MASTODON’s SANDERS: ‘Everything We Write Is Done Without Any Spoken Predetermined Ideas’

Kristen Dunleavy of myYearbook recently conducted an interview with vocalist/bassist Troy Sanders of Atlanta progressive metallers MASTODON. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.

myYearbook: MASTODON evolves with each new album. How do you feel the band has evolved on “The Hunter”, and was it a sound the band was consciously trying to capture?

Sanders: Probably a 50/50 on that. With this record, we did want this to be a bit more immediate than our previous record, “Crack The Skye”. Half of the songs on that record were seven-plus minutes, the longest one was 14 minutes. On “The Hunter”, we wanted to bark up a riff, get in and get out — a little more to-the-point this time around. One thing that we never want to do is record the same album twice. We didn’t want to make a “Crack The Skye Part II”, for example. We always want a fresh direction with each album. It keeps things exciting within our band and with the listener as well. We like to surprise ourselves just as much as we like to throw a curveball at the rest of the world. But as far as evolving, we’re always trying to push ourselves as songwriters. That’s what we’re always paying attention to. Everything we write is done without any spoken predetermined ideas. We don’t come down to the rehearsal space and say, “OK, with this next record we should have a bunch of short, sweet songs, maybe two slow songs and maybe one sprawling epic song.” Nothing is really spoken of beforehand amongst ourselves. Music comes very authentically and if someone starts jamming on an idea and the rest of us like it, we just build on it and build on it until it becomes a song. It’s a very natural progression.

myYearbook: How would you rank “The Hunter” alongside your other albums?

Sanders: It seems cliché, but all bands will say they feel this is their best work to date. Well, we feel that way, too, and we feel that way with all of our albums. I think that’s a good thing because we started writing this record about nine months ago and put so much time, dedication and energy into creating songs that will hopefully become an album, so you fall in love with it. The four of us couldn’t be any happier with this record. It’s so refreshing to have this album out now. It breathes a fresh breath back into the band, so we’re very excited about it.

myYearbook: How does the writing process change from when you are specifically writing for concept albums like “Crack The Skye” and “Leviathan”, to albums like “The Hunter”? Do you find it easier to write because you aren’t constricted by an overarching theme?

Sanders: Excellent question. Yes, it was much more of a freeform approach because we were not following a linear storyline with this record. With any style of a riff for a song someone came up with, we were completely open and free to explore that and not worry if it was going to fit on this album. This album was going to have no boundaries and no borders and we were going to explore any musical style and any lyrical content we chose that particular day. It was very instinctual and we were able to approach it with a freeform type mentality. But yes, it was a bit easier and I would like to say a little more fun too. It was therapeutic for our band to shed the idea of a concept record this time, which we’ve done for the past four albums. This is a very new and fun direction and it was very exciting to write and record this album.

Read the entire interview from myYearbook.