THE MAYHEM FILES – VOL. V: BILL KELIHER FROM MASTODON

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Well, it’s been awhile, and the dust has long settled, so I thought we’d jump back into the final two chapters of The Mayhem Files, starting with Part V: Bill Keliher from Mastodon. He’s a really laid-back guy, and was nice enough to give me a few minutes about an hour and a half before show time to talk about the tour, Mayhem Party Mixers, and when the next record might be coming. So, check it out:

Amps: What has been the coolest thing about this Mayhem tour?

Bill: Coolest thing…probably the party mixers. The prom one, we had a good one, and it’s a chance for everyone to unwind, party, and not have to work. We had a fire-breather, and “Wolf Urine” drink. It’s vodka and pineapple juice with some ginger. We had ice luges for the Jagermeister, we had clowns, and a bunch of cool old 80’s tunes going. Pretty awesome!

Amps: I know that you’ve said several times, that you’re not working on anything new right now; you just wanted to focus on the tour. Do you have any kind of a timetable in mind for next year, maybe?

Bill: I think we’re pretty ready to go in the studio when we get home, probably mid-September we’ll go in and start recording, laying down some basic tracks. We’ve got almost 30 rough ideas for songs that are ready to go, so we’re in pretty good shape as far as a record goes. Hopefully it will be finished by the end of the year, and out early next year.

Amps: So you don’t really worry about writing on the road, just go out and take care of business live?

Bill: Well, I might write a couple riffs here and there, sometimes we come up with some stuff and I record it in my phone, come home and dump it out. We got a studio at our practice pad, so we can record anything and have the demos sound pretty professional, which we’ve already done with some of the new material, but we haven’t played it as a band yet.

Amps: What song would you say has gotten people the most riled up on the tour?

Bill: It’s definitely “Blood and Thunder”, but we don’t play it too often, we kind of wore it out. We’re pushing the newer stuff.

Amps: You’re doing a lot off The Hunter in your set, which I love! Great record.

Bill: Oh, thanks. I know the fans want something new. Two years is a long time, and we want to put something new out, but we took about seven months off of touring just to reconnect with family, you know, we needed a break. We don’t get on each other’s nerves or anything, but being away so long, you need a break.

Amps: Mastodon sounds like NO ONE else on the planet. How on earth do you manage this?

Bill: (Smiles) I’m not sure. Well, we really pay attention to detail with our equipment, amps, etc. I like my Lace Pickups, they’re pretty fuckin’ heavy and I love the way they sound. I try out different things looking for an easier way to make it sound good. I try a lot of different pedals, too. Dunlop makes this cool distortion box called the Classic 87, I think. Brent’s guitar tech modified it and put a different chip in there or something and just made it sound awesome!

Amps: And really, no two albums of yours sound alike.

Bill: Well, that’s kind of what we do; keep putting out records that mature with the age of the band. We never want to put the same record out. I mean there are bands that do that, and do it well, like AC/DC, Slayer, The Ramones, Motorhead…those bands, they’ve captured a sound. For us, we’re always chasing something new. If we play it, and we like the way it sounds, and it’s cool, and we’re all rockin’ to it, and we agree that we like it, we record it and put it on a record. We’re not afraid to kind of step outside our hula hoop, you know? We venture into some different waters, which I’m sure we’ll do on the next record.

Everyone’s got a lot of different influences, too. Brent listens to a lot of country, so does Troy. They both like heavy stuff, too. But Brent’s more like the wild card; he’s all over the place musically. Thin Lizzy, The Melvins. And we all like those bands; we just don’t only listen to heavy stuff. I like all sorts of stuff. I listen to pop music as well. My tastes have changed somewhat, plus you’ve got new bands popping up left and right, and you can learn from some of them. It’s just the natural progression, I mean everybody in this band writes.

Amps: What are the personalities like in Mastodon? Who’s more serious, and who’s the funny one?

Bill: I’m pretty serious, myself. Don’t get me wrong, I like to joke around, I’m not some boring guy. Brent’s pretty wild, he’s always joking around, playing pranks. Expect the unexpected with him.  We’re all pretty chill, since 10 years ago when we were all party hounds, you know, always goin’ on 11! Driving the van to the next venue at 3am with an eight-hour drive ahead of us, we’ve all been drinkin’ and partyin’, sleeping on someone’s floor…we don’t do that crazy stuff anymore.

Amps: What’s a really cool memory you’ll take away from this tour?

Bill: One of the coolest things I’ll remember is the huge Viking Ship Amon Amarth has on stage every night. I’ll take that home with me (laughs)!


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Mastodon went out later and just KILLED IT. Culling heavily from The Hunter, their set was an exercise in brutality and precision, and it was odd seeing Bill rock out up there since he’s as I said, so laid back offstage. Great guy, though. I’m glad I got the chance to speak with him.


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