Troy And Brann Of Mastodon Discuss New Album And Tour Plans for 2012
Mastodon is one of those bands that can’t disappoint even if the band tried. Having seen Mastodon live twice I'll definitely say that anyone looking to see the group in concert is probably going to have a total blast.
What's more important is that the Mastodon guys are actually awesome in person. Troy Sanders and Brann Dailor sat down to talk about their new album “The Hunter,” their recent tour with The Dillinger Escape Plan, Elmyr and what original vocalist Eric Saner is up to.
Matt: The Hunter sounds a lot more like “Leviathan” and “Blood Mountain” than it does “Crack the Skye.” Why choose to go back to your original sound?
Brann: It's what we were in the mood to do. It's sort of what came out. It's just a knee jerk reaction to “Crack the Skye” and the more ethereal stuff although it was the album we wanted to make at that moment in time. We played that record all the way through for the better part of two years. So I guess we wanted to come out swinging and have some fun and we wanted to make our practice space environment a little less stressful than it was with the previous album's, since writing “Crack the Sky” was just so involved, it was just like banging our heads against he wall just trying to figure out how to fit this crazy angular mathematical side of what would be a simple rock song. So when we started coming up for riffs for this album we decided that the original was what it was going to be and just move on from there as opposed to if we came up with the main riff for “Curl of the Burl” in the past we'd have said to ourselves, “it's not complicated enough, let's throw some extra notes in there to make it more complex.” This time around we were satisfied with what we had so we'd come up with one thing and then move on to the next.
Matt: Troy, you're featured a lot more vocally on this album than you were on “Crack the Skye.” Any reason why you wanted to take up vocal duties again?
Troy: Basically, everything we do is very collaborative when back in March we started to write things in our practice space. Between Brent, Brann and myself we'd record an idea of a rough structure of a song I had and say, “let's just throw some vocal ideas down.” So all three of us would step up to the mic and I'd be all like, “hey, here’s what I'm feeling in terms of vocal melody” and then Brann would go up and do his version of what he initially heard and the same thing with Brent. Eventually, we used a lot of everyone's. But it turns out that Brann, Bill and Brent just had a lot of faith in me and wanted me to take on more vocal duties and were comfortable with that. Personally that was a very flattering compliment from my bandmates and an often challenge because if there’s one thing I think I can really improve on, it's my vocal duties. It's like a great challenge that my bandmates presented to me so it just kind of happened.
Matt: It's cool that you and Dillinger are playing together cause you're two of the more intricate drum bands out there. How does that make you feel to have that kind of tour package on the road?
Brann: It's going great. We’ve been friends with them since they first started their band. My old band Today is the Day played with them at CBGBs. The only original member of the band who's still there today is Ben. We toured with Dillinger in 2001 back when “Remission” came out and we've just always been really close friends. If you've been touring long enough, then there’s bands that you’re really close friends with that you want to tour with so it's all about timing and a lot of times it just doesn't work out that a lot of those bands can get together to do something. We were just really exited since Dillinger has always been one of those bands on our list of bands that we want to tour with and go out there with and we have a lot of history as people first and foremost. Secondly, I just know that they're going to deliver a really kick-ass show. They exhilarate us a and make us have to one-up our game. I know that the fans get their money worth when you have a band like Dillinger and a band like Red Fang out there.
Matt: What's you favorite track on “The Hunter?”
Troy: Currently, it would be “Creature Lives.” Obviously, I'm very much in love with the entire record as we spent so much time and dedication and effort to make an album just like every other band does. So I'm very much in love with the whole thing. Currently “Creature Lives” is my favorite since it's a very different song for us since it's just an anthemic sing-along and that’s a beautiful thing.
Matt: Why did you choose to bring back the harsher vocals when they were mostly absent from Crack the Skye?
Troy: We always try to find a complimentary vocal part and follow the music itself to make a bigger, better piece. Sometimes, we can try a more aggressive vocal attack as opposed to more melodic one and then we'll take a vote as a band and as it hits a little harder or vice versa where we'll decide that that a melody's too cool we should stick with that one. The four of us just kind of sit there and play rock paper scissors, thumbs up, thumbs down.
Brann: It's our own personal taste when it comes to what the part is. Sometimes, maybe I'll sing over something and we'll know it's not right but it's too melodic and it needs to be rougher so that's when I call in Troy, and I'm all like, “Hey Troy! Knock this out for us!”
Troy: If my bandmates want a heavier vocal approach from me, they'll start making fun of me and really start getting under my skin and get me all fired up then they'll just send me back in the vocal booth and something comes out a little more aggressive. They like to set me on fire and toy with my emotions.
Matt: Is your band going to do another Elmyr ad?
Brann: I hope they ask again. We've been pimping Elmyr since day one. We've done countless interviews and had them on MTV and we've always name-dropped Elmyr. It's our favorite place in Atlanta that's a little dark corner where you can usually find us sipping on a margarita and eating a taco. So anything that Elmyr wants us to do, we're happy to do.
Matt: After this tour, what's next?
Troy: We're mapping out 2012 as we speak. We do have a confirmed European tour that's really cool and goes into Scandinavia so I'm purchasing a new jacket for that one. I'm asking my wife to get me one for Christmas.
Troy: I want to try it on first since it's cold across Scandinavia. Our tour starts January 9th or something. We like slip-on Vans because they're comfortable but it took a while to learn since we're cavemen that it's not a good idea to wear candy shoes across Scandinavia in January. Because then you just slosh around in the ice and get borderline frostbite. Not good.
Brann: What about duck boots? I got a pair. My wife was in town, she flew in yesterday.
Troy: That's what Rockers do. We end in February across the UK. End of February thorough March, we're doing the Soundwave festival in Australia. Right now we're mapping out April, May and June. We're just tossing out some ideas and seeing where we want to go.
Brann: April will probably be another tour in the States which'll take us to the European festivals and summer tours which'll take us to the camping and barbecue season with the family.
Troy: It's brutally hot down in the south in July but I'd like to barbecue a couple times. Our plate is quite full but this is out livelihood and it's good to know that we have a whole year of healthy touring ahead of us.
Matt: What's your favorite song to play live?
Troy: I really like “Aqua Dementia” from “Leviathan.” Scott Kelly did a vocal part during one of the four times that we've worked with him and the lyrics are very personal for me. It deals with family and children. It's very therapeutic for me because I stink, I sweat and I'm spitting during that song but my heart has got a very warm glow when we play it.
Matt: Next up are you going to do another prog odessey next or is your next album going to be more like “The Hunter” where it's more stripped down?
Brann: I don’t know. I feel like it's really important to let time pass and be inspired by whatever goes your way and then build on riffs and song ideas and you let yourself be inspired by books you're reading, by movies, by places that you see all around the world. Interesting things that sparked the imagination about what the next album is going to be. Thinking about the next album is premature and that's the way we operate.
Matt: When it comes to albums, which are you the most proud of?
Troy: Again, I've dedicated my life to this band and to my bandmates. They all have a giant place in my heart. I've just immersed myself for the past nine months with everything that became “The Hunter.” It's taken up a year of my life. So that's why my favorite right now is “The Hunter.” It's my baby right now, it's our newborn. Lifesblood's twelve years old now, it's in seventh grade. But my favorite now is what we've sunk the past nine months of our lives into. I love em all.
Matt: Why’d you choose to rerecord the “Slickleg” demo as “Call of the Mastodon?”
Brann: All those songs have never been together except as that one demo and Relapse just wanted to put that whole thing out, originally because they didn't know what was going to happen with the band. They had a plan where they'd put out a five song EP as a tester to see if anyone dug this thing or if it sold at all. It was only available through the website and if you bought something else, it was in there with it. It actually felt like it would be great to have the songs all together with new artwork so it could count it as an entire album instead of just photocopying our name over some artwork and selling an album for $5 at basement shows we were playing at the time.
Matt: What ever happened to Eric Saner?
Troy: He's currently kicking ass up in Rochester, New York.
Brann: Actually, Buffalo.
Troy: He's doing great, man. He's doing awesome. He's doing his own thing. He's tattooing like a madman and we have a tour date up there where we'll grab some hot wings with him.
Brann: That day's in Toronto. It's also Thanksgiving. We'll have to find a Canadian turkey.
Troy: You forgot the cinnamon rolls, burgers, candied beets. We're gonna eat all this, basically.
Matt: Thanks for the interview.
Troy: Thanks for your time.
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