MASTODON's BILL KELLIHER To Aspiring Guitarists: 'Play Every Day' And 'Practice As Much As You Can'

October 10, 2023

During an interview that was recorded last month at the Guitar Summit guitar show in Mannheim, Germany, MASTODON guitarist Bill Kelliher was asked by Thomann if there is any piece of advice he would give to aspiring guitarists. He responded (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): "Play every day. Practice as much as you can. And just don't get sidetracked like trying to be somebody else. For me, for the longest time I wanted to be all the guitar heroes I looked up to. It's all attainable. When I was a kid, I was just so intimidated by these guys on stage. I was, like, 'Oh my God. These guys are rock stars and they're touring.' And I just thought everyone was born like that. Like you're born into royalty, like LED ZEPPELIN. And they want it to look that way. That's why they put you on the stage and they put you in the big tour bus and all that stuff. But, man, I'm just a nobody kid from Western New York, a little tiny town with a population of a couple thousand people."

He continued: "It's a lot of hard work. It's not a weekend type of gig. If you really wanna be a musician and an artist, just record everything that you write, even if you don't think it's that great. Just record everything because you might go back to it someday. That's one thing I wish I had done more. I didn't have cell phones when I was growing up, so just to be able to record all those ideas when they're fresh in your head… A lot of it's about spontaneity. I don't read music. I never took any guitar lessons. I play and play and play until something gives me goosebumps, and I feel like, 'Oh, this is really cool.' And then I record it and I stuff it away and I just keep playing until the next time I get that feeling. And then pretty soon I've got a song and I show it to the guys and then we've got a record."

Last month, Kelliher said that he was "constantly writing" new music. "Hopefully in the beginning of next year we can start sitting down and actually riffing out and writing a new record. Because it's already time to — it's past time to write a new record, even though [2021's] 'Hushed And Grim' was a double album, and I feel like there's a lot more juice for the squeeze of that record, but we just haven't — because of COVID, we didn't tour enough on it. We haven't done a proper European tour. There's a lot of places we've missed and it's, it's hard these days to get out and tour because everything has changed."

Elaborating on the difficulties facing MASTODON and other touring rock acts nowadays, Bill continued: "Without going into too much detail, the price of everything, the price of gas goes up. And that trickles down to us as a band. When we go out on tour, we have to come up with half a million dollars just to support the tour, like of our own money that's supposedly saved, which I don't have that much money — we don't have any money saved. Every time we do a tour, we spend all the money — we give, 'Hey, here's your paycheck.' 'Cause we were home for two years from COVID, and try not working for two years. It's difficult. Luckily, my wife works; she's got a very good job. So it's been very difficult. Our manager passed away a few years ago, and that kind of put us in this crazy tailspin, 'cause he was our everything. And COVID happens, and the way the world is going right now, it's not the easiest thing to get out there and just start touring and trying to make money."

Kelliher added: "Like I was saying, with 'Hushed And Grim', I just feel like that record — and I knew this was gonna happen, because if it comes out during the pandemic, it's not gonna get as much attention as, say, if there was no pandemic and you put a spotlight on it, 'Hey, you guys got this great 90-minute record.' There's a lot of songs on there to be... We only played a handful of them. I mean, I guess it's good to have all that ammunition in the bank, like, 'Oh, we can pull out all these songs,' but sometimes it's hard when you're out there on the road. People are, like, 'Why don't you play anything off 'The Hunter'?' 'Why don't you play anything off 'Once More 'Round The Sun'? 'Cause we only have an hour. And we have to play… I don't know. It's difficult. But those are good problems to have.

"The answer to your question is yeah, next year we are gonna write a new record, and I've already started writing and I'm very excited about it," Bill said. "It's a nice time. It's just — I guess what I'm getting at is, like, it's already time to write a new record and take time off when my wife's, like, 'You need to get out there and work. You guys haven't worked in the past three years.' You've only done a month a year.' It's not a lot of time out there. But I'm, like, yeah, well, the world is upside down and the gas prices are crazy. And everybody's on tour trying to make back their money from the lost wages. And it's a mess. But I'm not gonna let it stop me from writing the next right-turn record."

MASTODON's ninth studio album, "Hushed And Grim", was released in October 2021 via Reprise. The follow-up to 2017's "Emperor Of Sand" was recorded at West End Sound, which is located inside of Ember City, the rehearsal facility that members of MASTODON manage in Atlanta. Helming the effort was Grammy-winning producer/mixer/engineer David Bottrill, who has previously worked with MUSE, DREAM THEATER and TOOL, among many others. The creative process for "Hushed And Grim" was largely influenced by the untimely death of MASTODON's longtime friend and manager Nick John.

John, who also managed GOJIRA, passed away in September 2018 from pancreatic cancer.

The "Hushed And Grim" artwork was created by longtime MASTODON collaborator Paul Romano, who also designed the sleeves for "Crack The Skye", "Blood Mountain", "Leviathan" and more.

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