of the songs with Larry’s drums on them and told him to learn everything, right?   But at the end of the day the tracks with Alex came out a lot slower and a lot different than what we originally planned on.  

Alex’s heart was just not into it anymore and I was hoping we could squeeze one more out of him, but we couldn’t.  I’m still friends with Alex though, he actually just sent me his new bands demo where he sings on it and its total Power Metal, he’s all Halford-ed out!

Things are quiet until the release of 1995’s ‘Eternal’ your Pavement Music debut.

Bret was gone at this point and Jay took over and it was a big adjustment and it took a little time but we were happy once we got there.  We had Dave in the band for this album and that was so fucking killer as we now had a drummer in the band who could do everything we felt the songs deserved.  So when he joined we felt it was a new era of the band and we wanted the music to keep flowing and for it to get even more intense and we were able to do that with Dave.

It was definitely a strong album and quite a statement following ‘Stillborn’

Yeah, I think so too.  ‘Eternal’ was an album we produced ourselves and it was our first album with Pavement like you said and it was horrible, they couldn’t even pay the bill for us to record at Morrisound.  But we were able to spend a lot of time on the album but we really needed some guidance in there (laughs).  But the album is raw and it rips and we still play a lot of those songs in the set and with Kyle singing them they sound even fucking heavier! 

There was the ‘Joe Black’ release in 1996 which is what it is and then 1997’s ‘In Cold Blood’ which was a weird album, huh?

Yes it is…the drummer situation was very fucking weird around this time.  Let’s see, we had Derek Roddy in the band before we wrote the record, we wrote it and him and Jason were living together and they had some kind of blow out, some sort of fight and the next thing I know Derek was packing his bags and going back to South Carolina,  Jason threw him out of the place they were living and he just thought “fuck this” and quit the band.

 I didn’t know what went down, I think it was about money or something and I suppose things happen for a reason, right?  So at that point we were helped out by Tony Laureano who did the European and US tours in support of ‘In Cold Blood’ which was very cool and then Dave comes back for ‘The Fine Art of Murder’.

So any insight to why ‘In Cold Blood’ seemed like such a strange album?

You know when we started working on the songs we had another guitarist who was a friend of Derek’s, he was supposedly his best friend, his name was Jason Hagen and he wrote some killer stuff that ended up on the album.  He was a killer guitarist and while he was out here he was a bum living on all our couches and never having any money.  So for whatever reason he and Derek have some sort of blowout and Derek fires him from the band!!

Derek fires him? The new drummer fires the new guitar player?

(laughing) Yeah, it’s not even like it was me or Jay doing the firing you know?  Derek tells us he’ll refuse to play with us if Jason stays in the band and that was it, and shortly after that Derek and Jay had the blowout and that was that.  That was just a weird period altogether and it must have rubbed off on the music.  But there’s some good songs on the record and we played quite a few of them on that tour, we need to bring back some of those songs when we do some headlining  dates in support of ’WarKult.’

The Fine Art Of Murder’, which was the return of Bret Hoffman.

Well we gave it a whack and I’m not saying his vocals sucked on it, but it does suck when you have to sit in the studio and have to tell people every little thing they need to do, you know?  He couldn’t be trusted to just go in and do a good job because he was just so lazy.  Anything that came out of his mouth was fine by him and if the producer said “OK” even though it sucked Bret would say “that’s cool, keep it” so you had to watch over him like a hawk throughout the whole thing. 

I’d just about lose my mind and want to murder him myself if I had to do that the whole time, luckily Rob has patience and did that every record.  While there was a lot of drama getting that one recorded but it was a step forward for us musically.

Musically it’s a strong album, vocally I think it was just cooler because it was Bret. 

To me it just felt like it wasn’t coming from the heart and that might sound funny because we’re playing Death Metal and it’s about people growling and shit, but you can tell the difference!  I mean if a guy is giving it his everything you can totally tell.  But if you’re just going through the motions you can just hear the cheese!

Did you have anything to do with the “compilation” 'Manifestation?'
We had no say in that whatsoever! Our names aren’t even on it, just a photo, and no credit, just pitiful.  The best thing about that thing is the artwork! 

The next album, I thought was fucking great, ‘Envenomed

‘Envenomed’ was killer because we got to write the album with Dave, he had jumped into ‘The Fine Art…’ when everything had been written.  So we wrote everything on the record pretty fast and we also produced it ourselves, again but with a new engineer/producer named Jeremy Staska who’s like the local guy doing every band these days, but it freaked us out because he works real slow and that fucked with us!  

But we were happy with the record and the recording went smoothly, the longest part of it all was the vocals, Rob sat with Bret and went over each and every word to make sure it was right and on time and all that shit.  I have to thank Rob for all of that shit man because he was the only one who could do that.

I never did pick up ‘Envenomed II’, so what can you say about that album?

The thing with that is we did the Dark Angel cover on there and the music was recorded when we did ‘Envenomed’ but the vocals were never finished because of Bret couldn’t even remember the words to his own songs that he had written and sung for years.  So we found the lyrics, dug them up and Bret was able to figure them out.  So we were set to go on tour and right before we fired him we forced him to go in and finish that shit, so those were his last songs with Malevolent Creation.

But another reason for ‘II’ was we had a distribution company that folded and we lost mass inventory when they did.  We wanted to keep the album out there and because of the bar code system we had to do something different to the album so we did.  And again, when we do songs from this album Kyle fucking crushes them I mean he makes the songs sound evil.   
So ‘The Will To Kill’ we covered, how about closing this out with when we can expect to see Malevolent Creation live again, how long before you do some US touring?

Well we’ve had plenty of offers but we’ve got to try and choose something that will be beneficial to us and the thing is we don’t want to do anything half ass.  We’ll do the next European run and then come home and take a break, let everyone get caught up at work and then January we have another 20 shows in Europe, come back do South America, Brazil and then go back in March for the other half of Europe including a full Scandinavian tour and then that’s it so anything we do in the US will have to be then.

It’d be nice to get on some killer package, so we’ll see.  But it’s more expensive for us to tour in our own country than it is to fly across the World!  At least there we have our own bus and make a shit load more money.  But in the meantime check out ‘WarKult’, it’s our ninth studio release and we’re happy with it.  We haven’t changed, we haven’t added clean vocals, yet (laughing)!  

No girls in the band it’s just us five ugly dudes and yeah hopefully Spring 2005 we’ll see everyone but we want to get on a killer package like bands that have been around as long as us.  Maybe Dismember or Bolt Thrower and us, I mean I don’t want to tour with no emo bands (laughing) or some metal-core band, I want to do a Death Metal Tour!!!!    

Thursday, November 18, 2010

A Look Back with Mastodon...

2010 Notes:  First off, I found an old disc with several interviews conducted in either 2004 or 2005.  These are interviews that were first published on the old Midwest Metal Magazine.Com website.  When that all went down a few years ago I know I didn’t have the readers I do here, so I thought it would be a shame to let them die and very cool to revisit on NBMO.   

The first one is an interview with Brann of Mastodon.  I totally remember doing this interview with him and was super into what they were doing at the time. 2004 was a long time ago in many ways and in regards to Mastodon and what has happened since this interview took place is nothing short of extraordinary.  Notice how I mentioned Warner Bros. in the third question!  That kinda freaked me out because as we all know that’s exactly who the band went and signed with a few years later.  So, enjoy this blast from the past and thanks for stopping by.   

2004: Atlanta’s heaviest sons Mastodon are finally ready to unleash their newest creation closing the door on the ‘Remission’ album and all surrounding it.  ‘Leviathan’ is the new opus and it’s a monster of an album.  Picking up where ‘Remission’ left off, ‘Leviathan’ is a statement from the band on its past, present and [very bright] future as they push the progressive yet punishing envelope further and further. 

For the most part the hype machine that surrounds certain bands can be downright repulsive and can sometimes do more harm than help, but this is not true in the case of Mastodon.  Simply put, they do what they do and fuck if they don’t do it well.  I spoke to Drummer Brann Dailor after their Chicago appearance on the ‘Slave Labor’ Tour with Fear Factory and Sworn Enemy and I’ve got to say the man was very honest and very direct in his outlook with the band. Here’s how it went. 

None But My Own/MM: I know this has to be a crazy time for you guys with ‘Leviathan’ about to come out and you’re already touring. How would you sum up the ‘Remission’ years?

Brann Dailor: I guess it kind of flew by, I mean it was a long cycle but it was fun. We had a lot of great tours and we were able to make a lot of really close friends with the album like High On Fire and Clutch. I mean we were on tour with High On Fire the day the record came out in 2002, actually both our and High On Fire’s record came out the same day. So on that tour we were playing to anywhere from 50 to 500 people per night and we just bonded we were similar people with similar tastes and from the first night we knew we were going to be great friends.

We ended up touring with them for two months in the States and then another month and a half in Europe and finally three weeks in Japan so we did like eighty-five or ninety shows with them in one year. So we’re buddies with them ya know? And even now we’re like when’s that going to happen again, when do we get to play with High On Fire again? But that tour, those were our people coming to the shows, the big burly Metal dudes and stoners and crusty punks coming out and it was totally our crowd.

How well do you guys do in Europe? I know England likes you due to the  impressive Terrorizer coverage.

Yeah Terrorizer, Rock Sound and Kerrang! are all really in our corner fighting for us, which is cool and stateside a magazine like Revolver are behind us and it’s cool that these are people who move the machine ya know, saying “yeah, this band fucking rocks and we’re gonna push them.” 

Now every band, whether they’re on Warner Bros. or the smallest basement label has very high hopes every time a new album is released. You guys along with a few other bands at this level actually got to see those hopes, well happen. How long did it take until you felt something was happening?

It took about, two years into the record. 10,000 is a lot of records to sell right?

Yeah, especially these days

Well as soon as it [‘Remission’] was re-released, man it just went crazy! Everything just happened at the same time and I don’t know, I just see our band as slowly but surely evolving I suppose by “baby steps.” I hear from a lot of people who say “Oh wow, it happened very fast for you guys” and I think to myself, man I’m about 30 and I’ve been playing in bands since I was eleven or twelve. So for a band to start from the ground up in January 2000 to be in 2004, about to go on tour with Slayer…that is pretty fast and it’s pretty awesome and not a lot of bands get to do that. But yeah, we really had high hopes for that record.

Trust me we’ll get to the Slayer tour. Now you did a video that was well received, did that seem to help?

Yeah, what happened was right before ‘Remission’ was re-released we thought we were done and we were ready to go in and write another record. But the guys at Relapse told us the numbers for the album were stronger than they ever were and it was already a yeah and a half old at the time.

So they wanted to re-issue it with a DVD and at the same time the “March Of The Fire Ants” video was set to come out as was the Headbanger’s Ball comp and Tony Hawk’s Ungerground thing came out and ‘Viva La Bam’ was playing our stuff on the show and all of a sudden there was all this attention on us. So they (Relapse) felt they could get another round of press out of ‘Remission’ and we’d go back out on tour which was when we went out with Clutch.

How do you, personally feel about re-releases?

I have mixed feelings about re-issues anyways. But when it’s your own band you’re like “well it would be cool to have something else of ours to hold on to” or whatever! I mean even though the DVD sounds like garbage it’s still cool.

Were you happier with the footage on the Contaminated Festival DVD?      

Yeah! Definitely. It sounds better and it actually is a good representation of a Mastodon show.

When the sessions for ‘Leviathan’ started was it material you had previously or was it all new stuff right away?

We had a little of both plus we always have some riffs that hang and float around for a few years and you keep them in your back pocket just waiting to be used. The song “Seabeast,” have you heard the record yet?

Only a few songs but I didn’t know what song was which.  All I took away from it was its totally different and nothing rehashed, totally pushing shit forward.

Yeah, it’s definitely not ‘Remission’ part II which is cool because we not only did we not plan it like that, but it just couldn’t have been because our heads and our hearts were someplace else.

Did touring so much for the record help or spark some songwriting ideas or was it (songwriting-ed.) all done off the road?

It didn’t help songwriting…but it did. We wrote ‘Leviathan’ in a month and a half. Basically the deal was they [Relapse] said “Ok you have this time off so this is the time you write your record” and were like “Ok” and then we looked at the time we had [to write] and we thought “we could do this, let’s give it a try”. So this was right around Christmas and I’m from New York, Bill’s from New York and Brent’s from Alabama and we all scattered for the holiday. So it was our goal, before Christmas to have almost every song done, I think we had eight songs done by then. Part of that was because we wanted to play them at this New Years show we were doing in Atlanta.

So we did all these months and months of touring and we came home and instead of getting together just to hang out, while our instruments were back at home, we just went right into our little rehearsal space and began writing. We knew we had a few things that were pretty much done, “Naked Burn” was one of them and I had two songs that were done those being “Iron Tusk” and “Blood And Thunder”. Bill had a full song which was “Iceland” and he had this other half of a song and it was something that he’d had for a long time, right? So I had him play this part for me and I went home with this riff in my head and that night I thought up the next two riffs or parts and just kept on coming up with stuff that sounded good together.  

I brought it to practice the next day and while we’re playing it Brent starts singing over it. So we were happy and excited to have come up with “Seabeast” like that.

How many songs does Brent sing on the record?

There’s two songs where does, you know, actual singing, like Thin Lizzy style, or maybe like Ozzy, which I love, or even early Soundgarden, it sounds really neat. Brent kept saying “Is it gay, I’m singing??”  And I just told him “No, it sounds really cool, it sounds natural.”  I mean when you listen to Phil Lynott and when he’s singing it’s so natural, but when you see some Nu Metal band and they’re like “WhooooHooooo” and you just think to yourself “not cool, that’s so bad.”

But back to the writing, did you feel pressure to “top” the previous album?

No not at all, it was intense writing the record because we didn’t want to be there because we wanted to be with, I have a wife and everyone has girlfriends and wives and sometimes I feel really bad about that, like maybe I shouldn’t have a wife or maybe that I’m being selfish by having a wife.

This is totally like a single man’s game being out here touring constantly.  I almost feel like a jerk when I’m just gone for months and months and she’s just sitting home like “when are you coming home or do I have a husband?” it just crushes me because I love her so much…

But how do you do it?

Man, when we got done writing this record, as soon as we finished we went out on a two month tour with Clutch and then we did our own tour that went across the US and up to Seattle where we lived for a month to record the album so I was gone for three months solid.

Dude, that’s a quarter of a year, straight. 

I know man, it’s like what can I say when I do get home? How can I explain it?

Does it help that shit’s actually happening with Mastodon?

In a weird way yeah, but you know I don’t even talk about the band when I’m around her because I feel there’s so much attention on me right now. I mean sometimes we go out to eat and I get recognized…

Are you serious?

Totally, and someone will come up to me and like ask me to sign their napkin or something and she’ll just be like, she’ll be cool about it but I don’t want to like, leave her in the dust.  So it’s something that I fight with all the time because my whole life I’ve been playing drums and playing in bands so this is where I want to be, right?

But that’s a big question mark right there.  It’s like the tail wags the dog eventually and sooner or later you get in way over your head…like Slayer-Slipknot-Europe-Slayer-Killswitch and then it’s happening and it’s like look out because it’s a total ride and the next thing you know two years have passed.  I mean I’m going like 220 and she’s…

Going 4!

Yeah, exactly. I mean I love her and she loves me and I’m trying to be a normal person as well as being in this band and it almost seems like you have to pick one over the other and I can’t.  My heart is just ripped in two…

I couldn’t even imagine man.

Bill’s got a kid and Troy’s daughter is six years old, she’s actually in the new video.

Man, that’s cool, but it’s got to destroy them at times.  

Yeah it does man, I mean that’s where a lot of our riffage comes from, just the frustrating situations that happen on the road with your loved ones back home and there’s nothing you can do about it because you’re in the bubble. This is the tour bubble that we’re in right now and you’re powerless because it’s like kryptonite. The bubble doesn’t stop because it’s got to go to the next town, it’s like an office job you cannot leave sometimes it feels like that!

I mean don’t get me wrong we fucking party, we have a good time playing music for people and establishing ourselves and establishing that musical connection with people and trying to blow kids’ minds. I mean we want to be that door that may open to the past for some kids, like “where did this band come from, who influenced them?”

Like when we were kids, Metallica made us check out Diamond Head


So at this point in the bands life, what other goals are you still looking to meet? I mean I suppose the ultimate is to be able to live off the music, huh?

Yeah, be able to make a comfortable living and not have to tour as much and have a solid audience and we’re going to be doing a lot of supporting bigger bands and hopefully trying to climb that imaginary ladder.

Similar to what High On Fire did by going out with Andrew W.K. and Mushroomhead?

Yeah pretty much.

I came out to see HOF on the Mushroomhead tour and it was fucking weird, so many blank stares for HOF.

Man, High On Fire told us some horror stories, man they (Mushroomhead fans) just hated them.

This is a pretty “big” tour, I  know tonight was sold out, how’s it been going?

It’s been good, it’s been better than good. We’re not seeing some of our fans though because I know our fans will not pay $20 to see, well us.  I mean all these bands are great, Fear Factory have been great but this tour is for us to play to some different people.  But I want to be like what Mr. Bungle was to me, when I saw them for the first time I didn’t even know this kind of music existed and because of them I discovered John Zorn, Naked City, Bill Laslow, Buckethead and this whole universe of music because of that one band.

So that changed my life as well as my whole musical outlook on life. I mean one day I was listening to Death’s ‘Human’ which was an experimental Death Metal album but Mr. Bungle that was just really fucked up.          

How much does the Slayer tour freak you out?

It freaks me out a whole bunch (smiling).

You’re going to get to watch Dave Lombardo, every night!

Yeah, I cannot wait. I don’t know what I’ll do the first time I look over and he’s watching us or me, if he even does that. But if he does it’ll be a proud moment for sure. That or I’ll totally lose it and drop a stick or something (laughing)!

But it’s been a lot of emotion stuff dealing with getting the tour because there were so many bands up for it, but it worked out great.  But it was like every day there was something about the tour and it was insane.

The band life is like a roller coaster, you’re either super high or super low.

Exactly, but that’s our everyday life with just playing shows. One day there will be tons of people all going crazy and then the next day there will be like four people and we’ll say “hey, remember yesterday (laughing)!”

You guys were missing someone tonight. Where’s Bill?

He’s having a baby, he was here with us up until two days ago and we had this guy Aaron come out for these shows to help out.  Aaron’s doing great, I mean this shit’s hard to play and everything but I couldn’t imagine having to do that in someone else’s band.  But Mastodon is Mastodon and it’s four dudes that love each other and there’s circle of energy that flows in and out of each one of us when we start rocking that’s a very real thing.

Like a force field?

Exactly! There’s some nights when I’m playing my drums that it feels like I’m lifting off my chair and heading off to space and it’s the greatest feeling in the world. And it happens maybe five/six times a tour but I pray for that to happen before every set, like take me away, let’s do this.

So when that happens do you even think about playing is it just all feeling?

No thinking at all, but that’s usually what happens when I play anyway. But when I’m really feeling it, that’s the best thing ever and that’s what I want. It’s kinda like your first crack high (laughing)!! So being able to achieve that is awesome. I mean it’s when we’re all on and the people are going nuts it just happens.

I was telling Aaron to pretend he’s eating a mountain when he starts some of the songs because he was looking a little timid and I wanted to get him going, get him amped to do it. So it’s a bummer to have him away and think about this, I’ve been able to look to my left for over ten years and see Bill. 

You know something I either never saw or read was what had happened with you two and Today Is The Day? I really enjoyed the ‘In The Eyes Of God’ record you did.

Steve (Austin) lived in this place called Clinton, Massachusetts and the town itself was super small and Steve had this nice life there with a nice wife and everything was cool.  But I didn’t have anything, I was this 23 year old dude that was single, you know “single and ready to mingle” (laughing) and there was nothing going on in this town and it sucked!  When we got back there after a tour I was broke as a joke going back to one room with a beat up couch and a TV that didn’t get any channels and when we’d get off tour Steve would go off with his wife and be locked down for days with her and I’d be like…ya know?

So when Bill joined the band him and I would be in the studio with no windows, no money  and while I really wanted to do that band with him because I dug the music and everything but things got all fucked up in Europe when we were there with Neurosis and VoiVod and he ended up going home and that was my way out of the situation. 

Was it a bad tour?

No, not at all I think he had just been on tour a very long time and I was young and had never been to Europe before so I was like “Wow, look at this” ya know? And he was like “I’ve been here and I’ve done this and it’s time for me to get recognized for what I do” and we were the first band on every night and he was not happy with the situation and I didn’t care! I loved it!

So we were just at two very different places in our heads and he lost it and had to get the fuck out of there.  So after I got back from Europe I needed to move and I wanted to move to a city with some sort of music scene or at least to a place where they might be girls to talk to, ya know?  So Bill’s girlfriend at the time lived in Atlanta so we said “let’s go there” and it worked out very well.