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Mastodon’s Brann Dailor on ‘Bizarre’ New Album, 2014 Tour, Chaotic Drumming Style + More

Mastodon's Brann Dailor
Ethan Miller, Getty Images

The new Mastodon album is on its way! In fact, if the timeline drummer Brann Dailor gave us during this exclusive interview remains correct, Mastodon have officially finished recording their sixth studio album. Along with that bit of news, Dailor went deep into what fans can expect from the highly anticipated full-length and offered a lot more insight on both the band and himself.

A few days ago, we got Dailor on the phone to talk all things Mastodon. In this interview, the drummer / vocalist reveals whether or not the new record will be a concept album, to what capacity each individual member will be heard, insight on his unique drumming style + much more.

If you’re pumped to learn all you can about Mastodon’s sixth studio album, be sure to check out this exclusive interview with Brann Dailor!

How far along are you in the recording process so far?

Today is the last day of tracking. There is one more song to be sung, and then, that’s it.

I think every Mastodon album is unique, but are there bits and pieces of this new album that remind you of past releases?

Yeah, I mean, it borrows from everything we have done. I feel like whenever we write a new record or go into the studio, we always pick something from that or find something that we like from the previous albums or songs and then there is the fact that we cant really change who we are as musicians and what we kind of gravitate towards naturally together. So it sounds like us — some super duper heavy stuff. It’s heavier stuff than we’ve done in the last two albums. This one sort of reminds me of, as far as the collection of songs, reminds me a little more of ‘Blood Mountain.’"It has some elements from all the albums in there, but then there’s lots of new stuff that I don’t recognize at all."

It has some elements from all the albums in there, but then there’s lots of new stuff that I don’t recognize at all. That’s usually what we are really looking for, you know? There’s more of a surprise for ourselves and for fans. I, sort of, imagine people listening to it and either being absolutely horrified or absolutely loving it. [Laughs] Like, “Oh my god, what is this?!”

Conceptually, does this album follow a storyline or is it more like ‘The Hunter’ with individual tracks?

The vaguest way I can put it is, the concept of the album — it has taken a year to write the record and during that year a lot has happened as far as individual peoples lives. It has not changed dramatically, but you know, big things have happened for people. It seems to me, that’s what everyone is writing about. So whether it is heavily masked in metaphor or thinly veiled, it’s all in there. Outside of that, it’s not really digging too far deep into the past as far as trying to figure out things to write about. ‘Crack the Skye,’ lyrically, was dealing with something that happened over twenty years ago, you know what I mean? With this record, it’s stuff that has happened all along the way, and the album, along with any kind of art form, doesn’t happen inside a vacuum. Life has happened and things have happened and it all affects the outcome of that person’s art, whatever that might be.

Is there any feeling of need or desire within the band to write another concept album at some point? 

It’s not really something we’re yearning for. We’ve done it a few times and if it’s what we want and it comes up, then we’ll do it. We certainly don’t need to do it, but we like having a theme. It’s nice to say out loud, basically to say, like we did with this record, “Hey, we’re kind of concentrating on the things that have happened during this year.” That reflects itself in the title of the album, as well.

Have you decided on a title for the new album?

Yeah, but I guess I’m not coming out with that yet.

Damn! [Laughs] Oh well. Moving on, I’m a big fan of Bill’s vocals. 

Oh, yeah. The screaming?

Yeah, those monstrous sounds that he makes. He hasn’t been very prominent vocally compared to Mastodon’s earlier releases. Is there a chance we’ll be hearing a lot of Bill on this record? 

Not really. I mean, you do hear a lot of Bill. It’s pretty half-and-half as far as writing and there’s a bunch of songs that are cross-contaminated or cross-pollinated or whatever you want to call it. It’s got riffs from everybody in it or it’s got riffs for Bill and Brent together. And there are some songs that are just Brent and there are a bunch of songs that are just Bill.

Bill doesn’t do any screaming on the album. He should have. He needs to do some vocals, but I don’t know. I think that usually how it works is that with the vocals, Troy, myself and Brent team up on it. We just start writing lyrics and try to fill up those parts and see what’s too much and what’s too little, but there’s a lot of Troy’s low bellow. Troy sounds really good on the record, it sounds super powerful. Maybe next time, Bill. [Laughs]

Mastodon just announced an awesome tour beginning in April with Gojira and Kvelertak. It made me think of your tour with Opeth and Ghost shortly after you released ‘The Hunter.’ You played a ton of new material on that tour. Can we expect the same with this one? 

I’m not sure, it depends on when the record comes out. If the record is out, then yeah, but if not, then no. Since the other bands are so super heavy, maybe we’ll dig deep into our catalog and pull out some heavy heavies for this upcoming tour.

So there’s no tentative guess for when the new album will be released? 

I’m guessing that it’s not going to be by the end of April because we’ll start mixing in a couple of days and by the time it gets finished it’ll be the beginning of March. The end of April is too soon to hand it in, but I don’t know, crazier things have happened. Beyonce just went and released a record, but I don’t think we’re quite there yet. [Laughs]

I’m a big fan of your personal style of drumming. It’s a weird combo of incredible precision but it also sounds like a little kid randomly bashing on pots and pans on the kitchen floor. How do you maintain such a tight yet chaotic and unpredictable style? 

I really couldn’t tell you. [Laughs] I really don’t have an answer. The only thing I can tell you is I’m not properly trained to play the drums so I don’t really have a clue as to what I’m doing. I do sort of bash around and try to pretend. Maybe I’m yearning to pass myself off as a trained musician, but at the same time I really have no clue what’s happening. I’m just kind of stabbing in the dark. I’m a big fan of the fusion guys, Phil Collins and Billy Cobham, Tony Williams and some of the jazz guys.

I sort of try to take that mindset or sensibility and try to apply that to the heavier, because you can’t be as soft as they are. I just look to them for the way they move around their kits. Thinking about it in a different way, different shapes to move these different shapes around, but they’re always going to be in the same place. I’m being esoteric. That’s just how I feel, that’s the way the drums come out, trying to make the landscape of the song interesting and unique.

"It doesn’t make sense to me as the proper thing to do, to not be yourself, to not be the artist that’s inside of you."

I try to hold it down, too. I really do try and not play so many fills. It gets away from me because I like it so much. I feel like, why not do all of those things? I don’t understand the criticism of “you just have to hold it down and just have to play this straight beat so the music can do this or that.” I’m just not interested in that. It works sometimes, but I feel like I’m going against my own personal grain if I don’t do what I want to do. There’s nothing special about just reeling yourself in constantly and not being yourself. It doesn’t make sense to me as the proper thing to do, to not be yourself, to not be the artist that’s inside of you but mimic what other people want you to do so you fall into these fake parameters that are bulls–t anyways.

I think many people would say that Mastodon have compiled one of the most acclaimed metal discographies of the 2000s. What other bands, in your mind, have been extremely consistent and critically praised throughout the 2000s? 

Neurosis. Tool, even though they haven’t put out that much. Melvins, Big Business, Baroness, Kylesa, Intronaut… our whole little scene we’ve got going. High on Fire… so many awesome bands.

Especially from the South. It seems so rich in the South right now with sludge and groove and that kind of stuff.

Yeah, I don’t know where it came from really. Way back, you have Weedeater and Eyehategod and all that New Orleans stuff. It just grew from there. I think we’re a good cog for that whole wheel. We were going down and playing the little Velvet Elvis in Savannah and the guys from Baroness, who weren’t Baroness yet, were in the audience. I’m excited to see what they do next, they overcame that horrible accident. We’re close friends with those guys.

Baroness really are an amazing band. Thanks so much for talking with me today. I can’t wait to finally hear this new album.  "We were listening to some of the songs last night and there’s a couple where I don’t even know what planet they’re from."

Yeah man, it’s wild. We were listening to some of the songs last night and there’s a couple where I don’t even know what planet they’re from. I really couldn’t tell you what the f— is happening. It’s really bizarre. It’s f—ing weird and we’re excited. It’s exactly what we wanted, but there’s also very big rock heaviness in there as well. I hope everyone likes it, we like it a lot. We’re obsessed with trying to like it as much as possible. We totally obsess over it. Today is the last day of completely obsessing — you’re so intensely obsessing over the sound of it and where everything goes and what happens. You don’t want to misplace that one little note because you don’t want it to slip through your fingers because it’s not right. It’s just not right! That’s where we’re at right now. Where we’re just like, gasp! On pins and needles listening to every song. I like it. Even if you don’t like it, you’ll think it’s strange and that’s enough for me.

Mastodon begin their 2014 U.S. tour with Gojira + Kvelertak on April 29 in Portland, Ore. For the full list of dates, click here.

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