MASTODON Guitarist On Record-Tour Cycle: ‘I Can’t Really Bitch And Complain About It’

Niclas Müller-Hansen of Sweden’s Metalshrine recently conducted an interview with guitarist Bill Kelliher of Atlanta progressive metallers MASTODON. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.

Metalshrine: How much more touring are you gonna do for this album? Are you kinda wrapping things up?

Kelliher: Yeah, we’re kinda wrapping things up. To me it seems like it’s been kind of a fast year. The record came out in September last year and then we did a European tour, a U.S. tour, an Australian tour… what else have we done? We’ve done two U.S. tours. We’ve been touring a lot. I think we’ve been touring since September or October last year and we’ve pretty much only had a month off since then. We were home for Christmas for two weeks.

Metalshrine: Are you gonna keep going until Christmas?

Kelliher: We go home in two weeks and then we do two festivals in Canada at the end of July and then we play Reading and Leeds and that’s all we’ve got planned. We might go to South America with SLAYER, but we’re not sure yet. That’s really all we have planned right now. It’s pretty much winding down. We’ve toured a lot for the record so, you know… for me it’s about time to go home and get some rest and relaxation. Get back in touch with my family and start writing the new record and do it all over again next year, I guess.

Metalshrine: Does that ever get tiring and repetitive? You do an album then tour and then another album and so on.

Kelliher: Yeah, but that’s the line of work I’m in. I can’t really bitch and complain about it. What else would I rather be doing? I don’t know! I play my guitar every day and I know how to do that. I can do that and I’ve been doing it for a long time and I enjoy doing that. It’s all in how you look at it. If you look at the big picture, there are people that don’t have jobs, there are people that hate their jobs and people that can’t work because they have bad health or what not, so we’re very lucky to be able to do what we’re doing. Do it for so long and still be relevant in this day and age of… just fucking everybody’s in a band! There’s bands everywhere all the time and we’ve created such a good fan base, you know, thank you to all our fans, that we’re able to keep on doing this. We’re able to play festivals and make enough money to let us fly overseas and be here on this lovely day in Gothenburg. (laughs)

Metalshrine: When you write, do you consciously think to come up with stuff that’s different from the previous album?

Kelliher: No…

Metalshrine: Or it just comes and it’ll be what it is?

Kelliher: Yeah, pretty much. A lot of times if I get someone else’s guitar or a new guitar in my hands, I just get this vibe and something will just come out of nowhere. I don’t really control it. I’ll just start strumming. You know, I kinda look at my fingers and I try to put them in different positions then I normally would. I don’t know why. I guess I’m trying to make new stuff up. Like, “I always play in the same pattern. Let me try something different.” Consciously, no. We don’t say it like, “On the next record we have to take a 45-degree turn!” We don’t really think like that. It’s just the way that it comes out I guess. For me when I’m writing, I do have a little meter in my head that’s saying like, “You can write something better than that.” Or “You can write something cooler than that.” When I write my music, I gotta take it to Brann [Dailor, drums] and I gotta take it to Brent [Hinds, guitar/vocals] and Troy [Sanders, bass] and I have to impress them. I’ve been trying to impress those guys. I’m not thinking, “This is the next song. This is how it goes and the kids are gonna love it.” It’s more like, “Hey, what do you think of this riff?” and then, if it catches someone’s interest and they start chiming in and we make my riff kinda morph into something else like, “Yeah, I like the idea you’ve got, but I don’t like the notes.” Brann will say that to me sometimes, like, “It doesn’t sound evil enough. Let’s add some minor chords in there or something.” And that’s kinda how the songs come together. There’s really no rhyme or reason. It’s like the riff fairy just kinda sprinkles riff dust on your fingers and you go, “Ah cool, that sounds neat!”

Read the entire interview from Metalshrine.


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