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Mastodon's Brann Dailor Interviewed
Mark Eglinton , October 6th, 2009 05:11

To celebrate the start of Mastodon's US tour, Mark Eglinton catches up with Brann Dailor, drummist extraordinaire, to shoot the sheeeeeeit . . .

Mastodon are a band who don’t actually give a shit whether or not you like them at this precise moment. There’s a reason for that of course, and it’s simply that they know that down the line, maybe not tomorrow, but sometime, you will like them— and like them a lot. You see, when it comes to ‘Rock and Metal Judgement Day’ ( date TBC); when all that are good in that category are hailed to the rafters and conversely all that are bad are lined up and shot, Mastodon will be smirking in the corner like the swotty kid who aced all his exams, and the primary reason will be Crack The Skye.

It was a gamble too, to turn their backs on the metal fury of their earlier work and instead step back and allow the wind to dramatically blow through their oily mops in a modern homage to the greats of Classic Rock. Songs about worm-holes and Czarist Russia are not the norm these days and it took a super-confident band to write them and deliver them with such frightening assurance. Even the title inspired awe and it’s a rare album that can do that in an era overloaded with output. Much like the prehistoric beastl after which the band are named, Crack The Skye was all about scale. The vocals were big and imposing, the drums thunderous and the riffs the size of fucking Greenland. Brann Dailor is part of the new breed of technically gifted rock drummers and his contribution to the record is as important as any of his colleagues, with every track tattooed with intricate fills and pounding, mesmeric rhythm. Not just that he’s also a nice chap, and one with a healthy respect for his drumming forebears.

Having just heard your set I’m not totally convinced that Mastodon’s music is suited to an outdoor festival like this where the sound isn’t great. What do you think?

Brann Dailor: I haven’t really thought about it, what makes you say that?

I just feel that the complexity of the music is better suited to CD or a more intimate indoor venue.

BD: Well it’s never really been a problem and the festival fans seem to like it. I do agree that some of the more complex parts maybe get lost at an outdoor show but the overall energy seems to come over pretty well.

Have you been surprised by how well Crack The Skye has been received?

BD: Yes and no. We’re always surprised when people really like our stuff because when we go into the studio we’re only ever trying to play music that we like. It’s been pretty much that way with all our records so far.

Sure, but this one must have made you think you’d created something a bit special right?

BD: I guess so. At the start we had five songs and we played them to our friends and it was obvious from that point that what we had was some awesome songs, with even more depth and scale than on earlier records. Having said that we felt that way about Blood Mountain too so I guess we are just progressing as a band. It isn’t a conscious effort though; it’s just how things happened. We have never gone into the studio with a plan to top the last record; we just record what we have at the time and the results are the results.

Do you think you’ve found a new audience?

BD: Maybe because we don’t consider ourselves a purely metal band. In fact we don’t classify ourselves at all, so we’d like to think we could find new fans that weren’t even previously rock fans before they heard of us. Because Crack the Skye has a few more elements of classic rock in there, we were always going to attract some new fans that dig that dramatic kind of stuff. We’re pleased that anyone likes our music. We are also aware that a lot of fans have probably only heard our new record.

So you never set out to be big rock stars then?

BD: [laughs] Definitely not. We were just a bunch of guys into the same kind of stuff who wanted to play it. We never actually gave any thought to whether we’d make money or become a big band; that wasn’t the plan at any time.

Drummers are pretty high profile these days. Why do you think that is?

BD: Yeah they are, and maybe they always have been. Nowadays there are a lot of great drummers out there.

Who of the older generation are you a particular fan of?

BD: I grew up listening to all the greats: Bill Bruford, Lars Ulrich, those kinds of guys.

You’ve been compared to Rush’s Neil Peart on more than a few occasions, was he someone you founded your style on?

BD: You know what, not really. Neil wasn’t someone I really listened too. Phil Collins was more important to me...

Tell me you mean early Genesis era Phil Collins...?

BD: Yeah that kind of stuff, more complex music he did back then. Lars was a huge influence though and I had posters of him on my bedroom wall just like any fan[laughs]

Isn’t it just a little surreal to be playing on the same bill then?

BD: It was to start with but we’ve played with them a lot of times now so you kind of get used to it but we’re all still huge Metallica fans. They’re awesome to play alongside— real gentlemen, and seem to like what we are doing too.

How do you structure your drumming role within the songs?

BD: I don’t try and do anything other than drum within each individual song. There’s no point in doing anything other than that. I always think that for songs to work best, each part has to fit in with the others so my drumming is exactly the same.

So no temptation to showboat?

BD: Not really. It has to be within the confines of the music.

You’ve been on the road for what seems like an age. Do you get a break anytime soon?

BD: Not really actually. We’re on the road for a long time to come, including some shows in Japan so there is more hard work to do. We all enjoy touring and as long as it’s going down well we’re cool with that.

Do you get the opportunity to write new material on tour too?

BD: We have a few ideas but generally we just try to focus on the live shows.

More Mastodon News . . .

The band are currently working with composer John Powell and director, Jimmy Hayward on the Score to the upcoming movie Jonah Hex.

The movie - a cowboy bounty hunter zombie hybrid - is slated for a June 2010 release on Warner Bros and stars Brent Hinds in a cameo.