Mastodon's Brent Hinds on making Crack The Skye

Since the release of their third album Blood Mountain, the Atlanta-based band Mastodon have been called progressive metal's brightest hope. Crack The Syke, their newest effort, makes that promise manifest. It's a dizzying experience from top to bottom, and one that expands with each listen.

"My mind's the most cosmic place I could ever visit," says the band's colorful lead guitarist and vocalist Brent Hinds. "All I have to do is zone out and play the guitar, and before you know it, I've visted places unheard of. I put all of that into Mastodon's music."

As opposed to fellow guitarist Bill Kelliher, a no-nonsense, orderly sort, Hinds is a rangy, free-wheeler who says, "If it ain't about havin' good times, I'm not interested."

Hinds comes back after a beating

"Just listen to the awesome shit Mastodon does - you can't do that with normal senses and brain waves" guitarist and singer Brent Hinds

Those good times have had serious consequences: In 2007, after a full-on drinking game with Foo Fighter Dave Grohl, Hinds took his celebration to the streets of Las Vegas, where he suffered a severe beating from William Hudson, a friend of System Of A Down's Shavo Odadjian. For several months, Hinds's prognosis was in question - beyond broken bones, he faced possible brain damage.

Luckily, he pulled through and, in his words, has a "new lust for life." But Hinds's near-death experience hasn't curtailed his love for weed and other stimulants which, in his opinion, "give me the ultimate creativity. Just listen to the awesome shit Mastodon does - you can't do that with normal senses and brain waves. I impress myself all the time with how 'out there' my mind goes."

OK, so Hinds isn't the idea candidate for anti-drug PSAs. But he and the rest of Mastodon (which also includes drummer Brann Dailor and bassist Troy Sanders) have crafted a thrilling, challenging musical opus with the Brendan O'Brien-produced Crack The Skye, which takes the Byzantine storylines of the group's past albums and rockets them into another galaxy.

In the exclusive MusicRadar podcast below, Hinds (who, mid-interview, jumps in his truck and drives through a pouring rain to attend band practice) discusses his unique approach to songwriting - he doesn't demo things, ever! - along with his gleeful embrace of O'Brien's priceless guitar and gear collection for Crack The Skye. "Anything I could want was in Brian's studio," says Hinds. "But none of it would matter if I didn't have the whole record in my ol' noggin."

Part one - Hinds enthuses about Crack The Sky, discusses his beating, and explains how he composes on acoustics

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Part two - Working with Brendan O'Brien, watching horror films with Max Weinberg, guitars and more guitars, Medieval Times with Dave Grohl, touring with Metallica

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