Mastodon's Brann Dailor talks twerking and why he loves prog

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Last week on the Metal Hammer Radio Show we chatted to Mastodon drummer Brann Dailor. Here we talk about the concept of twerking (particularly in certain music videos), performing on Letterman and discovering the magical world of prog. You can listen to the full interview On Demand.

You guys made waves for all sorts of reasons this year, not least of which because of Once More ‘Round The Sun, but what I wanted to really talk to you about is the concept for videos. When you guys sit down to think about the concept for videos and the content that’s going to go out there, what happens next? What is that process and what the hell happened?

“I always have a pretty good wealth of ideas when it comes to videos. I’ve always got something going on. I just have a back catalogue of video ideas, you can only make so many videos, you know?”

So you have like a file on, lasers?

“Pretty much, yeah. No, we just say, when it came to making The Motherload video, which is what I’m guessing you’re referring to, I had like three or four different ideas and I put them out there and that was the one that made the most sense to do. I feel like The Motherload is maybe our danciest song. It’s very groove ridden, but also was a good opportunity to pay homage to our home city or Atlanta in that way, and if you’ve ever been to Atlanta, or you know anything about Atlanta then the video will probably make a little bit more sense to you.

Would you call it the twerking capital of the East Coast, or indeed the Union?

I guess so ha ha, yeah for sure, and I think it’s something that people would probably say that one doesn’t belong in the other, so, that’s fun too, to just go, ‘Sure it does.’

Were you prepared for the reaction because it definitely stirred a lot of debate, certainly in the metal community, and you guys didn’t back down, you actually put out some shirts about it?

“Yeah, that was the first idea I had. When people got really upset about it, which is always fun because I mean really, if you’re upset about that, don’t leave your house. Well we always make a Halloween shirt, so that’s right near Halloween and this is all happening and fresh so, the first idea I had was a witch with two pumpkins ha ha.”

It’s certainly not the first time that you guys have, you might say, bended genres? Or indeed stirred a lot of controversy. What do you think about the reaction to_ Once More ‘Round The Sun_ so far?

“It’s been great. I think like every record we put out, it’s different from the last one, but I think it has our trademark stamped on it. It sounds like us. From Remission or_ Call Of The Mastodon_ until now I can hear ourselves, I always hear ourselves, because it’s going to be hard to take that out of our DNA as a band, just a certain signature sound that’s in there. The reaction’s been great, I feel like we made the record for all the right reasons and those reasons are resonating with people that it resonates with. The people it doesn’t resonate with, it doesn’t.”

It definitely does seem as though you’ve climbed to ever new heights. Now, appearing on David Letterman might not mean much to people who aren’t aware of just how huge he is, but you talk about an icon of broadcasting, I mean, somebody that reaches an audience of how many people? 30 million? Something like that? You guys appeared on late night TV, did that feel like you were stepping into a much wider world?

“Sort of, yeah. It’s hard because when you’re there, there’s a couple of hundred people and they’re very far away from you so you can’t really see them, so it’s a little bit nerve-racking, and it’s kind of cold, but it’s always an honour to be on there. It’s our third time being on the show and it’s really cool for Grandma and Grandpa.”

It’s no bad thing certainly. So, did you not try to talk him out of the wig or what?

“The wig? No, I don’t try to talk Brent out of anything ha ha.”

I would have taken you for a young metalhead, but not many people stumble upon the world of prog until you might say later in their musical journey. What was it for you? What got you into it?

“My mom and dad were both really into ’70s prog, or at that point it was fairly new. So, that’s what they were into and that’s what was blasting over my stereo when I was a kid. I remember it well, and I did lose it for a while. When I was seven or eight I discovered Iron Maiden and Judas Priest, and Metallica and Black Sabbath, and all that good stuff followed suit. When I turned 15, I was re-introduced to it. I just started digging through my mom’s old records and putting stuff on that looked interesting, and I fell in love again. It’s been with me ever since. It’s like comfort food or something – I hear those first piano notes that Tony Banks is playing on the first song of The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway, and it’s a safe place ha ha.”

What would you attribute more of your influence to? To metal, or you might say the boundarylessness of prog?

“I’d have to say prog. As much as I love metal and I’m a metal head, and that helped me through my teenage years of rebelliousness and all that good stuff that goes along with it, and it’s certainly a lot easier to be at a party with Ride The Lightning playing, than Close To The Edge. As far as prog and jazz, you know, like John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme or something like that, I can put those things on and listen to Elvin Jones or Phil Collins play the drums and it just makes me want to reach a little further. It makes me want to push a little harder and push myself to play better, and just to be more free behind my instrument, and within the music that the band writes.”

You can LISTEN TO THE FULL INTERVIEW ON DEMAND for Brann’s thoughts on Genesis, the passing on Black Tusk’s Jonathan Athon and more.