Mastodon’s Brann Dailor
As you read this, Mastodon’s brand-new album is dropping all over the world. As usual, fans will get exactly what they expect—plus a little something new.
Story by David Ciauro
Photos by Jimmy Hubbard
As opposed to earlier efforts, this time the group had a majority of the vocal ideas ready before recording. Historically the music has come first for Mastodon, and lyrics—another of Dailor’s main responsibilities in the group—get shoehorned into the barrage of riffs. “Lyrics don’t come as easy as drumming does for me,” Dailor says. “After my drum tracks are done, it takes me the rest of the recording process to figure out what I want to say without being a complete and total cheeseball.”
While the subject matter of Mastodon’s music has been more personal since Crack the Skye, the band uses uniquely imaginative metaphors to tell its stories. The action in this album’s narrative takes place in the desert, where the protagonist has been handed down a death sentence from a sultan in the Sudan. “It’s all a metaphor,” Dailor explains, “for going through cancer—surviving and succumbing to the disease. We’ve had a lot of cancer close to the band over the past couple of years. Lyrically, we knew everyone was going to want us to talk about that. But instead of making it too literal, we made a story to kind of go along with it.”
Before he puts pen to paper, though, Dailor gets a sense of how he wants his drums to sound based on the vibe of the songs, and he prepares a selection of snare drums from his impressive collection to suit each track. “I sent an email [to the other band members] with a link to a clip of ‘Barracuda’ by Heart, to use as a jumping-off point,” Brann says. “A lot drier, up front, and natural.” Though he’s been a faithful Tama endorser for many years, Dailor admits that the hoarder in him comes out in his approach to snare drums. “I’ll play Tama snares all day long, but you’re not going to not have a ’70s Black Beauty in your arsenal,” he chuckles.
Mastodon hits the road this month with support from Eagles of Death Metal and Russian Circles.
Brann Dailor endorses Tama drums, Meinl cymbals, Vater sticks, and Evans heads.