INTERVIEW: Mastodon

Thanks to a technical muscle that flexes with each crushing riff and howl, it’s hard to file comparisons next to metal outfit MASTODON. Between five albums, the Georgia four-piece have ripped through the evolution of alternative, forcing instrumentals to become poetic post-rock compositions with a bite, and – as their latest collective piece, The Hunter, emits – they’ve also been able to transmit a class of metal that’s its own deafening, art-driven force. Hours before their first theater gig in the city of Toronto with notables Opeth and Ghost, we quickly went one-on-one with drummer Brann Dailor touching on subjects such as their grueling tour runs, their 2011 release and how their recent collaboration with Feist is just a shaving off of their loyalty to the independent record store.

By the end of May you will have crossed North America twice, from the east coast to the west and back – when you look at a tour schedule like that, what goes through your head?

I guess I mostly look at it and think things like, “Oh, I haven’t been there in a while” or, “I can’t wait to go get some food from that place in Chicago we always go to”. There are also thoughts, when I look at some of the venues like, “Uh oh, that place is pretty big. I don’t know if we’re going to be able to fill it up”, and of course, when I see all those dates and places, I think it is going to feel good to get home.
 
How have the first few shows alongside tour mates and label mates Opeth been?

They have been going well, you know? They’ve been going just the way we hoped they would. There’s mostly dudes out there each night, but… (laughs) We’ve wanted to set something up with Opeth for a long time and it’s great to finally be out on the road with them. Ghost have been great too. I think we all have similar outlooks on things. We’ve only done a couple or three shows so far, but it’s been great to watch Opeth playing each night. If you’re into this kind of music, this is definitely a show you’ll want to see.

Your group and Opeth are taking turns with headlining duties from show to show — do you alter your set much depending on what order you’re playing on a given night?

Not really. We’ve been playing mostly songs off of The Hunter, but on nights when we’re headlining we do dig through some more of our older songs to mix things up a bit.
 
It looks like during the recording sessions for The Hunter you all took turns singing or sharing lead vocals on songs – were you experimenting in the studio in ways you hadn’t before?

We weren’t really doing anything completely new for us, but I was singing a little more. That’s been an interesting challenge for me, singing and playing the drums.
 
What is the significance with the horned beasts, eyes and teeth that feature prominently in the album art, and in the video for “Dry Bone Valley”?

Those images are kind of similar. In the “Dry Bone Valley” video, the horned beast you see is a water buffalo, which is a Hindu symbol for death. So, in that song you’ve got this guy coming to and lifting his head up out of the sand and seeing that image, that horned image, of the water buffalo.

Why did you guys choose to get involved with a pair of Record Store Day projects?

We wanted to get involved to support the flagging industry that is the independent record store community. We want to do whatever we can to support these places that we still love going to in different places when we’re on tour. It’s been exciting too; it was exciting recording that Feist song and it was definitely exciting to hear her cover of our song. We didn’t share a studio with her, but we did meet her. That was in the UK, when we were filming Later… With Jools Holland, so, we met her there and the rest is history.
 
What do you remember about your home record store growing up?

It was a place around the corner from my house called The Record Archive that my Dad always used to take me to on the weekends. I loved it, I remember even loving the way it smelled. The staff were some really nice guys who just knew everything you’d ever want to know. I used to spend hours just looking at the album covers, like albums by Iron Maiden or something. I bought some of my first records just based on what they looked like. I was just a kid so I didn’t know what they would sound like, but I just liked the way these Iron Maiden albums looked.
 

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