Mastodon’s Brent Hinds, Bill Kelliher, and Troy Sanders graciously spoke with Premier Guitar about their powerful, yet simple rigs. At a recent stop in Nashville, this twice Grammy-nominated band talked about their signature-model guitars and explained how they configure their touring setups.
Hinds was on a mission to find a luthier who built acrylic-body instruments, à la Dan Armstrong, and he found his new love in the Plexi V from Kevin Burkett’s Electrical Guitar Company in Pensacola, Florida. The aluminum neck and clear body set this guitar apart. It sports dual pickups: an EGC humbucker in the neck position and a Lace Brent Hinds Hammer Claw at the bridge.
Hinds also tours with a Gibson Custom Silverburst Flying V. This wicked guitar sports Gibson ’57 Classic humbuckers, and—like his other V—is strung with D’Addario XL Nickel Wound sets with gauges as large as .060, depending on the tuning.
Hinds likes the power he gets from his three amps. A pair of Marshall JMP Mark II Lead series heads (one a ’76, the other a ’77) give him part of his tone, with the rest coming from a 1998 Diezel VH4. Each amp drives a pair of Orange PPC412 4x12 Cabinets in a custom color. His lap steel runs through an Orange CR120 combo.
Hinds relies on two very simple pedalboards to help him achieve his crushing tone. The main board starts with an Ernie Ball VP Junior volume pedal that connects to an Ibanez Tube Screamer. From there, the signal runs through two MXR pedals—a GT-OD and a Phase 90. His delay of choice is the Boss DD-6, which then runs to an ISP Decimator and a Dunlop Cry Baby 105Q Bass Wah. A TC Electronic PolyTune Mini keeps Hinds on track, and an MXR Custom Audio Systems Buffer helps with any signal loss due to long cable runs on big stages.
The second pedalboard helps Hinds shape his lap steel tones, and it’s more spartan than his main board. He starts this signal chain with a Boss TU-3 tuner, which then leads to another Ernie Ball volume pedal, an unmarked drive stompbox, and then a Boss DD-7 delay. The whole shooting match is powered by a Dunlop Brick power supply.
Holding down the other guitar duties, Kelliher takes a less “pointy” road with his guitars. Called the Halcyon, his signature Gibson Les Paul was modeled after a ’72 tobacco-burst model he loved. It’s equipped with Lace Dissonant Aggressor signature model pickups. This Les Paul features a push/pull knob to change the bridge pickup to a single-coil to help Kelliher get his clean, shimmery tones.
Kelliher carries two Friedman amplifiers on the road. While touring with Alice in Chains, Kelliher became a fan of Jerry Cantrell’s guitar tones, so he sought out the Friedman JJ Cantrell Signature 100-watt head. His speakers of choice for this head are 65-watt Celestion G12M-65 Creambacks loaded into a Friedman 4x12 cabinet. His second amp is a 100-watt Friedman HBE that slams 30-watt Celestions in an Orange 4x12.
To eliminate a cluttered pedalboard, Kelliher embraces digital technology and uses a Fractal Axe-Fx II to generate his delay, chorus, rotary speaker, and octave effects. He operates the processor with a Fractal MFC-101 MIDI foot controller, and also keeps a DigiTech JamMan next to it. This looper pedal provides sonic segues between songs to keep the show moving. An Audiotech Guitar Products Source Selector 1X6 switcher sits above his wireless unit and allows Kelliher to easily move between amps.
Sanders plays a signature model Fender bass onstage. This Silverburst Jaguar has stock pickups in a P/J pickup configuration, and it sports fewer tone controls than a standard Jaguar. Sanders also grabs a Warwick Streamer Stage II and a Zon Sonus at various points during the show.
Two amps—one clean and one dirty—provide Sanders with his massive tone. A 300-watt Ampeg SVT-VR handles his clean sounds, and a 485-watt Mesa/Boogie Bass Strategy Eight:88 drives the other half of his rig. Sanders runs each amp into two Mesa/Boogie RoadReady cabs, one a 4x12, the other an 8x10. Clearly, there’s no shortage of air being moved onstage.
A self-confessed gear junkie, Sanders owns a plethora of pedals, yet he keeps his road setup very simple. His signal chain starts with a TC Electronic PolyTune, and then runs to a Wren and Cuff Tall Font Russian distortion pedal. From there his signal hits a TC Electronic Corona Chorus and a Dunlop Wah. A Voodoo Lab Pedal Power juices up the rig.