We put Mastodon and Neurosis together in a room and here's what happened
Mastodon’s Brann Dailor had his life changed by the elemental music of Neurosis. As the latter mark their 30th anniversary, we brought Brann and co-founder Scott Kelly together to celebrate
The past 30 years have been a long, hard road for Scott Kelly, a struggle articulated in explicit agonies in his diverse solo projects and as co-frontman of underground leviathans Neurosis. One of three founding members in 1985, he has seen the band evolve from their teenage hardcore roots into one of underground metal’s most seminal acts. Their music is an elemental force, their now-rare live shows a bloodletting necessary for their continued survival. It wasn’t until 1992’s visionary Souls At Zero, which saw their tempo reduce drastically amidst nuanced layers of diverse instrumentation, that their legacy began to coalesce. A key band in broadening extreme metal’s palette of influence and expression, they’ve influenced a swathe of artists in their wake even as they retreated from the rigours of touring full time.
The band had an indelible impact on a young Brann Dailor, virtuoso drummer/singer/songwriter of Grammy-winning behemoths Mastodon. Brann first met an already road-hardened Scott while on only his third tour. They stuck a chord instantly and have been like brothers ever since, a 17-year-long friendship rooted in their common experiences of devastating personal tragedy. It is not very often in life you make connections with people as profound as the one they share, and for both, that first tour together marks a watershed moment in their lives. As you’ll soon find out, it was a moment responsible for no less than the very birth of Mastodon.
On the eve therefore of Neurosis’s forth-coming 11th record, Fires Within Fires, a torrid exhalation of existential frustration the likes of which only the process of ageing can provide, who better than Brann for Scott to reflect upon the past 30 years with? Getting them together via conference call makes for an interesting contrast: Scott, sincere and pensive in his responses, versus the sharp wit and energy that is Brann, whose a personality is as lively as his cascading drum fills. It makes for a conversation we feels privileged to be part of.
BRANN DAILOR: “Hey Scott, I heard your album this morning.”
SCOTT KELLY: “Oh yeah? How was that for breakfast?”
BRANN: “I loved it. It made me kinda sad. The first track I thought, ‘Man, that just sounds like illness.’ I always see music cinematically, but it really sounded sick to me. What was your mindset?”
SCOTT: “I don’t know, man, I had a lot to get out… more than usual, which is saying something. It’s been a trying time, and it felt good to do these songs. We’re going to play a couple of them live this summer and see how they feel. Sometimes you write them and they feel one way, but live they either don’t hit the spot, or you go too far and they take you to a place you don’t want to be.”
It’s well known that Brann wrote, at least in part, Mastodon’s 2009 prog masterpiece Crack The Skye to process the tragic suicide of his teenage sister. At this juncture it was impossible not to respectfully inquire as to whether he identified with Scott.
BRANN: “Yeah, of course. There are certain songs that take you to this place, and you don’t regret writing them, you don’t regret going there because you just… had to; but then you go there live every night and you’re like, ‘What the fuck did I do?!’”
Scott agrees, sombrely, before we move on.
BRANN: “Neurosis are the perfect example of a ‘sum of its parts’ kind of group; you thrive off each other’s energy.”
SCOTT: “I agree, man.”
How has that energy changed over the years?
SCOTT: “The intensity level has only increased. I mean, we’re getting together in December to start writing another record. I’m having a crazy prolific thing right now.”