Since their inception in 1999, a unique group of 4 eccentric and creative individuals have made a strong and lasting impact on the world of metal. With an enormous sound fitting their namesake, Mastodon has become one of the bands that are pushing the envelope for both progressive and heavy music. Serving as both bassist and lead vocalist, Troy Sanders has lead the Atlanta based outfit through 4 albums, tours with Metallica, Slayer, and Lamb of God among others, features in film and video soundtracks, as well as prestige among rock instrumentalists everywhere.
It can be argued that bands that retain longevity and timelessness march to their own rhythm and thus have a sound unlike others around them. Mastodon has been able to expand and retain a wide fan base due to their high energy metal sound, artistic concepts, and the willingness to take risks in expanding their potential. Troy, along with Brann Dailor (Drums), Brent Hinds (Guitar), and Bill Kelliher (Guitar), saw their popularity reach a new peak with 2009’s Crack The Skye (Reprise Records), bringing back the concept album as a popular and well respected art form.
On March 15th the band released a live DVD/ CD entitled MASTODON: Live at the Aragon “which is comprised of Crack The Skye performed live in its glorious entirety along with fan favorites from Blood Mountain (2006) and Leviathan (2004) plus a brutal cover of “The Bit” by Melvins. The DVD will also feature a 58 minute “tour film” that contains the films which were projected on screen, behind the band in performance” – Mastodonrocks.com
Troy was kind enough to answer some questions regarding bass, the band, and the future.
First of all Troy I would like to thank you for taking the time to talk to BMM today, we know how busy the Mastodon crew is these days so its very appreciated!
TRUE… BUSY AS BEAVERS… THE WAY WE LIKE IT!
As with all good stories, its best to start from the beginning, when and what first drew you to the bass guitar?
THE EVIL AWESOMENESS OF BASS CAPTIVATED ME AT THE AGE OF 15 AND ABSOLUTELY BLEW MY LITTLE MIND. THANKFULLY, I HAVE NOT LOOKED BACK SINCE.. GROWING UP IN THE WORLD OF GOOD MTV, KISS, PRIEST AND METALLICA GRABBED ME AND PULLED ME IN. I KNEW AT THAT MOMENT THAT BEING IN A BAND WAS WHAT I ‘HAD TO DO’!
As a member of a band that is going on 12 years together, how do you feel you have evolved as a bassist throughout the bands existence?
OVER THE PAST 12 YEARS, I’VE BECOME MUCH MORE HANDSOME, BUT THAT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH BASS…. OR DOES IT?
ACTUALLY, I HAVE LEARNED TO BECOME ONE WITHIN MY BAND AND PLAY MY PART TO CONTRIBUTE FOR THE GREATER GOOD. KNOWING WHEN TO LOCK IN AND SIMPLIFY AND ALSO REALIZING WHEN TO TAKE THE BASS OUT FOR A WALK. MASTODON IS A UNITED FRONT AND I AM 25% OF THAT.
GREAT QUESTION… UNDERSTAND THAT IT IS NOT THE MOST GLORIOUS LIFESTYLE. LIVING, SLEEPING AND PISSING IN YOUR VAN IS NOT FOR ALL PEOPLE.
IF YOU ARE DOING IT BECAUSE YOU LOVE YOUR BANDMATES AND YOUR MUSIC, THEN YOU WILL PREVAIL. BE PREPARED TO PLAY FOR SMALL CROWDS AND LITTLE MONEY.
HOPE FOR THE BEST BUT EXPECT THE WORST.
Crack the Skye was both a critical and commercial success, do you see the band delving into new territories creatively with the new album currently being written?
THE GREAT THING ABOUT CREATING MUSIC IS KNOWING WE ARE FREE TO TREAD ON NEW TERRITORY. WE ALLOW OURSELVES TO WRITE AND CREATE FROM THE HEART. I BELIEVE THAT IS HOW ART SHOULD BE MADE. THERE ARE NO PREDETERMINED THOUGHTS WHEN WE WRITE A RECORD. WHATEVER FLOWS FROM OUR SOULS AND THROUGH OUR FINGERS IS WHAT YOU GET. IT IS REFRESHING TO KNOW MASTODON WRITES FOR OURSELVES, AND ONCE THE FOUR OF US ARE HAPPY, THEN IT IS DONE. WE HOPE OTHER PEOPLE WILL LIKE IT, BUT THAT IS NOT OUR FIRST CONCERN.
How did you approach learning to both vocalize and play bass at the same time?
Do you and Brann (Dailor, drums) ever jam out and write as a rhythm section by yourselves? How do you view your relationship as a rhythm section?
WE DO GET TOGETHER AND DO OUR OWN THING WITH ONE ANOTHER. MOST OF OUR TIME IS SPENT WITH THE FULL BAND LEARNING ALL THE INSANITY FROM OUR GUITAR PLAYERS. I AM FORTUNATE TO BE SANDWICHED IN BETWEEN TWO VERY TALENTED GUITARISTS WHO SCHOOL ME EVERY DAY.
BEFORE WE ACTUALLY RECORD, I LOVE JAMMING WITH JUST BRANN. LOCKING IN AND LEARNING EVERYTHING HE IS DOING. I FEEL THAT IT MAKES ME A BETTER PLAYER.
How did the Atlanta scene, usually known for more of its hip-hop music culture, influence your music?
GROWING UP IN THE ATLANTA UNDERGROUND SCENE WITH BANDS LIKE KYLESA, LEECHMILK, DAMAD AND TWEEZER BROUGHT A UNITY OF DIRTY, HEAVY ROCK. WE WOULD PLAY ANY WAREHOUSE, BASEMENT, KITCHEN, ETC… PERHAPS THAT WAS AN INFLUENCE.
Many people ask what gear you use but it is seldom asked why, as someone who could play any bass that you would want, what makes you call on the gear you use to deliver the goods?
MY RULES ARE SIMPLE: IT MUST FEEL GOOD AND SOUND GREAT. COMFORT IS THE KEY.
What is your view on achieving a good bass tone for metal?
I AM ALWAYS IN SEARCH OF AND HUNTING FOR GREAT TONE. I OWN SEVERAL AMPS AND BASSES AND LOADS OF PEDALS TO TOY WITH. IT IS A NEVERENDING QUEST FOR KILLER SOUND.
IT’S LOADS OF FUN, TOO.
Live at The Aragon seems to be a statement of a band that gained their fans through touring and hard work, how do you view the importance of your fanbase, and what made you choose that venue to showcase your live act to the world?
OUR FANS ARE EXTREMELY IMPORTANT TO US.
WITHOUT THEM THERE IS NO MASTODON.
WE CHOSE THE ARAGON IN CHICAGO BECAUSE OUR CROWD THERE HAS ALWAYS BEEN VERY RECEPTIVE TO US. VERY HIGH ENERGY COMING BACK TO US FROM OUR FANS THERE. ALSO, THE ARAGON HAS AN OLD MASONIC HAUNTED HISTORY… SPOOKY IS GOOD!
How does Mastodon usually go about the writing process?
WE ALL BRING IDEAS AND MELODIES TO THE TABLE.
BRENT HINDS IS A MAJOR SONGWRITER WITHIN THE GROUP. HE WILL SOMETIMES BRING AN ENTIRE EPIC SONG INTO REHEARSAL AND BLOW OUR MINDS! THE MAJORITY OF OUR SONGS COME FROM SOMEONES RIFF THAT BEFRIENDS SOMEONE ELSES RIFF. WHEN THESE RIFFS BECOME FRIENDS AND GET ALONG WITH EACH OTHER, WE HAVE A SONG!
What do you guys do as a band to warm up before a show?
WE GIVE EACH OTHER A HIGH-FIVE AND SAY ‘HAVE A GREAT ONE!’. WE TRY TO MELT FACES.
Apart from the new album what will the near future hold for the band?
WE ARE CURRENTLY WRITING THE NEW RECORD AND HOPE TO HAVE IT RELEASED SOMETIME LATER THIS YEAR. IN THE MEANTIME, WE HAVE A SUMMER EUROPEAN TOUR SUPPORTING IRON MAIDEN ON THE SONISPHERE TOUR. THEY ARE AMAZING AND WE WATCH THEM EVERY SINGLE NIGHT.
Thanks for your time Troy!
YOU GUYS RULE… CHEERS!