Exclusive: Troy Sanders of Mastodon Talks "Live At Brixton", New Album, Killer Be Killed, and More
Mon, 09 Dec 2013 07:46:43
"It's officially on, man," smiles Troy Sanders from at home in Atlanta.
Mastodon fans know exactly what he's referring to, and all of hard rock and heavy metal should collectively rejoice at the statement. The singer and bassist elaborates, "Brann Dailor started cutting his drums yesterday so I'm going up in a few days to join in and get prepared for my bass tracks. I'm also going to continue working on vocals, lyrics, etc. The recording has begun! It's a reality".
As always, it's just the right time too. You can't make music this mind-blowing until it's ready and since 2011's The Hunter, Mastodon has been moving towards the next level. "I don't think we'd go into the studio unless the four of us felt like we had a good amount of stuff to grill upon. It's good!"
While the world anxiously waits for the metallic beast to emerge with a new full-length, it just unleashed a ferocious and fiery live CD and DVD entitled Live at Brixton. [iTunes link] The set captures the inimitable intensity of one of their gigs as well as the swooping experimental bombast. It's an essential live offering for fans and newcomers alike and truly is the next best thing to being in front of the stage as the quartet roars to life.
In this exclusive interview with ARTISTdirect.com editor in chief Rick Florino, Troy Sanders of Mastodon talks Live At Brixton, the band's new album, Killer Be Killed, and more.
Live At Brixton captures the band's unpredictability on stage, but it still sounds like a Mastodon record.
Cool! That particular in show London at The Brixton was special. It's a gorgeous venue, and it holds 5,000 people. That was our biggest show we've played as a Mastodon headliner. It was good to capture that. I thought we played well. On one hand, I see so many phone clips of live performances, and they just look and sound horrible. At the very least, this will be a proper representation of us.
It's a career-spanning piece too.
True! Obviously, we were riding the high of The Hunter. That was the tour it was on, of course. We enjoy playing select songs from our discography as well. We want to have a proper Mastodon show. People will play twenty or thirty bucks, pounds, euros, or whatever to come see a show. You have to give them something worthwhile. You can't play too long or too short. You've got to rock and roll.
Has the UK always been welcoming to Mastodon?
The UK has always been more than welcoming since our very first trip over there. It's amazing how they gravitate towards live music and have all of these festivals that are attended by 20-, 30-, 40-,50-, or 60-thousand people. God, their hunger for music is thrilling. We'll have UK dates coming up, and that's a good thing because we know the shows will be energetic. To answer your question, they've been beyond welcoming to us. We love the UK folks. That's for damn sure.
Is there a certain significance to the venue itself for Mastodon?
Well, we had been there as a band to see Faith No More a year or two prior to that. It's a massive venue. To know we had sold out 5,000 tickets—of course with the help of Red Fang and The Dillinger Escape Plan—was rewarding as a headliner. It was incredible to know that many people were coming to a show. We realized we had made another big step and a powerful stride in our journeys. We wanted to document it. We brought some film crews out there and hoped we played well. We decided to do some sort of proper release for those that are interested.
"Ghost of Karelia" stood out live. How did that one come together?
Thanks! That was on Crack the Skye of course, and it was pretty collaborative amongst the four of us. I wrote the verse. Bill Kelliher wrote the chorus, and Brent Hinds wrote the middle pieces and the intro. It all came together really as a band. We all contributed with lyrics and vocals. That was a true collaboration between the four of us. All of our songs are to some degree, but "Ghost of Karelia" in particular had all four of us involved. That was a highlight of creating it four or five years ago. It's a fun one live. It's got some pretty parts, and it's got some real "stare at the Red Bull's eyes" moments [Laughs]. I like it!
Do you feel like the new material picks up where The Hunter left off or are you on a whole new trip?
I think, to a degree, it picks up where we left off. As always, nothing was really pre-determined and spoken of beforehand like, "Okay guys, we need to write a lot of long epic songs and a lot of short sweet songs. We need to have a couple of slow ones". Nothing like that was predetermined verbally amongst the four of us. We go in there and we kind of pick up on whatever comes through Brent and Bill's fingers and their guitars and build and build. I guess it's going to be more of a continuation of where we left off with The Hunter. Hopefully, it's just a collection of good Mastodon rock 'n' roll songs. That's where it's headed.
Obviously, your bond is at its strongest after all of these years and records. How much does that bond serve as a catalyst for creating new music moving forward? This band exists with all four of you doing your own thing and converging on one vision.
True! That's a great point and great question, as always with you, Rick. There's a lot of trust and faith in one another. Let's say I could be doing some bass tracks in the studio and those guys don't even have to be there because they trust me to do my part. I trust them to do their parts individually. Most of the time, we're all together, giving pointers, and saying, "This might sound better. Try this". We have a lot of good teamwork still. The same four dudes have been together for fourteen years. There's something to be said about that chemistry and the continuity of that. It's very unique. I think the tightness comes from constantly playing live shows. That's where it really comes through—the repetition of playing our set night after night.
What are some of your favorite live records?
Dude, another good question [Laughs]. There are so many. I was reminiscing about twenty years ago, but the Nailbomb live record, Proud to Commit Commercial Suicide, comes to mind as I've befriended Max Cavalera over the past year. There are a lot of great live albums though! My latest and still one of my favorites is the Nailbomb album.
It's interesting that there are multiple voices in Killer Be Killed like in Mastodon?
Yes, but we did it with the intent of doing something like a one-off and having fun. It doesn't entail the pressures of putting out a new Dillinger Escape Plan or Mastodon record. It's just four dudes and some simple, raw riffs that we enjoy playing. It was a lot of fun to write and record that record. It didn't take up a lot of time. We weren't beating our heads against the wall trying to write something difficult, prog-y, or mathematical. It was just laidback and fun, which was very refreshing to do. For me personally, it was very therapeutic to go out to California, jam with these dudes, have some fun, and see what happens with it. Hopefully, people will like that too. The four of us do, and that's the most important thing.
What's next for you?
This is our thirteenth year of doing a Toys For Tots benefit every December with a group of friends called Bully. I've been rehearsing with those guys. I've been going up to Nashville to start living there for a month to record the new Mastodon. I'm going to cruise up there in a couple of days. Brann is situated. He's all good. He's up there knocking out some drum tracks. We'll let him do his thing for a few days, and then join in and start working.
What's your favorite Mastodon song?