Mastodon's Brent Hinds on making Crack The Skye

Hinds (center) gets wild on Mastodon's latest
Hinds (center) gets wild on Mastodon's latest

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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Joe Bosso

Joe is a freelance journalist who has, over the past few decades, interviewed hundreds of guitarists for Guitar WorldGuitar PlayerMusicRadar and Classic Rock. He is also a former editor of Guitar World, contributing writer for Guitar Aficionado and VP of A&R for Island Records. He’s an enthusiastic guitarist, but he’s nowhere near the likes of the people he interviews. Surprisingly, his skills are more suited to the drums. If you need a drummer for your Beatles tribute band, look him up.