Mastodon – The Beast Sure Is Burly
By: David E. Gehlke
Perhaps no band in the Internet metal age has been as successful as Mastodon. Since 2002’s monstrous Remission, the boys from Georgia have been on a steady ascension, and along the way, have outlasted the various trends and fads that have defined metal the last ten years. And somehow, they’ve been able to thrive in major label land, a testament to the band’s ever-evolving sound and dogged determination, which continually scores points with critics and fans alike. If it seems like every two years the band comes back more reloaded than before, then you’re drinking the same (delicious, non-poisonous) Kool-Aid Blistering is.
Now out on the road with Dillinger Escape Plan and Red Fang in support of their new (and awesome) The Hunter, Mastodon appear to be poised to handle another 18 months of road wear-and-tear. The free and loose vibe of The Hunter gives the band even more space in the live arena, a direct contrast to the ultra-elaborate and serious aura of 2009’s Crack the Skye, an album that was played in full on a nightly basis. Such happenings have made guitarist Bill Kelliher as stoked as one can be to be out on the road, as he would go onto to tell Blistering in his casual Southern drawl…
Blistering.com: How is the tour going?
Bill Kelliher: It’s going great. Got Red Fang, got some Dillinger, got some Mastodon…it’s three totally unique and different bands. It’s good for people coming out to see it. We like to mix it up rather than having three of the same bands.
Blistering.com: You normally go out with different-sounding bands than you anyway.
Kelliher: Right. Who wants to go out with three Mastodon bands? We’re old friends with the Dillinger guys; we’ve known them for 10 or 12 years, something like that. We like the Red Fang guys – they’re good people, so we figured we’d take both out. Red Fang, they’re not known so well, but we’ve seen some of their videos and listened to their records and they’re a good group of guys. They put on a great show. They’re more of the rock and sludgy…I don’t know how you describe them [laughs].
Blistering.com: The new album isn’t nearly as complex as Crack the Skye, so how are the new songs going over?
Kelliher: We’re playing “Dry Bone Valley,” “Black Tongue,” “Bedazzled Fingernails,” “Spectrelight,” “Curl of the Burl,” “Blasteroid,” and “All the Heavy Lifting.” It’s fun. You get tired playing the same songs over and over and when you get a new record out, it’s good times [laughs]. It’s fun to play something new.
Blistering.com: With Crack the Skye you had a run where you played it all the way through on a nightly basis, so will you do something like that for The Hunter at some point?
Kelliher: No, not really [laughs]. That would be a real challenge. Maybe in a few years, but some of the songs on the record, I don’t even know yet. I don’t even know how to play them. It’s that new of a record. Seriously, some of the songs in the studio, I was the only one playing guitar and same with Brent [Hinds]. We didn’t play on the same songs. The record was written so quickly and so spur of the moment, so we didn’t have time to learn each other’s parts; we just winged it. We only had a month to record it and leave for tour in Europe. There are songs that he wrote and played all the parts, and there’s songs that I wrote and played all the parts. We’re still learning them, but we didn’t want to go that route again. It was cool for Crack the Skye, that record lent itself to being a theme, a whole concept with the really deep story and having the movie behind us, the light show, the LED screen.
That was a period of time where we thought, let’s play the whole record front-to-back and it was challenging. We wanted to do something completely different with this record and do a 180 and not play the whole fucking thing, all 14 songs every night. The songs are so different. Each song is a different reflection of the next. Crack the Skye, they flowed together really well and was one big piece. We wanted to stay away from that and go back to being free and not being limited and say, “We have to play this fucking record every night.” We didn’t want to do that; we wanted to mix it up so the songs are mixed in the set throughout. It’s better for this record, I think.