Rhythm guitarist Bill Kelliher is a tree of a guy you shouldn't compete against in arm wrestling or finger hooking. Although he seems rather grumpy at first glance, he turns out to be a charming conversationalist. Unlike Tool frontman Maynard Keenan, for example, he doesn't hide behind dripping irony and artistic aloofness, but talks at length about the eighth Mastodon opus "Hushed And Grim" and the personal experiences and feelings that underlie it
eclipsed: As on "Emperor Of Sand", "Hushed And Grim" is also about an emotional coming to terms with a death in the band's environment. Is it therefore a sequel?
Bill Kelliher: Well, again, it's about how we as a band cope with burying friends and family members. I don't know if it's an age thing, if it's normal to lose people in your late 40s/early 50s. In the case of Emperor Of Sand, it was my mother who died of a brain tumor, and that was a horrible experience. I spent days by her side so I wouldn't leave her alone in hospice. And before "Hushed And Grim" we lost Nick John, who was not only the manager of the band, but also a very good friend. His death hit us so hard that every song on this album is about him. For my part, I didn't expect it to come to this. I didn't realize it until just before he died, when I went to see him in the hospital and realized how bad he was. Before that, I thought, "He's young and strong - he's going to make it." But that wasn't the case, and accepting that was awful. I then took that negative energy and worked through it in violent, emotional pieces.
eclipsed: So music as self-therapy?
Kelliher: Basically, it's more therapeutic for the listeners, who know that it has a painful origin. And I get about ten emails a day saying, "I lost my sister to suicide, and even though you guys are in this successful metal band, you make me feel like you've been through everything I'm going through." We have. Because we're human beings - and the fact that we play in a successful band doesn't make any difference
eclipsed: Whereby it sometimes comes across as if you want to give life help - as if your songs are a manual for dealing with nasty neck blows. Are they, or is that too much of an exaggeration?
Kelliher: Honestly, one of the greatest things about this band is the lyrics - for the simple reason that so much can be interpreted into them. It reminds me of listening to bands in the '70s and '80s - as a kid - and thinking, "Sure thing, they're singing about this and that." When it was about something completely different. But the whole thing was worded in such a way that it made for certain images and associations in the listener's imagination. It's the same with Mastodon: if you put on your headphones, close your eyes and let the lyrics in combination with the music affect you, it creates all kinds of feelings. Say: It means what you want it to mean. It's not, "Hi, I'm so and so and here I am telling you how my father abused me as a child." Mastodon's lyrics tend to be ambiguous.