Ambition is a trait that can motivate and drive an individual’s actions toward a specific goal. It can inspire people to work hard and take risks in order to obtain specific benefits. And if you don’t believe that even kids can go the extra mile to achieve what they want, you should ask Mastodon guitarist Bill Kelliher about it.
In a recent chat with Guitar World, Kelliher reminisced the trouble he went through with his parents – specifically with his dad – while he was a teenager, learning to play guitar, and how he found a DIY solution to achieve what he needed.
“I very first started playing guitar when I was 15. My dad owned a Hi-Fi business for about 35 years or so and I remember I was like the last kid of all my friends to get a guitar, and I said: ‘Dad I need an amp to go with the guitar’. So, he ended up getting me a Traynor little combo amp, but it didn’t have any distortion.”
Using distortion while practicing guitar helps to magnify whatever you play. All deliberate notes will be magnified, but any open strings or buzzing notes that you don’t want will also be amplified, therefore adding distortion to your guitar tone isn’t only useful to give it a more rock sound, it can also help to tidy up all your playing in a clean tone as well.
“I was like, ‘Dad, I need distortion,’” Kelliher continued. However, his dad did not approve Bill’s request, as he was not fond of sound-altering effects: ‘Well, Billy, us in the hi-fi business are trying to rid the world of distortion. We want a crisp, clear sound coming out of our speakers and our hi-fi gear.’ “He didn’t believe in distortion.”
“I had to figure out how to get distortion. Kelliher elaborated. “I had an old Sony receiver that was from the late ’70s, I had two Advent speakers, a turntable, I had this little MXR EQ dual band stereo thing. And I figured out how to plug my guitar into the EQ, into my tape deck, hold down the Record and Play button – so it was in record mode, so it would pass the signal, but there wasn’t even a tape in there – press the pause button and run the signal through that, and I got this crazy distorted sound that wasn’t unlike Greg Ginn of Black Flag, and that was my dude that I was looking up to at the time.”
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