Though San Antonio was once a hub for blues and psychedelic rock ‘n’ roll in the past (with psych-rock making a strong return in recent years) the Alamo City was, and still is, a destination for many-a-touring metal project. What with a sold out (or damn near close to it) show at Metallica earlier this year, along with SA's religious attendance at the metal shows that pass through town literally every other day, whether we like it or not (we like it), the 'ol Two-One-O continues to remind us that a piece of our identity is still wrapped up in blast beats, distorted guitars and guttural growls.
Keeping the blood pumping into San Antonio’s heavy metal heart is a show that we’ve been pretty excited for since it was first announced a couple months ago. Mastodon is stopping in town along with post-metal trio Russian Circles and straight-up rock ‘n’ roll outfit, Eagles of Death Metal.
The Current caught up with Mastodon bassist Troy Sanders (who’s also in super-groups with members of Dillinger Escape Plan, Queens of the Stone Age and At The Drive In) to chat about their upcoming date at the Aztec Theatre.
“A couple things go into a solid tour and we believe one of them is the package we present to the people,” said Sanders who spoke to us on the phone early last week.
Mastodon just toured with Russian Circles and Eagles of Death Metal this past spring, and apparently it went so well that they just decided to give it another go-round. Along with mentioning that Mastodon enjoyed the humor and camaraderie with the the guys in the other bands, the 44-year-old explained that touring with high-quality rock acts "that don’t sound identical to each other" is important.
“Russian Circles are spooky and we think they’re great and Eagles of Death Metal is one hell of a fun rock ‘n’ roll ride," said Sanders, "So it’s three angles that we feel complete the package.”
Though Sanders says he doesn’t remember having any of our delicious breakfast tacos here (if he had he would’ve remembered, obviously) he says the toughest thing about their incessant touring (which is a lot harder without breakfast tacos, we imagine) is being away from family and the downtime in between each show.
“The magic we get to make with one another on stage each night – that’s the ultimate reason that keeps us moving forward and ticking with such enthusiasm, ‘cause we can get up there and we have that unique chemistry and a collection of songs that we can take around the world for people who seem to enjoy it.”
We definitely enjoy it, and If you’ve had the opportunity to enjoy their awesome blend of prog-, sludge-, stoner- and experimental-metal, chances are you too enjoy it. However, we think the overlying appeal of Mastodon is their ability to continually explore the boundaries of heavy music and successfully produce a combination of tones and textures that hold resemblance to few other bands — if any — in the genre. And let’s face it, that’s sort of hard to do when there’s 118,267 known metal bands on the planet according to Encyclopedia Metallum, an online index with reviews, interviews and discography of almost every metal band ever on the website metal-archives.com.
“When we all met, we flipped through each other's CD booklets,” said Sanders who counts Thin Lizzy, The Melvins, and Iron Maiden as major influences for all the members in the band. “Everyone had a diverse collection of music – everyone was open-minded and all four of us had a wide appreciation of different styles of music,” Sanders said. “We wanted to create a heavy brand of rock and roll ourselves that reflected that.”
Watching Mastodon’s journey from buzzworthy metal band in the early aughts to legendary metal gods, has been impressive. And for those who know anything about rock ‘n’ roll, and really just show business in general, scaling the summit of Grammy-nominated success doesn’t come without some sacrifice and serious dedication. But according to Sanders, the band knew early on that they had something special.
“We showed a common attitude and drive … a fire in our bellies … and we all thought [Mastodon] had potential,” said Sanders. “We all just got shitty jobs that we could leave at anytime and jumped in a van at for two or three months at a time. We played any dive, apartment, boat shed and that’s where it began and it’s still kind of plowing forward to this day.”
On the heels of a brand new EP Cold Dark Place, which came out two days after talking with Sanders (featuring tracks from the recording sessions of their 2014 album Once More ‘Round the Sun and 2017’s Emperor of Sand), Mastodon prove that good 'ol fashion hard work, drive and a passion to deliver something authentic is still a recipe for success and longevity.