Like the ancient animal that bears their namesake, Mastodon are a band of absolutely gargantuous nature. Hailing from Atlanta, the prog-metal four piece have become one of the most critically acclaimed metal groups of their generation, with a slew of concept albums and intense live shows winning them legions of devoted fans in the process. Spearheaded by the technical virtuosity and dual guitar power of shredders Brett Hinds and Bill Kelliher, Mastodon's recent release Emperor of the Sand is an absolutely crushing concept album which follows the story of a man sentenced to death by wandering in the desert, seeing the band win their first Grammy for opening track 'Sultans Curse.' Ahead of their upcoming visit down under for Download Festival, we go deep into the beast to trace the gear used by Brett Hinds and Bill Kelliher of Mastodon.
GIBSON CUSTOM SIVERBURST FLYING V
Speaking to Premier Guitar in 2014, guitarist Brett Hinds mentions he commissioned his Silverburst Flying V from Gibson in 2005, fitted with Gibson Classic '57 humbuckers and strung with D'Addario XL Nickel Wound 0.60's to suit the low tunings used by the group.
GIBSON SIGNATURE BILL KELLIHER GOLDEN AXE EXPLORER
Bill Kelliher is a huge fan of Explorers, having played various Korina and Standard models on the road with Mastodon, and was treated to a signature 'Golden Axe' Explorer by Gibson in 2013. Decked out with premium gold hardware and a pair of powerful LACE Nitro Hemi Humbuckers, Kelliher's Explorer is closer to a weapon than a guitar, with the guitarist telling Gibson in 2013 that " I've always been a fan of Explorers. It's almost like you're wielding an ax or something - but this one is a blingy ax."
ELECTRIC GUITAR COMPANY BRETT HINDS CUSTOM V
Renowned for their meticulously crafted aluminum instruments, Electric Guitar Company crafted Hinds a limited edition Custom V made out of Lucite, widely used for various purposed as a durable acryclic material. Hinds' Custom V also features the addition of a Lyre tremolo, commonly seen on vintage 60's Gibsons, and sounds absolutely phenomenal - check it out.
GIBSON BILL KELLIHER HALCYON LES PAUL
In addition to his Explorer, Kelliher also has another signature instrument with Gibson - the Halycon Les Paul. Fitted out for brutal tones, the Halcyon features two Lace Dissonant Aggressor Humbuckers with push-pull coil splitting, and like his Explorer, features all gold hardware. The Bill Kelliher Halcyon would be the Mastodon man's last signature instrument with Gibson before parting ways with the company in favour of ESP, however, Kelliher has continued playing various Les Pauls throughout his career since.
Hinds is an avid enthusiast of the Gibson SG, telling Guitar Player in 2010 that he favours the model because "If you've got a beer belly like I do, the SG is especially comfortable because of the way it's cut - your pouch goes right in there." While his favourite model is a Silverburst '83 Gibson SG bought from The Guess Who's keyboard player, Hinds owns several other models, including this 1968 model with a Lyrebird Tremolo.
ESP BK-600 BILL KELLIHER
Upon jumping ship to ESP in 2015, Kelliher was graced with the ESP BK-600, a signature model based on the specs of an ESP Eclipse. Loaded with his signature Lace Sensor Dissonant Aggressor Pickups, the BK-600 is constructed with solid mahogany and interestingly features no waist cut.
GIBSON B.B. KING LUCILLE ES 355
Despite not being a very metal-y guitar, Hinds often manages to wrangle some filthy tones out of a B.B. King Lucille ES 355.
ESP BILL KELLIHER SPARROWHAWK
For his second signature guitar with ESP, Kelliher collaborated with the metal guitar giants to fathom the incredulous Sparrowhawk, an aesthetically challenging instrument reminiscent of a Gibson Reverse Firebird. Offering a 3 piece mahogany neck, ebony fretboard and Kelliher's new Lace Sensor Divinator signature pickups, you can see the man himself shred on the signature guitar in this studio clip of "Toe to Toes."
Running an aboslutely huge rig, Hinds tends to favour the sound of stacked, overdriven valve heads - and plenty of them. His 2014 setup was comprised of two Marshall JMP MKII Lead Series heads (one from 1977, the other from 1978) to pull the brunt of his tone, as well as a late 90's Diezel VH4 for more stacked gain, which feed two custom painted Orange PPC 4x12 cabinets.
Although he used to play through an assortment of Marshall heads, Bill Kelliher recently endorsed the work of legendary amp modifier Dave Friedman. After touring with Alice In Chains and falling in love with the sound of guitarist Jerry Cantrell's signature Friedman, Kelliher collaborated with the tone great to create the Friedman Bill Kelliher Signature head, a 100-watt handwired high-gain head with a matching cab to boot. On the road, Kelliher usually adds an additional Orange PPC 4x12 cabinet to his setup, and often runs two heads simultaneously.
Relying more on the crushing overdrive supplied by his immense amp stack, Hinds now runs a much more simplified pedal setup compared to his previous delay heavy rigs. Hinds kicks things off with an Ernie Ball Volume Pedal Jr which is plugged staight into an Ibanez Tubescreamer, allowing him to variably control his amp gain. From there, he runs a MXR GT-OD Overdrive, a MXR Phase 90, a BOSS DD-6 Delay, ISP Decimator, a Dunlop Crybaby Bass Wah for extended filter sweeps, a TC Electronic Polytune and an MXR Custom Audio Systems Buffer to compensate for signal loss.
Despite being an avid pedal enthusiast and previously rocking a whole bank of effects onstage, Kelliher has recently switched to a digital Fractal Axe-FX II system, using the processor for a variety of octave, chorus, delay and rotary speaker effects. In addition to the Fractal system, Kelliher runs a Digitech Jam Man Looper to create looping textures mid-set, and operates the whole rig with a Fractal MFC101 MIDI Controller.