Mastodon’s Bill Kelliher Explains Why He Didn’t Like Iron Maiden & Judas Priest, Says Metallica’s James Hetfield ‘Taught’ Him to Play Guitar. tt

“‘These guys [from] Maiden, they look like they’re out of Dungeons & Dragons or something.'”

Mastodon's Bill Kelliher Explains Why He Didn't Like Iron Maiden & Judas Priest, Says Metallica's James Hetfield 'Taught' Him to Play Guitar
Mastodon’s Bill Kelliher recalled how James Hetfield “taught” him to play guitar, and noted how Judas Priest and Iron Maiden felt too grandiose for his liking.

Bill’s guitar playing in Mastodon has long served as an anchor to the band’s progressive leanings, providing raw power and a solid base to build intricate soundscapes on. However, the mix of influences that made Kelliher the player he is today is anything but simple, given what he told Guitar Summit in a recent interview.

Jimi Hendrix, Van Halen, Rush, The Beach Boys, The Ventures, and, thanks to his hi-fi loving dad, The Beatles all figure into that intricate mix, but discovering punk rock was a big one. “It just changed my whole dynamic of my playing”, Bill says, noting how Johnny Ramone could make something as simple as a single chord sound so impactful.

And then, there was Metallica and James Hetfield (transcribed by Ultimate Guitar):

“I started getting into Metallica; James Hetfield was a hero of mine, because I was like, I’m getting good enough where I can play like that guy.’ When I first met him, I said, ‘Thank you for teaching me how to play guitar.’ He was like, What are you talking about?’ ‘You know what I’m talking about. I used to buy your records, and I would bring them home, and I would learn every single day…. and I’ve learned everything from you.’

“And that’s how I learned all the rhythm stuff because I couldn’t play all solo stuff. It was all about songwriting and the rhythm to me.

“I always wanted to emulate [Hetfield]. And so I had to buy a Gibson explorer, I’d have a Marshall amp, or Mesa Boogie amp, and everything he had.”

However, more “operatic” metal bands such as Iron Maiden and Judas Priest didn’t seem to interest Bill in his formative years, as he explains:

“But then, when I’d listen to stuff like Iron Maiden and Judas Priest, I didn’t like it quite as much. The singing was a little much for me; it was very operatic… It’s like when you’re going to the theater. The themes, the creatures, and the artwork, the tight pants [laughs]. That’s [what] threw me — I’m this grungy, punk rock kid with pierced ears, a weird haircut, ripped-up jeans, and I looked more like the Metallica guys: ‘Those guys look like me! These guys [from] Maiden, they look like they’re out of Dungeons & Dragons or something.’

“Which… That’s their schtick. Now, I love Iron Maiden, they’re fucking great. I know them, I’ve toured with them, it’s a whole other story now, but being a young, impressionable kid, I was like, ‘I’m gonna go for the more dirty, grungy guys to be my heroes.’ It was too perfect for me.”

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