The hair-raising, hard-rocking musical niche known as metal has risen from the generic graveyard once again. This time through the mantle of the progressive metal outfit, Atlanta-native, Mastodon. The once obscure three-piece went from playing local clubs to touring across the nation with metal legend Slayer after their second album, Leviathan
, exploded in popularity in 2004.
One of the defining characteristics of Mastodon’s unique, sludgy sound is the drumming style of the band’s percussionist, Brann Dailor. Dailor has become well known in the metal scene for his unorthodox, fill-heavy style, which music critics say suits well the chaotic nature of the progressive metal genre.
Asked about his style during a phone interview with the Wheel
, Dailor credited his development to the creation of the technical metal genre in the ‘90s.
“My guitar player at the time was playing all this really technical stuff, Atheist and stuff like that, and I would just follow him note-wise on my drums, so that’s where I think my really busy style came from,” said Dailor.
Later, Dailor would provide an “abbreviated” list of all of his non-metal influences that spanned four continents and a dozen genres — hardly surprising, given the complexity of Mastodon’s music.
Still, while Dailor and the rest of the band may be known for their abrupt time signature shifts and frequent tempo changes, their latest album, 2011’s The Hunter
, was seen by critics at Rolling Stone and Kerrang! as far more accessible than their previous albums. When asked why the album is less musically complex than their previous work, Dailor dismissed suggestions that the shift was commercially motivated.
“There wasn’t any talk about making it more accessible because, well, we’re always trying to make it accessible to ourselves — stuff that we like,” he said.
Later, Dailor said that the shift was “born out of necessity,” citing interpersonal strife during the recording of their universally acclaimed but technically demanding fourth album, Crack the Skye
“With The Hunter, we just couldn’t create that environment for ourselves due to the fact that there was more personal stuff going on outside of the band ... we couldn’t dive too deep, which sort of took away from the whole record. We had to be satisfied with a simpler version of ourselves.”
Despite metal’s resurgence in the past few years, it is still nowhere near the level of popularity it enjoyed in the heyday of bands like Metallica and Slayer. When asked if this difference in the two eras frustrates him, Dailor responded with ambivalence, saying that he has already played with all of the superbands from that era.
“I dig where I’m at ... it doesn’t bother me that we’re not playing in an arena,” he said.
Dailor responded similarly when asked about playing with Opeth, the Swedish black metal mainstays on their current tour.
“I’m used to playing with really high-profile bands ... they’re extremely talented.”
Throughout the interview, Dailor consistently gave the impression that his only goal as a member of Mastodon is to play music with his friends, and that any other achievements through the band were merely secondary. He also repeatedly expressed his disinterest in some of the common topics in metal music that critics debate over.
For example, when asked if he feels that metal has too many sub-genres, Dailor stated his apathy flat-out: “I just don’t even care — that’s for other people to explain to other people ... I mean, people have called us elephant-core, what the hell is that?”
However, while Dailor may put the music first, he does have other, more ambitious goals underneath his straight-talk persona.
When asked what his ultimate goal for the band is, Dailor speaks with characteristic candor:
“I want to be rich and famous. I want my Walmart greeter to recognize me.” Which, given the speed in which his band rose from hometown rockers to metal icons, perhaps that end is not so unreachable after all.
— Contact Steven Wright.