"I kept taking acid and doing bunches of drugs to try to deal with it, and it was evil," he recalls. "Nothing made sense. My stepfather bailed because he couldn't take it, and my mom and I were all alone. Then she went into a mental hospital and I started feeling suicidal, so I went to the hospital for a few weeks as well."
In 1992, Dailor played in Lethargy with future Mastodon guitarist Kelliher. Frustrated by the inability to land a good record deal, Lethargy broke up in 1997, and Dailor and Kelliher moved to Clinton, MA, and joined Today Is the Day, a technical noisecore band that influenced numerous outfits, including Dillinger Escape Plan, Converge, and Between the Buried and Me.
Being in Today Is the Day seemed like a solid career move. The band was fronted by visionary and eccentric songwriter Steve Austin and had already released three well-received albums. However, Austin controlled every facet of the band, from songwriting to promotion, and his musicians were on a meager retainer. Determined to start anew, Kelliher made plans to move to Atlanta, where his girlfriend was working, and convinced Dailor to come along. They quickly found a rehearsal space and started writing. Ten days later, Dailor met Hinds at a High on Fire show at an Atlanta house party. "I knew he was the drummer for Today Is the Day," Hinds says. "And I went, 'Hey, man, my band Four Hour Fogger just broke up. I'm ready to go. We got a bunch of songs. Let's get together.'"
Impressed by Hinds's bravado, Dailor scheduled a jam session, but the whole thing almost went belly-up when Hinds met them at a local restaurant extremely stoned and drunk and nearly got into a fight with the cook. Then, when they got to rehearsal, he insisted on playing a single, droning chord over and over until everyone unplugged and left.
"I was kind of surprised because a lot of people told me he was a really good player, but they also said, 'Oh, don't be in a band with him. He's got a lot of baggage.' So there were red flags all over the place," says Dailor. "But I called him the next day and invited him to my house so I could hear him play sober, and he came over with an acoustic guitar and ripped out all this crazy shit. I think he kind of knew the night before didn't go so well. But he definitely proved himself to be an amazing guitar player."
With the two factions united—Hinds and Sanders, Dailor and Kelliher—the musicians came up with their band name from Kelliher's first tattoo, which depicts a Bantha skull from Star Wars that appears on Boba Fett's armor. "Brent was looking at it and he was like, 'What's the name of that thing—not the woolly mammoth, but the other one?'" Kelliher says. "And we're all, 'Mastodon.' And it just clicked. 'Yeah, Mastodon. That sounds cool.'"
In August 2008, with Crack the Skye completed, the members of Mastodon figured they had ascended Blood Mountain again and their major career obstacles were behind them. Feeling triumphant, they headed to Europe in November 2008 to play a tour with Slayer. Then Kelliher almost died.
Mastodon were in the middle of a 15-hour bus ride from Cardiff, Wales, to Edinburgh, Scotland, when the guitarist started feeling a severe burning pain in his upper abdomen and stomach. He tried to sleep, then made himself throw up, but the pain increased. By the time the band reached Scotland, Kelliher was in agony. He went to a clinic and was given pills for gastroenteritis. They didn't help and Kelliher couldn't play the show. He struggled through the night sweating and shivering, and the next day in London he checked into the Royal London Hospital for tests. He expected to be there for a few hours. He would up staying two and a half weeks.
"One of my organs had swollen up really bad, and my blood sugar was through the roof," Kelliher says. "My body was actually shutting down and going into shock. My doctor said that if I hadn't gone to the hospital that day I easily could have died."
Having endured two recent near-death experiences before releasing the most awe-inspiring album of their career, Mastodon are now as tight as they've ever been, and they're ready to conquer the world. Even though they're heading into their ninth year as a band, they're as hungry as ever, they still hang out together in Atlanta on a regular basis, and they can't wait to head out on the Crack the Skye tour, during which they plan to perform the entire record front to back.
"Going through what we've been through brings you closer to even your enemies," Hinds says. "And we've always been more like brothers anyway. Shit, man, we're so close now we're borderline gay."