Mastodon have shared some details about their upcoming new album, calling it “the fullest, biggest-sounding record” they’ve ever done.
The follow-up to 2017’s ‘Emperor Of Sand’ is currently being mixed with help from Grammy-winning producer/mixer/engineer David Bottrill, who is known for his work with the likes of Muse, Tool and many others.
Speaking in a new interview with Talking Metal, Mastodon guitarist Bill Kelliher discussed the band’s eighth studio album and talked about what it was like working with Bottrill.
“Honestly, I hadn’t really heard of him before last year,” Kelliher said of Bottrill. “We were kind of tossing around who we were gonna use for the new record. We have a couple of different producers that we like; I mean, we’ve liked everyone we’ve used in the past.
“But I think, with this record, we kind of were just, like, ‘We might need somebody new — somebody really fresh and brand new.’ And we got on the phone with David, and we had a couple of other people we had been talking to. With COVID and everything, a lot of people just weren’t available or willing to come to Atlanta.”
He continued: “When we got on the phone with David, he seemed like a great guy. He already had some of the demos, so he had all kinds of notes. That’s what you need a producer for — someone who kind of thinks outside the box. The four of you have been playing the same songs, demoing the same songs for so long, you’re kind of, like, ‘Is this even good anymore? I can’t really tell. Does it need something? I’m kind of lost.’ It’s like you can’t see the forest through the trees. You’re, like, ‘What’s what? Everything’s upside down.’
“So he came in and he was diligent. He had all kinds of notes written out. He had done his homework. And he was, like, ‘For this song, I have this idea. For this song, I have these ideas.’ And he kind of spouted them off to us on the phone. And I said, ‘Are you willing to come to Atlanta and work with us here, sight unseen, at our studio?’ And he was, like, ‘As long as the studio’s got the certain equipment that I need, and it’s a decent-sized room and everything…’ We had done a lot of other records there with other bands. And he was willing to come down.”
Elaborating on the way Bottrill works, Kelliher said: “I think 90 per cent of being a good producer is really having a degree in psychology, almost. ‘Cause when you’re dealing with fragile egos… We’re band guys, we’re musicians, we pour our heart and soul into a musical riff, and it really means a lot to us. It’s just heartbreaking if somebody’s, like, ‘I don’t like that riff. That riff sucks. That’s not gonna be in the song.’ You can’t say that. You have to circumvent the obvious, like, ‘Man up and get rid of that riff. Write something better.’
“And that was one of my first questions: ‘How do you deal with if there’s certain people in the band that might be more sensitive than others?’ And he’s, like, ‘I’ve worked with so and so and so and so.’ He’s, like, ‘I’m just a big fan of your band, and I just wanna make your best record that we set out to make.’ And he just had a really good way with words without insulting anybody’s creativeness. He was firm. And we basically tried everything.
“He said, ‘I don’t have a problem with trying anything at all. If you’re gonna do it, do it with gusto and just go for it and try it. If someone [goes], ‘Hey, I wanna try to sing here,’ ‘Hey, I wanna try to play a solo here,’ hey, let’s try it. Maybe it doesn’t fit, but we never know until we try it.”
He concluded: “So we all just kind of [went into it] with open minds, and the result is amazing. It’s the fullest, biggest-sounding record we’ve done so far.” You can listen to Kelliher’s interview in the video above, around the 1:28:00 mark.