You are suited to this lifestyle or you are not...
“We arrived yesterday for a 30-day tour,” Mastodon bass player Troy Sanders tells us. “You are suited to this lifestyle or you are not.”
Given his band’s near non-stop touring schedule, we’d say that Troy is suited to this way of life.
“Some of our friends, wives or girlfriends might come join us for two or three days and jump on the bus and after 48 hours they wonder how we can do this for a living,” he continues.
“Whereas some people can feel the pirate vibe or the gypsy vibe and they see it as a great way to travel, work, learn and live.
“So I think that you’re either cut out for this life or you’re not as far as the travelling goes.”
With Mastodon heading out on another run of UK shows towards the end of the year, we thought it was the perfect time to ask Troy to share with us the secrets of how this band of big personalities has made it 17 years into a hard-touring career without tearing strips off each other.
Here come Troy’s top tips for surviving the harsh life that you’ll find out on the road…
Mastodon tour the UK in December:
2 Dec: Cardiff Great Hall
4 Dec: Wolverhampton Civic Hall
5 Dec: Nottingham Rock City
6 Dec: Newcastle Northumbria Uni
7 Dec: Glasgow Barrowland
9 Dec: Manchester Academy
10 Dec: London O2 Academy Brixton
1. Find bandmates with a shared work ethic
“When the Mastodon guys first met we all agreed and all had the same vision of the type of music that we wanted to create and we also realised that we needed to take our music out to people.
“We had this work ethic already set in place before we even wrote one song. I think that is the main reason that we have had this longevity as the same four guys in Mastodon.
"This band is 17 years old now and that is really rare. We’ve outlasted a lot of marriages and friendships, and that is nuts. Having a lot of mutual respect and friendship is a huge part of having that longevity.
"You need to do what you love and love what you do. The four of us still very much share that attitude and love what we do."
2. Find comfort in discomfort
“As far as travelling, whether it’s in an RV, a camper or a bus like we are lucky enough to have, you learn to be comfortable in feeling uncomfortable. That is all part of it.
“Take yourself camping with your friends for a long time and you will see if you’re cut out for this life or not. Follow your heart and you will know if you’re going in the right direction, whether that be in music or anything in life.
“When you read tour dates it looks extremely glamorous. It’s like on this tour tomorrow we play in Paris and then we fly in to Stockholm. It looks fabulous. From a band’s perspective it is great because we have all of these gigs lined up that will be great shows for our band.
“However, what you don’t read is the intense travel, the overnights, the 6AM flights and the 2AM trips to get the gear. It's much more involved that just looking at the tour dates and thinking it's incredible. Having a healthy list of tour dates is incredible for the band’s prosperity and what they strive to do and what they thrive on.
“But it's a very popular misconception that it's glamorous. The first thing that all 12 of us on our bus do each morning is exit the bus looking for a toilet. That is the first adventure of the day for many days in a row. That becomes a game and a lot of people can’t wrap their head around the reality of that.
“That's all part of this ship that we’re on. It's always an adventure. I’m not complaining; I have been very fortunate to do this for 17 years with Mastodon.”
3. Plan your day around showtime
“We prefer having a setlist that we dial in and it becomes this muscle memory and has a nice flow to it. We will then stick to that particular setlist.
“In the summers we do a lot of different festivals, so we’re playing different set lengths so we change the setup. But ultimately whether it’s 30 minutes, 50 minutes or our 90-minute headline set, the other 23 hours of the day are geared up to that hour or so on stage.
“Our goal is to do everything we can to make the best of our time on stage. So you learn to base the remainder of the day around that, things like when to eat, when to sleep and things like that. You need to focus on the reason that you're there, and our reason we are here today [at Download Festival] is because we’re playing a set.
“People might think, ‘Oh wow, all you have to do today is play a 50-minute set.’ Well, yeah, but it’s not like you’re at home and you have to just go to our job for 50 minutes. It takes the entire day to do the set that we’re doing.
“I need to warm up vocally before we play. I will do a 20-minute warm-up with little humming regiment that opens up the mouth, throat, tongue and diaphragm, because I go from daytime, normal, casual Troy Sanders to the guy on stage going kind of apeshit.
“So I need to wake myself up belly to throat. I don’t tend to play much bass before going on stage; I just pick that up and play. Our drummer, however, he will warm up on a practice kit for nearly an hour. Different strokes for different folks.”
4. Find gear that works for you
“This is our job but we consider it as a hobby that has turned into this.
“We love different amps, guitars and pedals, but we stick to a rig that we know works. We store gear in the UK for our UK and European tours. We busted our rig out of storage yesterday and made sure it all worked.
“You want the gear that you prefer to play and the sounds that you want. That's what creates each individual’s sound and what creates the Mastodon sound, so we are very particular about the gear that we play through.”
5. Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse
“You need to be tight as a band when you get on stage.
“You need to be damn well-rehearsed. You may know all of the songs, but when you jump on stage with thousands of people and the stage sound will be different to what you are used to, so you need to know those songs inside and out.
“There are a lot of things that are distracting to your mind, eyes and ears wen you’re on stage, so you need to know the music.”