by Christine Leonard
“All of the songs in my head are Black Mastiff!”
It’s a common condition among those who have been exposed to the Edmonton rock band’s wide-bottomed grooves and soulful vocals. Renowned for their thick curves and intuitive rhythms, the heavy blues-metal trio has eclipsed their local scene and grown in stature and repute on a diet of beefy riffs and Alberta rye.
Far from the desert canyons and rocky peaks pursued by their headbanging bretheren, Black Mastiff is most at home prowling the urban landscape and exploring Edmonton’s dark underbelly. It’s where they found the inspiration for their latest album, Loser Delusions; its name a cheeky tip of the bandana to Axl Rose, reflecting Black Mastiff’s state of mind.
“It was first thrown out as a bit of a joke,” explains bassist Clay Shea. “We had a giggle and then we thought about it for a bit and it just kind of made sense to us, with the way the writing process had been going and our dedication to the process of getting together. Our drummer, Allan (Harding), had been living in Vancouver and we were just trying to stay motivated and were a bit delusional about the future.”
It was a trial and a test for the sludgy outfit, who’s self-titled debut appeared in 2011. Working on Loser Delusions, Shea and guitarist/vocalist Bob Yiannakoulias knew they had reached a crucial stage in the band’s development, a high watermark that would see the fuzzy entity sink or swim for its melodic life.
“We’re always going for it, but we had to work hard to make this one happen,” says Yiannakoulias of working long-distance. “It took a lot of motivation, because that cathartic thing you get from going to practice, turning up the amps, cranking up, blowing through your songs and having those rewarding jams wasn’t there. Sometimes it was less fun, but we had to stay really focused, and keep our shit together, and put in that time. Everybody had to pretty much step up the level of dedication.”
And step up they did, creating their own record label Grand Hand, in cahoots with tourmates Chon Goblin, along the way. It was a decision that put them in charge of their destiny and once Black Mastiff had the leash in their jaws there was no restraining their artistic impulses.
“We never really lost control,” says Shea, “but I feel like this was all just about regaining control and knowing we can keep doing this. We’ve got the chops to keep doing what we’re doing.”
Black Mastiff perform Fri, Oct. 11 at The Palomino Smokehouse (Calgary), Fri, Oct. 18 at Hard Luck (Toronto) and Fri, Oct. 25 at Temple (Edmonton).Black Mastiff