Thanks to their pulverizing sound, an endorsement from Metallica, and their dinosaur-elephant name, Atlanta metal band Mastodon are one of the genre’s biggest recent crossover successes. Their new album, Crack the Skye, is a tribute to drummer Brian Dailor’s sister, who committed suicide when he was a teenager. Dailor spoke with Vulture about Skye, doing the music for the upcoming Jonah Hex movie, and what fans can expect at their show tonight at the Hammerstein Ballroom.
You’re currently scoring the Jonah Hex movie, starring Josh Brolin and Megan Fox. What has that been like?
An opportunity to work with film is something that we’ve always wanted. As long as the film wasn’t Runaway Bride 3, we were more than happy to do it. Actually, we’d probably have done Runaway Bride 3, too. When I hear our music, I always see a little movie playing along to it.
There was also some talk a while back about a video project to accompany the album, sort of like Pink Floyd’s The Wall. Is that still on the table?
It all comes down to money, and record companies barely have enough money to make records. I think what’s going to happen is that we start shopping our screenplay around to actual movie studios and get it made for real, pitch it the way you’d pitch any other screenplay. I’d really like to see it happen. I think our new visual show is the closest we’ve been able to come to it — it kind of looks like a silent film.
You’re only a few records in but already a couple have been concept albums. Why all this thematic complexity?
It allows us to go to a bunch of different places artistically; there’s just more to experience. Putting out a record without any of that stuff would be short-sighted, like you didn’t put everything you had into it. [With] each album you get to try it again and get it more cohesive and more thought-out and more psychedelic. Every album is a new opportunity to do something grandiose.
Is it difficult to perform the personal material on Crack the Skye night after night?
That’s a little emotionally taxing, but I feel like we almost owe it to the music and to the people who are there in the room to go all in, so I don’t want to try to shut it off. It’s the exact opposite — I’m trying to get to that spot where that feeling is created. You definitely want to sink everything you have into it, or else it’s not really worth being up there.
Since Skye was your sister, does that mean you’re more invested in the material than the other guys?
For some of the parts, yeah. But each member is going to personalize it in their own way, and that’s what the fans are going to do, too. You can see it as when you broke up with your girlfriend, and the piece can be used to help you get through that situation, or to sit and wallow in it, if you want to, and enjoy that little piece of pain for as long as you want to.
The New York show is right before Halloween, and you’re in a big scary metal band named after a prehistoric beast …
That prehistoric beast was a vegetarian, you know. And “Mastodon” translates to “nipple tooth,” so it’s not all that scary. Yeah, you heard me. [Ed. note: verified.]
So — Halloween plans?
I was thinking I might be a sexy kitty cat.