Mastodon's Bill Kelliher on Covering Feist and The Flaming Lips
Mastodon is old-school American heavy metal at its finest. The band is known for a distinctly sludgy sound, mixing stripped and distortion-heavy instrumentals, intricate grooves, and vocal harmonies that alternate between clean melodies and harsh screams.
The band has five full-length albums under its belt to date, with its latest, 2011's The Hunter, rapidly becoming known as one of their best. The record is still making waves. On Tuesday, it was named the best album of year at the 2012 Metal Hammer Golden Gods Awards by UK metal authority Metal Hammer.
While the band appears super-hardcore -- the tattoos trailing across vocalist/guitarist Brett Hinds' face go hand-in-hand with the Mastodon brand, and the members rarely smile on stage -- they're quite easygoing and open to just about anyone's interpretation of their music. In fact, earlier this year Mastodon, excitedly recorded covers of the Flaming Lips and Feist (with those artists returning the favor) for Record Store Day.
Up on the Sun talked with guitarist Bill Kelliher about the creative relief behind The Hunter, his love for the band Boston, and why he would redo all the band's albums if he could turn back time.
Up on the Sun: How's touring going?
Bill Kelliher: It's going great. It's long and decent-sized. After Rock on the Range we're headed to Europe for six weeks.
Among all your different tours, are you eager to get home?
Yes, definitely. Luckily, around July 1, we'll have some time to just do nothing.
Among Mastodon's five albums, if you had to pick a favorite and a least favorite what would they be? I know Crack the Skye is close to your heart.
At the moment, my favorite is the last one. It's a breath of fresh air for us, trying some new things . . . sonically, I think it sounds best. When you record records you spend a lot of time in the studio, and hear you things over and over and over, like, every which way it can be played. And then you record the record, get it done, and then you kinda just put it on a shelf. You don't really go back and listen to it, well, maybe a couple times playing it for some friends. But once it comes out . . . me personally, it's not like I go around listening to myself playing anymore, with all the bands and projects or whatever. I mean, it's really fun when you're in the studio. You're recording all the individual parts and stuff.
But if I roll back and listen to, like, Remission, I think it was . . . it's a great record, but it's different. Recording has come so far! Back with those records, we were all spending a couple weeks in the studio, spending a lot of money flying people in, and you're on a time crunch, really. I remember we had to move to a couple different studios in Atlanta, because the two-inch tape machine was broken. I think we had a like a week to record that record. We tracked drums for like the first three days but then the machine broke. We had to find another place in Atlanta. When you look back on it, you feel like it sounds good because you actually recorded it that day with all of that going on. And back then we didn't do as much singing as we do now, so I listen back and hear all these stops where we could've had vocals. So I don't know . . . all that stuff, that was just where the band was at.
But to answer your question: the earlier stuff -- it would be great to go back and re-record those records and redo it all. So the newest album is my favorite, sonically.