Brann Dailor Says Mastodon, Gojira Bringing Biggest Production They’ve Ever Attempted on Tour
Mastodon drummer Brann Dailor was the latest guest on Full Metal Jackie's weekend radio program, chatting about the band's co-headlining tour with Gojira and a lot more, including how both bands will be bringing the biggest production they've ever attempted on tour.
In the 21st century, Mastodon and Gojira have become two of the biggest forces in metal and Dailor feels a particular kinship with the group, excited that they'll both be bringing the most extravagant production to the stage across two stateside tour legs.
Regarding Mastodon's writing process, he says one unnamed member of the four-piece strives to write more concise songs and that authoring one-off songs for soundtracks takes some of the pressure off that's usually experienced when crafting a full length record.
Read the full interview below.
There's a progressive and almost intellectual component to Mastodon's music. What's challenging about wanting to write shorter, more direct songs?
That's not necessarily a desire of mine, so, speaking off the cuff, I think that's what one member wants to do. Whatever the committee decides is good. You can talk all day long about what you want to do in the band and what you want things to sound like, but when you sit down and start writing stuff, you just go for what you dig and things fall into place per usual. Before you know it, you do end up having a 14-minute song on your hands.
It's not something that you really pay too much attention to. You don't really watch the clock when you're writing music, you just put things together. When things feel right with the way that they're strung together and when everybody's happy with the results and it feels good in the room and we jam through it, you're like, "Yeah, that's awesome."
Then you check it and go, "Hey, how long was that?" And you're like, "Oh, it was eight minutes long. Okay, sweet." You wouldn't trim anything off of it because it felt right.
But if it's like "Crusher Destroyer," it ends up being one minute and 59 seconds. That also felt right as well, so we have plenty of examples of short, fast, punk-sounding heavy songs in our catalog to go along with the epics.
It's usually about striking a balance between the two. We always have the big epic and it just so happened that the last album was a very grand gesture to a lost friend of ours. It ended up being a little bit more melancholy at times. What Bill [Kelliher] was kind of referencing was the fact that we just wanted to make something a little shorter and a little punchier and just go out swinging for the next one. That's the intent.
Mastodon, "Teardrinker" Music Video
What makes recording a standalone track without the context of an album so much fun?
It's fun because when you're putting an album together, you are obsessing over everything that has to make sense together, especially when it's us. We're really very protective of the album and we put a lot of effort into the storyline — everything needs to make sense together lyrically and this and that.
So, the chance to write a one-off like we have in the past with a song such as "Fallen Torches" or the song ["Rufus Lives"] that we did for Bill and Ted Face the Music... there's not a lot of pressure. We don't feel a lot of pressure anyway. It's not like we don't want to create something awesome, because we do, but there's a little less pressure than creating a large body of work all at the same time, where you 12 to 15 ideas that are like little seedlings that you're watering over a long period of time.
If it's just a one-off, it's almost a little bit easier to get in there and write a three or four-minute long song. It's fun.
Mastodon, "Rufus Lives" (from Bill & Ted Face the Music)
Mastodon and Gojira are touring together and both bands are flag bearers of contemporary metal. How does touring together boost the viability of the music as a mainstream attraction?
We've been touring together for many years now and we're very close friends. There's a kinship between us as artists, musicians, people and friends. We just feel very like-minded, so it made sense. Gojira have gotten so big. I'm so proud of them. They're so awesome and they're such an amazing live band. It really makes us try to step up our game, not that we don't go out there and try deliver the goods as well as we can every night, but Gojira is an inspirational band to be on tour with. You just rise to the occasion.
Between Lorna Shore, ourselves and Gojira, and the production that we're bringing along, which is the biggest production that [Mastodon and Gojira] have ever attempted, we're extremely excited to offer not only some of the most interesting heavy metal that's out there, but also a really spectacular live show that is one for the ages for us.
We are super stoked to be out there, especially with some guys that we know so well and get along with so well. It's important that everybody on the tour feel that sense of camaraderie, and give people their money's worth and let them forget their troubles for a couple hours.
Unconventional live events have become the norm, such as the Headbangers Boat cruise later on this year, presented by Lamb of God. How is a cruise ship similar to the unfamiliarity of your early days when you played basements and house parties?
I'm not sure. I haven't played a cruise ship before, but I guess we'll see.
Back in the early days, 20 something years ago, we were playing in people's kitchens, living rooms and basements and VFW halls... that whole DIY scene. I doubt it's going to be anything like that. I'm hoping that it's a little bit more stripped down production wise. It's kind of fun to get in there and get dirty on the cruise ship.
A lot of our friends' bands have done them and they all seem to dig it. It's going to be a fun time, especially with Lamb Of God. I've been friends with those guys since they were Burn the Priest, and I always look forward to being able to hang out with them. There's a bunch of bands on there who are all good friends — Municipal Waste, Shadows Fall... Every band that's on there we've known for 20 years so it's going be a total blast at sea and no one can escape each other. [laughs]
Heavy Metal Saved My Life is a new documentary series. Why is it important to be candid and share your life experience, no matter how hard it might be to talk about?
The most important thing when you get into playing music, start playing live and start getting your music out there to people is that you find out that you can make a difference in someone's life. It's not apparent to you until it starts happening and you start hearing stories about it from fans who are into the lyrics and really take it to heart. Then it dawns on you that there's a possibility that you could actually use your art to make a difference for somebody who is maybe having a hard time.
One of the best things you can do while you're here on this planet is try to make it a better place and help your fellow man. It's very important to open up and be vulnerable, to share your life and experiences so that maybe somebody out there, some 15-year-old kid who is sitting in their bedroom, listening to your songs and watching documentaries with you talking, can see that you're just normal people who have maybe been through a similar situation in life — "Hey, look where I got to and I made it through it and I'm doing okay and you can be okay, too."
It's important that they see that the rockers they see up onstage have have been through it like they have. It's important that we connect in that way.
Thanks to Brann Dailor for the interview. Get your copy of Mastodon's latest album 'Hushed & Grim' on CD or vinyl and follow the band on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Spotify. See all of their upcoming tour dates at their website and head here for tickets. Find out where you can hear Full Metal Jackie's weekend radio show here.