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.