Brann Dailor may be known as the drummer for the progressive metal band Mastodon, but he is also a collector of fine art.
"I've got a film crew coming over to film in front of my velvet painting collection," says Dailor. "I have a couple of Elvis, of course, but I have some weird ones — Stevie Wonder, JonBenet Ramsey, Monica Lewinsky, E.T., Dr. Zaius, the Dude from 'Big Lebowski,' Gene Simmons and Peter Criss, Lionel Richie, clowns, unicorns ... King Diamond. It's pretty cool."
Dailor has been collecting since the mid-1990s and now has a whole room dedicated to them.
"I was always attracted to velvet paintings," he says. "Just the colors on the black really attracted me as a kid. And some of them are so bad it's just awesome. Then some of them are incredibly well-painted."
You might think of Mastodon as making music that started like those velvet paintings but graduated to fine art. After all, the group comes from a genre that can be lovably lunkheaded. Mastodon, however, creates metal that is complex and engrossing. It's the sort of metal that draws converts from camps of people who aren't metal fans. The band's albums sometimes have themes — from the "Moby Dick"-inspired "Leviathan" to the Rasputin and wormhole ideas of "Crack the Skye," and there's a trippy, almost Pink Floyd-meets-metal aspect to some of the group's creations.
The first piece of music Dailor remembers having an effect on him was "Disco Duck," which he remembers as the hit of a birthday party, but it may be something somewhat more sophisticated that sparked his interest further back than he can actually remember:
"My dad always tells the story about how I'd listen to Beethoven's 9th with the headphones on and I kept requesting everything Beethoven. We'd go to a restaurant and I'd request a Beethoven sandwich!"
Dailor says he was influenced by lots of music of the time — David Bowie, Genesis, Stevie Wonder. Later, as a teen, he discovered early dark metal masters Judas Priest and Iron Maiden, which he's never quite gotten over.
"I'm 37 and still requesting T-shirts with upside down crosses, always black!"
Dailor began playing in bands as a young teen, including a group with guitarist Bill Kelliher. The two ventured south to Atlanta from New York in the late 1990s. There they met guitarist Brent Hinds and bassist/vocalist Troy Sanders and formed Mastodon in 2000.
The band released its first full-length album, "Remission," in 2002 and began gaining a national reputation. However, it was the group's third full-length disc, 2006's "Blood Mountain," (its first on Warner Bros. Records) that landed Mastodon on critic's best-of-the-year lists.
"We've always played exactly what we wanted," says Dailor. "Every record we've put out is something we're deeply in love with."
Dailor says the group's current trend is toward simpler songs and his drumming reflects that.
"The songs are less complicated and I try to not let my ego get in the way of a good song."
While Mastodon continues to gain fans and momentum, Dailor says the group has never been too goal-oriented.
"We're just enjoying the ride. We're interested in being as successful as we can be within the confines of the music that we love, and seeing how far that particular road takes us. We had no aspirations to even get this far. We look at other bands like Tool and Metallica and be like, 'It would be cool to get to that point and have an entire stadium singing your songs.' But we're pretty content with where we are."
His personal goal is to successfully juggle a good home life with being a touring musician.
"I just want to make sure when I'm home I'm really home," says Dailor. "Every now and then I have to say, 'Honey, there's a lot of strangers out there who need to see us play.' "
© 2012, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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