Dec. 03 2007
Brann Dailor

Brann Dailor

Mastodon

TAMA :Let's start from the beginning. When did you start playing drums? Did you take any lessons?

Brann : I started playing when I was 3 or 4 years old. No lessons. I was self taught. When I was around 3 or 4 I'd go into the attic. My grandfather was in a band with my uncle so his drum kit was up there with other instruments. It was pretty natural for a young boy to want to bang on things. I saw the drum set and I would go and hug it and I just wanted to be back there behind it. I fell in love with the drums. It seemed like a good time. It seemed like a toy and I've always maintained that. Around 8 or 9 my father suggested drum lessons because he'd be jamming The Police in the car and I'd be tapping along and he noticed I could keep a beat, so he suggested the lessons. I went to one lesson and it wasn't for me. I went in and expected to go in and go nuts but it was structured like school. "Sit down and play this snare, 'R L RL THIS SUCKS THIS SUCKS.'" Drums were never like school, it was my toy, it was my fun thing I loved doing. So afterwards my dad asked how I liked it and I said I hated it and I never went back. If I had taken some lessons I'd probably have more structure. It's never too late to take lessons, I'd still like to. There are definitely like rudiments and books that over time can be extremely helpful if you use them to your advantage. But totally by the book is no fun.

TAMA : Were you always interested in extreme music?

Brann : I always was. My mom was in a band, and my step dad was the drummer. He had a Neil Peart style drum kit –16 pieces with 25 cymbals and no bottom heads. That was in the living room until I was 10 years old. When they were gone I would sneak & play it but he always caught me. When you're a kid you have no idea how obvious it was that you were playing. They did Rush covers, Judas Priest, and Black Sabbath. And before my step dad came into our lives my dad was into King Crimson, and he'd put "Bitches Brew" on my headphones at 2 yrs old – along with Beethoven, Mozart, John Coltrane, and Frank Zappa. My parents were Zappa style hippies, totally into crazy music. I got lucky with my parents being music nerds and schooling me well. There are pics of me on our Myspace page as a young head banger forming at around 9 years old - wearing a studded belt and long blonde hair and fake leather pants. At 13 – 14 years old my friends & I would listen to Slayer and Metallica and thrash metal was coming out strong. Dave Lombardo and Lars Ulrich were who I tried to emulate. I was the kid with the drums in his basement and different kids would get dropped off every day to jam with me. My playing started getting more serious. It was more than just playing, we were writing music. "We are playing metal, this is awesome." The early 90s got technical. I discovered Mr. Bungle... it was this constant search for the most bizarre music I could get my hands on. I went back to prog rock and jazz, and tried to combine that with the stuff we were writing – when I was in my first band Lethargy. My style now came from jamming with so many different guitarists – also I never knew to follow a bass because of this. The guitar players were always trying to outdo themselves, noodling... so I tried to follow along on my 6 tom set up. I still do that to this day. When my band gets into their notey stuff I find myself trying to follow along with them, I just know when it's right.

TAMA : What did you work on to develop your impressive speed and dexterity on the kit?

Brann : Nothing. (ha-ha) I just go nuts. When I play by myself, I'm a total animal – like the Muppets. I've always been too lazy to be disciplined and do rudiments and paradiddles. But I practice rolls and fills. I like to play by myself but I'd rather have a guitarist there. The best way for me to play is along to some music. That's the whole point to me. Unless you're inspiring some natives to go to war, or something along those lines, the drums shouldn't be alone. A drum solo is cool. I like watching Bonham doing his Moby Dick solo but it's about songwriting to me. I shine the most with riffs – meat and potatoes and experimenting flows for putting songs together. I'm not the best at building complex beats. I'd rather float and do fills. If everyone played drums exactly the same, it'd be really boring.

TAMA : Prior to forming Mastodon, you played with guitarist Bill Kelliher in two other highly regarded rock groups, Lethargy and Today is the Day. Is playing with Bill pretty much second-nature at this point?

Brann : I expect him to be there. If I'm doing something, he's there. He's my best friend. At this point Mastodon's been together the longest out of all my bands. I'm used to it now. Mastodon has been able to quench my musical thirsts. Mastodon is a band I could grow old gracefully with. There are certain groups out there that would feel foolish in their mid 50s doing what they do, but I could get old with this and be OK.

TAMA : Can you walk us through your current kit setup? Are those the drums you used on the newest album?

Brann : I'm playing a Tama Starclassic Bubinga kit and a Warlord Spartan snare. I use 10", 12", and 14" rack toms, a 18" floor tom, and a 22" kick. I have a 20" crash on my right, an 18" crash on my left, a 21" ride on my left, and 14" hi hats on my left. I used 10", 12", 13", 16", on the last album, but went up a size on some toms because "Crystal Skull" needed some bigger toms live on the end, to get that tribal thing going.

TAMA : Why do prefer to use a double-pedal instead of two kick drums?

Brann : It was really a teenage gig thing. Our first show I had to eliminate a bunch of gear to fit it in the van. It was really a necessity. I had to borrow a friend's double pedal and ended up putting that setup together, and it's pretty much the same setup I use now. We had a bunch of shows and didn't want it to be a constant problem. So I had to strip it down to avoid having to make two trips for every show.

TAMA : You have a relatively simple setup as compared to a lot of metal and progressive drummers. Why is that, and have you always favored a more straight forward kit?

Brann : It's just what I got used to. I don't think about changing my setup. When it comes down to it, I don't want anything to get in the way of writing. Maybe I would add a china again to my setup, and a bell because I can build cool beats with that. Maybe I'll try that again.

TAMA : What is next for Mastodon? Are you involved in any other projects these days?

Brann : On the side I've been playing in Brent's band – "Fiend Without A Face". It's a straight-up country rockabilly surf guitar band. It's weird, it's cool, it's different. It's fun to do. It's not too intense. It's way more straightforward and an opportunity to prove that I can play a straight beat with no fills. The music's good.
Mastodon is mainly writing every day in our practice space. Every opportunity to create something new with them is great – we're banging our heads against the wall to make sure it's the best it can be.

TAMA : Recently you've been doing some clinics like PASIC, and the Modern Drummer Festival in 2006. How was that experience for you and do you see yourself doing more in the future?

Brann : Maybe... it was scary for me. I'm not that kind of guy. I've never done that before and I'm not in the same league as a lot of those guys who do clinics for a living. Technically I do the same thing - playing for people every day, but I do it with a band. But it's really nerve wrecking. I'm not a soloist really; I play with music. I don't really have a lot of structured advice. Well, I have advice I guess, but I don't know how relevant it is…

TAMA : What is your advice for other drummers?

Brann : Be inspired, not frustrated, by drummers that are better than you. That was a problem for me when I was younger. I'd get so frustrated when I saw a phenomenal drummer; I'd get depressed that I'd never be that good. I realized it needed to be an inspiration. That guy wants to be better too. Also, try to be as creative as possible. If you take lessons, use them to your advantage. Strive to be different in some aspects. Never let your ego get in the way of the song. You'll never be as good of a drummer that's in your head… and try to keep it that way.