Mastodon May Immediately Record a Second New Album If Pandemic Persists
Mastodon's Brann Dailor was the latest guest on Full Metal Jackie's weekend radio program. The drummer discussed the band's latest compilation release, Medium Rarities, which was led by the new single, "Fallen Torches," and looked forward to the group's next full length record.
With over 30 songs written, Mastodon aren't planning to release everything together as a double album. However, Dailor did mention that if the band is unable to tour amid a persistent pandemic, there's a chance they'll go back into the studio and track a follow-up record to the one that is expected to arrive some time next year.
Elsewhere, the drummer explained Mastodon's involvement with the Bill and Ted Face the Music film soundtrack, for which they contributed the song "Rufus Lives."
Read the full chat below.
You've always been immersed in Mastodon — literally around the clock, seven days a week, year after year. How has the abrupt shutdown of the pandemic made you change the way you might allocate your energy in the future?
You are correct. 24/7 has been how it's been going for about 20 years plus. It has been something I have been unable to turn off. I have been constantly going. When I’m off tour I am thinking about what we are going to do for the next tour — T-shirt designs, what is next for music... the list goes on.
When the shutdown happened it has probably been the first time I have been able to shut Mastodon off from my brain.
It was kind of a weird feeling, but I liked it because it was much needed. So if there was any sort of silver lining from this horrible pandemic for me then it's the two to three months that we decided not to come to the studio and not engage in Mastodon activities.
I took the opportunity to focus my artistic efforts elsewhere and not in music, such as drawing. Basically, I did a clown every day for 101 days straight. The clown would take me about anywhere from five to seven hours to do. I would get up at eight o' clock in the morning and make coffee and sit at my coffee table, crack my sketchbook open and start to draw the daily clown which by the end of the day I would send around to about 40-50 different people.
It kind of turned into a snowball and it started with five or six people getting the daily clown and by the end of it, there were about 50 people or so. It would take me an hour to send the text message with the clown embedded in the message there because I don’t have social media or anything.
So, that is what I did.
Mastodon are working on a new album that's a creative representation of Nick John, your late manager. What's comforting and distracting when the basis of music is being built with so much emotional vulnerability?
Well I would say that a lot of the subject matter that's gonna pop up, the majority of it is going to be focused around him. Everything we do from now on is going to be in some way dedicated to him because he was such an integral part of our existence and we miss him a lot.
It was such a heavy loss for our group.
We have dealt with loss and we have put the loss into the music, but it was more for each person — it was for someone each person [lost] but this person was sort of the center of the Mastodon universe. In a lot of ways, he was like the fifth member almost, so, for us to sidestep that isn’t going to be able to happen.
The pandemic is going to lend itself to so much art and music — it’s going to be in the lyrics of a lot of the songs that are going to be coming out. It’s the thing that is kind of impossible to put to the side when you are creating art. Especially for us, it's sort of where we deal with some of the tougher things life can deal you. It’s where we put those things.
Mastodon has become that... I’m not going to say it has become this therapeutic thing because I don’t know... But I think it’s tough to listen to, to be honest. The lyrics and things will trigger these memories, not that every single thing... when I think about Nick John, it is a sad thing, but at the moment it still is half and half. You can have those special memories that make you laugh. We were talking the other day were relearning the song "Thickening" from The Hunter and I remember Nick John would call me up, I'd answer the phone, and be like, "Hello," and would recite one of the lyrics from the song and it goes like, “Wrapped up like a baby,” and I started cracking up.
It is getting a little bit easier but listening back to the demos, it's just kind of devastating. We also want to honor him so it's very important that the song does great and that we do feel like the songs are great, and that they do honor him and that it is something that he would have fallen in love with. He was our biggest cheerleader. I would send him a riff that I had recorded on my phone that I recorded at practice like, "Dude, listen to this riff," and he would call me a couple of minutes later and just talk about the riff for 20 minutes.
He was always super supportive and he loved our band. He was one of our biggest fans. When you are in there and you’re creating something with such a heavyweight you want to be sure you listen to every detail and make sure it's the best you can create at that moment for him.
There's already an overabundance of material for the new album. What does having that much music reveal about the process of making a Mastodon album, and the band in general?
It is a good problem to have. It's also a little bit stressful because I feel we have had too much time off. Like a lot of groups, we have had too much time and we're constantly working. We had the shut down for a couple of months, but we're back at it.
I guess it's a good thing we're still wanting to come down here and wanting to work on our 20-year-old project that we have been calling Mastodon. It’s exciting to me because every time you go to approach writing new stuff, you say, "Well, when is this well going to dry up? When are we going to go looking and can’t find it anymore?"
That is always a fear that a lot of musicians and artists go through.
Sometimes you do have a mild case of writer's block or maybe you have a severe case of writer's block. That isn’t the case with us, luckily. We have an abundance of material and a lot of really great things. The hardest part is going to be picking the ones that go on the actual album because there are too many songs at this point. We want to put maybe 10-12 songs on the album and we have like 30.
That's a lot.
That’s a lot. That’s too much [laughs] but I think it is coming into focus now. The ones that we are wanting to play more than the other ones, those are the ones that are going to make it. But even with the ones we are really, really digging there are still too many of those — there are like 20 of those.
There is always room for new ideas too. We were jamming the other day and we had like 30 songs we could be running through and we started writing something brand new. It’s like, "STOP!" ...but don’t stop as well.
As much as I think it's kind of not the best to have one in the chamber, I don’t necessarily think it's great for us to release a double album. I don’t see the problem recording a full length album and then because of the fact that we are not going to be able to go on tour immediately, record another full length album not far after.
I think that that's a possibility that we will have an abundance of music and we will have an abundance of stuff that we really dig that we can release to the public while we are still in this muck.
Mastodon are part of the Bill and Ted Face the Music movie soundtrack with a track called "Rufus Lives." How does the connotation of a song change by association when its connected to the whole other story of a move?
We had a few of those riffs where its sort of put together and they had been loosely specific about what they wanted. They described a scene to us, showed us the scene and we had to sort of tailor it around that. They told us the situation what was happening and so that's pretty much an easy thing to do I think. When you are handed this narrative it makes it a lot easier because for us, usually, we are coming up with our own narratives and our own storytelling.
Mastodon, "Rufus Lives"
Writing for somebody else and just plucking one song out of the repertoire makes it easy and makes it kind of fun. It's sort of a no-pressure situation, especially if they dig it.
We sent them the rough track of the demo and they were like, "Yes, that's killer." I think the first thing that we sent over was a little too dark and depressing — like we do. They were kind of wanting this party rock 'n' roll vibe that's a little lighter and a little more fun. It's sort of hard for us to do that, come to find out.
The first thing that we sent over they said, "That's a little doom and gloom. Do you want to lighten it up a little bit?" We were like, "Oh yeah, sorry."
It's hard to not be yourself, but I still really like the song. It's a riffer and it's really fun to play and was really fun to put together. It's just cool to be folded into another sort of pop culture moment. If you're a child of the '80s like we all were, Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure was a super fun and awesome movie.
It seemed like it was tailor-made for rockers in that era so it's really cool to be a part of all that stuff. We have been a lucky band. Before, we had a lot of those opportunities over the years like Aqua Teen Hunger Force or Game Of Thrones.
It's awesome and we love when those opportunities come up and we love being associated with things like that. It's just a super fun life experience.
Brann, what's the hardest part about making unrelated songs come together as a cohesive album?
First I was all for it — releasing ["Fallen Torches"] because those songs are kind of like shrapnel. They are over here they are over there. It's good to get them all together in the collection.
It's almost like a photo album for me. It’s like, “Oh, I remember that?" It's like a trip down memory lane when I sit and listen to it.
I wasn't paying too much attention to it when it first came together. I knew that we were going to release it. I knew that we wanted a way to release "Fallen Torches" that wasn't just like, “Oh, here's a song." So, it made more sense to do this [Medium Rarities compilation] where we could get all these all these loose-leaf songs together.
Mastodon, "Fallen Torches"
It's very rare for us to go and do a loose-leaf song.
We always are like putting our efforts into a full album experience. We're a full album band or that's how we consider ourselves. The fact that over 20 years we have collected all these little cover songs and bits and pieces, it seemed like a good idea to get them all together.
Now, the track listing itself, I think [bassist and co-vocalist] Troy [Sanders] sat and kind of poured over the way to arrange all of them. But when he did, and then I got a copy of the test pressing, I sat down with some friends in my music room and listened to it on the turntable. It was actually very cool.
It's very eclectic all over the place and it's got "Fallen Torches" in there and I'm into it. I back it.
I love the artwork and I just think it's a cool package. It’s a cool thing for fans and there's a lot of our fans that either haven't heard of some of those songs or didn't even know they existed. For some of our super fans that maybe own them on like a seven inch record.
These days it's maybe a little bit rarer — no pun intended — for people to go and sit down and listen to seven inches. It's kind of a ritual of the past if you will. I think a lot of people maybe do that but it's much more common for people to listen on Spotify or listen on whatever streaming service they pay into or to have it on a CD even or to have it on a full-length album to have all that stuff together so you're not like breaking out one seven inch and another seven inch — let me see if I can find that Feist cover and listen to that...
So, this is a convenient package and a good way to celebrate 20 years of us being a band.
Thanks to Brann Dailor for the interview, Grab your copy of Mastodon's 'Medium Rarities' here (as Amazon affiliates we earn on qualifying purchases) and follow the band on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Spotify. Find out where you can hear Full Metal Jackie's weekend radio show here.
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