Monday, January 9, 2017

Fort Rock 2017: interviews with Chevelle and Mastodon

The 2017 bands for the Fort Rock Festival include Chevelle, Seether, Def Leppard, Alter Bridge, Papa Roach, Three Days Grace, In This Moment, Motionless in White, Cover Your Tracks, Nothing More, and Beartooth on Saturday, April 29th.  On Sunday, April 30, the lineup features Soundgarden, A Perfect Circle, The Offspring, Mastodon, Highly Suspect, The Pretty Reckless, In Flames, Eagles of Death Metal, All That Remains, Starset, Dinosaur Pile-Up, I Prevail and Goodbye June.

With anticipation growing, I wanted to do a throwback with interviews from Chevelle and Mastodon, followed by a recap of last year's Fort Rock Festival. 


             I met up with Chevelle in Detroit, chatting with them for the first time since touring with them on Ozzfest.  Being a month since I had seen the guys or their bus driver, it was hard to get down to business.  Drummer Sam and lead man Pete ate Detroit’s finest Kentucky Fried Chicken as we joked on the bus, wasting time waiting for bassist Joe to get his White Castle dinner, and informing me that the brothers wanted to mess with people by putting Chevelle as their last name on the album instead of Loeffler.  Having limited time before the guys went on stage, we started with the basics while waiting for Joe’s arrival.

Marisa:  Let’s start from the beginning.  Tell me about your family.  Do you come from a musical family?

Pete:  We had piano lessons while we were young.  That’s how we got started.  It was a good basis to hear notes and to figure out how the music is put together.  Nobody else in our family is doing anything musical.

Sam:  The three of us just started playing.  It wasn’t like a Jackson Five kind of thing.  Nobody else in our family is into the business except the three of us, and that’s on purpose.

Marisa:  With all of you being not only related but brothers, do you think that this causes any more or less complications compared to playing with friends?

Pete:  We have our share of fights.  It’s not fists any more.  They’re emotional, and that’s worse.  They’re more stressful than banging away at each other and moving on.  These last longer.

Sam:  I don’t know if it’s a bonus, but only the three of us have been in the band.  It’d be nice to have someone not related that we could fire (Jokes are cracked about mom saying they can’t fire one another).  That’s stress, but no matter what, I think that whatever you’re best at, it’ll find you.  It’s not like we sat down when we were little and planned to get signed and make a record.  It just happened.

Pete:  I wanted to be a pro skater when I was 15.  Music just went over all my other aspirations.

Sam:  Now I aspire to make a living.

Pete:  We did carpentry before this, so we know what it means to make a living.

Marisa:  (Joe walks in with his fast food dinner) Now that we have all three of you, I think it’s time to start in on some of my fun, dumb questions that I ask simply because I can.  They have absolutely nothing to do with music, just psychological.  The first question is if you were a unicorn, and you could be any color but white, what color would you be and why?

Joe:  White (laughs).

Marisa:  Nope.  Wrong answer.  Try again.  Most people think of a unicorn as being white, so the question is designed to see what color comes to mind outside the norm.

Sam:  Dark muddy grey.  I’d be depressed, because I was a unicorn.

Joe:  Red, because it’s faster and more expensive on your insurance.

Pete:  Can I say clear?  I think it’d be cool to see the organs.

Marisa:  The second question is if you were a yogurt, would you be mixed fruit, fruit on the bottom and what flavor?  Keep in mind that it does not have to be a traditional flavor.

Sam:  I’d be fruit on the floor.  It’d be clear yogurt – unicorn flavored.

Joe:  There’d be no fruit, but I’d be lemon or vanilla flavored.

Marisa:  Isn’t lemon a fruit?

Joe:  Well, the flavor would be mixed throughout.  There’d be no chunks.  The chunks take away from the protein, so it’d be high in protein.

Pete:  I like strawberry banana fruit on the bottom, because I like the traditional Dannon fruit on the bottom.

Marisa:  What flavor potato chip best describes your personality?

Sam:  Dirt flavored potato chips.

Pete:  BBQ.

Joe:  Hot dill pickle.

Marisa:  What’s your biggest musical fantasy?

Sam:  Ginger Rogers.

Joe:  Me and her are walking along.  She looks at me and says, “you look pretty good, Baby.”

Sam:  To have one of our songs be the music for a merry-go-round.  To just walk up, put your kid on it and be like, “hey, I wrote that…”

Pete:  Or get into an elevator and hear it.  Just to bump into Brittany Spears.  I’d be like Billy Joel when I’m older, just be sitting there, hear your song playing and say, “oh yeah, I used to write music…”

Sam:  (More joking and giggles) Check out

Marisa:  Getting back to some halfway serious questions…  Each of you describe one of your songs.  It doesn’t have to be a favorite or anything, but describe something about the song that is special to you, whether it’s a cool part you play, crowd reaction, you wrote it for your dead cat, whatever.

Pete:  We actually did write a song for our dead cat.  His name was Tom.  (Looking at tour manager Dan) I thought you prepped her.  Didn’t you tell her not to mention the dead cat during the interview?

Sam:  One song I like is off our first record.  It’s called “Law.”  The song has got so many parts.  It’s just very challenging to play well.  The meter goes up and down.  The timing changes.  That’s cool for me.

Dan:  Pete plays with his ego riser toolbox to be another foot taller.  Every show it’s the same toolbox.  You’ll see it up on stage tonight.

Pete:  This one song, “Point Number One,” the driving starts calm, then explodes.  I always look over and see Joe doing the signature move.  We head bang together, and it always happens, just because it feels right.  There’s a few other sections in and out of that, then I take off my guitar, bash it, and throw out yogurt and unicorns into the audience.

Joe:  I just stand there, and I rock and play to that one song.

Marisa:  Where would you envision yourself being right now if you were not doing what you are doing.

Pete:  A locksmith.  Did I say locksmith?  I meant astronaut.  A locksmith astronaut.  I’d put on the suit and fix space ships for aliens.  I’d fix their monolift and shoot over to sector 7.

Joe:  I’d be a rock star.

Dan:  He’d be a race car driver.

Joe:  In my other life I’d be a rock star.  I am a race car driver, but in my other life, I’d be a rock star.  Some people think it’s the other way around, but it’s not.

Sam:  I’d be a bus driver.  A hermit bus driver.

Marisa:  From starting out in the basement, garage, or wherever you first played, coming up to where you are now in your musical careers, was there anything you ran across that you did not expect?

Sam:  I didn’t expect to be hosed as much as we were.  I didn’t expect people to really be as dishonest as they really are…Dan!

Pete:  I didn’t expect it to be so expensive to tour.  You don’t make a living; you spend money.

Joe:  I didn’t expect it at this level, with as many videos as we’ve had on MTV and everything.  You see the bus and assume, but…

Marisa:  Do you have any advice for musicians starting out or for people in general?

Sam:  Go to college.  Have something to fall back on just because.

Joe:  Stop slacking and have something to fall back on, because you will fail miserably.

Pete:  If you think you want to get serious, get management first.  Someone who believes in you and you trust, even though they say you can’t trust anybody.

Sam:  If you’re playing, play for people to hear, not just to play.  Play every show no matter how un-important.

Pete:  We were playing this BBQ, and we met a guy that worked at a club.  He put us on a bill that put us on the scene.  We played a waste of time BBQ, and that was our big break.

Marisa:  What kinds of things do you guys have coming up?

Sam:  Play shows and be a huge success.

Pete:  We’re going overseas to Australia and Japan at some point.  We look forward to smelling the people.  I don’t know where we’ll be even the next day, because things fall apart so fast.  We’re only booked through the end of the month.  We are lining other things up, but nothing is confirmed.  We’ll just spend money.

Dan:  There’s rumors that they may do an MTV2 guest VJ spot or possibly being one of the bands with another music television’s idea to have bands living in a house with other bands.

Marisa:  Since we’re running tight on time, I’ll try to get a little of your influences in with this last question.  If you could play with anyone, dead or alive, in any place, where would you play and who would it be with?

Pete:  Helmet with Local H opening on the sidewalk with Evil Knevil jumping over them while they’re playing.

Joe:  I would have The Beetles as an opening act.  I think we’re big enough now that we’d do a headlining tour with them opening in any typical 8 or 9,000 seat arena.  There’d also be 85 Bears, Korn and the old Rage Against The Machine.

Sam:  I think I’d have Milli Vanilli opening.  I’d like to at some point play with Radiohead, so we’d play with them.  Where?  I like clubs, so I’d say the Warfield in San Fransico.

Here's an interview with Mastodon:

With previous albums Remission, Leviathan, Blood Mountain, and Crack the Sky, exploring the earth's elements, Mastodon's The Hunter, promotes following free will.  With songs on the album and the name of the album dedicated in memory to lives lost, The Hunter stands apart from their previous work.  Catching up with the Atlanta boys, Brann Dailor inspired more than a little laughter with time travel and Jamie Lee Curtis.

Author Marisa Williams:  What is your home town, and is that where you live now?

Brann Dailor, drummer/vocalist of Mastodon:  I consider to have two home towns, which is great.  I love Rochester, New York, where I was born and raised.  I love going back there to see my mom, grandparents, cousins and old friends.  I lived there until I was 21 or 22, then moved away.  That place, and Atlanta, Georgia, which is where I have lived over 13 or 14 years now.  I met my wife here.  I moved here having never come here before, then all these great things happened to me; I love it here.  It's my home, and I always excited to get home and play home my town, that way I can just drive over to my house and sleep in my own bed.  The crowd is good to us.  People complain about home town shows sometimes, like they don't get the great reaction at home when they are huge everywhere else, but that's the opposite here.

Marisa:  How did you get started in music?  Did you come from a musical family?  What were your biggest musical influences?

Mastodon:  I came from a musical family.  My grandparents played in a country group during the early 50s, traveled to Nashville, had to make it down there.  After that, after they had broken up, my grandmother played in another band, and my grandfather played in a band called Cinnamon Road, which my uncle also played in.  They would practice in the attic in my grandparent's house, and I would always end up in the attic at 3- and 4-years-old, playing the drums, obviously.  I think kids gravitate towards that, as there's a lack of dexterity for guitar at that age, but I always liked drums.  As I got older, I played in bands with the drums as my instrument.  My mom played in a band.  She was the singer, and her boyfriend was drummer, so we had drums in our living room, which was a big deal.  It was hard to get around when little, as I couldn't reach the foot pedals.  My dad was into jazz and grog rock.  My dad was very much into music.  He was just talking to me today about music; he's on top of stuff, even to this day.  It's a cool thing to connect with your father with music; it's definitely a gift.

Marisa:  Do you play any other instruments besides drums?

Mastodon:  I play a little guitar.  When I was like 9, I got one for Christmas, but I was not as good as Randy Rhodes when I first picked it up, so I got frustrated and went back to drums, but I've played around.  I have rhythm, and can do riffs, but I translate them to Brent, who makes them sound good.

Marisa:  How do you go about writing music?  What comes first for you: drums, guitars, vocals or something else?  Has the process of writing changed for you over the years at all?

Mastodon:  When I start writing, it's usually already completely realized in my head.  I try to imagine a vocal pattern over top of it, but all the music comes first.  Music comes first, and the vocals are thrown into and over top of the music.  We write lyrics up to end of the process.  I'll be next to the vocal booth, writing, and I will hand off lyrics that they sing, so the writing is decidedly unorthodox, but it works for us.

Marisa:  What's the coolest thing about your latest project?

Mastodon:  There's nothing inherently cool about it, but I like the direction of the new material we're working on.  It's all over the place, and I like that about it.  It's new, different and shiny; it's fun to play so far.  I like the new Mastodon material. Around September, we will probably be recording it,  and after that we will release the new work.  I like new stuff, as most musicians do.  We're recording and perfecting that. 

Marisa:  You wrote a song for the upcoming movie Monsters University?

Mastodon:  They just used an older song, off of Leviathan actually.  The movie came out on Friday, so you can go see about two seconds of Mastodon music.  I believe they used Iceland off of Leviathan.  I saw it on Friday; it was funny.

Marisa:  The latest album is named in memorial to Brad Hinds.  How did the news come of his death, and how did the band come up with the idea on how to memorialize him?

Mastodon:  It was obvious in the writing of the album; it was the obvious thing to do.  He was a hunter, so we called it The Hunter.  I guess I wouldn't say it was what defines Brad, but it was a major part of his life, a personal thing for him and Brent.  We felt that it was what needed to be done for his family and for him.  We care very deeply for each other as friends and musical companions, and we knew it was the right thing to do.

Marisa:  What is the scariest thing about being on the road?

Mastodon:  I guess all the fights.  Maybe some of the food at catering, as you never know what's in there.  If you fly a lot, there's the chance to blow up, of you coming down at an inopportune time.  There's that.  I would hate to die on tour.  Chances are my wife isn't going to be there, so that would suck.

Marisa:  Career high and low point so far?

Mastodon:  Hopefully I haven't experienced either yet.

Marisa:  What's your favorite way to travel and why?

Mastodon:  I'd say in my lady's dune buggy; it's a lot of fun to ride around in that thing.

Marisa:  What's your favorite place to travel to, and is there anywhere you have not been to that you would like to go to?

Mastodon:  My favorite place?  I like my house, because I've been all over the place.  I love Russia, Greece, I really love Turkey, Egypt, Brazil and Costa Rica, Mexico, and the list goes on and on, but my house is fairly awesome, so when I get back, it is a breath of fresh air.  On my bucket list is the Dominica Island – not the Dominican Republic - but where the sperm whales go in like March, so I'd like to go there when they're all swimming around and hanging out: it's a small coast of majestic creatures as they swim and play in waters.

Marisa:  What's your biggest musical fantasy?

Mastodon:  I'd love to see Genesis perform all together in 1974.  I wonder if they'll ever perfect time travel?  Wouldn't it suck if you could only go back like two weeks?  We just got in this, but we can only go back to two weeks ago; still, it's kinda weird, but nobody would questions your outfit.

Marisa:  If you were an unicorn, and you could be any color but white, what color would you be and would you have any special powers?

Mastodon:  Uh...I guess I'd be hot pink.  That seems the most logical color for a unicorn, even better than white.  Don't unicorns have special powers?  Can they cure cancer?  Can they cure herpes?  Their horn, if you grind up and rub it on your cold sore, it'd go right away.  I don't get cold sores, by the way, thanks to the majestic unicorn.

Marisa:  If you were yogurt, would you be mixed fruit, fruit on the bottom, what flavor and why?

Mastodon:  I'd be Greek yogurt, because that's really popular, and I want to be popular.  You see Jamie Lee Curtis with Activia, and isn't that Greek yogurt?  Jamie Lee Curtis... you saw Trading Places, right?  I'd just be Greek flavored, and what's that?  A sweaty mustache covered in hair???  They're hairy, the Greek people; sorry.

Marisa:  Describe yourself as either a dog, a cat or a cartoon.

Mastodon:  Isn't there a cartoon called Cat-Dog?  That's me.

Marisa:  Do you collect anything?

Mastodon:  Yea, I collect clowns and velvet paintings.  I got like 50 some odd velvet paintings.

Marisa:  Do you have any hidden talents or special skills?

Mastodon:  Not really.  I don't hide any of my talents.  It's quite apparent, but I can do the moonwalk really good.  Ask my grandmother.  She'll tell ya.  I used to be really good at coloring as well.  I can color anything.  Set me up with a box of crayons.

Marisa:  What's the most important thing to remember?

Mastodon:  I don't know, I forget.

Marisa:  What's your most inspirational moment?

Mastodon:  I was messing around in the bathroom, standing on toilet, and I fell down and hit my head on bathtub.  When I came to, I thought of time travel and the flux capacitor; I had an epiphany.  I had an epiphany about Tiffany in the mall.

Marisa:  If you were not doing music, what would you be doing?

Mastodon:  Probably working at a cool mini-mart or something.  I was really good at ringing people up for snack items and jerky and cigarettes and coffee, making sure things were stocked, making sure hot dogs come off in a timely hour, and making sure the nacho cheese doesn't get that disgusting film all over it.

Marisa:  What are three things you must have with you when you are on the road?

Mastodon:  Pants.  I already said pants, right?  Flowbee, it's a personal hair-cutting machine.  It keeps your hair all nice and trimmed.  Basically, it's like a hair trimmer with a vacuum.  It collects hair, and you can make hair art, or weave a t-shirt, arts and crafts.  There's a lot of hours in the day to knit a shirt.  Flowbee, pants, and at least 25-40 t-shirts.

Marisa:  Any advice for musicians starting out?

Mastodon:  Don't start.  Stop while you're ahead.  Get a real job.  That's it.

Marisa:  Where can people find your music?

Mastodon:  Online:,,, and  There's also Friendster, or under a rock.

Marisa:  Closing thoughts and additional comments?

Mastodon:  Absolutely not.

Bill Kelliher, guitarist of Mastodon, talks about touring and their album Once More 'Round The Sun.

Author Marisa Williams:  Mastodon's new album Once More 'Round The Sun is coming out in June, but what else can people expect from the band in the near future?

Mastodon:  Lots of touring, possibly a new video for “High Road.” We've been on tour, and we finished the record a month and a half ago, so we're prepping to play those songs live.  We're playing two of them live now.  We're preparing for Europe, summer festivals, and a lot of stuff.

Marisa:  How do you go about writing music?  What comes first for you: drums, guitars, vocals or something else?  Has the process of writing changed for you over the years at all?

Mastodon:  I just try to play guitar as much as humanly possible on the road.  There's one always nearby, so play as much as I can.  In the past, we were writing at home when not on tour, all together in one room, and I find it easier now.  When home from tour, I'm busier than when on tour, so with kids and family and obligations, I learned how to use Pro Tools.  When I write and come up with something, I come up with it right then and there.  I use a little drum machine, add bass to it, like a portable studio.  When home from tour, I find I have a collection of riffs with drum beats, and that's how it has changed.   I didn't have a computer before, or know how to use the software, so I had saved it for the studio or being at home.

Marisa:  What is your favorite musical technique?

Mastodon:  In Mastodon, we tune down a full step.  It gives us a full range of heavier sound.  We drop tune from B to C and E to A, which gives us the ability to write a heavier riff.  When Brann hums a riff to me, if it's not heavy enough, we change the tuning of the guitar, which makes it sound completely different.  It opens up a whole new world to tune differently for a different riff.  Changing strings around, it's new tuning.  Right now, we have four or five tunings that we use.

Marisa:  What's something that people might not expect on the new album?

Mastodon:  I think with Mastodon, my theory is the fans expect the unexpected; people don't say, “I wouldn't expect that.”

Marisa:  Mastodon is getting ready to head overseas after Rock on the Range, then you will be returning back for Bonnaroo, and heading back out overseas; where are you most excited about playing overseas, and in your opinion, how does music scene differ in America versus in other countries?

Mastodon:  Playing big festivals in the U.K. is always exciting, as the bands are wild and ravage.  They're huge, like The Download, or Reading and Leeds Festivals in the U.K..  They're always packed with people no matter what, rain or shine.  It's a little different from American audiences.  They love rain and bad weather, because they're used to it.  They can be waste deep in mud and water, and they're willing to watch their favorite band play, no matter what.  They'll slide around in the mud. We're also playing two shows in Russia.  Those fans are diehard.  They keep chanting your name forever after the show.  It's a totally different part of the world, very different from America.  We take a lot of things for granted.  There's things we bitch and complain about, but their tough.  They have political wars, they're restricted and oppressed, but they still come together over music.  It's a totally different world over there than it is here.

Marisa:  Some of Mastodon's music has had an almost story-like quality to it.  Does this new album carry on that tradition, or can you share some of the ideas behind it?

Mastodon:  This record isn't really telling a story.  It's more like loosely based on time and life.  In the four of our lives, it's a window of time in the band Mastodon, the four of us as individuals.  It's a personal story, not like reading a book, a biography, or something like that.  It's not a story per say, more of the things that have happened, emotions and things like that.

Marisa:  How did you get started in music?  Did you come from a musical family?  What were your biggest musical influences?

Mastodon:  My father owned a Hi-fi business in New York.  That was his work.  I remember when the first CDs came out.  I thought it was a live band; it was so clear.  I always had records and music around, but my dad and I didn't have same musical tastes.  He was into jazz.  I was more into punk rock and rebellious music.  My dad first bought me a record of U2's War.  My dad came from Ireland.  He thought I would like it, because it was politically motivated.  I listened to a lot of The Edge, U2, Exploited, Black Flag, Johnny Ramone and simpler but cranked up heavy guitar stuff.  I moved onto Slayer, Metallica, Sound Garden, Nirvana, and more poppier stuff.  I really listened to a lot of Dead Kennedy's and Bad Brains, so I was influenced by that.

Marisa:  What was your first concert that you attended, and how did that compare to the first concert that you played?

Mastodon:  My first concert was Ted Nugent and Areosmith at Rochester Community War Memorial, where I was this morning actually.  I thought it was amazing.  I thought Ted Nugent brought out a girl from the crowd.  He stripped her down, and she was wearing this hot nurse's outfit.  He laid her on a table that came from out of nowhere, and pretended to have sex with her.  Being 14 or 15, I thought it was real and thought that was what happened at concerts.  My first real show was around high school, and it was no comparison at all, just a couple high school buddies.  We put on a talent show at high school.  I guess, thinking about it, part of me felt awesome to be the one on stage with people watching me.  I started getting that feeling that it feels right.  I thought that's what Aerosmith and Ted Nugent felt like, but I didn't think I'd achieve anything that large, didn't think my band would be as big as that ever.

Marisa:  What is the scariest thing about being on the road?

Mastodon:  I would have to say a bus accident; that'd be terrible.

Marisa:  What's your biggest musical fantasy?

Mastodon:  Riding some tasty waves and jamming with The Stones, from Fast Times at Ridgemont High.

Marisa:  If you were an unicorn, and you could be any color but white, what color would you be and would you have any special powers?

Mastodon:  I'd be plaid.  My power would be flying.  I think that would be first.  A flying plaid unicorn would be sick.

Marisa:  Do you have any hidden talents or special skills?

Mastodon:  I'm a break-dancing ninja.

Marisa:  What was your most influential moment?

Mastodon:  Probably the birth of my sons. 

Marisa:  What are three things you must have with you when you are on the road?

Mastodon:  Socks, Underwear and a t-shirt.

Marisa:  Any advice for musicians starting out?

Mastodon:  Stay in school.

For more information on the Fort Rock Festival, visit, and here's a few performances to look forward to this year:

The author of more than 100 books, Marisa Williams earned her Master's in Writing from the Johns Hopkins University; for more on Marisa, visit and 

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