Sonis-career: Sonisphere house band Mastodon talk

We caught up with American metallers Mastodon, who will appear at all legs of Sonsiphere Festival this summer.

Mastodon hope to release their forthcoming album ‘The Hunter’, which will feature lyrics about meth-head tree surgeons, cover art carved out of wood and a new “really fast, really heavy” song called ‘The Ruiner’, in October this year. According to the band the album is set to be something of a departure from their last record, the prog epic ‘Crack the Skye’, which made their biggest mark on the mainstream to date.

“It’s just the next evolution with Mastodon,” explains guitarist Bill Kelliher. “It’s kind of like the old stuff mixed with ‘Crack The Skye’ vocal styles and melodies. There are some songs that delve back into ‘Remission’ era with heaviness, low tuning, heavy riffs and pretty fast bursts of energy, leaving you wanting more. It’s like the old stuff basically, with better melodies and lots of vocal harmonies.”

All the statements coming out of the Mastodon camp at the moment suggest that this album is more upbeat and won’t be a concept album. Not that songs with titles like ‘All The Heavy Lifting’, ‘Blasteroids’ and ‘The Sparrow’ are necessarily any less leftfield in terms of subject matter.

“One of the songs is about lifting heavy objects. One of them is about, I’m not really sure, but meth-heads cutting down trees in the forest or some shit. I don’t know. I didn’t write any of the lyrics,” laughs Bill.

Drummer Brann Dailor agrees, saying the “songs are bizarre in subject matter“, but in keeping with the more ‘fun’ approach it’s definitely the kind of “headbanging music you can drink a beer to”. Fittingly, they laid down the record in the same venue used by Charles Manson to record an acoustic album. Equally infamous artists to lay down albums at Sound City in Van Nuys in California include Dio (‘Holy Diver’) and Nirvana (‘Nevermind’)

When we spoke with Mastodon back in 2009 they said they had five tracks left over from ‘Crack the Skye’ that could potentially make it onto their next record. So did they ditch them? (And, if so, how can we hear them?)

“We don’t usually get together and jam a lot as we tour so much. We kind of jam alone. By the time we say okay we’ve got to record a record we came together in the same room and everybody’s ideas just came spilling out all over the place, it was overflow and we started matching up parts with other parts to see what sounded good together,” explains Bill.
“So when we did ‘Crack the Skye’ Brent [lead guitarist] had written a bunch of stuff separately. I had written a bunch of stuff separately. We used most of his stuff for Crack the Skye because it all seemed to kind of flow together. But the stuff that myself and Brann had written and Troy [bassist] we took some of that stuff and kind of dissected parts out of them for the new record.”

Continuing the theme of freshness, Mastodon are using a new artist, AJ Fosik for the album cover, marking a departure from Paul Romano, who’s produced all their epic artwork to date.

“He does wood carvings and then takes photos of them. He did the backdrop that we’re using on tour and he’s working on the album right now as he’s got to carve it.”

Sounds suitably out there. Thinking about where Mastodon source their energy from exhausts a lot of the other bands on the circuit. They tour hard, party harder and then still have time for other projects. Having just put out a double album for two side bands, Fiend Without a Face and West End Motel, this week guitarist Brent Hinds announced plans for a super group tentatively titled ‘Super Giraffe’ featuring current and former members of Dillinger Escape Plan, The Mars Volta and Jane’s Addiction. Meanwhile Bill Kehiller has a much heavier, grindcore side outfit, Primate, he’s also concentrating on, described as: “A freight train full of TNT smashing into a tanker truck full of jet fuel.”

Mastodon will play Sonisphere 2011 alongside The Big Four (Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer and Anthrax), Slipknot and Biffy Clyro will headline the event.

Click here for the full Sonisphere line-up.

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