Bill Kelliher's 2007 Gibson Les Paul Custom
We pinned down the mighty Mastodon on their recent UK tour and then threatened them with spears until they talked us through their live rigs. Click-through the gallery to find out about Bill Kelliher’s custom-made guitars, Brent Hinds’ hair dryer and which pedal they use to call Hulk Hogan.
“This is a Les Paul Custom 2007. It's kind of a reissue. I don't know if they started making these because Brent and I play a Silverburst so much, or why they came back, but I usually play old 79s and 82s, but this one is a really good guitar as well.
“It needs a little playing-in, but it sounds good, it's got the original pickups in it. It's just a big, heavy lump of wood. It's in D-standard – standard tuning, but tuned down to D.
“Silverburst is just a cool colour. I don't know what it is about it. When I was a kid I liked going to the motor races and there was a Corvette that was the pace car and it was this colour. I use this for the first half of the set, ‘Dry Bone Valley’, ‘Black Tongue’, ‘Crystal Skull’, ‘Capillarian Crest’, ‘Colony Of Birchmen’.”
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Bill Kelliher's custom-made doublecut
“This guitar is pretty special. It was made by a friend of mine who I went to high school with in Victor, New York. When we were kids we used to play guitar together, he was way better than I was and it was because of him that I started playing guitar myself.
“I hadn't seen him in years and years and years and he found me on Facebook and it turns out that he’s now a luthier, so he made this guitar for me. He was like, 'What kind of specs do you want?' And I was like, 'I don't know, I just want it to be a nice big solid body'.
“It's a great guitar. It’s got Lace Sensor pickups. They're just great pickups and it just sounds great. There are a couple of tweaks that I need to make to it, the strings need to be moved over a hair and it needs a new nut.
“I was using it every night, but it's a backup right now. It's pretty special though because he made it for me, and although a lot of people make guitars for us, this one just feels really good. There's something about it...”
Bill Kelliher's 1987 Gibson Les Paul Custom
“This is a 1987 Les Paul Custom in pewter with Lace Nitro Hemi pickups. Which are my new favourite pickups. They're full-bodied, they sound crunchy when you want them to sound crunchy, they sound half-way clean when you take the distortion off and they're real versatile I think.
“This guitar belonged to a friend of mine and he pawned it to me because he was moving and he didn't want it to leave the state. I'd give it back to him if he wanted, but I love it. If he ever asks for it back he could buy it back from me, but I've kind of fallen in love with it.
“It's just a great tuning guitar, the action's perfect. This one's tuned to drop-C, so this is for songs like, ‘Blasteroids’, ‘Ghost Of Corriliar’ and ‘Sleeping Giant’ are all in drop-C tuning. This is definitely showing some age for a 1987 guitar.”
Bill Kelliher's 1984 Gibson Explorer
“This is a 1984/85 Gibson Explorer. It’s pretty standard. I found it in and old mom and pop guitar store in Philadephia and I picked it up and played it for a while and I really, really liked the way that it played.
“I'm a guitar collector, so when I can tell that a guitar plays well, I take it home with me. I fixed it all up and put new pickups and wiring in it. These are Seymour Duncan Distortion pickups, which are another favourite of mine.
“It tunes down to drop-A, it's for the last half of the set, for songs like ‘All The Heavy Lifting’, ‘Spectrelight’, ‘Bedazzled Fingernails’, ‘Curl Of The Burl’, ‘Iron Tusk’, ‘Martian Fire Ants’, ‘Crack The Skye’ etc.”
Bill Kelliher's Marshall JCM800 and Kerry King amps
“These are the amps that live over here in the UK and then when I come over they're here. The stuff I have at home is like old JCM800s from the 80s, really kinda expensive stuff. I only bring them on the road in the states.
“The top one is a JCM800 Lead Series reissue, a 100-watt tube amp. It has a really good rock 'n' roll kind of sound – the gain knob is at about one o'clock. It's got a pretty decent clean sound, too – clean enough for a live setting.
“Below that is the Kerry King JCM800 with KT88 tubes. It's a modified version of the amp above, but this has a real metal, super-Slayer sound to it. But even Slayer still have that 80s sound that I love. I try not to go too overboard with it though.
“One goes into Marshall cabinets, which have 20-watt hand-wired Greenback speakers – 20watt each, so a total of 160 with the full stack – and then there's two Orange cabinets, which I think are 30-watt Celestions in there, they sound great.
“I've been using Marshalls since the 80s. I've tried Orange heads, I've tried Diezel heads, I've tried Mesa/Boogie heads and they’ve all sounded good for a while, but somehow I always come back to Marshall.”
Bill Kelliher's pedalboard
TC Electronic G-System
“It’s got smart loops in it, so that you can keep your pedals on at all times – you can just put them in a drawer somewhere. You just assign them and it also has a brain inside that has pretty much every effect you can imagine. I use the octaver for ‘Curl Of The Burl’ and then it has like a Leslie rotating speaker thing for ‘Crack The Skye’. I usually do delay on ‘Sleeping Giant’ and ‘Ghost Of Karelia’.”
Hardwire SC-2 Valve Distortion
“This is a Hardwire distortion pedal, it's called the Valve Distortion, which is what I use for distortion at the moment. It's got great tone, I really enjoy it. I do just a little bit of distortion with the pedal, it's more like an overdrive. The amps are pretty distorted, but it's enough to be clean when I wanna be clean. When I wanna get super-distorted I hit this button.”
Digitech JamMan looper
“I use this with pre-loaded samples between songs. The guitar does not go through that. So at the beginning of Dry Bone Valley there are some guitar samples, on Crack The Skye there’s a robot voice. Also, in between songs, I’ll just hit that when I’m changing guitars. I hate standing there with no sound; I try to keep the flow going.”
TC Electronic PolyTune Mini
“I've got a PolyTune Mini that TC Electronic gave me, which is really cute and awesome. It works great and also it's really small, but it has the big letter across so you can see what you're tuning too.”
Brent Hinds' Custom Electrical Guitar Company Plexi-V
“This is a custom-made Plexi-V with an aluminium neck. Kevin Burkett from the Electrical Guitar Company in Florida built it.
“He custom-made me these because he was the only guy I could find that would work with Plexi [acrylic]. They both use Lace pickups. By the way, Lace are making me my own pickups called Dirty Behinds!
“I have one that’s just to warm up with. I used to use it live, but it's too old and it's seen too much sweat, so it's being retired. It's on it's way out!”
Brent Hinds' First Act Custom Lola 12-string
“That's a First Act 12-string. Those are First Act pickups, they're active, but you don't have to use a battery or anything. They're alright, they're not as good as Lace or EMG in my opinion. It's a great guitar, I love that one. I use it on ‘Ghost Of Karelia’.”
Brent Hinds' Diezel Herbert, Diezel G4 and Marshall JCM800 amps
“These are my amps right here. A Diezel Herbert, Diezel G4 and a JCM800. Marshall cabs, Diezel cabs, Orange cabs. I like Frankenstein so I made a rig that looked like him. It's all on all the time.”
Brent Hinds' pedalboard
Peterson V-SAM Virtual Strobe Audio Tuner with metronome
“This right here is so I can get in direct touch with NASA, through Peterson, while I tune my guitar.”
Line 6 DL4 Delay Modeller
“This right here is a foot harmonica and it goes through this inboard/outboard 1986 Glasstron Line 6 Reverse Delay. And if I need to get out of here, then this thing turns into a car.
“When I'm getting cold, I just hit this button right here – boom! Warm air comes out of the hairdryer and warms me up.”
“If I ever need to call Hulk Hogan at all during my show, right there. 'Hello brother! What is it?'
“Then we got a volume pedal [Ernie Ball VP JR, far right] and this one here gets in touch with James Bond immediately.”
Morley Bad Horsie Wah
“I like the Bad Horsie because I don't have to click it on and off. I have a broken foot right now so I can put my foot on there and go for it.”
Also on the board...
Boss RE-20 Space Echo, Boss DD-6 Digital Delay, Ibanez Tubescreamer, Orange Amp footswitch, Boss GE-7 Equalizer, Boss TU-3 Chromatic Tuner, Jim Dunlop CryBaby (backup), MXR Six Band EQ.