The parallels between Maylene and the Sons of Disaster and professional wrestling are plentiful. The original concept of this Southern metal band was that of a traveling gang of criminals led by their mother Maylene. Much like a gimmick taken on by a wrestler, MATSOD’s concept played out over its first three albums. But with its most recent album, 2011′s IV, the band branched out conceptually and musically, dabbling in more experimental, but no less intense, sounds. Though it’s been a while since we’ve heard from MATSOD, the band embarks on a brief Southeastern tour April 25-30. In my first interview for Wrestling with Pop Culture, I get to talk to front man Dallas Taylor about his music, the band’s work with WWE and The Iron Sheik‘s crazy tweets, among other disastrous topics.
When did you know you wanted to do something in the music business?
I was probably 15, 14 maybe, when my brother got me into playing bass, and just got me into music when I was even younger than that. When I started playing around, I think “Hey Joe” was the first song I learned to play, and I kind of just went from there. I knew I loved it from then. I started out playing bass in bands, then I used to write lyrics for another band I was doing, a really bad band. Our vocalist quit, so I kind of got thrown into it. I never wanted to be a vocalist. I played piano when I was younger, but my dad was a trumpet player and I was a trumpet player, so I have always kind of been into music. But I never really thought I would do anything until I like got into heavy music and was like, “This is awesome!”
You were born in Ocala, Fla. What was your life like growing up? Were you popular, an outcast, a reject, a jock?
I lived 20 miles from town on a dirt road. They put gravel on it when I was about 12 or 13, so I didn’t really hang out. I mean there were no kids to hang out with, besides the kids I went to school with. But I didn’t really hang out a lot. I had a few cousins that lived down the road, but mainly it was horses and farm country.
So a whole lot of playing in the woods, right?
Yeah, lots. I had a dirt bike and stuff like that when I was like 15 or 16, but it was mainly building forts in the woods. I built a tree house trying to keep myself entertained. One of my good friends lived on a horse farm right down the road. We would actually build booby traps… setting up the vines so when you stepped on them they would come up and slap you. We had some awesome stuff. We were thinking that someone would actually walk through them.
But no one ever found it?
We thought someone would come through, but…
In another interview you mentioned that there was a complete change in who you were from middle school to high school.
Yeah. Around the time I was in elementary school and middle school, I guess I was kind of a popular kid. I don’t know how, I guess it was just who I hung out with. They called us The Three Stooges, I guess because I had curly hair or something. And I guess I had, well not even a girlfriend - I don’t think I ever even kissed her. But [she was] one of the popular girls and was my really good friend’s sister. She was a seventh grader or something like that, and I was a fifth grader. But from eighth grade to ninth grade, I got into hardcore music and punk rock and whatever. There was nothing like that where I grew up. I mean nothing. It was country music and rap. And I knew about metal and stuff like that just from my brother, and a lot of other jam bands and stuff like that. But yeah, got into that and came back to school and I was a completely different person. I was quiet and I stood up for the kids that were getting picked on. From then on throughout high school no one really messed with me. But I didn’t really hang out, I was more by myself. Maybe I should have cherished it more, but I hated high school once I got into music. I was the only kid that skateboarded. I built ramps and I got really into that. Then I started realizing how people just lived in that town and thought that was it. The biggest thing to do was to go to the University of Florida 30 minutes away in Gainesville, and that was making it. I was just like “I want to do something else,” so I kind of just felt detached from school. Then I started being in a band when I was in tenth and eleventh grade. I think when I was 16 I tried out for a band and I got in playing bass. So my buddies would come pick me up from school and they’re, like, 22-23 years old. I remember the night of prom, I was driving this old beat up truck to band practice and the limo passed with all the kids and they were honking at me because they knew me. I was going to band practice because I didn’t care about prom. I never went to prom or anything. I never did any of that. I was just more focused on my music, I guess.
Who were you listening to when you were a teenager?
I remember the State Theatre in Saint Petersburg. I skipped school one time and went and saw Hatebreed when I was, like, 17. An older friend took me. I was big into stuff like that, that hardcore stuff, a band called All Out War. But then I got into other stuff. I was big into a band called Neurosis, Cannibal Corpse, I just listened to stuff like that. I liked Sepultura – big Sepultura fan - because no one else was doing that. And I got into punk rock and stuff like that.
Any guilty pleasures (musically) from the past?
I love ’80s pop, like Tiffany…
You know what? I had a Tiffany poster hanging up in my room!
Man I would blare it as loud as I could. I love Celine Dion… a lot. Yeah, so stuff like that is pretty hilarious.
How much of the music that you came up on influenced you in Underoath and Maylene?
With Underoath I just wanted to be in the heaviest band that I could. When we first started out we just wanted to be like a death metal band, and it kind of transformed into more of a poppy thing. When Underoath first started, I started doing vocals and then I started playing keyboards, and we would wear all black and stuff like that. I was big into metal for a while, black metal and death metal, and a lot of the people I hung out with were into that. I was into hardcore, too. But then, after Underoath, I was just taking a break from it and realized I had been running from who I really was. You know, it’s funny. When I started Maylene, everyone, even the guys in Underoath, were like, “Man, this is what you should have been doing all along. This is who you are.” People used to always make fun of me in Underoath because of my accent and how I acted, because I grew up a country kid. You know the difference between St. Pete and Ocala is a big difference, and it’s where I grew up. So Maylene is what I was, what I always wanted. I mean, I loved doing Underoath, but I think I was trying to be something I wasn’t. I was trying to be more of a city kind of guy. I tried to lose my accent, as with Maylene I just embraced it, like the country music I came up with. I saw so many country artists when I was younger, just because of my parents, that I embraced it and I embraced that whole style of what I guess I was trying to run away from.
Well you kind of touched on it so I am just going to skip the question of why you left Underoath. But I understand you are still good friends with them, and I even heard you were on a tour with them and did a couple songs with them or something like that?
Nah, we never did anything like that. I don’t even know if I remember how to do those songs. But we’re all real good friends. I mean, we’ve toured together but we never played songs together. They are all good friends of mine, yeah. Good dudes.
MATSOD was formed in Birmingham, Ala. Do you now or did you live there?
I live in Huntsville/Birmingham. I have a weird situation. I pay rent in Huntsville during the week I’m in Birmingham to see my son. I work, do gutters, when I’m at home, so I pay rent for a place I’m at, like, six days a month.
Well just from me to you man, I got a kid that lives with his mom, and the fact that you make sacrifices to be close to him, that’s really admirable.
Yeah. But I’m from Florida and a lot of the old guys, they’re still good friends but they didn’t want to tour as much. They wanted to settle down, so we got some other guys from Florida. So pretty much we are based out of Florida now. I still live in Alabama, but Florida is my home. I’m a seventh generation Floridian. I mean, I go way back. My mom and dad live here, my aunts and uncles live there, my grandma lives here, my cousin lives right down the street…
What do you think of the general public’s opinion of Alabama being a bunch of backwoods hicks? I live in Georgia, so I kind of see it, too.
Georgia gets it the same, yeah. I kind of like it. I embrace it. I love it to death. Just hearing people’s accents and the way they talk, I’m like, “Yes!” I just love it. That simple way, happy, down-to-earth people, man. It doesn’t get any better. Even where I grew up in Florida, Florida’s real twangy. Where my mom and dad grew up, they had thick accents. I love it. But, yeah. A lot of people think we are just ignorant idiots. It’s funny though because whenever we are on tour and we get pulled over or if I am talking to people, I put it on so hard. This one time we got pulled over by cops for a busted tail light and I was like, “Man, I dunno how to fix ‘em. You got a screwdriver? Maybe we can fix ‘er up!” The cop was like, “That’s it, I’m leavin’!” It’s like they are not even going to try, especially in Canada. “Hell, I didn’t know the tail light was out. How you thank we can fix ‘at?” They are like, “Just please get out of here. You are idiots. Please leave.”
II is the album that got me into you guys and it’s my favorite of them all. How do you feel about this release in comparison to your others?
I love playing a lot of songs off II. It’s one of the funnest albums to play live and yeah it’s one of my favorite albums. The newest one, though, is also one of my favorites just for what I was going through. I needed to make that record. We all did, we were all going through hard times and it was just a hard record to make. But, yeah. II is one of my favorites and is just a fun record.
To me II & III seem heavier and more guitar driven, while IV seems to be more vocal and sounds more melodic.
With IV we knew we wanted to make more straightforward songs and songs that actually get a point across. We wanted it to actually tell a story.
Instead of just rocking out?
Yeah. Maybe we’ll go back to that, we’ll probably go back to that, but this record, I think it needed to happen and have a certain feeling to it.
Your music and theme seems to be influenced not necessarily by religion, but by the concepts that most religion is based on - pretty much to be good, and if you’re not this is what you have to deal with.
Definitely. I have my beliefs. I believe in Jesus and in just loving people and caring for them and connecting people. We try to make it where anybody can get anything out of our music. Even someone that believes something completely different can be like, “Oh, I understood it.” We have never been one of those bands that was like, “This is what we believe, and this and that.” We just want people to know that they are not alone in whatever they go through.
Is there a storied concept on your albums with each one being a chapter in a longer presentation, or are they all individual efforts?
Individual. But the first three were kind of telling a story of the consequences with Mother Maylene and her sons and all that stuff. The fourth record is more personal, but it can still relate to that.
I’m an indie wrestler and the whole gang of outlaws concept of MATSOD reminds me of a stable in wrestling.
It’s funny because I make this comparison all the time and some people get it and some don’t. The comparison between wrestling and music is very similar. I’m trying to get my name out there, I am trying to get “The Human Hand Grenade” dany only out there, so I’ll drive 400 miles to do a show in front of 50 people. Music, to me, is the same way.
You might drive ridiculous hours, sell CDs out of the back of your car and whatnot, and it builds up like fire.
You a fan of the Necro Butcher at all?
He is crazy as shit! But you know what is crazy? The guy is super intelligent.
I have several friends who have sat down and talked with him and said he is amazingly intelligent. He just knew that he had this niche, you know, killing himself and doing this crazy shit, and that pays the bills. You did some work with WWE, doing Chris Jericho and Big Show’s theme and also the Bragging Rights 2009 pay-per-view theme. How did that come to pass?
I think they contacted us, somehow we just met up and we meshed together. It was really cool and it was a lot of fun working with those guys
So you had a good relationship with them?
Yeah, definitely. They are awesome. Everyone at WWE we dealt with was just awesome.
Were you a wrestling fan growing up?
I wasn’t the most diehard fan, but I liked “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan and stuff like that, the [Ultimate] Warrior. Yeah, I grew up watching it. I mean, I loved wrestling, but I wasn’t like this superfan. I guess because out in the country, I don’t even know if we got to watch it at all.
Have you seen wrestling in the past few years?
The last time was with Rey Mysterio, which is cool because we played with P.O.D. and he came out with them in San Diego and introduced them. I watched the Hardy Boyz. Yeah, that’s the last time I really watched it. You know what’s funny is our guys have been following The Iron Sheik. His Twitter is hilarious.
Yeah, that dude is out of control. Did you see the war between him and Michael Ian Black?
No, but we were just reading his shit and it is hilarious.
They went back and forth for, like, two days. I think that even John Stamos got brought into it. Sheik said something about “Michael Ian Black is faggot like John Stamos’ moustache,” and Stamos was like, “Uh, how the fuck did I get brought in this?” It was quite funny.
Yeah, man. At first I was like, “This has got to be a joke.” And they were like, “No, that is really him.”
Who, if anyone, would you like to work with or collaborate with in the future?
Ah, man. I don’t know. Let me think. I listen to a lot of weird different stuff, so I don’t know. Let me think. There is this band from the UK called the White Lies that I’m big into. Man, I listen to so much stupid stuff. Slipknot is awesome. I guess Tori Amos would be someone, if I could just hang with her and do some stuff that would be really cool.
Is there anything you would like to say to people that might stumble upon this interview?
Just keep your head up. We all face hard times, and we are all going to face hard times. Just hang in there.