Mere weeks away from the release of “Death is not Ashamed”, one of the most anticipated debut albums in the Hampton Roads Metal scene in recent memory, we sat down with Mammoth Black front man Brett Lloyd and guitarist Ross Becker at their practice space on Virginia Beach Blvd. Much of the initial enthusiasm for this emerging project centers on the high standard and determined creative trail Lloyd carved out in 2013 with his former band Pillbuster. “Handpicked” by Lloyd, Mammoth Black’s members and sound are a diligent bid by a driven front man looking to cultivate an inspiring environment in tune with helping to assert his prolific voice.
Interview & photography of Mammoth Black by Fitz
757E: Before your video shoot for “Death Mask” at Shaka’s not long ago we were discussing Mammoth Black’s guitar tone, how do you go about cultivating the band’s thick guitar tone?
Ross: I really wanted to create a wall of sound but sonically we want to touch on some of that Crowbar, Mastodon, Clutch feel… that really dirty metal sound but still tight and focused.
757E: Is it primarily these three bands you’re pulling from for influence while developing the tone?
Ross: Only to a certain extent, we’re not trying to be like anyone else. You can hear influences but we’re not a carbon copy or aspiring to be a carbon copy of anyone.
757E: Locally in Hampton Roads are there any bands that inspire you on guitar?
Ross: I really like Divine Ratio & Freedom Hawk… to some degree they are an influence but we are a bit heavier.
757E: What bands were you in before Mammoth Black?
Ross: I was in the band Toque, then Beneath the Soil… they were a metalcore band… then OS76 which was a melodic Deftonesish type band
757E: Is there some essential variable or component that you touch on or tap into during the writing process that has brought about such a cultivated tone?
Ross: Honestly, the key to the sound of Death is not Ashamed guitar wise really has to do with working with Billy Strong. I can come up with riffs and when Billy hears it he can refine and make it what it should be as a complete song or segment of music. The guitar work is 50-50. He brings a focus to the process that is indispensable.
757E: How did Mammoth Black come into being?
Brett: I was tired of being pulled one way in Pillbuster. I wanted something more fun so I reached out to Billy who is my brother-in-law. We get along really well and with big Steve, we were all in a band called Down Again. Since I was 13 I’ve known Ross and he’s a really talented guitarist and I knew his character would mesh well with Corbitt on drums and then Billy and Steve. I knew they would really gel together… this band is handpicked by me in a lot of ways.
757E: Did you form Mammoth Black while still in Pillbuster?
Brett: I did start Mammoth Black while I was still in Pillbuster. Really I wanted to have more fun honestly. I wanted to try something on my own. I had my own ideas that were separate from what Pillbuster was doing. There was a sense of needing to be free. Not that Pillbuster was a jail. I just wanted to do something that was more on the fun side of things with my friends something that brought me more enjoyment.
757E: So it was you that left Pillbuster? Did the band as a whole split as well?
Brett: I think we all walked away from Pillbuster as much as everyone might not want to admit it. I think that’s kind of how it went down. For me I left and haven’t really talked to them since. It was hard to leave when you’ve invested so much into something. But in the case of Pillbuster I couldn’t stay in something that my heart was no longer into.
757E: How do the internal workings, aka the politics in Mammoth Black differ from Pillbuster per say?
Brett: I shot from the gut. I really like to do things that way. With me and this band everyone has a voice. I hear everyone’s opinion. Everybody hears mine and we all get along.
Ross: I do look at Brett as the leader of this band but I do see it as everybody has an equal voice and I definitely feel respected and I feel like everyone’s respected.
757E: Vocally, Brett, do you approach vocals different in Mammoth Black than you did in Pillbuster?
Brett: I sing one way, raw, loud, there really isn’t anything different about my approach. Maybe it could be said that it there’s a darker feel with some of the music so some could hear the vocal as coming across darker.
757E: With Mammoth Black is there a direction or place you wish to see it go? I know with Pillbuster the standard was high… associations with Fm99 quite a bit of national press ect. ect.
Brett: There is an old-school punk ethos with this band. We have a Black Flag, Minor Threat feel. We write on our own terms, old-school, that’s it, fuck the way people feel about. We’re doing this for us. We are not trying to follow rules or trends. It’s organic.
757E: When is the debut album due out?
Brett: The album is due out in early December. It’s seven songs and was recorded by Dick Hodgin at Osceola Studios in Raleigh NC. He recorded the Pillbuster album. Hodgin really understands us and I trust him. The first video will be for the song Open Death Letter which was a video shot by John Dorner at VA pro. The mastering was done by Kitchen in Raleigh North Carolina whom I also trust and the album artwork was done by McKinley Illustration. Through Hodgin and Kitchen I knew the sound would come out oldschool like they did it back in the day. Too much music out there now is over polished… over done… I live in an imperfect world and I like to play imperfect music.
for more on Mammoth Black visit:
757E Zine is a bi-monthly music, arts, and culture magazine dedicated to local musicians and artists who are not afraid to push boundaries. 757E Zine doesn't strive to be "safe" but rather in touch with what is new and unique in Hampton Roads music and art.
Contact us. for advertising opportunities.