Under the Influence: Mastodon's Brann Dailor

Heavyweight bills are what Mastodon do best. As the Atlantan monoliths return to our shores with Big Business and Krokodil in tow, drummer Brann Dailor offers a personal tip of the bunnet to ten landmark releases by a few of their most memorable alliances

Feature by Dave Kerr | 13 Nov 2014

1. Iron Maiden – Piece of Mind [1983]

The first record I ever bought; I was eight years old when this came out. There was something about that Iron Maiden record that blew my dress up, so to speak. I just loved it – listened to it constantly and tried to draw Eddie over everything at the time. That started a long love affair and set me on the path of being the metalhead that I was back then. At eight, I was into Judas Priest because my mum was, but I felt like Iron Maiden was my own discovery. It’s like walking into my childhood home when I put this on now; there’s something very comforting about it. We’ve played with that band a million times now, and when I talk to them it’s so far removed from my experiences as a child with their music. Two different planets.  

"There was something about that Iron Maiden Record that blew my dress up"

2. Metallica – Ride the Lightning [1984]

The influence that came from Cliff Burton – when you look at a track like The Call of Ktulu, where there are all these movements and it goes through all of these changes before it links back up at the end – it just sounds like classical music. Those tones – it’s very dark. At this point they were slowly becoming the band they were gonna be, but this record is just the pinnacle. It’s a huge leap from Kill ‘Em All – there’s a maturity to it that wasn’t there before. To me, it sounds very adult, when you consider how young they were at the time. There’s something sophisticated about Ride the Lighting, I think.

3. Slayer – Reign in Blood [1986]

When I first heard Reign in Blood it pretty much rendered the rest of my album collection obsolete. This is the first Slayer record I heard back in 1988, right around that time there was a Geraldo special called ‘Exposing Satan's Underground.’ I recall being excited that Slayer and King Diamond were going to be featured on there – all these bands that I liked. It definitely provided a vehicle for a young kid at 13 years old to feel evil – It made a defiant teenager out of me. You wear the t-shirt, you get the looks at the grocery store – they know not to mess with you. Clearly you’re into evil shit and darkness. ‘Don’t mess with that kid!’ Which was so far from the truth – there wasn’t anything evil or dark about me. But with Slayer playing you kind of felt that way – it was fun to pretend. ‘Learn the sacred words of praise, Hail Satan.’ That was a mainstay at every backwoods party I was at. From start to finish, a brilliant piece of work – an undeniable thrash classic that still holds up. 

4. Clutch – Passive Restraints EP [1992]

So I’d go to the record store each week to see if they had the Clutch record – I didn’t know when it was coming out and neither did they. Finally I go in one day and they have this EP, which had three songs on it – it was just totally different and just what I was looking for at the time. Me and my little group of friends played that nonstop, then when the record finally came out we caught them on their first tour which came through Rochester, opening for Voivod and Damn the Machine. We were there to see Clutch though, the four of us; we all slam danced through their set and bought the t-shirt. I remember Neil Fallon coming out and gathering us four up and saying ‘hey man, I think the ink on those shirts is fucked up – here’s my address. If you wash it and the logo fades away then mail it back to me and I’ll mail you a new one.’ Every time I get drunk around those guys I tell them that story. When we first started touring with Clutch that blew my mind.

5. Alice in Chains – Dirt [1992]

This was a game-changer. They were so mysterious and just the shot of cool that the rock and grunge world needed at the time. They were a little heavier and melodic but they were so slow and had this Sabbath thing going on too. Almost death metal style riffs going on there sometimes – like Obituary sounding stuff. The vocal harmonies between Layne Staley and Jerry Cantrell were key with those boys, it’s really a trademark.  I liked the variety that they encompassed, but you always knew it was Alice in Chains. They’re one of those true original bands.

6. Melvins – Houdini [1993]

Melvins were a common denominator for Mastodon from early on; one of the bands – especially for Bill and Brent – that we could agree on. They’ve been a barometer for us, a place to look and see where we wanted to go and how we wanted to conduct our business, artistically. My introduction was Houdini, which I heard around the time it came out. There was a record store called Record Time in Rochester and there were these two cool dudes who worked in there. I’d just turned 18 and used to be in there almost every day to see what was new. Those guys introduced me to Houdini. Some of my favourites  – Hooch, Sky Pup, Night Goat, Goin’ Blind – that KISS cover. That was on a million mixtapes I made – always on the ‘must’ list.

7. Deftones – Around the Fur [1997]

When Deftones first erupted with Adrenaline – I wouldn’t even listen to them. I was adamant that they were just another in a long line of Korn imitators and this nu-metal scene that had popped up was something I had no interest in listening to. So I sorta wrote them off. Then one night I ended up at this party at a friend’s house and he’d put on Around the Furloud. So I sat down on the bed and just started listening to and falling in love with it – it's kinda dark, like ‘What the hell is this?’ He says Deftones. I’m thinking ‘Fuck!’ Oh man, I can’t deny this... so good.’ They’ve maintained that cool ever since. There’s so many different influences that they’ve somehow woven together – they’ve got this whole Cocteau Twins/4AD vibe coupled with super-heavy guitar. It works so well – from Chino’s voice to Abe’s drumming. His style’s so unique and he’s got all that groove. I love that band beyond belief; I’ll fanboy those guys to death every time I’m around them. They’re like ‘Okaaay, security – get this guy out of here.’

8. Neurosis – Times of Grace [1999]

When Bill and I were in Today is the Day, we toured with Neurosis while they were on the road with this record. They played most of it every night – just to be able to experience the sheer power of Neurosis at close quarters like that was really incredible. The intensity, the places they can go musically – it definitely taught me that there’s a deeper place you can go. At the time, I wanted to go there but I just really didn’t know how. That was Bill and I’s first tour of Europe; they’d been at it for ten years plus and taught us a lot. That line-up of Today is the Day broke up over there, and that was the catalyst for Mastodon starting. It had a lot to do with that tour and mainly Scott Kelly, he was really supportive of us and said ‘You don’t need anyone else; just go start your own band.’ A good mentor – that’s why we try to include him on most of our records. He didn’t sing on Remission – I was too afraid to ask. We had a part that was perfect for him on Leviathan, and we’d had Neil from Clutch come and do a part, so I thought ‘well, I can ask him.’ He was thrilled to be part of it, so I take the same approach on every album. If we have a spot for him – if I think a song is begging for his voice – I send it over. He’s had the time every record. We always wait with great anticipation to see what he comes up with. Whatever he lays down is what we keep;  he always delivers. 

9. The Mars Volta – De-Loused in the Comatorium [2003]

I’d never really heard At the Drive-In, but I remember a lot of people were excited about them; they got really big and broke up as soon as they got huge. I thought that took a lot of balls. People were always going to be interested in what those two guys did next. We were setting up at this club in Georgia and someone had demos of the first Volta album playing over the PA – it hadn’t even come out yet. I said ‘Goddamn, who is this band?’ Oh, it’s the guys from At the Drive-In. Volta were the only modern day prog band breaking through to the mainstream. I can’t remember the names of every drummer, but they always had someone ridiculous sitting back there. Like Jesus, where do you find these guys? I picture Omar in a van with tinted windows parked outside of a musician’s institute. It inspired us to go out on a limb a little bit more. We’ve always had the prog thing in there, but Mars Volta definitely set us off. This is just a monster. It’s non-stop and it’s a beautiful piece of music – all of these intricate compositions, while also maintaining true songs that blossom out of the madness. That’s hard to do. We were driving around in our van listening to this record nonstop for some time. We finally met those guys when they came and played in Atlanta. Their drummer at the time said ‘oh yeah, we have to listen to Hearts Alive before we go onstage each night.’ We found out that we had a mutual admiration for each other and became really fast friends with a similar sense of humour and a mutual love for Alejandro Jodorowsky movies. I always look forward to seeing those guys, in whichever capacity it may be in. 

10. Baroness – Yellow and Green [2012]

We consider Baroness a sister band, cut from the same cloth, and this is an incredible record. They really have come into their own with this one; it’s gorgeous… a really beautiful piece of music. This is another group where you can hear some of that old 80s 4AD influence shining through – like This Mortal Coil and Dead Can Dance. It’s not an area of music I feel is talked about often enough, at least not in the context of heavy metal. Baroness are back up on their feet, out there doing it and they’re about to make a new record. I’m excited about that. John’s voice and guitar playing is amazing. 

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Mastodon play Manchester Academy on 24 Nov and Glasgow's O2 Academy on 26 Nov with Big Business and Krokodil http://mastodonrocks.com