Atlanta progressive metallers MASTODON have entered the studio to begin recording their next album. The follow-up to 2017's "Emperor Of Sand" will mark MASTODON's first collection of new material since the death of longtime manager Nick John and the passing of tour manager Bob Dallas.
In a new interview with Full Metal Jackie's syndicated radio show, drummer Brann Dailor spoke about how John's death has affected the MASTODON songwriting process. He said (hear audio below): "Well, I would say that a lot of the subject matter is gonna probably be, a majority of it is gonna be focused around him. Everything we do from now on will be in some way dedicated to him, because he was such an integral part of our existence. And we just miss him a lot, basically.
"When you experience something like that, such a heavy loss for our group, which we've dealt with loss and we've put loss into the music, but this person was sort of the center of the MASTODON universe; in a lot of ways, he was like the fifth member almost," he continued. "So for us to sidestep that, it's not gonna be able to happen.
"The pandemic is gonna lend itself to so much art and music, it's gonna be in the lyrics of a lot of the songs that are gonna be coming out. It's the kind of thing that's impossible to push to the side once you are creating art. Especially for us, it's sort of where we deal with some of the tougher things that life can deal you. It's where we put those things.
"It's kind of tough to listen to, to be honest," Dailor admitted. "Some of the lyrics and things will trigger these memories. Not that every single thing, when I think about Nick John, it's not like every single thing is a sad thing, but at the moment, it still is, a little bit. It's kind of half and half. You can have these special memories that make you laugh. We were talking about, the other day, because we were re-learning the song called 'Thickening' from 'The Hunter', and just I remember Nick John used to call me up, and I would answer the phone, and be, like, 'Hello,' and he would recite one of the lyrics from the song. It goes, 'Wrapped up like a baby.' And we just all started cracking up. So, it is getting a little bit easier.
"Listening back to the demos, it's kind of devastating," Brann said. "We also wanna honor him, so it's very, very important that the songs are great, or that we feel like the songs are great, and that they do honor him, and that it is something that he would have fallen in love with. He was our biggest cheerleader. I would send him a riff from my phone that I recorded at practice, like, 'Dude, listen to this riff.' that I recorded at practice like, "Dude, listen to this riff," He'd call me a couple of minutes later, and we'd talk about the riff for 20 minutes.
"He was always super, super supportive, and he loved our band. He was our biggest fan.
"When you are in there and you're creating something and you're putting such a heavy weight that it be great, you just wanna really, really pay attention to every single little detail and make sure that it's the best thing that you can create in that moment, for him."
Dailor also talked about the fact that MASTODON has written more than two albums' worth of material in the months leading up to the recording sessions for the new LP.
"It's a good problem to have, but it's also a little bit stressful, because I feel like maybe we've had too much time off," he said. "Like a lot of groups, we've had too much time, and we're constantly working. We had the little shutdown there for a couple of months, but we're back at it.
"I guess it's a good thing that we're still wanting to come down here and wanting to work, and we're still excited about our 20-year-old project that we have been working on called MASTODON. It's exciting to me, because every time you go to approach writing new stuff, you kind of say, 'Well, when is this well gonna dry up? When are we gonna go looking and can't find it anymore?' That's always a fear that a lot of musicians and artists go through. And sometimes you do have a mild case of writer's block or maybe you have a severe case of writer's block. But that isn't the case with us, luckily. We have an abundance of material, and we have a lot of really great things. The hardest part is gonna be picking the ones that are gonna go on the actual album, because there are too many songs at this point. We wanna put maybe around 10 to 12 songs on the album, and we have, like, 30. That's a lot. That's too much. [Laughs] But I think that it's coming into focus now. The ones that we are wanting to play more than the other ones, those are the ones that are gonna make it. But even with the ones we are really, really digging, there's too many of those too — there's, like, 20 of those. And there's always room for new ideas too."
He continued: "We were jamming the other day, and we have, like, 30 songs that we could be running through, and we started writing something brand new. So, it's like, 'stop.' But 'don't stop' as well. Because as much as I think it's kind of not the best to have one in the chamber, and I don't necessarily think that it's a great idea for us to release a double album, I don't see the problem with recording a full-length album, and then, because of the fact that we are not gonna be able to go on tour immediately, record another full-length album not far after. So I think that that's a possibility — that we will have an abundance of music, and we will have an abundance of stuff that we really dig that we can release to the public while we are still in this muck."
MASTODON's new rarities collection titled "Medium Rarities", was released in September. The compilation includes a new song called "Fallen Torches" as well as a bevy of classic covers, soundtrack contributions, instrumentals, B-sides, and live recordings on one complete package for the very first time.
"Emperor Of Sand" debuted at No. 7 on the Billboard 200. That LP was nominated for the 2018 Grammy Award for "Best Rock Album," and its opening track, "Sultan's Curse", won the Grammy Award for "Best Metal Performance."
Earlier in the year, MASTODON wrote and recorded a new song called "Rufus Lives" for inclusion in the latest "Bill & Ted Face The Music" movie.
"Bill & Ted Face The Music", which reunites Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves in the title roles for the first time since 1991's "Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey", was released in August.