Interview: Mastodon, Gojira, and Kvelertak Talk Writing and More
Mon, 24 Feb 2014 16:12:17
Mastodon, Gojira, and Kvelertak have a lot more in common than just being tour mates. In fact, the three bands represent a shift in heavy music consciousness towards forward-thinking and groundbreaking writing and vision that elevates the genre as whole. It's no surprise that they share some of the same creative processes. At the same time, each band is an individual beast ready to claw its way past all expectations.
In part two of our three-way interview between Bill Kelliher of Mastodon, Joe Duplantier of Gojira, and Erlend Hjelvik of Kvelertak, the boys discuss writing music and the first time they heard each other's bands.
How much does touring impact songwriting and creating?
Bill Kelliher: Well, for me, I put down the drinking every night and partying like a madman. Once I was forced to limit that and put that down, I picked up my creativity. I really started to plug in. I'd go into my own corner on tour, put my headphones on, and play guitar as much as possible. I learned how to run Pro Tools into my computer, and I'd just start writing. I didn't really put any boundaries on it. I just wrote. It's always been the same for me. I don't really write in order to write a "Mastodon" song. I sort of write riffs to impress the other guys in my band. I'll play something at sound check, and if Brann Dailor or Brent Hinds starts playing along to it, I've gotten to them and they like it. When I was on these past couple of tours over the last year-and-a-half, I'd be on my laptop playing guitar at least two hours a day. By the time the record was being tracked, we recorded 15 songs, which was probably twice as many as we've done in the past. We're usually scrambling for songs, and now we have too many. Getting enough sleep, exercising, and not staying up all night drinking and partying really helped me in the writing and creativity department. I opened up my mind and got into a better place in my head. When I first started showing Brann some of the new ideas I had, he was like, "I don't know if I like this. It sounds really happy. Are we a happy band?" [Laughs] I said, "Honestly, I'm happy!" It's reflecting. You're in a metal band, and you're supposed to be angry and mad all the time. I couldn't think of anything to be mad about at the moment. I felt good. The music can still be intense. I just thought it was funny when he asked me that! Are you happy? That's how it works for me, I guess.
Joe Duplantier: That's cool! I understand what Bill said about putting your energy into the music instead of partying all night and drinking. For me, it's the same. This music is like a therapy. You have all of this anger and these frustrations with society. You could start drinking and knock yourself out a little bit with alcohol and drugs. Or, you could recycle all of these things, these boiling feelings, emotions, frustrations, and anger, and put them into the music. I know I have a lot of anger in me that's really deep. I realize that more and more. That's why I want to do this music. It allows me to feel better. The music is very therapeutic. Being on tour is difficult. You're away from family and friends. If you look at it from the right angle though, it's very inspiring to have this moment where you're alone in the back lounge. You don't want to hang out with a bunch of dudes for a couple of hours. You just want to be on your own because you can't be with your family. You have your guitar, and something comes out that would never come out if you were sitting at home. If you have the right setup with you, touring can help create music because there's so much time. You spend all day and night waiting. We did a tour with Slayer in November and December of last year. I brought my Pro Tools and some recording equipment, and we wrote a lot of riffs during a month-and-a-half. It was the first time we were able to compose on the road. It's a great thing. Almost every day, my brother Mario and I would sit for a couple of hours. It was a good filter for ideas. We had fifteen-to-twenty riffs. We worked on those and started to put them together. We began working on the new album based on what we did on this tour we did with Slayer.
When did you first hear each other's bands?
Bill Kelliher: In the summer of 2010, we toured with Baroness, and John Dyer Baizley was doing Kvlertak's artwork. He was like, "You've got to hear these guys! You have to listen to this fucking band!" Their name was so foreign to me I could never remember it. I'd be telling other people about them and saying, "Have you heard this band? Oh, I forgot their name!" [Laughs] Then, Happy-Tom from Turbonegro sent me an email. We're good friends. He was like, "I've got the new band for you, man! You've got to hear these guys. They're from a little tiny town in Norway, but they're amazing. They're going to be the new thing". It was the same band. I finally had the name in writing so I went out and checked them out right away. I was instantly like, "There's some cool shit going on here". We played together in Norway, and I thought, "Three guitar players! One guy doesn't use a pick?! What the hell?"
Erlend Hjelvik: [Laughs].
Bill Kelliher: It was right around that time a few years ago. Once we did that tour in Australia together, I really started paying attention and listening. When Meir came out, I was like, "This is amazing!" It's got all of these great songs.
Erlend Hjelvik: I didn't know Happy-Tom emailed you about the band. That's cool. He's helped us out a lot. That's awesome.
Bill Kelliher: Yeah, he sent me a message years ago like, "You've got to check these guys out". When John Dyer Baizley was doing the artwork for your first album, he told me you were amazing and to listen. It was the same thing. When did I first listen to Gojira? I think I saw something online, and I thought, "This is the band a lot of people are talking about". I was always very curious about the name. I was like, "Gojira? Isn't that how you say 'Godzilla' in Japanese?" I didn't understand if they were like a black metal band, but then I heard they were from France. Finally, I heard them, and I thought, "Holy shit! These guys have some fucking anger issues! There's some heavy shit going on in France" [Laughs]. I got to know Joe and the rest of the guys. I remember listening to the newest record L'Enfant Sauvage. It's just incredible. Putting it on, it's like a machine. I don't know how to describe it. It's the heaviest machine I've ever heard. It's great. It seemed like I was catching on at the right time. I'd be listening to it. Then, I'd walk by someone's car, and they'd be like, "Hey dude! Listen to this new band!" I'd say, "Oh, that's Gojira! Of course I know those guys!" I felt kind of hip that I'd gotten on to them at the right time [Laughs]. Having kids, I'm so out of touch with music. People always ask, "What are you listening to?" I don't have time to listen to anything really I'm so busy.
Erlend Hjelvik: That's the first album I heard by Gojira too. I think I bought as a gift for a friend of mine who had a birthday. I was driving, and I wound up listening to it in the car. I kept the album myself [Laughs].
Joe Duplantier: You bought the record in Norway?
Erlend Hjelvik: Yeah, it was somewhere in Norway.
Joe Duplantier: Oh, it was you [Laughs]. You're the one CD we sold in Norway. Thank you, dude!
Erlend Hjelvik: You're welcome!
Bill Kelliher: Use that ten-cent check you got wisely [Laughs].
Joe Duplantier: Mastodon has been around forever. Their shadow and their aura was always there. I didn't even know who they were. When we released our third album, From Mars to Sirius, which a lot of people consider to be our first since it helped the band breakthrough in the States and England, we had a whale on the cover. I was doing the cover myself. I was drawing, and I sent it to the record company. The CD came out, and somebody was like, "Did you copy Mastodon because that's a stupid move?" [Laughs] I thought, "Who's Mastodon?"
Erlend Hjelvik: I never thought about that.
Joe Duplantier: They're very different. Leviathan had a Moby Dick kind of whale. People started to saying, "You're lame!" I checked out the band though. The aura of Mastodon existed for me before I knew who they were. When I found out what their music was like and their faces—they look amazing with all of these tattoos and birds—I was very surprised. I loved the music right away. Then, we got to play together in Australia. My first time experiencing Kvelertak was in Australia. It was a great bill. I think that day we all thought we needed to do it again. That's what's happening now. It's really cool.
Get tickets here!
04/28 – Seattle, Wa. @ Showbox Sodo
04/29 – Portland, Ore. @ Roseland Theater
05/01 – Oakland, Calif. @ Fox Theater
05/02 – Los Angeles, Calif. @ Nokia Theater
05/03 – Las Vegas, Nev. @ House of Blues
05/04 – Salt Lake City, Ut. @ The Depot
05/05 – Denver, Co. @ Ogden Theatre
05/07 – Minneapolis, Minn. @ First Avenue
05/08 – Chicago, Ill. @ The Riviera Theater
05/09 – Pittsburgh, Pa. @ Stage AE
05/10 – Toronto, ON. @ Sound Academy
05/12 – Buffalo, NY. @ Town Ballroom
05/13 – Washington, D.C. @ 9:30 Club
05/15 – New York, N.Y. @ Terminal 5
05/16 – Worcester, Mass. @ The Palladium
05/17 – Philadelphia, Pa. @ Electric Factory
05/18 – Columbus, Ohio @ Rock On The Range
What's your favorite song from each band?
See part one of the interview here!
See our interview between Joe Duplantier of Gojira and Tom Araya of Slayer here!