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Much of Mastodon's initial claim to fame was the fact that they contained half the lineup from the last Today is the Day record. Since parting ways and moving down South, they formed the musical monstrosity known as Mastodon. Through endless touring and blowing minds across the US, they've quickly gained notoriety within the crowded US metal scene. Metal Update had a chat with drummer Brann Dailor about his involvement in Today is the Day, prog rock and their attempt to set a new world record.

METAL UPDATE: Who is in the band and how long ago did you form?

BRANN DAILOR: Uhh. . . lets see. It was January of 2000. So, it was right when 2000 rolled over. Me and Bill, the guitar player, moved to Atlanta. Within two weeks, actually at a High on Fire show in a basement of a house, we met Brent and Troy, bass player and guitar player.

MU: That was in Georgia?

BD: Yeah. In Atlanta.

MU: Now before that you went back to Rochester, which was your home?

BD: Yeah. I was there for like a month and recorded three songs with my old band Lethargy.

MU: And you played a final show?

BD: We played a final show.

MU: You and Bill were in that band?

BD: Yeah.

MU: From there you just decided to randomly move to Georgia?

BD: Bill's girlfriend lives there. We didn't necessarily want to move back to Rochester. That's what he wanted to do, so I kinda stuck with him because we had just done the whole Today is the Day thing together. So I figured I'd stick with my buddy Bill and go down to Atlanta. He really liked Atlanta, so I trusted his judgement and went down there with him and said, "Okay. Let's start something completely new." We didn't really have anything in mind. We figured we'd keep it in the same vein from what we were doing.

MU: Yeah, the sound is similar.

BD: Because that is all we know basically. Those two guys we found, Brent and Troy, turned out to be perfect for us because they were into Melvins, Neurosis, Jesus Lizard and other various styles. We got together and jammed and it was pretty much perfect. Exactly what we were looking for so we started writing songs. Within two weeks of being there, I guess you could look at it as being a fate type situation. I didn't have any expectations but I at least thought I was going to have to put out an ad or do something like that. So I went there and met the guys.


MU: You randomly met them?

BD: I was told about them. I was told about Brent, that he was an awesome guitar player.

MU: Which guy is he? The guy with the longer hair?

BD: Yeah, the guy with the longer hair. Bill is the guy with the shorter hair and Troy is the bass player.

MU: He was pretty wasted the other night. (laughter) At the after party there.

BD: Oh yeah. You know. We try to have fun when we're on tour. It's been a month so far, so we are just like, "Aaaggghh." So Mastodon started writing songs and within a month or two months we were ready to go record our EP that came out on Relapse.

MU: Were they interested right away? How did that happen?

BD: It's was mainly like, "Hey Brann and Bill, whatever you guys do in the future, let us hear it." We were friends at that point because of Today is the Day or whatever. We made friends with them and we liked each other as people. So, I was like, "I'll give it to you guys before I let anyone else hear it. I'll let you guys hear it and see what you think. If you don't like it cool, but if you do like it that'll be great." Those guys are awesome people, so there's no better people to work with than your friends I guess. They liked it, but they wanted to see us live. So, on our first tour we played in Philadelphia in a tiny little basement that could only fit the people from Relapse basically. They were all kind of huddled in there in the worst area of Philadelphia, and they dug it so they said, "Yeah, we want to work with you guys." So the rest is pretty much history.

MU: You and Bill were in Today is the Day. Now why did you guys leave?

BD: Nothing really. Everything is cool with me and Steve. Basically we weren't real happy with living in Clinton. We weren't totally happy there to be honest, so we just went to Atlanta.

MU: So, it wasn't anything personal or musical really?

BD: No, no. Steve is great. I had an awesome time writing music with him. Me and him wrote the album. We became really good friends and wrote the album together, but Steve's got very much his own style. His own thing. I kind of wanted to have my own thing. Not my own thing, but start something different.

MU: Are you just the master of the drums - meaning you handle the drums and let someone else take care of the rest? Maybe Bill?

BD: Everybody writes songs, you know?

MU: Do you write any guitar riffs or anything like that?

BD: Yeah. I wrote one whole song and I wrote a couple riffs here and there.

MU: So you play guitar too?

BD: A little bit. I can get it out a little bit - get the ideas across and then they can take it the step further that it needs to go technically. 'Cause I couldn't really play guitar for shit, but I can get down there and fuck around a little bit. I also have a dictaphone that I walk around with and hum riffs into it. I play it for the dudes. If they like it they like it. If they don't they don't. But actually those guys write a majority of the material as far as the songs go. I've only written one song and a couple riffs here and there. We're all receptive to each other's ideas and work off of each other. I guess I pay attention and try to be as inventive as possible when writing my drum beats and I guess we all play a big part in the arrangement of the songs. The riffs come easy. We have bags and bags of riffs, but it's really where to put them all - which ones flow together nicely and that's really where it all comes together.


MU: How does the process happen as far as song writing? Riffs first or drumbeats?

BD: It just differs from song to song. It's extremely differed. Brent might come in and say, "I have this whole entire song that I wrote on my couch this morning." Or it could be like Bill has a riff, Troy had a riff, I have a riff and Brent has a riff and we put 'em all together try to make them work. Spice them up a little bit. Take a riff out. The riffs could be right there but it could take a month to fine tune it and make it comfortable for everybody to play it together - be like, "Okay. That's a song". Then the lyrics come in after that.

MU: A lot of fine tuning?

BD: Yeah. Lots of fine tuning. I think that's important. You can't throw something together too soon. You gotta let it cook for a while. I want to make sure I really like it. And sometimes when you do the recording or whatever - like two months later we have a couple songs that now we found new ways that we want to play it. But that's always going to happen. Especially when you play them live every single night. We've already been on like three tours touring this material. When you play 150 shows of those same songs, you're going to get better at progressing your instrument. You figure out new ways to do things.

MU: Who are some of your influences? You have a pretty crazy drum style - probably more extreme than most people. You are doing fills most of the time and you're always coming right back into the beat. Are you into a lot of progressive or jazz or stuff like that?

BD: I like a lot of prog rock.

MU: Could you give me some examples?

BD: Like old Genesis is my favorite stuff probably. Like 'Lamb Lies Down on Broadway', 'Foxtrot', 'Nursery Cryme' and all that stuff. I really love that stuff. That's my favorite. It's Phil Collins on drums. He's a badass. Then Billy Cobham from Mahavishnu Orchestra 'Inner Mounting Flame' or Terri Bozzio when he was playing for Frank Zappa. Yes, King Crimson. Bill Bruford, he's a badass. Also while I was starting to play drums and starting to play in bands and play heavy music and stuff like that, more of an influence to me was guys like Mikkey Dee, Dave Lombardo of course, Lars Ulrich. When I was a kid I loved those guys. Put the headphones on and try to do it. Then when I was 16 or 17 I started progressing. Actually, I think what really gave me a lot of my own style would be the guy Eric Burke that I played in Lethargy with. He would come up with these crazy guitar riffs that were just all over the place. There wasn't like a back beat I could play. I made a decision to follow him 100% on the drums. And then when I got into a band with a freer open style, I still found myself filling up the space with the fills. Then I got into a jazzier type thing, going outside of the beat, bringing it back in and all that sorts of stuff. I don't know. It's just fun. It just feels right to do it.

MU: Have you heard Absu at all?

BD: No.

MU: That drummer takes a lot of progressive elements as well. He listens to a lot of progressive music. I just wondered if you heard them.

BD: Technically I guess I don't know what I'm doing behind the drums. I just do what feels good. As far as the influences of the band go, Brent is a real bluesy player, but he's really into Thin Lizzy. Thin Lizzy is his favorite band in the world. Phil Linott and all those guys. He loves that shit. Bill likes old punk rock like Black Flag and Gang Green and shit like that, but he's also into Weezer. Troy is really into Jesus Lizard. We have staples within the band that are our favorites like Melvins and Jesus Lizard, like I said. Troy likes Men at Work a lot.

MU: Oh yeah?

BD: Troy loves Men at Work.

MU: What kind of music was Lethargy?

BD: I'm not really sure. Our idea for it was to be quirky machine sounding. Circus metal. Have you ever heard it?

MU: No, never.

BD: It's kind of like super over the top technical music. It's insane. I loved it then.

MU: Were you pretty underground then?

BD: Yeah yeah. It was wild. We were kind of along the same lines as Human Remains. We played with Human Remains a lot. They were a band that we kind of grabbed onto. We were pretty heavily influenced by them as well at the time. We were influenced by a lot of math rock going back then. We were super nasty. I like the technical aspect of music, but I also like more of the emotional aspect of music. I thought about it and I was like, "What do I really love about music?" I love to hear technical players. But I really love memorable riffs and things that I can sink my teeth into like meaty rockin' riffs instead of a bunch of stuff that went by that I'm never going to remember.

MU: That is exactly what you guys do now with all of the guitar harmonies. It's really technical and at the same time there'll be simple riffs and you'll wail away doing fills and stuff.

BD: Yeah. At least once per song we'll try to lock it up and groove for a second. We try to make it enjoyable for ourselves and the listener. It's really a lot more fun for me to sit back there and rock to something as well and just go crazy on it. I like both aspects though. I wanted to find a project with people that wanted to put it all together and do something simple as well. Realizing that and letting the music work for you instead of you working for the music.

MU: What would you label your sound as? That's a really hard question to ask a band member. I just asked because I can't really pinpoint you guys anywhere except for the fact that you are somewhat in the metal genre. And, obviously, you have punk and hardcore influence as well.

BD: I don't know. I really don't know. I listen to it and I'm not sure what I would call it.

MU: It's definitely progressive because of your drum style.

BD: I'd just say it's progressive metal. I guess that might be limiting it because the word metal turns a lot of people off. They shouldn't be turned off by that, but they are.

MU: It's such a broad statement anyways.

BD: Yeah. But we definitely want to be appealing to everyone and we don't want to turn anyone off into hearing our music. I also love metal. We all love metal, so we are definitely a part of the metal scene.

MU: You've been touring your asses off pretty much from day one. How has that been going?

BD: Awesome.

MU: Do you have day jobs when you get back home or do you just do something to fill the time?

BD: We have day jobs. Brent works construction. Bill works at a burrito bar type place. He's a cook there. Troy does a mailorder / ebay business. He also just started a screen printing business. I buy clothes and stuff for this big hipster mall in Atlanta and I work the door at this bar.

MU: So everything works out?

BD: Yeah. It's awesome. We're like, "OK, we're going away for tow months. See ya." They're like, "OK. See ya." We're lucky to have that. I don't know if it'll be there forever, but hopefully I won't have to do that forever.

MU: What has been your favorite tour so far?

BD: It's hard to say. Every tour I've been on has had great elements. But I guess so far for Mastodon as far as attendance -ise and the people that have been at the shows, it has to be this tour. At the moment it's the perfect combination of bands. Us and High on Fire. We get along so well as friends. I'd have to say this tour. I've seen our popularity as a band grow three times as much as the previous times we've toured around. Things just seem like they are doing really well.

MU: Yeah. The new album being a full-length and the fact that I think it's a lot more solid than the past EP. It definitely helps as well. All the touring is always going to help ya.

BD: Yeah. It's like the Metallica effect. There's no better form for heavy music than live. If you want to sell records you need to play live. You need to get yourself out there and work your ass off. It pays off in the end. We love it and never complain about it, but it can get really tiring being out here. You miss your friends, family, girlfriends, whatever. But you just gotta love it. You just gotta want to do it. It's our life. We want music to be our life someday so this is how you do it. You have to go and tour for months and months at a time and work your ass off. And you want to set yourself up for that. We toured for almost two years before our full-length even came out. That's how we laid the groundwork so we knew that by the time our full-length came out that if the people were there, they would be there because we've been out here touring for two years. People know who we are. Everywhere in the US we have an audience, so bigger bands take us out and have a reason to take us out because we can get people into a club. That's how it works, and Relapse obviously helps there too.

MU: So what are some plans for the future?

BD: We've got like six songs in the oven, so we are going to work on those when we get home. I don't know. I guess we are going to submit ourselves for as many bigger tours as possible - get on as many bigger tours as possible until it comes to a point where we can headline our own tour and do well like that. We want to go to Europe. Want to go to Japan. Want to do all that stuff.

MU: Any tours in the works?

BD: There's a bunch of stuff that is up in the air, but who knows. Tours are weird. They come up like two weeks before it happens. It's like, "OK. These guys will take you out for a month, whatever, whatever." We're like, "OK". I heard Converge was interested in taking us out and that would be great. We heard we've been submitted for the Fucking Champs in the fall as well. So that would be great too.

MU: Have you toured with them?

BD: We've played a couple shows with them and they are awesome. I'd just love to tour with them.

MU: I've yet to hear their material.

BD: They are also a big influence on us. But you know, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest. . .

MU: Is a new album in the works?

BD: We're constantly writing new material when we can. It seems like now we are only home for two weeks at a time. We really just don't have time. We keep writing riffs. We keep getting ideas. Stuff like that. There'll be a new album out probably next year. It depends on where this takes us because we're not sure what's going to happen with this record. We might be on tour for a year straight or almost two years straight. You have to take it as far as you can take it on that record and then put another record out. That's what we plan on doing. And we're going over to Antarctica to play for 60,000 penguins. There's a part of the season where 60,000 emperor penguins gather in Antarctica at the coldest moment and group together so we thought it would be a good concert.

MU: Just to hear Mastodon?

BD: Well, they're not there to see Mastodon, but they're going to be pleasantly surprised. We're just going to set up our gear, set up a merch booth and just play for the penguins. And it's gonna be a world record. Most penguins at a rock show.


review of Mastodon 'Lifesblood'

review of Mastodon 'Remission'

"Shadows The Move" from 'Lifesblood'





Interview: Scott McCooe [ ]
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