Mastodon’s “Leviathan” Inducted into Decibel Hall of Fame (Bonus Interview)

Mastodon have released five records since the launch of Decibel back in 2004. Coincidentally, they’ve been on the magazine’s cover five fucking times—yes, that’s a record for anyone who bothers to keep track of such things (just me). The first of those albums was sophomore effort Leviathan, which also happens to be Decibel’s latest Hall of Fame induction (and the band’s second overall). The full seven-page story behind the making of the band’s breakthrough LP is available here in Decibel’s June issue, but you can have a special taste of a couple questions and answers that didn’t make the final story:

What do you remember about getting Clutch frontman Neil Fallon to do vocals on “Blood and Thunder”?

Brann Dailor: “Blood and Thunder” was probably the most literal of the songs [as they applied to the concept]. I remember writing the lyrics to that and thinking about how perfect that middle section would have been for Neil, but I was kind of nervous to ask him. But we were on tour with them for a good month-and-a-half, so I had plenty of time to work up the nerve to ask him and luckily he said yes. He just has that Ahab voice. I remember when he was in the studio doing his part, I was like, ‘Oh man, this is one of those planets align moments’ and how perfect it was. We didn’t have any money to pay him, so we each went out and bought him a bottle of whiskey. We had two motel rooms at the Extended Stay, two guys to a room. But when Neil came to stay to do his part, we all kind of huddled in one room and let him have one of the rooms to himself. Both rooms were next to each other and you could hear him through the wall saying, “Guys, can you come over here?” A couple of us went over and he was like, “You don’t have to do this. Someone can stay in here. I can sleep on the floor or something. It doesn’t matter.” We were all kind of nervous and trying to make sure Neil was happy. 

Bill Kelliher: I remember picking up Neil at the airport and being pretty nervous. I didn’t know him as well as I know him now and he’s someone I really look up to. He’s an awesome singer and poet, has a great voice and is in a band that plays some of my favorite songs. I was a little nervous that he was going to sing on our record and hoped he liked the song. I wasn’t sure if he had watched us much or heard us play “Blood and Thunder” on that tour, but I think he had a version of it sent to him ahead of time so he could sing along and whatever. I remember when he was in the studio the way he was singing it was completely different from how Brann had arranged it and there was some frustration because Neil had an idea of how he was going to sing it and Brann was like “No, no. It goes like this.” He was only there for like 24 hours. When he knocked it out in the studio, I remember having goosebumps and thinking, “Holy fuck, Neil Fallon from Clutch is singing on our record! I can’t believe this is my life right now!” I was a total fanboy. When we did that tour with Clutch, I would go out into the audience and get into the mosh pit. Neil had said to Brann, “Man, we were playing ‘A Shogun Named Marcus’ and I think I saw your guitar player in the pit.” And Brann was like, “Yeah you probably did.” 

Brent Hinds: I remember there was an ale house across the street and I was sitting in it when he was doing his job, you know what I mean? It was an amazing place that had just opened up and they had 72 beers on draught from around the world, so I was over there. 

In looking up info on Leviathan and looking through my own collection, I noticed a lot of different versions and formats of the album have been released. Do you know how many exist?

Brann Dailor: I have no idea. Relapse owns them, so they pretty much do what they want and govern that. When they want to put out a new version or color, they do and send us a few of them. I probably have a thousand Leviathan albums sitting in my house and they’re all different colors.

Troy Sanders: I have one of everything that we’ve ever done: t-shirts, merchandise, album pressings. We realize that a lot of it exists and they come in waves and phases and a lot of the time we’re not even in the circle of determining what comes out when. We don’t want people to think it’s a cash cow or whatever, but a lot of the time we don’t see much or anything of these various releases. We do know that our hardcore fans enjoy the picture discs, colored vinyl and deluxe CD formats and all that, but I don’t know how many exist, but it’s a lot. We don’t want fans to feel they have to buy everything, we know there are different formats of Leviathan, so pick your favourite colour and buy that one [Laughs]. But from this side of the fence, I’m completely proud of it all. 

Bill Kelliher: Shit, I don’t know. I’m so bad with that stuff. I mean, I do collect the records, but there are probably 20 different colored vinyl releases. I have all or most of the vinyl. When Relapse would pay us in the early days, sometimes they’d pay us in records. There’s been a lot of stuff put out there because Relapse is really good at marketing when it comes to that sort of stuff and I don’t blame them. When you have such a great artist like Paul Romano and his art, you might as well use it to your advantage and put it all over the place. Make a poster, make different vinyl, everything.