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Fender Q&A: Mastodon’s Troy Sanders

Troy Sanders Fender

Since releasing sixth studio album Once More ‘Round the Sun in June, Mastodon has been quite busy supporting the progressive metal gem.

Produced by Nick Raskulinecz (Foo Fighters, Alice in Chains), Once More ‘Round the Sun sees the Atlanta-based band continuing with their brutal attack on the senses, even if it’s not a concept album like several others (2009’s Crack the Skye, 2006’s Blood Mountain).

With a slate of headlining tour dates on the horizon, the dudes in Mastodon are preparing to run ‘round the globe before the year’s end. Luckily, Fender News was able to catch up with bassist Troy Sanders during a brief moment of downtime to get more details on the new album.

Fender News: You guys toured on 2011′s The Hunter for about two years. Were you able to write any stuff for OMRTS while on the road, or did you go back into your rehearsal space completely fresh?

Sanders:  Yes, our guitar dudes, Bill [Keliher] and Brent [Hinds], had collected a few riffs here and there while on tour. That makes for a nice starting point once we’re ending a touring cycle and need to begin the writing process for a new record.

You’ve called OMRTS “pure Mastodon.” What makes this album fit that description?

Mastodon Once More 'Round the SunIt contains all the musical elements that we have ever touched on. There are moments of classic rock, prog, psychedelia, heaviness, beauty, darkness and dreaminess. The songs were written from the heart, and that’s why I believe it’s pure Mastodon.

The Hunter was a departure from the concept album idea, and all the guys in the band have said OMRTS also follows that philosophy. How freeing is that to go into it knowing that you’re just going to do the best 11 or so Mastodon songs you can do?

It is incredibly freeing. We have enjoyed doing the heavily thematic records, but it is nice to change things up and maintain some freshness within ourselves.

It seems that OMRTS has a lot of clean vocal work throughout the record. How have you guys progressed in the vocal aspect of things with the album?

We have put more energy and effort into finding the best vocal patterns more than ever before. The vocal tag team of Brent, Brann [Dailor, drummer] and myself decide whose voice fits best per part, and then we try to deliver. Finding, matching and marrying the best voice with pattern to part is always a nice challenge.

We love big, sincere and memorable choruses when we can find them!

There’s a drone sound that comes on midway through the song “Aunt Lisa.”  What the heck is that? And on that song, who sang the “Hey Ho, Let’s F**king Go!” chorus at the end?

That evil drone would be me. We are fascinated with robot vocals, and the song just called for it. Our girlfriends from Atlanta, the Coathangers, provided the female chant at the end of “Aunt Lisa.”

We read that there is about 30 minutes of material you’re hoping to also put out as an EP. Can you tell us about that material?  And what made the 11 for OMRTS fit together so well that the others didn’t make it?

We simply had too much material for one record, and releasing a 90-minute album would have created overkill. The group of music that didn’t make OMRTS had a certain darkness that felt as if it needed to stay together and be released in the near future.

What were the main basses you used for the album?

The beauty of a recording studio: a place to play with all of your toys. I used a 1970s Fender P Bass, my signature Fender Jaguar Bass, a fretless Dean, a Waterstone 12-string I acquired from Tom Petersson of Cheap Trick fame, a Warwick Streamer, a Zon and my MOOG Taurus pedals.

What are some of the things you’ve been listening to lately that might surprise people who don’t know you super well?

My go-to music consists of classic country and Men at Work

Any beard growing and grooming tips you could pass along to hirsute fans out there?

It’s easy. Simply splash your face with wolf urine. 

Learn more about Sanders’ signature Jaguar Bass below and click here for Mastodon tour dates. 

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