It was a pleasant surprise when we first heard that Mastodon would be playing the mainstage at Mayhem Fest this summer. It’s been almost two years since the band released their gigantic album, The Hunter, so naturally many assumed new material was in the works. And while ideas are indeed being put together for the next album, Mastodon’s thunderous set at Mayhem Fest is chock full of material from The Hunter. So when can we expect a new album from Mastodon?
Before taking the stage in Camden, NJ, I sat down with drummer Brann Dailor to get an update on the new album’s status. During our chat, Dailor also gave clarification behind Mastodon’s actual involvement with Monsters University and gave a behind-the-scenes look at what life on Mayhem Fest is actually like.
So last I heard, you guys have about 25-30 songs ready for the new album.
I don’t know about that. That sounds like an exaggeration. Well, maybe.
What do you actually have ready for a new album?
I think we have maybe… three or four ready. There’s tons of “almost there” ideas. Lots of loose leaf stuff. And the ones that I’m saying three or four don’t even have vocals or anything like that. They’re demos that we did on our own in our practice space.
So when do you plan to actually go into the studio?
I’d say when we get home in September, we’ll continue working. And then from there, whenever we’re ready. I’d say probably end of September.
Maybe it’s too soon to even ask, but do you intend to have a concept for the new album (unlike The Hunter)?
Maybe. Maybe more like a theme. Something that sort of like a ribbon that threads through the entire album. That ties them together, but not something that’s like “A, B, C, D,” like a story. But we’ll see. There’s something I have in mind.
Do you care to share?
No [Laughs]. It’s way too early for that. I’m not going to start talking about that because I haven’t even really cleared it with the band. They all have to be on board. It’s important that they are personally invested.
That’s fair! Why was it important for Mastodon to essentially end The Hunter touring cycle by playing Mayhem Fest?
It wasn’t important for us to end it. We weren’t like “We need to end with Mayhem Fest!” But it’s time. It’s been long enough. We’ve been touring on this record for a while. But it’s the perfect kind of note to end on. But it sort of came like “Hey, you guys want to do this in the summer?”, and we were like, “yeah, sure”. The last time we did it, it was super fun and we had a good time. It’s such a smooth-run festival. Everything is like clockwork. It’s a good time. It’s a bit like heavy metal summer camp. Everybody knows everybody, everybody loves everybody. So it seemed like a no-brainer I guess, if you will, when they asked us to do it. So like “yeah, hell yeah, that’ll be fun!”
As you mentioned, you played Mayhem Fest once before. What would you say is the biggest difference from playing Mayhem Fest’s first incarnation in 2008 to playing it now?
Not much. It’s pretty similar, as most touring festivals are. Pretty similar. There’s parties at night.
Any memorable parties?
Well no…I mean, that’s good, right? I don’t remember anything. I barely remember going to bed. [laughs]. No no, we just get up, go to catering, have a nice salad, go to the dressing room, maybe take a shower, brush your teeth, check some emails, talk to the wife. Then go to a signing, meet four hundred sweaty people, sign their posters for them, shake their hands. Then talk to you and some other people like you [press] of the same ilk. And then go warm up for an hour, play for 45 minutes. And then watch the other bands and have some beers with my friends.
Well then thank you for including me in your schedule!
You’re welcome! And then we go to sleep. And then we wake up and do it all over again.
I know you’ve gone on touring festivals and you’ve played side stages and have obviously played the main stage. Do you have a preference on either one?
No, I just want the show to go well. That’s pretty much my only requirement. I’d prefer it if the audience was super into it, but I know that that’s not always going to be the case. The only thing I can really control is myself and my own concert up there. So I just make sure that I’m not super hung over, and I make sure that I don’t drink before the show so I’m of a “clear” mind when I perform. Hopefully the kids dig it.
Are there any bands on this year’s festival that you’ve been excited to see or that you’re hoping to see before the end of the tour?
I’ve seen most of the bands before. We’ve toured with a lot of the bands already, so I always like watching Machine Head and Children Of Bodom, Battlecross and Huntress. A lot of the bands are good. Rob Zombie is cool. His stage show is crazy.
So a few months ago, it was originally announced that you guys would be contributing music to Monsters University, but now it’s just an older song appearing in it. What happened?
Nothing happened. That was the original thing. I don’t know what got misconstrued. I’m not sure what was said in the press. I think people thought that we were doing the score or something. That’s not true at all! [laughs] It was like a little gag that they wanted to do. They were like “we love Mastodon, and we’ve been using this song for this gag in the movie, can we use it?” And we were like “yeah, sure.”
What was your first opinion when you heard that? When they approached you?
I don’t know. I thought it was a little weird, but who am I to say who’s a Mastodon fan? I guess it’s feasible that a Mastodon fan could work at Pixar as an animator and would really want to have a little bit of our song in the movie.