At Maniacs HQ, we are pretty excited about the new record fromMastodon,Once More ‘Round The Sun which is due for release on June 20! Bill Kelliherrecently caught up with Gibson to talk about the new album, how they came up with some of the riffs and the development of the band!
Congratulations on the new album, Once More Round the Sun. Its solid. What was your overall guitar philosophy on this album?
I definitely wanted to go in knowing exactly what I was going to play and do a less is more approach. There have been some records weve done where Im laying tons of guitars all over the place, and not to say I didnt do that again, but every time I went into the studio, I tried to get the best guitar tones possible and really focus on that.
I love the riffing on the albums first single, High Road. How did that riff form?
I had a day off in Switzerland, and I was sitting in my hotel room, playing guitar, and it was a crappy day out and raining with not much going on. I always bring my laptop with me, so I set it up and put on some headphones and started toying around with the ideas of all those riffs and put a little drum beat on it. I played it for the guys, and they all said, Yeah, thats pretty cool! We threw it down in our studio we have a small studio in Atlanta and it really came together.
Would you say High Road is a good snapshot of the whole album, or does the release venture elsewhere?
I dont think it really represents the album as a whole; its one spectrum of it. There are a lot of slower, heavier, down-tuned songs, and High Road is a very upbeat song. There are also a lot of upbeat songs on the record. We have a lot of verse-chorus stuff going on. But, that song sticks out as different to me.
One of the great aspects of Mastodons sound is your guitar exchange with Brent Hinds. Is there a method for how you two write guitar parts together?
Usually, hell write something, and Ill try to compliment it by playing something thats not the exact same. Ill try to play off what hes playing, nothing to complicated, but Ill try to make it my own and give it some of my own personality. Were definitely totally different guitar styles and players, and thats what makes the band that much more special. I try to play off him, and he does the same with me. We dont play the exact verbatim riffs.
Would you say this is a more vocal-centric album for Mastodon?
I think with our band, our vocals are always getting bigger and brighter and more the center of the songwriting. When we first started, we didnt even really have singer. We all just started singing different parts, so that was the least of our concerns. We were more into writing crazy riffs. Now, were more focused on having good vocals, because you have to have good vocals to structure a good song. Were always working harder at coming up with a better melody. Great vocals make a great song come alive.
Youve had your Bill Kelliher Golden Axe Explorer for over a year now. How is it holding up?
Its holding up great! Its an awesome guitar. I have so many Gibson guitars, so its hard to give them all ample show time. I play the Golden Axe on this tour. The guitar plays great, and I always look forward to it. Its a beautiful guitar and plays amazing. Im still getting a lot of compliments on it. I also just designed a Les Paul version, a little brother of the Explorer. Its the Les Paul Golden Axe, with the same Golden Axe colors, and it looks a lot like an old Tobacco Sunburst from the 70s. I love it.
What makes Gibson guitars stand out?
I think its the quality. When you pick up the guitar, I like that theyre a big, solid chunk of wood, and its heavy, and theyre quality-made. To me, theyre beautiful. Theyre a work of art. When I look at old Les Pauls and Explorers and ES-335s, theyre works of art. They feel good. Something about the way the neck is angled back from the body is comfortable. They play well, and Gibsons stay in tune really well. When I get a new one and take it out of the package, its always in great condition, and the action is always great. Its just a quality-made product!