The New Guitar Gods: Mastodon
GW Growing up, what prog bands did you like?
KELLIHER The usual suspects: Rush, Pink Floyd…
HINDS Pink Floyd, for sure. Not a lot of prog bands have improved on what those guys have done.
GW Let me posit something: You guys definitely have prog elements to your sound, and yet you’re exciting and valid—you’re cool. Why do you think you’re cooler than a band like, say, Dream Theater?
HINDS Because we don’t have a little Chinese girl playing bass! [laughs]
HINDS And they dress all gay, too. I mean, look at them: they wear those cheesy leather pants. The lead singer especially: he’s got that really gay thing going on with his hair. Plus, he sings like a fucking opera singer and shit. Their hair, their clothes, their music… They’re gay.
GW Now, wait a second. Are you calling Dream Theater a Brokeback band? Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
HINDS No, I don’t mean “gay” like that. I just mean…gay. [laughs]
KELLIHER I think what might make us “cool” and them “uncool” is the lack of egos in our band. We don’t try to show off our amazing versatility every second.
GW Even so, Mastodon are very precise players. The songs “Capillarian Crest” and “Siberian Divide” contain solos that are so fast and circular in nature, they become a blur. They sound like tape loops. Several times, I had to check my CD player to make sure it wasn’t skipping.
KELLIHER That’s Brent doing his chicken pickin’. We were watching him work that stuff out, and we were floored. When he plays like that, I have to figure out simple, rudimentary notes that work underneath but still sound cool.
HINDS I’m from Alabama, so I first learned to play on a banjo. Those parts are all my banjo fingerpicking licks. It’s sort of my signature style.
GW Are you doing straight fingerpicking or hybrid picking?
HINDS Oh, I use a pick and my fingers, so it’s hybrid picking. It’s pretty hard to do. I know some awesome players, and they can’t fingerpick or hybrid pick for shit. You just have to be born that way.
GW Do the two of you ever feel competitive with each other?
HINDS Naw, man. We’re a band. I mean, yeah, I want to blow the guys away with some awesome shit, but I never do it in an egotistical way.
KELLIHER We try to mesh. Basically, Brent will just smoke some weed and come up with his parts, and I’ll try to come up with the underpinning.
GW Tell me about the song “Sleeping Giant.” It has a very strong Zeppelin vibe, especially in the languid beginning, which reminds me a lot of “No Quarter.”
HINDS Zeppelin was a fucking big deal, to me, at least. I wrote the music for that song, so I could definitely feel the Zep influence coming through; it’s in the whole song, really, not just the opening.
GW There’s another part that comes in during the intro, a very nice echoey call-andresponse kind of riff.
KELLIHER That’s me, actually. I was thinking of what the Edge might do. I always loved how he used the echo on “New Year’s Day,” so I ripped him off a little.
HINDS You know how you can tell when a song is good? When the chicks like it. I was hanging out with my girlfriends and serenading them with “Sleeping Giant,” hoping for some lovin’. It worked, too.
GW God bless you, man. The song “Pendulous Skin” is also very Zeppelin-y, especially the picking technique in the solo. It reminded me of “Heartbreaker.”
HINDS Yeah, I was going for Led Zeppelin with a little Pink Floyd, but I probably put too much Zeppelin in there.
GW Who plays that beautiful fingerpicked intro to “Bladecatcher”?
HINDS Me again. I played that on my Gibson Custom Flying V. I love that intro. When you write something like that, you’ve earned your right to be proud.
GW When do you generally work out your solos. During writing, preproduction or recording?
HINDS I come up with the concepts during the writing and I fine tune the solos in the studio. That’s where the real fun is. Doing all that doubling, making everything sound all weird.
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