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Mastodon’s Bill Kelliher: Searching For the Perfect Guitar Tone

Mastodon riff master Bill Kelliher is a damn professor when it comes to tone. While chatting with us about Mastodon’s new album, Emperor of Sand, Kelliher went into such extreme detail about finding the perfect tone that it should make any gear nut weep with joy.

“How much time ya got?” Kelliher laughed we asked him to describe how he finds perfect tone. Troy Sanders obviously knew what was coming from Bill, causing the bassist / vocalist to nearly shuffle offscreen. “That’s just the nerd in me,” says Kelliher. “Every since I was a kid, I’d buy one amp then I’d try another, just searching for the perfect tone, which a lot of guitarists do.”

Bill Kelliher partnered with Friedman Amps, having been a fan of their engineering for many years. After a bit of pestering, Kelliher finally convinced Friedman to make him a signature amp. “I just kept saying, ‘More gain, more gain,’ and he’s like, ‘It’s got enough gain,’ and I’m like, ‘No, make it go to 11. I’m not kidding.’”

Though Kelliher has a great fondness for analog equipment, he’s been using Fractal Audio’s Axe FX for a few years, dialing in an endless assault of different sounds. “It’s just like a gigantic toy store,” Kelliher gushes. “I believe it sounds just as good as having a whole pedal board full of pedals … A lot of writing some of these parts [for Emperor of Sand] just came from me just turning the knob on that in my home studio — ‘Oh, I like the way those drugs sound!’”

Listen to Bill Kelliher take you through his process of searching for the perfect guitar tone in our interview above!

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