Bill Kelliher Talks Primate, "Star Wars", Mastodon, and More
Mon, 01 Oct 2012 07:50:22
Primate make hardcore feral again.
On their new album Draw Back a Stump, the Atlanta quintet blasts through a face-ripping, heart-stomping arsenal of punked-out metallic bruisers. There's an undeniable intensity, peppered with just the right amount of tasty melody that make Draw Back a Stump so memorably murderous. With a collective pedigree spanning Brutal Truth, vocalist Kevin Sharp, and Mastodon, guitarist Bill Kelliher, Primate are on the loose and out for the kill. Be ready…
In this exclusive interview with ARTISTdirect.com editor in chief Rick Florino, Bill Kelliher talks Draw Back a Stump, his Star Wars fascination, what's up next for Mastodon and so much more.
What was the band's mindset going into Draw Back a Stump?
When I joined the group, we had 15 or 16 songs. Some of them were only 30 seconds long though. For many of them, I was like, "This song needs to be longer than that!" I'm not used to playing 30-second songs. We did two different versions of "Get Off My Fucking Lawn". We did a demo and a proper version when we signed with Relapse. Songs like that were really quick, and I said, "We've got to make this longer. There's a lot of cool riffage. It's fucking badass!" For the most part, Primate is quick songs with catchy melodies here and there. That's another one of my favorite styles of music. I don't want to compare it to The Ramones, but they had really quick songs. Leaving the audience wanting more is always a good thing. You don't want to over satisfy everybody. The songs are simple, and they don't need to be too long.
At the same time, the technicality shines through the production.
I recorded the first incarnation of it all in my studio. I layered the fuck out of the guitars. I played all the guitar parts and harmonies then. Because it is so simple and I like to play complex stuff, I had to figure out different ways to make it interesting for me. That involved trying to find harmonies and have the guitars deviate from the norm. I wanted to step it up a bit in that department.
Have you always been split between the quick, punk-y style and more complex grandiose metal?
I grew up listening to punk rock. I honestly like a lot of stuff. I can't say just punk. Growing up, I listened to what was on the radio like Boston, Led Zeppelin, Rush, and all of that good stuff. I couldn't play any of that shit though [Laughs]. So I resorted to punk. When I first heard that, I was like, "This is awesome". I was in a rebellious time period. It felt natural to me. I started my own band when I was like 15-years-old, and I began playing heavy, fast punk. Black Flag was one of my favorite bands. Greg Ginn is a big influence. As I got older and better at playing guitar, I started playing more progressive music. Mastodon formed. There are some spaz-y moments with Mastodon, but for the most part it's pretty precise and concise. For me, Primate was a step back into the primordial 15-year-old me. We can let loose and do whatever we want. There are no rules or laws. It's not like we have to play the same part the same way each time with perfect notes. There's a little more freedom to spaz out.
It sounds like a great cathartic release.
Exactly, that's what it is for me. It's fun to go in and play these songs. They're so fast. You can pop them all out straight in a row, and you end up playing 20 songs in 30 minutes. It's completely the opposite of what I'm used to doing in Mastodon. Dave Whitworth [bass] and Shayne Huff [drums] wrote a lot of the Primate stuff. When I stepped in, I added a little flavor. I was like, "I'm going to throw this weird rockabilly guitar part over this and see what happens". Nobody seemed to mind. Everything was cool.
Do you have a favorite song on the record?
"Global Division" is one of my favorite tracks for sure. It encompasses all of what Primate really is. There's some cool, catchy riffage. I get to play a little guitar solo. There are some great harmonies and melodies going on. It's very fast-paced and heavy hitting from beginning to end. It's representative of the band.
What's the story behind "Reform?
When you're making a mixtape, putting the songs in order from beginning to last is important. I had a lot to do with that. I sat there and went back and forth playing the songs over and over to see what order worked best. To me, "Reform" sounded like a good closer.
If you were to compare Draw Back a Stump to a movie or a combination of movies, what would you compare it to?
I don't know, maybe Eraserhead? [Laughs] That's the first thing that came into my head.
Do you have a favorite Star Wars vehicle?
Slave I baby! Jabba's barge isn't too bad either, but it got blown up [Laughs]. That's where he had all of the parties before they threw him into Sarlacc pit.
Is Boba Fett your favorite character?
He's pretty dope. A lot of people like Boba Fett. He's that silent, deadly dude.
Who do you identify the most with?
I like to think of myself as Han Solo. When I was a kid playing Star Wars with my friends, I always wanted to be Han Solo. My son's name is Harrison because of that. One of my sons is Harrison, and the other is Conan.
Do you have the Lego sets?
My kids have a couple of the Lego sets. For the most part, I don't collect those. I've got the old toys and some of the new ones. I try to collect the original shit from the first trilogy.
Did you see the first Star Wars in the theaters?
Yeah, I'm old [Laughs]. I got to see it in the theater. I don't think I saw it when it first came out. It was replay or something when they played it again. I saw Raiders of the Lost Ark and all of the good stuff in the theater.
Have you started working on new Mastodon music yet?
Not really. Right now, I'm down in my studio fucking around. We come down here, and we're throwing ideas down on tape that we wrote on the road. I do a lot of writing on my laptop with Pro Tools when we're on the road. We're in the process, but we're not in any hurry to write. We're letting it happen.
Have you heard Primate yet?