An Interview with Brann Dailor of Mastodon

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Progressive Rock is a dinosaur and concept albums went out of vogue in the 70s. That’s what you think. Atlanta-based metal quartet Mastodon continue to challenge preconceived notions about the viability of mixing modern metal with conceptual Prog Rock with its musically acrobatic third album, Blood Mountain. For this ambitious album about an arduous journey to the apex of a mythical mountain – which boasts songs about one-eyed Sasquatches, benevolent tree people and crystal skulls – drummer Brann Dailor drew inspiration from both musical and cinematic sources, including the 1973 Alejandro Jodorowsky film, The Holy Mountain and Genesis’ 1974 epic masterpiece, The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. “That’s my favorite record of all time,” Brann admits. “My parents were really into early Genesis so it’s been a big part of my life since I was a baby. For me, hearing those first few opening notes on the piano are as comforting as Grandma’s meat loaf.”

Metal Edge: Would you say that you have any signature chops that identify your playing style?

Brann Dailor: Something that I do a lot is follow guitar lines with the toms and I’m not sure that many drummers do that. Basically I do a lot of rolls…and sometimes I put little extra butter on those rolls (laughs)! Also, I go past the one and maybe come in on the two or three, or I come in and out of the beat and just explore whatever different beats or rhythms that can be played.

Metal Edge: You played two 50-gallon industrial drums on the song “Crystal Skull.” How were you inspired to do that?

Brann Dailor: I was watching the Peter Jackson version of King Kong and it was a part where they’re pounding on drums and shouting for Kong. I got this riff in my head and I had to leave the theater, call my house and leave the riff on the answering machine. From that beat came the idea to do this big drum intro with 50-gallon drums. I didn’t actually think it was going to happen until one day I called our producer and said, ‘Can we just do one more thing?’ I explained that I really wanted to do the 50-gallon drum intro for “Crystal Skull.” All the other guys went out on a sailboat that day and I drove around Seattle in a van looking for 50-gallon drums to play. Finally, I found this homeless dude and he was guarding these five or six 50-gallon drums. I got him to hook me up with two of them in exchange for credit on the album! Then I brought them to the studio and miked them up. I did maybe fifteen or twenty tracks playing with all different kinds of sticks – from lighter sticks to two giant two-by-fours. It was just something cool to do for that song and it came out sounding great.

Metal Edge: Where do you see metal drumming headed?

Brann Dailor: Hopefully there will be more diversity in the playing. I’m not the best at doing superfast double bass, so I developed my hands. By developing my hands I started doing lots of crazy fills and stuff like that. Much of my drumming is the result of [making allowances for] stuff that I couldn’t do (laughs). I just do my own thing, try to think of the coolest stuff that I can play and challenge myself as much as possible. If it doesn’t work and I have to lay down some meat and potatoes, I’m totally fine with doing that as well. Sometimes you’ve got to Phil Rudd it, but I just try to make it interesting for myself to play and interesting for the listener to hear. I want to make sure that the intensity level I’m looking for as a drummer happens in the song. It’s that ‘Runner’s High’ type of thing. I always look for that

Brann’s Gear:
Drums: Tama
Sizes: 10-inch, 12-inch and 14-inch Rack Toms, 18-inch Floor Tom, 22-Inch Kick and 14 x 6-inch Steel Warlord Snare
Cymbals: Meinl
Heads: Evans
Sticks: Vater

Official Website:

Brann Dailor

This article was originally written for Metal Edge Magazine as part of a monthly column by Gail Worley (under the pen name Jayne Rollins). With the magazines’ dissolution, the article has been added to the content base of The Worley Gig for our readers’ enjoyment.

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