2020 has been hard work, huh? And if there’s anyone who knows about hard work, it’s Troy Sanders, he of art-metal titans Mastodon and the ‘supergroups’ Killer Be Killed and Gone Is Gone.
Today Gone Is Gone (who also feature Troy Van Leeuwen of Queens of the Stone Age, Tony Hajjar of At The Drive-In and Mike Zarin of Sencit Music) announce their new album ‘If Everything Happens For A Reason…Then Nothing Really Matters At All’ and share the single ‘Breaks’. It turns out that Sanders has been working on not one, not two, but three new albums of music this year. “I’m not burnt out yet,” he says, “but I’m getting there…”
We thought now was a good time to catch-up with Troy before he bursts into flames.
Hello Troy. How has this extremely strange year been for you?
Troy: “I’ve been very fortunate. I’ve managed to be super creative this year. I’ve been working on three albums and I’ve been able to completely focus on all of them. I wouldn’t have been able to do that had things been normal. There was loads of Mastodon activity initially scheduled for 2020. What is happening right now is extremely unfortunate for the worldwide situation, but personally, I have to say, it’s been great for me. Music has kept me sane.”
It’s weird isn’t it. COVID has brought tragedy to millions of people’s lives. It almost feels disrespectful to admit that it’s had some benefits…
“I guess it’s just taking advantage of the time available to you. The thing with working on lots of projects is it’s hard to switch musical trajectories sometimes and I haven’t had that problem this year. I like to think I’m a person who has always been able to see a positive within a negative. I know a lot of people are going through much more difficult times so I try not to sound too proud of myself, but if you ask the question, I have to be honest and say that 2020, in hindsight, has been pretty great, on a personal level.”
Were you born with that sort of positivity or is it something you’ve had to acquire?
“A bit of both. My parents are very positive people, but I’ve learned it over many years getting out, seeing the world and experiencing life. I think it’s so important, man – at least for me. It’s so easy to dwell on all things negative. It surrounds you in this world. I think the secret is to be honest about situations you’re in. To take control of them. There are many negative aspects of my personal world. If I didn’t try to see positives and roll with them, I’d be swallowed up.”
It must have been hard though. Mastodon are based in Atlanta. Your rehearsal space is called Ember City, named after a song on 2014’s ‘Once More Around The Sun’. Atlanta is a city that’s been a central to many of the protests raging in America this year…
“There’s been some fiery, violent protests going on, and right near the Ember City. It’s only a mile away where that fast food restaurant burned down [a Wendy’s, on the site where 27-year-old Rayshard Brooks was shot by police] and that other gentleman [25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery] was shot to death. It’s very close to home and very unsettling. It’s better than it was, but tension is high.”
Let’s talk about some of these projects you’ve been working on this year. Let’s start with Gone is Gone and your new album coming in December…
“We put out our first album in 2017 [‘Echolocation’] and it was loosely what the group started as, which was those guys writing soundtracks for movies and videogames. But this record moves things on a little and I think is a much more realised version of what those guys always intended Gone Is Gone to be.”
And what’s that?
“There’s a bit more of a rock influence. The music is much more layered and synth-oriented. A lot of the tracks aren’t traditional songs, I think of them more as pieces. We wanted the album to be a journey, lyrically and musically from start to finish. There are some full-on songs in there. There’s some heaviness. There’s lightness. There’s real darkness – actually when I listen back to it, more than intended.”
The record is called ‘If Everything Happens For A Reason…Then Nothing Really Matters At All’. Was this album written in a serendipitous way?
“What happened with this record was that we were planning to book a month-long writing session in Los Angeles in 2015 and all four of us were going to be there. We don’t live in the same city, so we have to really plan getting together. I had to postpone because that June my wife was diagnosed with breast cancer.
“When that happened, Mastodon cancelled our summer tour and I stayed home to try to figure out what my life was going to be like now. The other three still got into a room and created the music that is coming on the new record. I chimed in lyrically, and in terms of the bass, over the past few months, remotely. I didn’t want to do that, but for obvious reasons, I couldn’t fly and be in the same room with those guys for a month.”
Is your wife OK now?
“She’s great. I had never been directly affected with cancer at the time I was talking about, so we had to take a crash course on what was presented to us and navigate a path forward together. It’s been five years now, and, in the world of that hideous disease, once you are in remission for five or more years, your chances of recurrence go down greatly. So that’s a little weight off our shoulders.”
That’s great news. 2020 marks 20 years of Mastodon. Not a great year for such a big anniversary…
“We’ve decided we’re going to wait until next year when we turn 21 and then we’re going to have a drink together. In the US, legal drinking age is 21, after all. We’ve been working on stuff though. We’ve spent a lot of this year in Atlanta going through bits and pieces and lyrics and everything. We’ve been working super hard. We’re very close to recording our next record. We will have something out in 2021.”
21 is one hell of a stint, especially to keep a solid line-up in all that time. What’s your secret?
“You have to do it for the right reasons. And those right reasons are because you enjoy the company that you’re with and you enjoy the sound that you’re creating. If it’s fresh to you, if it’s new, invigorating and it gives you something to look forward to, then you can go the distance. You have to do it because you love it. Bottom line.”
Good advice. Speaking of bands who’ve gone the distance, you’re an actual signed up member of Thin Lizzy now?
“Oh yeah, those shows I did with them in 2019 were the highlight of my year. It was no pressure at all, just muscle memory playing some of my favourite ever songs and looking out at the crowd. Scott Gorham [Thin Lizzy guitarist] seemed happy with my performance and said he was looking forward to us doing it again. I hope they do something next year. It’s amazing seeing that many people having such a good time.”
Also, your second album, Killer Be Killed’s ‘Reluctant Hero’ is out on November 20. You do that band with Dillinger Escape Plan’s Greg Puciato, among others…
“Yes. That’s an album we’ve been slowly working on since our one and only tour in Australia in 2015. We’ve been chipping away, lining up our calendars… When everyone has a bit of time off, we convene in a room in Phoenix and we create music that we absolutely love. I’m very proud to have been able to contribute a lot to that record this year. It’s super heavy. I can’t listen to it without smiling.”
Mastodon launched their internet cooking show this year, with you in the guise of Chef Troyardee. You said in one of the videos that you were using milk from a goat you’d milked yourself?
“Yeah, I’d milked it that morning.”
“No, I was just making shit up.”
“Yeah, I don’t have a goat. I’ve never milked a goat. I probably will never milk a goat. It’s all fake news.”
Gone Is Gone release ‘IF EVERYTHING HAPPENS FOR A REASON… THEN NOTHING REALLY MATTERS AT ALL’ on December 2. See the tracklist below.
2. ‘Say Nothing’
3. ‘Everything Is Wonderfall’
4. ‘Wings Of Hope’
5. ‘Sometimes I Feel’
6. ‘No One Ever Walked On Water’
7. ‘Death Of A Dream’
8. ‘Crimson, Chaos and You’
11. ‘Force Of A Feather’
12. ‘Dirge For Delusions’