Chris Kies of Premier Guitar recently conducted an interview with Brent Hinds and Bill Kelliher of Atlanta progressive metallers MASTODON. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.
Premier Guitar: Your previous albums have been pretty epic. How did your approach differ for “The Hunter”?
Kelliher: With “Crack The Skye”, most of those riffs were written by Brent, but this time we all contributed musical ideas. We decided to take a different approach, because we’re all pretty busy outside the world of MASTODON, and after touring for nearly two years we really wanted to take a break. Before “The Hunter”, when Brent would a write a song — or vice versa — the other person would learn it and double it, or come up with their own complementary part. But on “The Hunter”, there are parts and songs where it’s strictly Brann [Dailor, drums] and me or Brent and
Brann — that’s something we’ve never really done before.
Hinds: I really didn’t approach “The Hunter” any different than our previous albums. We just decided — like we always do — to write and record a cool album that’s badass, and to do the best we can. I play guitar so much in MASTODON and my other bands that I don’t really block out time to write — if something comes to me while I’m jamming and it sticks with me, I’ll generally try recording it. But if I forget the riff or idea, then it probably wasn’t meant to be.
Premier Guitar: Bill, are you happy with how the different writing approach worked out this time?
Kelliher: It was real spontaneous — some of the stuff was even written while in the studio rehearsing and recording other songs. But honestly, I was really nervous about going at this album with the attitude of “Let’s just go record — even though we don’t know each other’s parts.” But our producer, Mike Elizondo, reassured us that a lot of bands do it that way — he mentioned that James [Hetfield, vocalist/rhythm guitar] in METALLICA records all his parts, and then Kirk [Hammett, lead guitar] comes in and records the solos. Don’t get me wrong, though — the stuff we’ve done in the past, with those contrasting guitar tones and mannerisms, do give a song a bigger feel. Brent and I, James and Kirk of METALLICA, or any two guitarists are never going to play the same song or the same riff the same. So I feel “The Hunter” is a tighter album because we did it this way.
Premier Guitar: What was it like working with Mike Elizondo?
Hinds: Amazing. Mike is a great man — I’d vote for Mr. Elizondo for president. I really liked working with Matt Bayles on our first three records, even though it was a battle at times, because we weren’t really known or trusted as musicians yet, so we’d have creative conflicts like you would in any recording environment. Brendan [O’Brien] was the guy for “Crack The Skye”, but I’m glad we went with Mike, because he let us do our thing while maintaining some control and having lucid and constructive input for our song structures and guitar parts.
Kelliher: Brendan was the right choice for “Crack The Skye”, because we wanted that ’80s classic-rock sound, and Brendan has worked with so many acts of that genre — like AC/DC and Springsteen — so it was just the perfect fit. That album was so dialed-in and meticulous that it was helpful to have a guy pushing for perfection. But we did so many sessions and takes that it was grueling. Mike was full of energy and so excited to be with us that it just immediately clicked. Usually, when I record my parts in the studio, no one is very vocal or directing me if something sounds bad — or suggesting I try it in a different key or with a different guitar. But Mike was really vocal on what was working and wasn’t for my guitar parts.
Read the entire interview from Premier Guitar.