Mon. Jul 22nd, 2024

Mayhem. An interview with Bill Kelliher from Mastodon


Atlanta, Georgia is known for a lot of things. You can’t turn a corner without seeing something Coca-Cola or Ted Turner related. Ole Ted and his media empire has helped create a great city and within that city there are some tremendous bands. One in particular that has made a massive mark upon the metal world is Mastodon. As unique of a band as there is, the band really stands out in the sea of shit that permeates from today’s radio. We support music. We support music that rocks. We support Mastodon.

Listen to the entire Bill Kelliher interview below:
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Today I’m joined by Bill Kelliher. Bill is one of the four badass members of Mastodon and his weapon of choice is the guitar. First off, thanks for taking the time to speak with us today and welcome to the Unsung Melody family.

Yeah. Thanks for having me.

I know you are on tour and swamped, so we’ll get started. You are currently on the Mayhem Festival, has it lived up to it’s name for you guys?

No. Quite the contrary really. It’s a pretty mellow festival really. We played the first Mayhem tour back in 2008 or 2007 with Slipknot. It was a little more chaotic back in those days, when we used to get like a gallon of Jack Daniels on the rider every night. Let’s just say that the band almost broke up a few times on that Mayhem tour. Things are pretty mellow. We’ve wound it down as a band. We’re getting older. Trying to be healthy. Like today, I ran six miles this morning in the heat about 9 o’clock this morning. I’ll call home a lot. Talk to the wife. Try to keep it in check. I haven’t really seen too many crazy things. I was in bed by like 10:30 last night. Not acting Mayhemish at all.

Some people love it, some people hate it, but do you enjoy the festivals or the club circuit?

I like certain things about each one honestly. Right now I could definitely use a club show. But when you go back to playing club shows, everyday we play at 7pm on this tour. Today, we’re actually playing at 6:45, a little bit earlier. So you’re done pretty early. You’re already waiting around the whole day. We do some signings. Meet a bunch of kids, sign their posters. We do some interviews, we have our lunch, our dinner, everything is within like a schedule. We get on the bus at a certain time. Eight hours later you’re at the next venue. You wake up, you have your lunch. Then dinner and play your gig. Everything’s done, wrapped up by like 8 o’clock. The thing I like about festivals, is it’s a pretty regular work day. If you want to look at it like that. We’re playing in front of a lot of younger kids. I think the festival must be all ages, there’s a lot of young kids here. Young kids that wouldn’t normally see us in a club circuit tour. Usually those are 21 and up. This being a festival where a lot of parents are bringing their kids out, it’s in the day, and it’s safe. There’s a lot of bands to see. Different kinds of bands. There’s Amon Amarth from Sweden, Five Finger Death Punch, Rob Zombie of course and Machine Head is here. Children of Bodom. So, a lot of old friends that we see everyday and kind of buddy around with a little bit. Hang out. These festivals have just been so damn hot, because it’s been a really hot summer all over the place. California to, we’re in Maine, it’s brutal up here right now. It’s like 100 degrees and plus. Club shows, I could deal with one. We played one recently. We played at The Intersection in Grand Rapids. It was awesome. Just doing our own show and being able to kind of connect a bit more with the fans. It’s just a little more intimate when you are playing in a dark club. You can play as long as you want normally. On this festival we play 45 minutes and we’re done. It’s good because it’s so damn hot up there, but we kind of leave the fans wanting a little bit more. You’re kind of untouchable by the fans. That’s why we do the signing as well. Every single day, we meet about 250 kids who stand in line to get their posters signed and records and stuff like that. I like certain things about both.

You like the normalcy, as far as you can say normal for rock and roll, of a festival, but love the intimacy of the clubs. I got ya. Obviously, you are still out in support of your last album The Hunter. The album was pretty successful for you guys, even landing you a second spot on David Letterman. That has to be a strange, yet fulfilling experience being on Letterman.

Being on Letterman, it’s kind of a nervous time to be honest, being on that show. (laughter) I don’t know. I just grew up watching it, and the idea formed that you have really made it to be on that show. The right people must be hearing you if you are playing on Letterman. It’s like, “Okay. How did a little band like us get out here on this tv show that I used to watch as a kid?” It’s cool. We got to play there a couple of times and meet Dave Letterman. It’s funny because the audience is definitely not our fanbase, the ones in the studio. They’re like a bunch of old people who are just tourists, that are just coming to see the David Letterman show. They have no idea who the hell Mastodon is. So, we’re looking out as we’re playing and there’s like a 75 year old male with his fingers in his ears, because he can’t stand it. It was pretty funny.

That sounds enjoyable for me. I’m a people watcher, so that would be awesome.

Yeah, sure it was. It was interesting.

I know you’ve been working on new material, has any of that made it’s way into the setlist?

No, not really. All of that stuff has been on hold because of this tour. It’s just too hard to practice and write all of that stuff when we’re out here on the road. It’s just difficult to do. To get everybody in one place and say, “Come on guys, let’s write these songs.” We’ve got about 20 or 25 songs that are pretty much done, we just need to really do a little more demoing of them and we’ll record a record when we get back. Hopefully, we’ll just pick up where we left off. I’ve got them all recorded on my hard drive here, out with us. They’re just real rough demo ideas. We have a studio at home where we just crank out any kind of ideas we’ve got. We start throwing them together and record them right away. That way we have them and when it’s time to record, we’re half way there. I think that once we get home, it won’t be too long before we’re in recording. Maybe another month and then we’ll hit the recording studio and get something out early next year.

As I did my research, I was intrigued when I saw you guys were selling custom Zippo lighters. During that video, it was said that Lawrence Of Arabia actually inspired some stuff on the new album, can you elaborate on that a bit?

(Rob Zombie walked onto the bus, you can hear him say, “Wrong Bus.” (laughter)

Our bus looks the exact same. Brett and myself have already done that. I put my bag in the bay of the bus, because they are both the same color and they look exactly the same. I opened up the door and I started getting on and the driver was like, “Wrong bus buddy.” Brent did it earlier today and walked right in on Rob Zombie. He just did that back to us. I think he just did that joking around with us because he was laughing.

He just returned the favor for you. That’s all.

Exactly. I see him up on stage every night watching us. So, it’s pretty cool. Pretty awesome. What were you saying about a lighter and Lawrence of Arabia or something?

As I did my research, I was intrigued when I saw you guys were selling custom Zippo lighters. During that video, it was said that Lawrence Of Arabia actually inspired some stuff on the new album, can you elaborate on that a bit?

No, I’m not really sure what’s going on with that. I think we had talked about some ideas about horse riding and Lawrence of Arabia. I don’t really know. I don’t really know if that’s still the theme or not. (laughter) Not sure where you read that, but we haven’t really talked about that in a while. So, I’m not really sure.

Have you guys chosen who you’ll work with or where you are going to record the next album?

Yeah. Nick Raskulinecz has came to mind. He came and worked with us on a couple of songs, right before we came on tour. We really like him. I really like him. I think he’s great. Hopefully he’ll be available when we are ready and we can start knocking out some more tunes with him. We already knocked two of them out with him. He kind of helped us arrange them and he just helped to get stuff sounding good. He had some really good ideas already.

The band itself is based in Atlanta, which used to have a very vibrant rock scene. I think it’s slowed a bit in recent years, but do you guys get out to see any hometown bands when you have the chance?

Yeah. There’s a couple of bands. A band called The Whores, which are friends of mine. Zoraster, those guys are from Atlanta. My other band. I’m in another band called Primate. We try to play as much as we can, but we don’t play very often. We’re on Relapse Records. We try to pay a couple gigs to pay our rent and for our practice space down there in Atlanta. Usually when other bigger bands come through I’m there. I’m not really big on going out to concerts when I’m on home. Just because when I’m on the road, I’m watching shows. I’m in bed by like 10 o’clock. When these bands are going on back home, I’m going to bed. I have kids. I think Baroness rolled through. I went and seen them. Kylessa, Big Business, I went to see them recently. They’re one of my favorites. Queens of the Stone Age are coming through soon. I’m going to go see them. They’re new record is just fucking incredible.

I always end on a random question. I read on the ole wikipedia that you are a huge Star Wars fan. So, with Disney purchasing Star Wars and announcing a ton of planned new material, I thought I’d ask your thoughts on the Evil Disney Empire purchasing the Evil Galactic Empire.

Well, I don’t really know what to think yet. Anything is better than the three prequel movies. They were terrible. I think Disney will do a good job. They have a lot to live up to. Disney makes some good movies. I think that with the right director, and the right direction, they won’t do us wrong.

I just hope they don’t do a spin-off with Darth Vader wearing Mickey Mouse ears. I’ll lose it.

Oh God. That’d be terrible. I don’t think they’ll do that.

Bill, I thank you so much for joining us. We wish you guys absolutely nothing but the best. Please be safe out there and we’ll catch you on the Mayhem Fest in Noblesville, IN.

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