Skip to main content

Bill Kelliher reveals Ron Wood’s signature ESP as his secret studio weapon: “It’s the best-sounding Tele ever”

Bill Kelliher of Mastadon performs at Michigan Lottery Amphitheatre at Freedom Hill on June 11, 2019 in Sterling Heights, Michigan.
(Image credit: Scott Legato/Getty Images / ESP Guitars)

Since signing with ESP Guitars in 2016, Bill Kelliher has been mostly sighted playing his signature BK-600 and Sparrowhawk designs, but it turns out the Mastodon riff machine has an affinity for another, more unlikely, model in the Japanese company’s catalog: Ron Wood’s signature ESP.

In a new interview with Total Guitar’s Amit Sharma, Kelliher explains how the Tele-esque electric guitar ended up handling many of the clean tones on blockbuster new album Hushed and Grim.

“One of my secret weapons in the studio is a Ron Wood ESP,” he explains. “It’s a Telecaster with a humbucker and it’s the best-sounding Tele ever, so warm and still twangy. I used that a lot because I knew any time I needed that sound, it would always work better than anything else.”

The Ron Wood model is one of the more traditional offerings in ESP’s lineup, built for the Rolling Stones guitarist, and featuring ESP own-design humbucker and single-coil pickups.

Other models Kelliher employed throughout the making of the record include his ESP Sparrowhawks – now featuring new Mojotone Hellbender pickups – and a black 2007 Gibson Les Paul.

Elsewhere in the interview, the guitarist dished out more info on the mystery ESP double-cut that appeared in a promo for his signature STL ToneHub Pack last month.

“There’s an ESP called the Royal Shiva which hasn’t come out yet but it’s pretty much an exact replica of my First Act nine-string,” he reveals. “It’s super-thick at the neck and weighs about 13 pounds... It’s the fuckin’ heaviest guitar ever! I’ve been playing it live and it was in the studio, with a set of my Hellbender pickups.”

Head to Magazines Direct to pick up a copy of the latest issue of Total Guitar, which features the full interview with Kelliher, as well as a rundown of the 50 greatest Beatles guitar songs, Santana and Trivium interviews, plus tabs of songs by Free, Biffy Clyro, Extreme and Passenger.

Michael Astley-Brown

Mike is Editor-in-Chief of GuitarWorld.com, in addition to being an offset fiend and recovering pedal addict. He has a master's degree in journalism, and has spent the past decade writing and editing for guitar publications including MusicRadar, Total Guitar and Guitarist, as well as a decade-and-a-half performing in bands of variable genre (and quality). In his free time, you'll find him making progressive instrumental rock under the nom de plume Maebe.