Monday 16 February 2009

Interview with Brent Hinds of Mastodon


Brent holding up a glass coaster that had a dotted design on that we concluded was “the story of the universe in the future”

I caught up with Brent Hinds, chief musical architect for Mastodon, for Vice magazine, in a conservatory in Warner’s offices last week. We talked about their new album, Joseph Merrick, mushrooms, touring with Slayer, weed, hating doing interviews and politics. Oh, and tits...

AFITFOG: Hey Brent, just like to ask you about the new album, Crack the er, shit, I totally forgot the name of it…
Brent Hinds: (Interrupting) Smoke crack and get higher than the sky.

Haha, yeah, I had a listen to it last night. It’s a lot more melodic than previous efforts I think.
It’s like the last song on all of our albums but a whole album full of last songs on all our albums.

They’re always my favourite songs, actually.
Yeah, yeah me too, I write all the last songs. We’re a democratic band but I end up writing more music because I play guitar more, because I play in more bands, I don’t just play in Mastodon. At the end of the album I always have something worked out to let them easy you know, not go out with a bang, let ‘em down slowly. I just wanted to do a whole album like that really.

All the last songs are about the Elephant Man, right?

Yeah, yeah, they’re all acoustic with clean electric in there too. Everything I write’s written on acoustic anyway. Remission had Elephant Man, Leviathan had Joseph Merrick; Pendulous Skin was on Blood Mountain, which was the disease that Joseph Merrick had that was like over-stimulated bone growth that made his skin like sag down all over his arm and shit.

Was that your idea to have Joseph Merrick references? Was it to do with the David Lynch movie?
Nah, when I first met Brann (Dailor, Mastodon’s drummer) we both showed up to band practice with a Elephant Man shirt on, he was like, 'You like the Elephant Man?' I was like, 'Fuck yeah, me too, let’s do some sort of tribute to the Elephant Man.' It made sense too because of Mastodon, you know, being a big elephant. If there’s an Elephant Man we should write songs about it. But yeah, the album is a lot more melodic, just a lot of me sitting around writing those kind of songs with an acoustic at my house. And then those guys wrote like a different album that was like super dooper, super dooper heavy and really fast and crazy – kinda borderline more fucked up than any death metal I’ve ever heard but I wasn’t ready. I dunno if I can play that kinda music anymore, like I dunno if I really wanna play like really, really, really extreme, heavy music anymore and I never really have wanted to do that. Even when I first got together with them they were with this band called Lethargy and they would let me hear some of that shit and I’d be like, 'Man, turn that down, I’m not into that stuff, I don’t play music like that.' I can play music like that. I don’t have to. I don’t want to. So they were like, 'That’s cool, what do you have?' and I had this album and I showed it to them and they were like, 'That’s awesome, let’s just do this album.'

So you pretty much wrote the whole album I guess. By the way, you’ve got your own colour Gibson haven’t you?
Yeah, Bill plays it too. Years and years ago, this guy in my town had a silverburst Gibson Flying V Standard with a white pickguard, but it was so old it had kind turned like black to silver to green you know, like kinda real creepy lookin’. I really liked it a lot so I was like, let me trade you that guitar, so we traded guitars. I traded him a Goldtop. So, I played that guitar for the first like three or four years Mastodon was together. Then it got stolen from me in Denmark, Odessa and he wouldn’t give me my Goldtop back. I was like, 'Fuck it, it’s shaped like a boomerang, it’ll be back.' Low and behold, on the last European tour I was just on with Slayer, some dude got in touch with me through our website and gave it back to me. It wasn’t his but he just saw it and his clairvoyant daughter was like, 'Daddy, this guitar has been stolen. I know it,' and started researching it and she was right. They got in touch with me and gave the guitar back. Fuckin’ awesome.

Woah, that doesn’t happen a lot does it?
Naw, it never happens.

Weird. How was touring with Slayer?

It’s cool, you know, we probably toured with Slayer like eight times? We went to Australia with ‘em, we went to Japan with ‘em, been to Europe with ‘em like four or five times, the US three times. They’re awesome, they’re amazing people, they’re great friends and an amazing band. Never get tired of seeing them.

They still sound pretty good live.
Fuck yeah.

Maybe better than 20 years ago.
I’m just like, 'Woah, what the fuck?'

I saw you guys when you toured Leviathan four or five years, I spoke to Bill (Kelliher, the rhythm guitarist) and he said you’d done mushrooms that night, which, I couldn’t believe.
I started playing music that way, I’m from Alabama, cow fields and mushrooms everywhere. I’d go pick like bags and bags of mushrooms and just eat them all the time and make music. This album’s kinda more of a tribute to that time in my life – really psychedelic, proggy-style music than just balls out heavy.

Will your sound develop more into that kind of music or was it just an homage to the 'psychedelic days'?
Yeah, it’s just exactly what you said, we already have our next album written and it’s nothing like that, super dooper dooper heavy. Hopefully we don’t have to wait for two years to release it – we wait two years between every album. It’s a cycle: tour the world for two years, come home, record. Hopefully we can just do a year on this thing, so we can just move on in general. Like I said, our next album is like heavier than anything I’ve ever heard in my life, borderline death metal basically. I’m just so tired of singing that vocally, it fucks my throat up. I smoke a ton of pot… I’d rather sing and it doesn’t hurt, you know?

The vocals are a lot cleaner than previously.
Yeah, that’s cool, it’s catchy, you know what I mean? A little upbeat and it’s kinda creepy. Creepy’s good.

How do you feel about touring? It takes a big chunk out of your year I guess?

God, you’re not kidding. I get separation anxiety from my family, I don’t really like to be gone for that long, I should be used to it by now because I’ve been on the road now for like nine years. It just fuckin’ sucks. I dunno, I like fuckin’ live shows, you know what I mean? But I hate doin’ soundchecks, I hate travelling on a bus, I hate flying, I hate doin’ interviews, you know what I mean? All that shit… Fuck! I could really care less about that but, the playing music live is awesome so I’ve just gotta remind myself I’m gonna do that again soon. This is like a promo tour, I call it a press vacation. Whenever I get anywhere I’m like, 'You guys get me a beer, I’m going back to my hotel room.' That’s all I ask for.

So when did you get this (facial) tattoo?
2005, April 16th.

Is it continuous?

Yeah, it’s on the side of my head.

That’s quite a big investment.
Nah, it was free, I carved a tiki for my friend’s tattoo shop. It’s a headdress for a tiki that you’d put outside your shop. I don’t have any room anywhere else.

How do you like England?
I like England. I’ve got a lot of friends over here. I hate the fucking sitting on the airplane to get here for 12 hours but I enjoy everyone here, I enjoy the crowds, I enjoy the pubs, I enjoy the beer, what little marijuana I can get…

So, how you think America is going to change with that new guy in charge?
Nahhh, I don’t think the Democrat will ever change. Maybe they will change it and make it a tolerant drug, I don’t think they can make it anymore illegal than it is.

What class is it out there?
Class D? Because mushrooms is class C, I would know because I got arrested for both.

You can still travel internationally? That’s alright, huh?

What do you mean can I still travel internationally??? I’m in England!?!

No, no, I mean you can travel internationally
Oh right, yeah, it’s not a felony at all.

I’m fairly sure here, if you have it on your record you can’t go to America.

America just sucks all around, you know? For that kinda shit anyway. But Bush is out of office… It can’t get any worse.

You think the country is gonna get any worse?

It can’t get any worse! It has to… I can’t see how it couldn’t improve. It’s gonna take a long time to turn it around, they fucked our country up really, really good. It’s gonna take a long time to get out of debt, you know.

I think that’s it, I mean, we’ve covered pretty much everything: the new album, politics, touring…

Slayer… I have to do interviews now because this album is more viable than all the others and people are only finding out that I’m one of the main sources of the music in the band. They always thought it was Troy because he stands in the middle. I’ve always refused to do interviews, this is the first time I’ve ever done interviews in nine years because those assholes in the band let everyone know that I was writing all the music all along, well not all of it, but a lot of it. So now I’ve have to talk to everybody about it, goddamn it, I wish they hadn’t told anyone about it.

They could’ve taken the blame for it, get all the girls…

Yeah! Get all the girls, I don’t even care. I’ve never seen a hot girl at a Mastodon show anyways, you know what I mean?


If there was she was with her dickhead boyfriend.

That’s the thing about metal shows, you never get hot girls by themselves.

That’s the good thing about this album, it’s more melodic, kinda girl-orientated – a girl could listen to this album and like it a lot more than all the heavier albums we’ve done. We might get to see a lot more titties in the audience, you know… be good to see more females in the audience enjoying themselves.

Maybe you could have, in the next album sleeve, tour photos of tits from all over the world…

That’d be nice. That’s definitely something I’m looking forward to, the audience changing a little bit. Instead of seeing every dude in the audience looking like me and, you know, tattooed-up, long hair, fuckin’ leather jacket… Which is cool, dudes have to look like that if you’re into what you’re into. Man, I just want to see a bunch of hot chicks, I mean I’m the only single one in the band, so it’s like let’s get some ass, dude.

Have you got Irish or European heritage?

I wouldn’t know, man. Everyone says I’m Scottish or Irish, I must be if everyone says that all the time. I look just like Luke Kelly too, you know, so I’m just gonna say I’m Irish. Every time I go to Ireland they’re like, ‘What part of Ireland are you from?” and I’m like, “Birmingham, Alabama”.

Mastodon’s Crack the Skye, is out on March 24 on Reprise

1 comment:

moses blackman said...

rocky! i love your blog.
am coming to london on the 26th. lets do some stuff!