“Bedazzled Fingernails” has some pretty mind-boggling stuff going on with the timing and the riffs. How did that song develop?

You’re, like, the third person that’s interviewed me that has asked about that song— that’s a great sign. That has been a riff I’ve been playing around with for a long time, but it never really worked in anything else until The Hunter sessions.

Those syncopated riffs sound pretty difficult to play.

Hinds: That’s the whole point—it sounds difficult, but that doesn’t mean it is difficult. Guitar playing is like being a magician—you try to do more with less and work smarter, not harder. I’ve played with hybrid-style picking—using a pick along with my middle, ring, and pinky fingers—forever, because I learned on the banjo first. But on this song I don’t really use a pick that much, I’m just using my open fingers with hammer-ons and pull-offs to get that confusing, high-speed riff illusion.

The main riff in “The Octopus Has No Friends” sounds pretty brutal, too.

Hinds: That’s just how I play guitar. That type of hybrid picking will always be a big part of my playing—whether it’s in Mastodon or my side bands. For “Octopus,” I just wanted to make things sound as crazy—like raindrops—and chorus-y as possible, so I really worked it up to speed on my 9-string First Act, because it creates those natural chorus sounds that even the best pedal can’t make.

Did you use your 9- and 12-string First Act guitars on other songs?

Hinds: They’re probably featured on nine of the 14 songs. I love playing big, open chords on them, and then also layering jangly parts when picking the strings really fast. The octave strings create this ringing, atonal chorus effect unmatched by any chorus pedal. A 6-string and a pedal sounds stale in comparison. Kelliher: I didn’t really use those at all on this album. They offered those ringing dynamics and overtones we were looking for on Crack the Skye, but that wasn’t something I strived for on The Hunter.

What was your go-to guitar for these sessions?

Hinds: My Mastodon guitar would have to be the Electrical Guitar Company acrylic V that Kevin Burkett built me a few years ago. I’ve always loved Gibson Flying Vs, and my friends King Buzzo [the Melvins] and Laura Pleasants [Kylesa] had theses killer aluminum-body-and-neck guitars from Electrical Guitar Company. So I talked to Kevin and had him make one of his V models for me. It’s a little heavy still—that’s something we’ll continue to work on—but it sounds great and is unique, as far as looks and tone—especially its sustain.

Left to right: Hinds, Kelliher, and bassist/vocalist Troy Sanders onstage in the Netherlands. Photo by Cindy Frey

Sustain is a big deal to you, isn’t it?

Hinds: Sustain is one of the most important things to me when it comes to tone and my setup. I like it so much, if I had a kid, I’d name it Sustain [laughs]. But honestly, I love sustain because it’s ghostly. It has weird textures, majestic energy, and spooky overtones that add so much depth and soul to your playing—it’s an organic interaction between you, the guitar, and the amp. I live for those overdriven vibrations and emotions.