Kyall Robinson of Australia's The Metal Forge recently conducted an interview with drummer Brann Dailor of Atlanta progressive metallers MASTODON. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.
The Metal Forge: So you've recently come to Australia off the back of a big tour with HIGH ON FIRE, CONVERGE and DETHKLOK, how does that sort of thing compare to the Big Day Out festival, now that you're playing with MUSE and PEACHES and all that?
Dailor: "It's a totally different thing. This reminds me a lot more of like, an eclectic European style festival. It's you know, our previous tour was like a celebration of music, but this is a celebration of music and artists that are kinda, 'unique' in their own special way, lots of different cool music that's going on. It gives you the opportunity to see a lot of groups that we wouldn't normally get the chance to see because we tour so much, when MUSE or THE MARS VOLTA or THE DECEMBERISTS or PEACHES come to town, we're usually gone. So it's nice to be able to tour with them, get to know them and stuff like that, so it's cool. A nice melting pot of artists."
The Metal Forge: So then, do you feel kinda like the dark horse of this festival, being one of the only real metal bands on the line-up?
Dailor: "I think FEAR FACTORY are probably more metal than we are! But no, we don't feel like that at all. We've been lucky enough to do plenty of these kinds of festivals with these kinds of bands so you'd be surprised at the people that come out and are into metal. At the end of the day I guess music's music, a lot of musicians especially are into lots of different kinds of music the same way that we play music that's rooted in metal but I think it goes into lots of different areas and I know for a fact that everybody in the band isn't just sitting around and listening to metal all day long. Quite the opposite! We listen to a lot of different kinds of music, I think you have to if you're gonna be any kind of musician"
The Metal Forge: Comparing last time you came here with SLAYER, and the crowd that followed them and your recent tour in the states, how does the crowd compare?
Dailor: "Those shows we did with SLAYER were kinda like, your simple metal fans, your super, super metalheads. So there's a lot of people who have heard of the band who are just gonna watch and nod their heads, maybe this is the first time they've ever heard us and maybe they like it? I dunno. It's a great opportunity to hopefully take on a bunch of new fans. I guess a lot of people here in Australia trust in the 'curators' of the Big Day Out and trust that they're gonna provide them with the very best and eclectic mix of music that's going on out there in the world today. So it's kinda cool that this would sell out before the line-up has been fully announced so it's cool that it's a very prestigious festival and there's a lot of trust there from the fans that come out to have a good time and get rocked by something and hopefully discover something new! So hopefully we can be that something new for some people that come out."
The Metal Forge: So, your set list now is dominated by material from "Crack the Skye", is this an indication of departing from the roots of your first albums, or are you just interested in really progressing your sound?
Dailor: "We're definitely interested in progressing our sound and going different places with it. It's not something that's like talked about with us, but we've always been really into '70s prog and different kinds of music. So we kinda feel like we've covered the metal end of it and we always wanna hold onto that but we wanna go do other things as well and have MASTODON be able to sorta quench all the musical thirsts of the band members. Just try to see what we can do and what new ground we can discover and try to keep it interesting for ourselves and the listeners. I know there's a crowd out there that want the same record over and over, but that's not really what we want to do. We want to branch out and tell people there's more to us than that. We just like a lot of different kinds of music and we want to be able to explore all those different options and have MASTODON be that vessel."
The Metal Forge: So would you say that the band's influences have changed at all? Or are you just continuing the progression?
Dailor: "It's whatever the mood is, we're obviously maturing and getting older as people. Whereas we'd listen to old GENESIS and KING CRIMSON in the van when we were first starting out, it's like where we're heading or so it seems."
The Metal Forge: One of the things I appreciate about MASTODON is that vocal duties are shared between all members of the band, was it a conscious decision or did it just happen?
Dailor: "Troy and Brent never wanted to be vocalists in the first place, so it's kinda funny that it fell upon them now. We had a guy that had a microphone that just ran around and screamed in the beginning. So he was on our demos and he just wasn't having a good time. He wasn't from Atlanta, he was from New York where myself and Bill are from, so it was hard for him in Atlanta. He decided to move back, but he decided like three or four days before we were supposed to leave for our first kinda not real tour, it was a tour we booked ourselves that was gonna take us up the east coast and back, so it was a three-week long tour. We kinda didn't have anything out there yet, so Troy and Brent were kinda like, 'Well, we'll just fill in I guess and as we go along we'll figure some lyrics out to sing,' so it was on the fly, but we were playing in people's basements so it really didn't matter, we could have been an instrumental band and we would have been fine. But Troy and Brent started filling in wherever they could and felt comfortable. So from there Bill came in and started singing a little bit here and there and when we started recording stuff that's when everybody kind of got their ideas of where to put vocals and where to put lyrics. It all kinda matured from there and the vocals always had a strange evolution outside the music. I mean, like going from 'Remission' to 'Leviathan'. 'Leviathan' saw Brent really step out and actually sing a couple of songs, we came up with some melodies and we'd all work together on those melodies and lyrics, so it was a communal situation to begin with vocals and lyrics wise, there wasn't ever like one person who was appointed the duty. So it was free game, whoever had a free idea was more than welcome to try it out and whoever had an idea for a song was more than welcome to write it. I think if you start out and you have a vocalist, it's kind of assumed that it's his job or duty to write the lyrics and take care of all that, then you have the drummer who's job it is to play drums and the guitarist who's job it is to write guitar parts and so on so forth. But with us, things got mish-mashed and it turned out really good I think. I think that's what really surged us forward and gave us a kind of unique blend where everybody was contributing all the time. So now on this new record we incorporated my vocals as a little surprise, so I guess I'm guest vocals on this album! I don't know what we're gonna do next, I guess I'll keep singing and stuff, it's a little bit hard when you're playing the drums and singing. You've really gotta pick your moments and see if you can pull it off but if you're moving around constantly it is a little weird, it gets a little strange especially if you're doing double bass and stuff and trying to sing it's hard to keep your voice steady, it's like 'nyererererererererer.'"
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