Mastodon’s Brann Dailor has plans. Big ones. And they have nothing to do with the next epic concept album from the heavy metal titans, and everything to do with a home improvement project. The fleet-footed, fill-filling drummer has plans to replace the windows in his home. But first he has to get a building permit.
“It’s a good time,” Dailor says, with more than a hint of sarcasm. “It’s not that easy. You’ve got to have floor plans drawn up, with the dimensions of the room and the dimensions of the existing windows, and then an order form for the windows that you are putting in to make sure they’re the same size.”
When we caught up with Dailor for a phone interview, he had just left the permit office. The lines weren’t too long. In fact, he got in and out of there fairly quickly.
Which is good. Dailor doesn’t have a lot of time. He and his bandmates — Bill Kelliher (guitars), Brent Hinds (lead guitar, vocals, and banjo), and Troy Sanders (bass, vocals) — are about to embark on another tour. So time is of the essence. “This is an everyday-life thing. It’s one of those things you don’t get to partake in when you’re gone on tour,” Dailor says. “When you get back, there’s all sorts of stuff that’s been sitting there waiting to be dealt with that you need to deal with.”
And if the past year is any indication, that list of stuff to deal with has probably gotten longer than it has ever been before. Last year, the band released it’s biggest album to date, Crack the Skye, a prog-rock-esque mammoth of a disc that involves a modern-day boy whose spirit ends up in the body of the mad Russian wizard Rasputin. And while this wasn’t the first time Mastodon has gone the concept route — that sort of thing is par for the course — this is the first time they’ve actually really sang, and we mean sing, not that Cookie Monster-growling shit favored by most modern metal acts.
Skye also marks the first time Dailor has taken the mic, a task difficult for a skin pounder. “It’s not the easiest thing in the world to do,” Dailor says of his singing debut on the album’s opening track “Oblivion.”
As for the possibility of singing on future Mastodon records, Dailor says, “I don’t know if I plan on it, but if it calls for it and I sing on it and everybody thinks it sounds good, then I’ll do my best to do that.”
He adds, “I definitely opened that door now, and I know that it’s possible, where in the past I was afraid to go there because of not knowing if I could sing and play at the same time.”
Following the release of Crack the Skye and a tour, the band took a little time off … to record the soundtrack for the upcoming DC Comics flick, Jonah Hex, a Western starring Josh Brolin, Megan Fox, and John Malkovich. “We gave them some general riffage. We played along with that. We gave them some full-on Mastodon, and then we gave them some droning,” Dailor says. “It wasn’t entirely some crazy experience. We were writing music. It was really riffs were had already been kicking around. Some of it was new stuff and being spontaneous.”
Dailor adds, “The only thing that was different was that there were people in the room kind of saying, ‘Yeah, yeah, I like that. Keep doing that.'”
On the soundtrack, the band even used an instrument which made its first-ever appearance on a Mastodon album, thanks to Skye‘s “Divinations”: the banjo. Dailor says, “The banjo was used for maybe two or three different themes that we come up with.”
That said, all of the band’s hard work may not even make it to the big screen. According to Dailor, the film recently changed composers. “I don’t know if they’re going to use any of that stuff, which would be fine because we could put it toward the next Mastodon record,” Dailor says. “It doesn’t really matter. We win either way.”
However, Dailor remains optimistic. He says, “I’m hoping they’re going to still use it. I haven’t heard they aren’t going to use it.”
During the phone call, we also had a chance to talk to Dailor about Mastodon’s cover of Metallica’s classic music-inspired opus “Orion” and acoustic duo Rodrigo y Gabriela’s mind-boggling stab at the same thrash song. “I think it’s awesome. I love their version,” Dailor says. “But for cover songs, it’s better for Rodrigo y Gabriela to do something like that or for Judas Priest to cover a Joan Baez song. When you’re a heavy band and you cover a metal song, it’s kind of like, yeah? I feel like we can’t change anything, we can’t put our stamp on it.
“As far as Metallica goes, we’re pretty much in the same ballpark. We’re not too much different,” Dailor adds. “I’d rather cover ‘Rainbow Connection’ or something like that. Or ‘Pressure’ by Billy Joel and make it heavy.”
Over here at the City Paper offices, we have the perfect future cover for these rockers: Fleetwood Mac’s “Tusk.”