But Heppner is rather cryptic when it comes to his band’s recording methods, because he thinks the massive heaviness behind Priestess tracks such as “I Am The Night, Colour Me Black” and “Talk to Her” aren’t merely a result of gear choices or studio techniques.
“The heaviest moments in our tunes come from passion,” he exclaims. “It’s when we’ve totally abandoned ourselves to the music, and our intensity as a band—and as individual players—just syncs up. It’s a different kind of tightness that goes beyond the metronome. It’s about everyone being in the same headspace at the same time. Some of the heaviest music I’ve ever heard is on old James Brown records, because you can just feel the whole band operating together on the same level of emotional intensity.”
To achieve such a Zen-like state, Heppner advises guitarists to pay more attention to their souls than to their hands.
“Stop analyzing what you’re playing,” he counsels, “and let your hands just go where they feel. Good stuff happens when you operate on a subconscious level. For example, once I was jamming, and I was so caught up in the moment that I didn’t bother to stop after I broke my A string. As a result, I wound up writing the string-skipping riff for “Lay Down,” which is my favorite riff on Hello Master.”
Apparently Heppner’s enthusiasm for total musical abandonment is even contagious enough to draw in audience members.
“At our last New York City show, I jumped into the crowd during the closing number,” he says. “All of a sudden, I felt someone reach around from behind, pull my hands off my guitar, and then start playing the sickest solo I’d ever heard! I turned around, and it was none other than Mastodon guitarist Brent Hinds! That was one of the coolest onstage moments I’ve ever experienced, because it was the kind of excitement you can’t plan. It was about being completely lost in the moment.”