Mastodon's Bill Kelliher

Mastodon’s Bill Kelliher Blasts Gibson Guitars: “They Treat Their Artists Like Shit, Basically”


Mastodon guitarist Bill Kelliher didn’t shy away from airing his grievances with guitar, etc. manufacturer Gibson in a recent interview with Ultimate GuitarKelliher previously had a signature “Halcyon” Les Paul and Golden Axe Explorer with Gibson before jumping ship to ESP last year. He said of the circumstances that led to his exit:

“It was a lot of reasons. I never really felt like I was accepted at Gibson. The communication over there is terrible.

They kept fucking up my guitars that I was asking for. I didn’t ask for a lot – I just had a few certain things that I would like with my guitar – I told them I didn’t want it chambered and they made my second guitar chambered. All the guys I worked with over there – the A&R guys were getting fired left and right and the company just seemed to be falling apart to me. There were new guys who would come in and they didn’t know shit.

It was a breath of fresh air working with ESP. They were interested and would ask me what gauge strings I played and what tunings I play – Gibson never cared about any of that stuff.

Kids would get my guitar in the mail and ask me how to tune it because it wasn’t tuned and then I would tell them how to tune it and they would say it still doesn’t sound right and it’s because they’re not putting my gauge strings on there.

They weren’t even tuning the guitars to my settings or specifications – just little things like that. Things that make the guitar a Bill Kelliher model, like put it in my tuning so that when it shows up, it’s different.

ESP wanted to know all that stuff. They’re just friendly and nice and they’re interested in me and my band and what they can do for me rather than this company.

Gibson just wasn’t… I don’t know, I think they’re on their way downhill honestly.

Every guy I talk to – I mean, look at James Hetfield. He was at Gibson, played Gibson stuff and they didn’t want to work with him, so he went to ESP. And he’s one of the biggest fucking guitar players in our kind of music.

It seems like there are a lot of bad decisions being made over there.

But ESP is really great. They treat me really well. I love my Sparrowhawk that I designed. It’s the best playing guitar that I own.”

He further stated of how he came to join forces with ESP:

“They had been approaching me for a couple years now but I was with Gibson. I was happy with Gibson at the time but I was also in the middle of making guitars with Gibson.

I was ready to jump ship and then it just kind of came together when they didn’t renew my contract.

We sold every guitar that I designed – both types, and I did everything they ever asked me to do.

And they were just like, ‘Eh, we don’t need you anymore.’ So it was like, ‘Fuck you guys.’ I mean, I did every clinic and anything they ever asked me to do.

I don’t know why, but they treat their artists like shit, basically. ESP doesn’t.

So I do a lot of stuff for ESP, I do clinics and whatever they want because they’re good and they’re good to their artists and that’s how you keep business going – you’re good to your employees and you’re good to the people who bring you success or money or your shit’s going to go down the drain.”

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