Mastodon: Russian Revolution
GW Have you made any additions to your live rig to duplicate all the new sounds on Crack the Skye?
KELLIHER I’m still using the same gear. I still have a Marshall JCM800 reissue head and a Kerry King head. I have a tremolo pedal with a tube built into it that I’m trying to use on a lot more stuff. I’d like to get a Leslie or something that emulates one.
HINDS I have a 1972 silverface Fender Twin. I took the two 100-watt speakers out and replaced them with two 200-watt 12-inch bass Celestions that are more like woofers than tweeters. Underneath that I have two 300-watt 15-inch Celestions in a Fender silverface cabinet. All of that is running with a 1976 Marshall JMP MKII Lead 100-watt head, which is slaved with a Marshall Vintage Modern into two 4x12 cabinets loaded with 75-watt Celestion speakers. It’s pretty amazing. I run it all through my digital delay, which pongs the sound through all the different speakers. It’s really spacey and psychedelic when you stand in front of it. The Twin has that Stooges tone. The way it breaks up naturally is a badass sound. No one makes a pedal that sounds like that.
KELLIHER I just got a nice white 2008 Explorer. My first Gibson guitar was exactly the same—a 1992 Explorer—but it got stolen along with a Les Paul Studio I had. A couple of years later I found it at the House of Guitars in Rochester, New York, and they gave it back to me. It was kind of beat up from being on the streets for a while. I ended up trading it for a Marshall head. I’ve always wanted to get another white Explorer. I just bought a 1981 E/2 [a.k.a. Explorer II] with a tobacco sunburst finish, white binding and gold hardware. It’s the most beautiful and most awesome-sounding playing guitar I’ve ever had. It just crushes and plays so smooth. I put some Seymour Duncan Distortion pickups in it like I put in all of my guitars, and it barks like a rabid dog. It’s my main ax now. I also got an Artist RD with a Silverburst finish. It’s one of only 400 made. I’m trying to break that guitar in right now. I’m not used to playing brand-new guitars. I took out the Dirty Fingers pickups that were in it.
GW Each Mastodon record has focused on a specific element: fire, water, earth and now sky, space or ether. Was that the band’s plan from the beginning?
HINDS You need to have a theme to work with. If you don’t you lose direction. Once you have your topic you can start your research.
KELLIHER When we wrote our first album, Remission, there just happened to be a lot of fire elements to the lyrics. When the idea for Leviathan came around we had a water theme going. Then we came up with the idea for Blood Mountain and we were stuck with the earth theme. It’s kind of like the origin of earth and the band: it had a fiery beginning, and then water cooled the fire. Then the mountains rose up and the band was on solid ground. Now we’re getting trippy and into outer space and out-of-body experiences.
GW Astral projection, Rasputin, the Russian Khlysty religious cult and the Tibetan Book of the Dead are not your typical subject matter. Where did you learn about these subjects?
KELLIHER Brann took a trip to Russia about two years ago while we were on a break. He sucks in a lot of influences on his travels. On the past couple of records he’s stepped up to the plate when it comes to writing lyrics. He had to come up with these themes, and his trip to Russia had a lot to do with it.
HINDS Brann is a waterfall of knowledge. His brain just flows with really cool ideas. He’s always very curious, and he has a resourceful mind. I’m more concerned with the musical side of the band, so I write a lot of the guitar parts. Brann is the more educated side of the band so he writes more of the lyrics. I come up with titles and write lyrics probably 3/8ths of the time.
KELLIHER Brann also has a deeper connection with the record. His sister Skye committed suicide when she was 14. He had a crazy life when he was growing up, and this album helped him bring some closure to his situation by bringing it out in the open. It’s about out-of-body experiences, people coming back from the dead and not dying. We don’t like to write about politics, religion or familiar subjects, like our girlfriends, so we have to think a lot harder about the topics we write about. Our lyrics are getting deeper as the band progresses.
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