MASTODON Guitarist: New Album ‘Reflects The Mood Of The Band And How We’re In A Good Place’

Andrew Magnotta of The Aquarian Weekly recently conducted an interview with guitarist of Bill Kelliher of Atlanta progressive metallers MASTODON. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.

The Aquarian Weekly: “The Hunter” has more of a rock and roll vibe to “Crack The Skye”, which has more of a psychedelic way about it. Did you guys discuss the direction before going into the studio?

Bill: No, not really. We just threw a bunch of riffs together and that’s how it came out, really. Pretty simple. I think the record just represents a place in time where the band was and where we are. I think it reflects the mood of the band and how we’re in a good place and everybody’s happy. This is kind of a more upbeat feel to the writing of the songs. It’s like a snapshot of where everybody’s at with MASTODON. For us, I think we wanted to go back to basics but kinda revisit some of the things about MASTODON that made the fans move, like at the shows. We concentrated on upbeat riffs, not so much negative space. Like, with “Crack The Skye”, that was a very serious record. And I don’t think it was depressing but it had some serious overtones about loss and life. We just didn’t want to go down that path again. Like, let’s do something totally different. Let’s not write a concept record. Let’s just have fun and write some music that’s got a little more groove to it, something that people can grab onto. To me, it’s like short bursts of energy are all these songs. Instead of writing these 15-minute opuses with these huge, grandiose movements like “The Czar” and “Last Baron” [from “Crack The Skye”], we kinda shortened it down and trimmed off all the fat. Let’s just get to the point, get in and get out. So, I guess if it came off as being more rock, I think that’s because a little bit more groove is going on.

The Aquarian Weekly: MASTODON could really do anything with this next album. I don’t think your fans have any idea of what to expect. You could get heavy again or even do a jam album; you’ve given yourselves unlimited options. Have you thought about post-“The Hunter”?

Bill: No, not really. I don’t think we’ve really thought that far ahead. This record is so fresh. We just kinda roll with it. But yeah, I’m pretty focused on what we’re doing now and get all this stuff together to convey it live. I think what we’re trying to do on this tour is — you know, I bring my Pro Tools session with me — we’re just gonna try and write the next record, or at least some of it, while we’re out here on the road. It’s really just people noodling around on guitars and coming up with ideas. I’ll start taping them or we’ll start taping them on our phones. Just put ’em all in a big pile when we come home and start listening back to what kind of frame of mind we were in, what kind of riffs we were writing and string it all into a song. See what riffs wanna be friends with other riffs, and that’s kinda what we did with “The Hunter”. That’s kinda what we did with the ALICE IN CHAINS tour. We had amps backstage so we’d just sit there and bang on amps all day and bang on guitars, just start recording riffs. A lot of “The Hunter” just came out of that. There’s a lot of downtime when you’re doing a headlining tour, besides waking up and doing interviews and meet-and-greets and stuff like that. Having a new record out, there’s many hours to kind of sit around with a guitar and write some new stuff. I haven’t really thought about the direction that band will go, but I definitely have a lot more songs in me that didn’t make it onto “The Hunter” that I’m gonna try to work out while we’re out here.

The Aquarian Weekly: Was writing on tour a possibility before you started working on “The Hunter” or is it a new luxury that you’re enjoying?

Bill: I’ve always said that it’s hard to write on tour. I mean, there is a lot of stuff going on and it’s not like you’re not alone in a room with your guitar all day. But as the band gets bigger and we play bigger venues and there’s bigger rooms and there’s more space backstage, with the addition of Pro Tools on my computer, it’s getting easier definitely to capture any kind of ideas and music that we have. So yeah, it is getting easier for sure. You gotta kind of make time to do it, too. You can’t just expect the riff gods to come when summoned. You have to work on it.

Read the entire interview from The Aquarian Weekly.