In this second part of the interview with Bill Kelliher of Mastodon, we talk about their forthcoming fourth album, Crack The Skye, staying hip and making sure his kids learn to swim. Bill also explains his wonderful current state of facial hair
This is the longest the band has been without releasing a new record. What have you been doing?
“We’ve never had this much time off touring before. Normally we’ll just take two months off to write and record but this time we took a whole year. I bought a bunch of microphones and we got an eight-track recorder for our rehearsal space and we started plugging away riffs and writing skeleton songs with drums and guitars. We even started adding some vocals. We’ve never done stuff like that before.”
Along with Dream Theater and Opeth, you’re leading the progressive metal pack but you’re the ones that get picked up the most by the mainstream and the hipsters. How have you managed to make prog cool?
“I think it’s a good position to be in – we’ve always been that kind of band. You’ve got to stay kinda cutting edge – not that we have any preconceived ideas when we go into the studio like, ‘Hey, we need to stay hip!’ You’ve got be hip without trying to act hip. We really don’t go out and try and dress a certain way or try and write music a certain way or comb my hair a certain way.”
What music do you listen to away from Mastodon? Do you see bands of that ilk as your peers?
“Not really. I’m a lazy music fan. I don’t have time to listen to music any more. I have playing every night and usually we go to see the bands that we tour with but by the time we get home I don’t wanna hear music. I’m starting to get back into listening to some newer stuff for my kids. I’m trying to play more music for them because they definitely need a musical upbringing.”
Do your children have any influence on how you perceive your own music?
“I play our new record or listen to the demos when I’m driving them to school. My kids are only four and two years old so they were pretty young when Blood Mountain came out but they wanted to hear the funny song or the robot song. We have the robot voice at the end of ‘Circle of Cysquatch’ and now on ‘Crack The Skye’ so the kids identify with that.”
In those rare moments when you are not on tour, what do you do in your spare time?
“I spend time with my family. I take the kids to the pool and put a little floaty on them. Throwing them in the water and then swimming laps with them is pretty fun. It’s invigorating and you get to spend time with your kids. Getting them used to water is important. I know people my age who can’t swim! How can you not swim? I’m also reading Slash’s autobiography. If the book doesn’t grab me in the first few pages, I just put it down but this book, right from the beginning, is fucking amazing.”
What do you think is your biggest ever mistake?
“Not picking up the guitar earlier. I started when I was 15 – which was 23 years ago. I feel like I should be a lot better but I never had any lessons or anything – I just picked up a guitar and started playing. I know notes and chords but I don’t read music. I learnt everything by ear and by watching other people play.”
When we spoke to Brann [Dailor, drums] last year, he said he couldn’t grow any facial hair because he was a loser ladyface. What fluff are you sporting right now?
“I have a handlebar moustache at the moment. It’s a Fu Manchu style one and it’s pretty burly. Usually I’m really clean-shaven except for sideburns but after the hospital I started growing a moustache and my wife suggested I grow what we call The Outlaw – it’s kinda like a porn ‘tache. It’s almost growing over my fucking teeth now. I just did it for fun at first and now it’s taken over my whole face. It looks pretty stupid and ridiculous but people seem to like it.”
Read the first part of this interview with Bill Kelliher of Mastodon, where he discusses his hospitalisation during The Unholy Alliance as well as a fantastic onstage collaboration at this year’s Sonisphere Festival.
Crack The Skye by Mastodon is released on 23 March 2009 via Reprise Records