We caught up with Bill Kelliher of Mastodon while on the bands tour in Australia. He had just finished up an In-Store clinic at Mannys Music in Melbourne and we were able to take 5 minutes of his precious time to ask him some questions.
What is your live rig at the moment?
I usually use my Friedman Butterslax head, 3 channels giving clean, distortion and full-on distortion, this runs 2 x 412’s on stage. A further 2 x 412 cabs are driven by a Fractal Axe FX and power amp combo. I try not to overthink gear and aim for a direct input from the guitar to amp. Saying this the Fractal is great for effects and studio use, a perfect tool for creating riffs. Guitar-wise I am using the ESP Japanese made Pelham Blue Sparrowhawk, i love that guitar. The first 12 songs at the moment in our shows are in D standard so the Sparrowhawk works perfectly for this run of tunes.
Who inspired you to start playing guitar?
Eddie Van Halen, Jimmy Page, Randy Rhodes were early influences for me, all my friends would sit in their room trying to learn all of their shred licks. As I grew older I heard the Ramones & Kennedys, I could relate to the rebellion and energy of these bands. I realized power-chord driven bands were definitely my thing and when Metallica came along I really dug their early sound. The band also looked like me and friends with ripped jeans & long hair, this made it easy for me to relate again to these guys. These guys were different from Iron Maiden, they looked like misfits and were not polished like Maiden, and I liked this.
Digital amps are very prevalent in today’s lineups, what are your thoughts?
I’ve just bought a Kemper, I’ve had one before but realized pretty quickly why I didn’t like it the first time. It sounds good but it almost sounds like the tones all come from the same amp. It does have that certain grit, when you lay into the strings you can feel that chunk whereas the Axe FX doesn’t have that there I feel. I bought the Helix recently and dig that a lot, I want to use the effects from the Helix through the Kemper at some stage.
What’s one piece of gear you could not live without?
When I first bought a Friedman I was like WOW, this is like all of my favorite amps rolled into one. Pretty stoked with that. I would have to say my Butterslax signature head. It’s like the best Marshall you have ever heard.
What’s next for Mastodon?
We are still touring ‘Emperor of Sand’ here in Australia for the next week, we head home then we pick up a tour with US band Primus. This is a 9 week tour which is long for us, we usually do 4 week tours but it’s Primus?! Come on? After that tour it will be time for a new record. I try to write as much as I can on the tour bus, we have time as a band to swap ideas whereas at home I have the kids and duties I need to do. It can be hard to find the time to sit down and write at home with so much going on!