From The Belly Of The Beast – Interview with Bill Kelliher of Mastodon

by Jeff Brinn / Schwegweb.com

Mastodon have had one hell of a busy year. Being awarded with the title of record of the year with their down-right pulverizing release of “Leviathan” by the prestigious European magazine Kerrang, was just the icing on the cake to an endless amount of praise from media world wide. Well Schwegweb.com got a chance to catch up with guitarists Bill Kelliher just prior to their European stint and summer Ozzfest appearances for a inside scoop on what makes Mastodon so damn cool and how signing to a major label hasn’t spoiled these underground leaders.

Schwegweb: First of all your album Leviathan has been out almost a year and still rolling strong, how’s that feel?
Bill Kelliher: “Yea it’s pretty cool. To me it’s still pretty brand new, I don’t know why. With our last album Remission we wrote it awhile before we recorded it so it just kind of sat there. It didn’t come out until eight months later and then when it came out we started touring on it. I felt like this record was so fuckin old to me. Leviathan is still kinda fresh. It’s cool, people are still picking it up and getting into us now so it’s opening up a lot more doors for us then the last record so it’s a good thing-it’s cool.”

Was it a huge surprise that Leviathan got such a huge positive response being that you’re such an underground band?
“Yea, were not really a commercial band, were defiantly an underground band. Yea it’s nice that people are digging it.”

Are you getting pretty excited for this summer now that you’re scheduled to appear on this years Ozzfest?
“Yea man its fuckin great. I’m excited about it. To be able to play with Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden, come on. We’ve done the Slayer tour, we’ve done Slipknot and those are fuckin huge. We’re really looking forward to it since we don’t have to pay to be on it, we would have never have done it if we had to pay to be on it. It’s like a $100,000 to be on Ozzfest, it’s ridiculous.”

Was Mastodon approached about Ozzfest by them or did your label push for the position?
“Yea Ozzfest asked, we’ve been asked like 3 years in a row but they wanted us to pay and we were like no, fuck that. $100,000- I would rather put that into marketing or fuckin put it in my pocket. Now we have a certain time slot we’re playing, 1:45 every day. Some bands could play at 9:00 in the morning.”

Does it scare you guys to have that much free time on your hands every day?
“It will be cool, the Ozzfest is like 3 or 4 days a week and we have off dates with Rob Zombie playing at night and then the next day you gotta drive 4-6 hours and then play early so that’s gonna be kinda hard I think. You kinda have to so you can pay for it, all the crew and we’re getting a bus and there kinda expensive. I’ve seen bands on the Van’s Warp Tour play in the morning then play later that night, that’s a lot of work to set all your shit up then tear it down just to set it up again later that night.”

How did it feel to get awarded album of the year by the European magazine Kerrang?
“Yea, that’s cool. We’ve got a pretty good following over in the U.K.; it’s like our second biggest market. You know, I’m trying not to let it go to my head; it’s cool that they chose us to have record of the year.”

How do you feel about the internet and the pros and cons of what it has to offer?

“There’s two ways to look at it. Yeah people are just fuckin ripping you off, you’re not getting the money for the hard work we put into your album. I think it’s just like when you were kids and you made a copy on a tape from your friend’s album. It’s just times 1000 now but as long as it gets your name and music out there. There is nothing you can do to stop it. You can’t be like Metallica and sue 12 year olds for downloading your songs, you just can’t do that.”

You guys have put some heavy time in touring, how long have you guys actually been on the road?
“We’ve been on the road pretty much for 3 years. We go home for a few weeks at a time. Last year we were on tour every single month except for January. This year were going to tour every single month as well. We got 14 more shows on this tour then we go off to Europe for 5 weeks then a day off before Ozzfest.”

Do you guys write on the road or do you wait until you get home?

“Not really on the road, me personally I like to sit at home and focus and write stuff. Brent’s got a lot of riffs and songs he pulls out of the air. (Brent responds that they come from his ass and they stink). We got a lot of stuff floating around but it’s kinda too hard, it doesn’t really work that well. We gotta all be in the same room and focus and that never happens on the road. When we get home we might take the last three months off to try and write the record.”

What do you think of the music industry and the state it is in right now?

“I don’t know, there aren’t a lot of good bands out there right now. I think metal is making a come back for sure. A lot of metal bands that are awesome are coming up like Dillinger Escape Plan and High on Fire. That’s the good shit. You gotta mix it up, a lot of the bands out there I feel like I’m 50 years old and like I hate this, this sucks. This video sucks, a bunch of dudes in black standing in a warehouse jamming. Our new video for Blood and Thunder, its fuckin hilarious, you can down load it of our site and it’s on MTV2. Were getting ready to make another videos, we like making videos, there fun.

When Mastodon recently signed to Warner Brothers was there any musical control issues that became an issue.
“Defiantly stipulation wise we want to do our own thing. We pretty much said don’t fuck with our sound, our art and they were like no that’s great you guys already have a great fan base, you guys already have awesome art work, you guys do your own videos for under $20 000. They love it. It has to be that way. With Relapse it was kinda like we just recorded our record and they put it out, it was cool. We made it very clear to Warner Brothers that we are not a radio band, were not making hits were just writing the music we like for our selves. There’s a fan base and were cool with that. Were not trying to deal with the fuckin radio and all that shit. Were just making music for ourselves.”

Do you think signing to Warner Brother that this move will scare away some of your core fan base?
“If it does I think it is pretty shallow of those people. If you like a band who gives a fuck what label their on unless it’s a really evil empire label or something like that. We couldn’t stay on Relapse forever. Every ones out to make money, money makes the world go around. You have to have money to make money, you can’t be a band and not generate income. We have families at home, this is our job. You don’t go to work every day for free. If someone wants to give you a raise you don’t say no. That’s the next fuckin step, you can’t stay on a label like Relapse for ever, their a tiny label. They can only push you so hard and put you in so many stores. Warner Brother is world wide, their fuckin everywhere. It’s going to great things for us.”

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