An Out of Body Experience
CoC chats with Brann Dailor of Mastodon
by: Jackie Smit
I’m standing in a queue outside the Camden Underworld, basking in the anticipation of seeing a band in the flesh who has recently blown me away in every conceivable sense of the word with their phenomenal _Remission_ debut. Now, there's one thing that you should know about London (if you haven't been here before that is): people don't speak to each other. Unless someone knows you or is begging you for money, verbal exchanges are anathema, especially mid-queue at a metal show. But on this particular rainy evening, the unthinkable takes place. A stranger taps me on the shoulder: "Have you seen these guys play?", he asks. I am stunned. Quickly shaking off the disbelief, I reveal to my fellow punter that this will be my first encounter with the New York quartet. He takes this as his cue and waxes lyrical on the band's greatness for several minutes.

In hindsight, it should not have surprised me. When you're an extreme band of note and even the preppy, corporate salad tossers of MTV are calling your band the future of metal, something is most definitely up. And believe me: Mastodon transcend the hype. They are not The Darkness. They are not Linkin Park. They are not a passing phase. Their music flows from their instruments like a tidal wave -- stripped free of any bullshit; honest, fresh, emotive and aggressive.

But I digress, because I recently had Brann Dailor on the phone and he had a lot to say about the band, their upcoming record, and, in his own words, the "out of body experience" that is their music. Read on.

CoC: Okay, firstly Brann: what's happening in the Mastodon camp?

Brann Dailor: We're working on the new album right now, and we'll be going out on tour from January the 20th to February the 15th. Then we're heading to Seattle to record the new record with Matt Bayles, and we'll be in the studio for about a month.

CoC: You used Matt for _Remission_ as well. What made you decide to bring him aboard again?

BD: I feel comfortable working with him and I feel that we've established a relationship with him. I also feel that if we go with him and go to a place that's comfortable for him, leaving our daily lives behind and just concentrating 100% on the record -- not having jobs and other conflicting interests -- then we can come up with a product that's even better than _Remission_. We know him and we know what direction to go in. We can say: "The last one sounded awesome, but here's a couple of things we want to change." It's much better than starting with someone new, I think.

CoC: Let's discuss the new album for a moment. What direction has the band taken with the new material?

BD: I think the biggest difference is that the progressive stuff is much crazier this time round. I also think that in spots, certain songs are heavier. And when I say that, you know, there's two kinds of heavy: the blatant Slayer-esque heavy (which is great and there's definitely some of that on the record), and the mind-melting Neurosis and Melvins-style heavy that we also are akin to, and it's also there. Maybe a bit more deep-rooted and cerebral. I'm really happy and I'm really starting to know the new material much better. You usually have a song in your head and it usually takes us a good three weeks to a month to get the song to the point where we're really happy and really positive about where it's at.

CoC: Do you constantly change the songs as you go along, or do you take it to a point and consider it to be complete?

BD: I guess it depends on many things. I think that you really get to work on a song when you're on tour, where you get to play it over and over and try new things with it every night. And I think that it's going to be a really cool experiment with the album this time round, because with _Remission_ we didn't really tour any of the songs before we started recording. I mean, we played them, but we didn't actually do a full tour before we started recording. I spoke to Scott Kelly and he told me that's how Neurosis did their _Through Silver in Blood_ record -- they toured for like a month, month and a half on the material and then went and recorded it. That's what we're going to be doing with this album, and I think that a month and a half of constantly playing those songs every night and then going to record is going to sound awesome.

CoC: So would you say that the Neurosis album was the main reason you decided to do it this way?

BD: No, but it did put the final nail in the coffin about that idea. I mean, they told us about it, we thought that it was a great idea, and then Clutch happened to offer us a spot on their tour -- and it's just perfect timing, because we'll be able to rehearse the songs every single night for that month. And then, up from the East Coast to Seattle, we'll be having our own headlining tour where we'll play the whole album from start to finish, maybe add a couple of old songs, and just hit the studio directly afterward.

CoC: Considering how sonically dense Mastodon's music is, have you ever considered incorporating synths into your stuff the way that Neurosis or Strapping Young Lad have?

BD: We have considered it, but I think that it will take the right person. I mean, we've been in this band for four years, which isn't that long, but we've been through a lot as a band and it'll be difficult to accept a new person into our 'club'. I really think that it would have to be an old friend, simply because we're such good friends -- or it would have to be a truly kindred spirit type relationship. We'd automatically have to have that click that the four of us had when we first met. We were into the same stuff, the same ideas, and we were just ready to go. And we played basements and played for sandwiches and played to the doorguy who walks away -- we had all the disappointing moments that a band is supposed to have. We went through that together and it would be hard to let someone into the band who didn't have to experience that. I mean, it's similar to Metallica when Jason Newsted joined the band -- we're certainly not near to where Metallica was at that point, but when they had to accept Jason into the band they held a lot of animosity toward him, simply because he hadn't been there for all the shit that they had to go through in the beginning.

CoC: So, speaking of Metallica -- I'm sure that you know the quote on where Mastodon was referred to as the second coming of Rush and Metallica, and this is the tip of the iceberg as far as hype surrounding your band is concerned. How does that impact on your and the band's collective psyche?

BD: Well, I think that when you see stuff like that, it just makes you go "wow". It's pretty tremendous, but I'm scared shitless. You know what you can do and I've been doing this for my whole life, but when something is hyped up like this, I'm the first person to say: "Oh well, bla, bla, bla." I guess it's like The Darkness for instance -- everywhere you go you're hearing stuff about them and you almost don't want to like them because you're hearing about them all the time. I don't want to be one of those bands.

CoC: To be fair, you're in a slightly different league to The Darkness. I mean, let's be honest -- The Darkness are the musical equivalent of used toilet-paper.

BD: <laughs> Yeah, that's true. But anyway, getting back to the question -- it makes me nervous, but it also makes the band work harder to create something solid. And it forces us not to use _Remission_ as a benchmark; to just forget that we wrote an album in the first place, and just work on something new and play our music and make sure that we're happy. Apart from that, there's nothing we can do and I can't control what people are going to like or what people are going to write.

CoC: So, what does the song writing process work like in Mastodon?

BD: It happens in the rehearsal room, and I think when we got off the road the last time we were a bit nervous, because it felt like we only had a couple of months to knock something out. But when we got together, things just started happening and everything just came together and we ended up having a lot more ideas than I thought.

CoC: Most of the Mastodon crew are involved or were involved in side-projects at one point. Care to discuss some of them?

BD: Well, Brian is currently doing something called West End Motel, which is an acoustic thing with his friend Tom that sings, and I guess it's sort of bluesy sort of stuff. Delroy doesn't have anything and Troy has a band called Social Infestation, which is a grindcore band. I sometimes do an Elvis Costello cover band. But I don't really have time for anything else and nobody has any time for anything but Mastodon. We're just trying to put together an album that's hopefully going to change our lives.

CoC: Considering the thematic material that you deal with in your lyrics, have you considered a concept album as a future project?

BD: Absolutely. I mean, once we have more time to write and we can get up to a level where we can tour more comfortably and write more comfortably, that's something that we'll definitely strive for. Hopefully we'll be able to put out some crazy double album, and have a movie to go along with it -- I'd love to do something like that!

CoC: So if you could score any movie of your choice, what movie would it be?

BD: "The Elephant Man".

CoC: When can we expect the new album to hit?

BD: Summer.

CoC: Title?

BD: _Leviathan_.

CoC: Thanks for your time, Brann. Anything else to add?

BD: Well, we'll hopefully be doing some stuff for the album in Europe and the UK shortly. We want to try and have a pre-release party for the record there as well, because everyone there has been very nice us. And basically just thanks to all the Chronicles of Chaos readers for their support, and we'll see you out on the road soon.

(article submitted 26/12/2003)

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