Mastodon Talks "The Hunter", Looks Back on "Leviathan" and More
Mon, 23 Apr 2012 09:22:25
Things come full circle for every great band.
You hear about it time and time again in music, but it's especially sweet for Mastodon. On The Hunter, the Atlanta quartet has perfected its sound into an even tighter and tougher beast. It's the group's most cohesive and crushing album yet, blasting them off into another realm altogether. It'll make you bang your head, and it'll make you think. Since their inception, they've been waving the flag for thought-provoking heavy music much like another four piece that bassist and vocalist Troy Sanders considers a major inspiration.
"Metallica have invited us to be main support in Europe," he smiles. "I think back to many countless hours of learning Metallica songs in my bedroom and now we'll be directly supporting them. That circle of life is complete and we're so fortunate. It never ceases to amaze me."
Mastodon don't cease to amaze either, and they'll be doing that nightly on their current Heritage Hunter tour with Opeth and Ghost.
In this exclusive interview with ARTISTdirect.com editor in chief Rick Florino, Troy Sanders of Mastodon talks The Hunter, looks back on Leviathan and so much more.
The Hunter pulls you in the more you listen to it.
Some of my favorite albums of all time are growers. That's been the case with Mastodon for our whole career. I always take that as a compliment. A lot of times, you can listen to an album, sink your teeth into it right away, and be like, 'Wow, this is kickass!' I think with the chemistry of the band and the complexity or the bizarreness in places, it takes more than one listen. That's a wonderful thing.
What's the story behind "All the Heavy Lifting"?
There were parts of "All the Heavy Lifting" created during the Crack the Skye era, but the ideas didn't really come to fruition because we were working on all of the other tracks which made that record. It's almost like a meat-and-potatoes song. It's heavy enough to sink your teeth into, and we were able to incorporate a melodic, sing-a-long chorus as well. It turns out to be a lot of people's favorite from The Hunter, and that's amazing. We've been playing it live. It's nice to incorporate clean vocal melody over a heavy song. It's a great combination in my opinion. It's like if you're doing a construction job, and a couple of people are slacking off. The other guys are the ones mixing the concrete and carrying the lumber. They're doing all the heavy lifting, so to speak.
Where did "Bedazzled Fingernails" come from?
Brent had these noodle-y guitar parts, and it creates the space where the drums and bass can do something different underlying. Following the Chinese calendar, everyone in my family was born in the "Year of the Ox". The lyrical idea stemmed from that. It was basically a bunch of thoughts and phrases I'd like for my kids to know and live off of. It's all very positive and family-oriented. It's bizarre how that came about. It's one of my favorites, and we're playing that one this tour. When we're piecing songs together, it's always interesting how they come about. It's like a thousand piece jigsaw puzzle. When it comes together, it looks and hopefully sounds beautiful.
Do you feel like you've become more vividly lyrically?
We always hope the listener will go with us and grow with us and really immerse themselves into Mastodon's universe and become one with us. I like that idea. It comes with the territory. We're always trying to better ourselves as songwriters and create lyrical content and vocal passages that draw you in. A song like "Dry Bone Valley" creates its own world in our opinion. If you can listen to that song and feel like you're in it with us, then it's a complete success. The verses are all Brann. The dynamic of having different singers only enhances the idea of each song having its own life. Every song has its own life. When you put them together as an album, it creates more diversity. Hopefully, that works for the better.
"The Ruiner" fits within the world of The Hunter. It's a bonus track, but it carries the vibe.
That song was going to make the album as well. We decided to pick a song exclusive to the special packaging though. There was no rhyme or reason to the decision. We like it just as much as everything else on the album. It's the only song we're not currently playing off The Hunter, but we plan on learning it and incorporating it into our set. We're proud of that song.
There's a cinematic sensibility to Mastodon.
We always wanted to write our music as if it was the cinematography to a film. We always wanted and hoped to create lyrical content that would be the dialogue and really tie everything together and make one wholesome album. We've used that analogy for years. With Crack the Skye, it really came to fruition. It has with The Hunter as well. Twelve years ago we always had the idea of laying the music out as cinematography and the lyrics as the dialogue.
If you were to compare The Hunter to a movie or a combination of movies, what would you compare it to?
That's a good question. There is no conceptual idea for the whole record. Each song itself has a story, but collectively it's all over the place. It's more of a traditional rock 'n' roll album. There are thirteen songs and that's it. "The Creature Lives" is about a swamp baby wondering if he's hideous or being accepted into the world. It's so all over the place that I don't know [Laughs].
What sticks out for you when you think of Leviathan?
When that album was released into the world and accepted, that's when our band catapulted into the next realm of rock. After that record, we were invited to do the Unholy Alliance overseas supporting Slipknot and Slayer. We found ourselves playing on stages that were bigger than the clubs we'd been playing. That was very eye-opening and mind-blowing at the same time. That's when Warner Bros. approached us and we were able to sign to a major label. It's when we hooked up with our wonderful management. Everything reached a new level. When I think of that record, not only am I still very much married and attached to the music itself, I think of things happening on a much bigger worldwide level for us in 2005. It was very nice. We were on different Slayer tours. We got picked up by Tool.
Have you already begun thinking of the next album?
Even though The Hunter is fresh, the four of us are looking forward to working on new material as well. It's what keeps the Mastodon fire burning.
What's your favorite song on The Hunter?