Mastodon’s Brent Hinds on why he hates Santana’s “Smooth”
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In HateSong, we ask our favorite musicians, writers, comedians, actors, and so forth to expound on the one song they hate most in the world.
The hater: As the face-tattooed guitarist of Mastodon, Brent Hinds cuts a rather imposing figure. While he might look metal to the core, Hinds grew up listening mostly to country and rockabilly. That kind of music—everything from Chet Atkins to Brian Setzer—is what inspired Hinds’ second band, West End Motel. Its latest record, Only Time Can Tell, is a remarkably distinct turn away from Mastodon’s wheelhouse, full of shout-out-loud vocals and semi-funky melodies. The breadth of Hinds’ musical tastes doesn’t mean he likes everything, though, so The A.V. Club asked him to pick his least favorite song of all time.
The hated: Santana featuring Rob Thomas, “Smooth” (1999)
Brent Hinds: The thing I hate about this song is that it got way too much attention for sucking that bad. It’s just like someone taking a carrot peeler and gouging it into your ears and skinning your ears. It’s just—ech! Just talking about it I’m cringing.
The A.V. Club: It was No. 1 for 12 weeks
BH: And that’s another thing I hated about it. I hated the accolades it got. It just really never seemed to stop getting under my skin. Everywhere I turned, there was that song, and anywhere I went, there was the song. It was just always playing. And that one part, “Or else foh-get about it.”
AVC: Did you like Santana to begin with?
BH: I loved Santana—loved Santana.
AVC: So did that make it worse for you?
BH: That’s another reason why I hate this song, because I can’t believe Santana went and got down with Rob Matchbox. It’s so confusing on so many different levels for me.
AVC: This was off Supernatural, which featured a bunch of duets.
BH: I hated that. I hated it. I don’t hate Santana. I want to clarify that. I don’t hate Santana at all. I just hate that he made this really horrible album. Obviously the musicians can play and everything is in tune and all that, but it’s just the integrity of the music that grates me. Or maybe it’s not; maybe it’s that it was shoved down my throat for so many years. I haven’t really come to terms with how, other than it was just always there. I mean, at first you hear Santana’s guitar playing and that was never bad. He’s a great guitar player, but when you hear that opening riff too many times, it gets on your nerves.
AVC: That song also suffered from being bland to a fault, because it meant any radio station could play it, from the hits stations to lite FM.
BH: Even V-103 was playing the song, and that’s a hip-hop station here in Atlanta.
AVC: Do you like Rob Thomas?
BH: No, no, I don’t even know that guy. I’m sure he’s a fucking awesome dude. He was in an episode of It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia. I’m a huge fan of It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, and Rob Thomas was on there with Sinbad and it was great. It was the coolest thing he’s ever done in his career, in my opinion. But I think he has one of those voices that’s like, “Ech.”
It’s like Maroon 5, and I was going to say Maroon 5’s “Moves Like Jagger.” I was really on the fence. Which song do I hate the most? But I went with “Smooth” because I find myself whistling “Moves Like Jagger” with no remorse. I’m happy about it, you know? But when I find myself humming any part of “Smooth” I’m like, “Oh, I gotta tone that down. I’m in public.”
AVC: The song was released in 1999 but stayed on the charts until early 2000, so Billboard calls it the last No. 1 song of the 20th century.
BH: We should be setting records with better songs.
AVC: Have you seen the video recently? It’s so incredibly 1999 it’s alarming.
BH: They’re at some house party and then Santana’s there. Like, “Why would Santana be at your house party?” He just shows up with his hat and his guitar, like, “What?” It’s ridiculous.
AVC: Part of the success of “Smooth” had something to do with the musical Latin revival that came about at that time.
BH: Yeah, thanks, Mars Volta. The only thing I like about any of that cultural confusion with the Latin American pop thing mixing with America’s pop thing is that there’s a lot of bilateral units, you know, like Santana, Mariachi El Bronx, Mars Volta. There’s all these cross-streams of musicians that want that because they love tacos so much or something. Must be some kind of West Coast thing, because they’re closer to Mexico, I guess? Not really sure.
AVC: If you met Santana, would you want to ask him about the song?
BH: I don’t like to talk to my idols. I would never ask Santana anything, ever. I would just watch him and admire him go by, just like I’ve done with every other idol I’ve ever never met.
I met Jimmy Page one time and he was pretty much an asshole. I was brought up on Led Zeppelin as a kid, and I fashioned my guitar playing to resemble Jimmy Page’s guitar playing, and it was a big letdown, so after that I never really wanted to meet anyone, ever. I had a chance to meet Tony Iommi, Ozzy Osbourne… everybody, basically, and I just declined respectfully. It was just one of those things.
When I meet kids and they’re goo-goo for meeting me, I try to be as cool as I can, because I remember. I haven’t won every battle of meeting strangers every day of my life, but I just think that any person that plays music for their profession and gets popular from it should really mind the fact that they have people that look up to them, and just try—no matter how bad of a mood you’re in—to be cordial. And goddamn, if they never invented pictures on cell phones we’d all be fine right now, but everyone wants to get a photo. That’s so annoying.
But I can imagine how Santana would feel, or Rob Thomas. You know, I respect that. I don’t want to take anyone’s time away from them. Even talking shit on them, I’m not really talking shit on them. I’m just expressing my hatred for the song. That’s it. And the only reason I’m doing that is because it was an opportunity, and also the media made me hate the song, not them.
AVC: How did the media make you hate the song?
BH: It was just everywhere, and it just really turned me off. It could have been any song. Nirvana, fuckin’ Nevermind, I mean, Jesus Christ, I can’t even listen to some songs. There are albums that I’ve listened to too much. My brother used to listen to certain albums, and then he passed away, and those remind me of those times driving to school and back. I fucking hate Morrissey songs. I don’t like Morrissey. Thank God they never played him on the radio when I was growing up. It just dates you, puts you in a time or period that you don’t forget for some reason when you hear some songs. It’s very nostalgic, and sometimes the mood that it puts you in is a bad mood because of what was happening at the time that you first got to know the song.