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Interviews : Mastodon (Brann Dailor) – 01/02/2010

By on February 1, 2010

Mastodon with Borat

Mastodon – Brann Dailor

In the ten years of their existence Mastodon have grown to become one of the worlds premier metal bands. Mastodon are back in Australia foe the second time in order to promote last years classic album and Metal Obsessions album of the year in ‘Crack the Skye’, playing The Big Day Out as well as two sideshows in Melbourne and Sydney. Metal Obsession caught up with drummer Brann Dailor at Warner Brothers HQ to talk about the past, the present and the very bright future of the mighty Mastodon.


Metal Obsession: G’day Brann and welcome to Metal Obsession.

Brann Dailor: Thank You.

MO: How have you been enjoying the Big Day Out so far?

BD: It’s been great, it’s been fun. You know, it’s been easy. I mean it was hot in a couple of places but we’ve done many a hot show so that was nothing new. The performances have been going pretty well and yeah we’ve been hanging out with a bunch of goofballs that are on tour. Mainly Mars Volta goofballs and Fear Factory goofballs. Fear Factory are old friends.

We toured with Fear Factory back in ’04 right before Leviathan came out and we’ve been friends with them ever since. We just got off tour with Dethklock in the states and Gene Hoglan was on that tour so we were having a merry old tour and all of a sudden here he is again so we were just like “hey buddy” (laughs). Nah it’s been cool. Its fun you know, the atmosphere… everybody is laid back and relaxed we get up there and do our thing for fifty minutes and then we’ve got the rest of the day to do whatever. Usually we come back to the hotel and kind of hang out or go swimming or hit the beach. It’s been a real relaxed tour. I think you do all the other grueling kind of tours where you’re on every day and it’s a little more stressful where you’re doing like seven shows in a row.

BrannDailorMO: Sounds Awesome. Do you have any memories of last time you were down here with Slayer?

BD: (Laughs) No not really. It was great, it was killer, it was fun. I just remember going out with Kerry (King, Slayer Guitarist) every night and getting torn up. It was great, it was pretty wild.

MO: Considering you are doing a lot of big festivals and larger shows nowadays, do you ever miss the days of the van tours just around the states?

BD: Yeah I miss the van tour, for sure. I loved doing those; I would love to do another one… I mean just a short one (laughs). I think now though I am a little bit old for that. Well, maybe not old, but I miss kind of rolling around in the van getting to the venue at nine o clock and they’re not even open yet and the guy that runs the place is just showing up and unlocking the door and then you roll in set your gear up leisurely and then wait for twenty to fifty people to show up maybe and play for forty five minutes and then hang out with a bunch of freaks and then go sleep on their floor. Wake up do it all again, it was fun. The van tours fun for sure, I got to listen to a lot of CD’s in the van really loud and that was a good time. It was fun you know. It smelt bad but it smells now too, just not as bad.

MO: Any chance of maybe pulling a Bruce Dickinson and getting maybe you or Brent to fly around and tour everywhere?

BD: None of us have those kinds of skills yet (laughs).

MO: Moving onto Crack the Skye, since it came out it has received a heap of praise. I know you won our album of the year as well as several others such as that from ‘Metal Hammer’. Did it occur to you while recording just how special the album was?

BD: I mean we think that every album we have done is super special. We always work really hard on it and get it to a certain point where we like it. We’re all perfectionists and we’re all really meticulous about it. But yeah, definitely, I mean we felt like in the middle of writing it that we had something really awesome. We always want that feeling.

I mean we weren’t sure what everyone else was going to think about it, but I felt there would probably be a little bit of a backlash from some of the more metal people because it was kind of treading in a more classic rockish/ prog rock place. But for us, we kind of do what comes naturally and we just kind of do our thing and just try and concentrate on that by making ourselves happy which is hard enough as it is. If you’re trying to make someone else happy, you’re kind of missing it I think. But if we stay true to the four guys in the band and what we want to do and what we want to accomplish and never stray from that I think we’ll be fine. But if you put out a second record there will always be somebody who likes the first record more. With music who can really say why somebody likes what they do.

MO: What was it like working with (famed producer of bands such as AC/DC and Bob Dylan) Brendan O’Brian?

BD: It was great, Brendan was great, and he was really cool. He was fun to be around and it was a good process that he had, he was really fast. We were super ready to go and record the record and I think he kind of knew that. So we got everything, threw it up and blasted through it and it was kind of done before we knew it. It was a pretty relaxed, cool environment; we just rolled in there when we wanted to. It was so close to where everybody lives. It was really close to my house.

I probably had it the easiest. It was like a four minute drive from my driveway to the driveway of the studio. I had no idea I had been driving past that every day for the last ten years and had no idea that there was this lovely studio in there that was recording records from people like Bob Dylan being back there or Bruce Springsteen or the Pearl Jam guys were making records there, had no idea (laughs).

mastodon-crack-the-skye-2009MO: You’ve gone out and played Crack the Skye in its entirety at most of your live shows this tour. What was the reason for having this decision? Was it just personal pride in the album or…

BD: Yeah that and it really just felt like this one big piece of music and it was hard to really pick and choose what songs to play. It didn’t feel like a regular… it didn’t feel like a patchwork album so it was really hard for us to pick a song to play or not play. So it really just … it’s really like that’s what we wanted to do. It just felt natural for us to do that so we did it (laughs).

MO: (Laughs) Fair enough. Prior to Mastodon you got to experience a bit of relative underground success working with Steve Austin in death metal band Today is the Day. How did this affect you when you started out with Mastodon?

BD: It affected Bill (Kehlier, Mastodon guitarist and ex-TITD guitarist) and myself a lot. We definitely wanted to get back to where that was and what was going on with that. We wanted to get back on tour and kind of get ourselves out there. I clearly remember talking to the guys (in Mastodon) and saying it’s going to take a minimum five years to get anywhere near where we can support ourselves making music. So we need to be all on the same page and do whatever it takes as far as just really kind of touring our asses off and just kind of being out there non-stop and making no money and to know that already and go in and have no expectations and know that it still might not work. As long as we kind of believe in ourselves I guess, corny as that may sound, and really dig what we’re doing musically together then there’s really not much more you can ask for other than that.

The relationships between the band members, the fun that we have, make friends and creating something that we think is awesome and building it from the ground up to try and get it to as many people as possible and to try to build that, build a name and build a band up and get it out there. We were all on the same page about that and yeah, Today is the Day was great but I didn’t feel any ownership privileges with it, it wasn’t my thing, it wasn’t Bills thing. I mean, it was to an extent that record ‘In the Eyes of God’, because Steve (Austin, Today is the Day founder and main songwriter) and I wrote that record in like a month.

But it was fun for me and to him I think because we were brand new musical partners and we were feeding off of each other and it was really cool and we liked what was happening but at the end of the day it was really his baby understandably and he really wanted to protect it and he had been so far removed from actually being in a band with anybody and sharing interview duties or song writing or anything like that so that the last time the band was an actual band and not just people that he had handpicked and get new people over and over again. It had turned into more of a dictatorship. We were on that tour with Neurosis and just seeing what they had, we kind of envied that a bit. I was just kind of like to Bill, ‘man we need to start our own thing because the time is now for us to branch off’.

MO: Today is the Day to branch of?

BD: (Laughs) Today is the day to branch off goddamnit, let’s do our own thing.

MO: Would you say that drive and fun you mentioned earlier that the four of you have is what has kept you together (excluding the brief tenure vocalist Eric Saner) when most other metal bands seem to have so many ex-members. Take Maiden for example who had something like fifteen members before they even had an album out.

BD: (Laughs) I don’t know, with Maiden I guess it’s a different thing. You know, you’ve got Steve Harris and he had a concise and clear sort of vision to what the band was supposed to be and the attitude they needed for them to actually get anywhere. How it had to be and you can just see that a lot of those guys didn’t take the band all that seriously.

They were just kind of maybe a little short sighted in where the band could go. They were probably just like ‘we’re just a pub rock band, we’re just going to play around here and we’re just going to get pissed and get drunk all the time and that’s going to be it’ but Steve Harris was like ‘no, no, no, no, we can go where Thin Lizzy‘s going and all that stuff’ so thank god he stayed to chorus and realized its fun and it’s a good time but the music sort of balances it and it’s a serious business and be somewhat calculating in the moves that you make as a band and you got to sit back and just try and look at the bigger picture.

MastodonMO: Speaking of Thin Lizzy, I know Brent (Hinds, Mastodon lead guitarist and co-vocalist) and Bill got to play with Scott Gorham (Legendary Thin Lizzy guitarist), did the rest of you get to play with the band?

BD: No we didn’t get to play with them. Brent and Bill got to play with Scott at some convention or something. It was supposed to happen but then Tommy Alderidge broke his foot or his shoulder or something like that so they didn’t end up playing Knebworth with us or whatever they were supposed to play a couple of shows with us last summer and Scott was going to come on and do Emerald and we were all really excited about it and then it didn’t happen and we like… boo (frowns and fakes wiping tears).

But Brent and Bill got to jam with them at Gibson studios or Gibson… I’m not sure what it is exactly but maybe their showroom in London. We did an interview there and we all were there and met Scott and hung out with him for a while. He was a super super cool guy and they sat down with acoustics and jammed ‘Emerald’ and Brent got to sing it and it was just wild, it was really cool. Especially for Brent, I just felt really good for Brent, because that was his hero, his guitar hero and his idol, so it was just fun to see Brent’s face light up with just how happy he was to be shooting the shit with his guitar hero, which was awesome to have done it, it was a once in a lifetime thing. To be on a peer basis with some of those guys is really cool. Whether they respect what you’re doing and that you’re coming up, they are wise men.

MO: Recently you got the opportunity to score the movie Jonah Hex. How did that come about?

BD: Director Jimmy Haywood just kind of called Warner Brothers out of the blue and asked what we were doing and if we could be part of his wacky experiment to take a band like Mastodon and put them with a movie music composer and see what happens.

So we we’re basically like ‘not really’ because we don’t really have time and we’re really busy but we can make time because it’s a really cool opportunity and something that we’ve definitely been interested in doing. It was cool, it was fun and I think we still have some more work to do on it when we get home in late march, either they’re going to come to Atlanta or we’re going to go to New Orleans or to LA wherever we can go and continue working on that because it’s going to cool.

MO: What kind of music have you written for the movie, is it you’re more straight up metal stuff or some of the more atmospheric music you wrote for Crack the Skye?

BD: Its different, it’s like coming up with themes and stuff with different… we just kept throwing out riffs every day. Like we were there for two weeks pretty much drawn out, we put together like two or three different parts and then we would just jam on something and come up with something that we liked and just jam on it for a while and then you pick bits and pieces out of that and then you expand upon those. The best example that I can give is like in Empire Strikes Back when Darth Vader is first introduced you hear his theme music and it’s like horns and all the instrumentation going on and they’re just playing (Brann sings Darth Vader song from Star Wars) Da Da Da Da Dada Da Dada. Then throughout the movie its sort of peppered in there where you are about to see Darth Vader and you may only hear one bar or one measure without all of it, maybe it’s just an oboe or a violin or something (sings again only slower) Da Da Da Da Dada Da DaDaaaaaa, only it’s a lot slower so basically you come up with a theme and you play it to its full extent and then you kind of extract the main part of that theme and then you play that as many different ways as you can think.

First you play it on a banjo or you play it on this or play it on that and then play it really slow, as slow as you can slow down and still have it be recognizable. You use all that stuff. Its movie so you’ve got cues and they can only last for this long and you got to work in between dialogue and you got to work in between explosions and fights and so it’s a totally different thing. You also have to be open to them not liking it, not liking what you’re coming up with and you’ll be like ‘why, it’s awesome, but it doesn’t matter what you think, it’s their movie and they kind of have something on their mind when it comes to riffs which was kind of easy for us because we were like ‘Whatever we’ll use it for Mastodon’ (laughs) We got to write another record soon’.

Brann DailorMO: On the topic of movies, a few years ago you worked on the Aqua Teen Hunger Force movie. How did that come about and who wrote that song?

BD: We didn’t write the lyrics, they wrote the lyrics (laughs). Those guys had some much lyrics dude; like they had way more than that (shows a gap about two feet long between his hands). They had tons of lyrics and they were like ‘can we put these into a song that lasts a minute and thirty seconds’ and we were just like ‘no’ and then they were like ‘yeah, but it can be fast’ and then we were like ‘you don’t understand how music… and how you got to shoehorn all those words in there, it’ll just be… it’s just not going to work like that’.

So we worked it out, we took a day, they called us on like Friday and just answered the phone and they’re like ‘hey this is Dave from Aqua Teen Hunger Force and I got you’re number from so and so’, they live in Atlanta and Cartoon Network is in Atlanta so they have a base in Atlanta and they have offices, the tit-mouse offices, are in California in LA. That’s where like Metaockolypse is based. So in Atlanta they just called us on Friday ‘hey we need a song for the opening, I’m going to email you the lyrics and you can check them out’ and so we were like ‘what do you want, like metal?’ and then they were like ‘yeah, something really super metal’. So me and Bill went down… they needed it by Monday by the way(laughs) so we could record it by Monday so we were like, alright we’ll see what we can do. So me and Bill went down there on a Sunday for about an hour and wrote a song in like ten minutes. Two riffs just went back and forth. It was fun and it was totally different and Troy (Sanders, bassist and co-vocalist of Mastodon) and Brent just went kind of back and forth doing like King Diamond vocals and doing the thrashy vocals.

MO: Just wrapping up, are there any Australian bands you’re a fan of?

BD: Ummmm, (picks up CD in front of him) Karnivool? I don’t know, um, I’m not sure. (Looks at CD again), Karnivools awesome (laughs). I don’t really know any other bands. I guess in like 1992 or so I really dug that Itchy and Scratchy ‘Sweetness and Light’ record (laughs) but that’s not what you wanted to hear. Umm, (begins looking at posters on wall). Olivia Newton-John ummm, you guys like Abba over here, I like Abba but they’re from Sweden so that doesn’t count. Umm yeah I don’t know. I don’t really know that many. It’s not really advertised as ‘Australian band’. Oh well.

MO: Any Final Words for readers?

BD: (laughs) Umm don’t let your obsessions take the best of you (laughs).

MO: Thank you Brann for taking the time to talk to

BD: No worries man, it’s been a blast.

Q’s: Elliot Coombe
Brann Dailor
Atlanta, USA