Why Bill Bailey Loves Mastodon

Bill Bailey Mastodon
(Image: © Art: Matt Dixon)

The king of rock ‘n’ roll comedy declares his love of the prog metal behemoths

THEY COMPLETELY BLEW MY MIND

“A few years ago I was performing at a festival in the States. I was listening to the local rock station and they played The Wolf Is Loose. I thought, ‘What the hell is this? This is extraordinary!’ It was an assault on the senses, but I identified immediately the precision playing, the artistry, the skill, the technical proficiency… all of that. I loved the title, too. It worked out brilliantly, because later I was doing an interview with MTV and they asked me to pick a track to introduce and I said, ‘Mastodon! The Wolf Is Loose!’ Then I listened to the whole back catalogue and I gradually realised everything – their attitude, their approach, the lyrics, the musical dexterity – it all chimed with me on so many levels.”

THEY ARE A TRULY AMAZING LIVE BAND

“They’re tremendous, quite unlike any other band. You’re constantly checking to see how many people there are on the stage and how so much sound can be created by this number of people. That’s testament to musical ability. The arrangements are extraordinary. You get a full-on assault in terms of the parts, the balance, the energy, the dynamism of it. They’re incredibly powerful live. It’s a combination of brilliant playing, the intensity of the performance and this non-stop barrage of sound. It’s like Shiva, God of Gods, is playing the drums!”

THEY PARTY HARD

“I went to see them at Brixton Academy. I was hanging out backstage with them and had to leave because the joints were so strong that I didn’t think I was going to make it home! Ha ha ha! Of course, at the Metal Hammer Golden Gods, too, I don’t quite know what happened. It got a bit messy. I remember being propelled onto the stage but I’ve no recollection of what I said. There was a fight between me and Brann [Dailor, Mastodon drummer]. We both ended up in headlocks and with each other’s awards… and a good time was had by all! I blame the fact that I was dehydrated. Something The king of rock’n’roll comedy declares his obsession with Atlanta’s prog metal behemoths very primal happens when we’re together, with all those beards. We have a licence to go off on one. It’s a tribal thing. We’re the shamans, and that’s what people expect.”

THEY ARE MASTERS OF INVENTION

“Brann once told me that when he was a kid in bands, he’d play with a guitarist and not a bass player, so rhythmically he was much more attuned to the choppiness of the rhythm guitar. That may explain the skittering jazz influence, which contributes hugely to Mastodon’s sound. Also, I’ve noticed that Troy [Sanders, vocals/bass] will record his vocals an octave up and down, so what you hear is the vocal part but on two octaves. It has a really eerie, atmospheric quality. It’s an ancient technique from medieval times, whenthere’d be a choir on one side of the chapel and another choir on the other side and they would sing an octave apart. It’s called antiphony. So there are all these ideas and styles that feed into Mastodon’s sound. They’re very clever!”

THEY HONOUR THE ALBUM FORMAT

“I love the idea of Leviathan, a concept album about a book. No one does that anymore and it’s a shame! The way music is available now, it’s in such a fragmented way that the idea of an album is almost a quaint thing. The notion of a concept has been lost if people only download two tracks or it’s all jumbled up. Blood Mountain is my favourite. What a great idea: wandering around on a mountain, bumping into strange creatures and hallucinating. That’s what music should be: transformative and mildly hallucinatory! Crack The Skye is equally good. Those themes of astral travelling, dark magic, Rasputin and the downfall of Czarist Russia… you don’t get that from most bands, do you?”

MASTODON HEADLINE BLOODSTOCK ON AUGUST 13. BILL BAILEY IS ON TOUR NOW - WWW.BILLBAILEY.CO.UK

(Image: © Art by Matt Dixon)