Mastodon ‘Play the Feelings’ Instead of Talking About Them, Says Brann Dailor
Mastodon's Brann Dailor was the latest guest on Full Metal Jackie's weekend radio program. The drummer spoke about the band's new double album, Hushed & Grim and how the band is a continuous vehicle to pour their emotions into as they deal with painful moments in life.
For as personal as the music is for each member of the veteran band, Dailor relayed that they don't communicate their feelings with one another through talking, but instead "play the feelings" that are on the inside. More than two decades into their career, he insisted that the reasons Mastodon formed in their first place remain very much intact today, which makes the creative process so exciting.
Dailor also talked about a different creative muse as he drew pictures of clowns for 101 consecutive days, which have been compiled into a book.
Read the full interview below.
Spirituality is very apparent in much of Mastodon's work and even more so now with this new record. Why is music so conducive to conveying those themes?
There's some kind of a power that kind of lies within music and sound that's almost intangible. It just sort of manifests itself in that way and, especially for all of us, it's our way to connect with other people and a way for us to connect with each other through our instruments.
We don't sit around and talk about our feelings so much as we play the feelings, so that's really how we're able to express ourselves as humans and able to understand some of the not so fun moments of our lives. When those things all come together, what you have is just sort of that raw emotion that gets captured and that can be sort of a spiritual thing for a lot of people.
Mastodon music is often reactionary to loss and grief. If music is cathartic, what therapeutic responsibility do you feel toward someone who listens to your albums?
I don't even know that that it is cathartic. I hope it is, but I've never really lived without it so I don't really know what the other side of that looks like. I've always had drums or something to turn to in a time of need. If something has happened tragic in my life, there's always been drums and music that get me through it, whether it's listening to music or playing music.
I'm not sure that I really think about any kind of responsibility other than I hope it helps. I'm really first and foremost just trying to understand any kind of tragic situation that has transpired with us. For this record, we lost our dear friend and manager, Nick John, to pancreatic cancer and going through that was difficult. It was awful to watch him deteriorate and the way that we deal with all that kind of stuff is to put it in the music.
I hope that the honesty that we put forth and the emotion that we sink into the music can help somebody who is going through a tough time.
Hushed and Grim is a double album. How did the impact of the songs change when given that additional room to breathe?
Like everyone, we had a lot of downtime — we weren't going on tour. There's always a tour looming for us when we're writing and recording — a cycle that's been going on since the beginning of our band. We had come off the Crack the Skye anniversary tour and went into writing mode and then we wrote for two years, basically. With all that extra time to write and record, it changed the makeup of the album and turned it into a double album. We wouldn't have had that amount of time to really pour over the extra material.
When we had around an hour's worth of material or 50 something minutes, we would have cut it there and gone in and recorded whatever we had. But we had 20-something songs at the end of demoing and getting ready to go into the studio. We had to really tear it down and the best we could do was 15 songs. Nobody wanted to cut anything else, so we just decided to roll with it and do the old double album, which yeah, so about 90 minutes worth of material. And so hopefully that will give our, our fans they'll keep them busy for a little while.
101 Clowns of the Coronavirus is a new book that features your illustrations. What creative parallels are there between an illustrator and a musician?
I'm not sure there are creative parallels other than the creative process of coming up with an idea and executing it the way you see fit using your tastes and your sensibilities.
I don't consider myself to be very talented at drawing, but I was able to get my point across. Half the battle is being creative and trying to convey a certain emotion. You don't always have to be the most skilled at that particular art form, it just has to resonate with someone else or within yourself.
That has a lot to do with creating music as well — you don't always have to be the most skilled player to get your point across. I did kind of learn something about myself that I'm sort of like a creative monogamist because it's hard for me to do Mastodon and dedicate myself to drawing something or being creative in that way. I'm either all-in on the Mastodon thing or I went all-in on drawing a clown every day, so that was interesting.
Earlier this year, Mastodon commemorated its anniversary as a band with a pretty funny video. What changes most about a band over time?
Every band has their own set of circumstances that are unique to them. Like every relationship, they started a little bit different in the very beginning — you're probably young and don't have a family and you just sort of have each other and you're in the van and going on tour and this and that... and over time people get married and have kids.
The fact that it's the same core guys for over 20 years now is pretty outstanding. I'm proud that we've held it together this long with the same four guys. The thing that's changed is just the time spent together — it's not as much time because people have their families and their own lives away from the band, but the relationships are very much the same. We love each other, we respect each other and we love each other's playing.
The reasons why Mastodon formed in the first place — excitement about the potential that we have as far as creating music together — is still very much alive. That's what keeps us coming back for more.
Mastodon Celebrate the Band's 21st Anniversary
Thanks to Brann Dailor for the interview. Get your copy of Mastodon's 'Hushed and Grim' album here and follow the band on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Spotify. Find out where you can hear Full Metal Jackie's weekend radio show here.