BY MELISSA RUGGIERI/AJC Music Scene
Already this year, Mastodon won its first Grammy Award, released a groovy animated video for “Clandestiny,” embarked on a tour with Primus and announced an early fall leg with Dinosaur Jr.
But that chaotic pace is natural for the Atlanta-based hard rockers, who are celebrating their 18th year together with the continued success of their seventh studio album, “Emperor of Sand,” released last year.
Drummer/singer Brann Dailor, bassist/singer Troy Sanders, guitarist/singer Brent Hinds and guitarist Bill Kelliher will bring their sledgehammer rock to the Fox Theatre on Wednesday with Primus — the second time they’ve played the iconic venue in seven months.
Recently, Sanders, who is a native Atlantan but lives on the Gulf Coast of Florida, checked in with an update on all things Mastodon.
Q: What is your relationship with the guys in Primus?
A: We have crossed paths at festivals overseas, and we’ve run into them at various places, like bowling alleys and other shows. I guess they like us enough as people to be their tourmates for nine weeks! For the one hour or so you’re on stage every night, there are 23 hours to be in that city, so the people you’re surrounded with are crucial to having a good time.
Q: It’s a co-headlining bill, so who plays first?
A: They’ll close the set each night, which is music to our ears. We’ll play our show, change our wet T-shirts and get to watch their show.
Q: How are you preparing for the tour?
A: We’ve got big smiles on our faces. We’re beyond excited to tour with them. We practiced a lot over the last couple of weeks, some older songs we haven’t played in a couple of years. We always try to throw in one or more songs off each record because we recognize we have fans from day one up to brand-new songs.
Q: You guys played the Fox for the first time last year. What was that experience like?
A: It was an absolute honor. Being born and raised in Atlanta — I grew up in the Stone Mountain area — I recognize without a doubt that the Fox is the pinnacle of venues. I went and saw many plays and comedians there and only a couple of rock bands. The most memorable was Ozzy’s (Osbourne) 1992 “No More Tours” tour. I had to skip school to get in line for tickets because I wasn’t missing his last tour. (Laughs) He got me on that one! But for a promoter to welcome us in that kind of venue and to have our hometown crowd fill it up was a dream come true. We never take any of those incredible moments for granted. I think we understand that we’ve got something special that we’ve built and created over the years as friends.
Q: Has winning a Grammy changed anything yet?
A: That was nice, that was nutty. That was the furthest thing from our radar when our band formed. To me, it just caps off and shows this evolution of four guys. When we met, we wanted to write this heavy style of rock, get in a van and travel, and it’s built and built and built to be in the same sentence as the word Grammy. We’re very proud to be recognized by this massive organization.
Q: (Recently) Brann and Bill went to Capitol Hill with members of the Atlanta Grammy chapter to support the Music Modernization Act, which advocates proper compensation for artists. Even though you didn’t go on the trip, I imagine it’s an issue you have some thoughts on as well.
A: I thought that was incredible for them to spend some time and energy pushing for what we thought was overdue and pushing for full musical rights. The day they were in D.C., I was committed to being a guest speaker at (David Lowery’s) music business class at the University of Georgia. I brought some streaming royalties with me to share with the class and (showed them) that after 6,012 spins on X format, my cut is less than $1. There was a gasp in the classroom because they were unaware. Am I happy to get this 94 cents? Absolutely. But things need to change. I thought it was interesting that I was discussing lack of compensation for artists at the same time my bandmates were in D.C. talking about the same thing.
Q: After the Primus tour, you head out with Dinosaur Jr. How did that pairing come about?
A: That was something. Our booking agent said that more than one promoter had requested Mastodon and Dinosaur Jr. I guess that happens a lot, and we welcome going out with bands who don’t sound like similar to us, like Against Me or Slayer. We like variety as well. And we’re already friends because we’re both prehistoric with our band names!
Primus and Mastodon
With All Them Witches. 7 p.m. Wednesday. $31.50-$96.50. Fox Theatre, 660 Peachtree St. NE, Atlanta. 1-855-285-8499, foxtheatre.org.