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What did you use to record in the hotel room?
Kelliher: I had a Yamaha SBG2000 and my Marshall Micro Stack and some Shure condenser mics I was going to use, but I decided to run it through AmpliTube’s Marshall amp models, because Warner Bros. was asking for the song to be done so they could release it as a single the next morning in the USA. I was like, “It’s not done yet!” [Laughs.] When I got done, I was so proud of myself and felt really good about it, because I had gotten it down and everyone liked it. I kind of live for moments like that. I’m a multitasker by nature. My wife says I should focus on one thing at a time—because I’m always doing several things at once—but in this instance it worked out. The deadline forced me to work some fast magic, but I don’t advise anyone to do that on a regular basis!
What did you use for the other half of the solo?
Kelliher: The second part of the solo was done in the studio before that European tour, and I really like it because it has that “Orion” [from Metallica’s Master of Puppets] feel and groove. I used this new Gibson Explorer with EMG X Series 81 and 85 humbuckers. It’s a metal-shredding beast that doesn’t sound phony—it’s quickly become my go-to super-heavy guitar. I plug straight into the amp for the majority of my recordings, so when I need something gargantuan, I have that in my back pocket. I used to hate active pickups and thought they sounded brittle and stale, but I totally dig their tone with my Explorer—it’s a clear, concise, unique distortion. I use that guitar a lot on “All the Heavy Lifting” and some of the harmonies on “Curl of the Burl.”
With its Alan Parsons Project-/Pink Floyd-style synths and chanting choirs, “The Creature Lives” is very theatrical. What was the impetus for that song?
Kelliher: [Laughs.] That was all Brann’s idea. He wrote it years ago and he pretty much directed and composed how everything fell into place. He thinks it’s going to be one of those lift-your-lighter-in- the-air-and-sway songs. I’m sure Mastodon fans will think, ‘What the hell is this?’ But I’ve heard some people compare it old Pink Floyd, with the prog-y Hammond organs. Crack the Skye was a serious record—it was a healing process for a lot of people. And that’s not to say The Hunter isn’t going to cure some ills, too, but we wanted to do a party record that was fun to make—and hopefully fun for fans to crank up and jam with some friends.
Kelliher barres his 1980 Gibson Explorer at a June 2011 Netherlands gig. Photo by Cindy Frey
What’s your favorite part of the new album?
Kelliher: I’d have to say the middle of “All the Heavy Lifting,” where there’s all this craziness between my guitar parts and Brann’s drumming. It was a spontaneous riff that I wrote while we were putting the song together, and I kind of just made it by the seat of my pants with all this creative energy swirling and pressure mounting.
Hinds: The guitar-and-drum solo part in “The Hunter”—where Brann and me play off each other—it screams “Check this out!” When you hear me and Brann bounce off each other in those moments where he takes the lead with some fills and I’m sustaining, and then I take over again—it’s a really cool thing to be in a band where you have that romantic cadence between the different instruments. I’m not sure if Deep Purple was one of the first bands to have a drum solo and a guitar solo going at the same time, but I like how it turned out a lot.