‘Rush’s Alex Lifeson Was My First Guitar Hero,’ Mastodon’s Bill Kelliher Explains

During a recent conversation with the Metal Voice, Mastodon‘s rhythm guitarist Bill Kelliher revealed that he grew up listening to classic rock bands like Rush, and Alex Lifeson was, in fact, his first guitar hero due to his unique playing style and brilliant solos.

In one of his previous interviews, Lifeson had admitted that Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, and Jimmy Page all had an impact on creating his own style. Yet, the Who’s Pete Townshend was actually his biggest source of inspiration and at the top of the list of the great guitar players who influenced him. Apparently, the musician himself has also achieved inspiring other guitarists.

During a new interview, Bill Kelliher revealed that Rush was one of the rock bands he used to listen to when he first picked up his guitar as a young and aspiring musician. He was so fascinated by the band’s iconic progressive sound, along with Alex Lifeson’s exceptional approach to guitar.

It was hard for him to play his guitar solos, but still, Kelliher enjoyed the way the band made music, distinguishing them from their counterparts. He also liked the fact that Rush didn’t follow the same pattern each time they played their classics. He also tries to do the same with Mastodon, but they are not as good at that as Rush.

Bill Kelliher’s statements on Rush and Alex Lifeson:

“Rush was definitely one of the bands that I could actually play some of their riffs when I first got a guitar at 15 years old, so 1986, I was like, ‘Oh, cool. What’s this band Rush all about?’ Alex Lifeson was kind of my first guitar hero. I was like, ‘This guy is really cool.’ I couldn’t play his solos, but I’d like the songwriting. Just the fact that they didn’t do stuff the same every single time.

If you listen to any of their songs, it’s like, ‘Here comes that, here comes the chorus again, are they gonna change instead of three, they do five, or they do four and a half for something weird?’ Why’d they do that? I don’t know, just to be proggy, I guess. I guess that’s what it was. Once in a while, we like to throw something like that in the mix and get a little.

We are not masters of it like Rush are, but all that like psychedelics; we definitely did our share of LSD, pot, and whatnot in our days. So, we know what people going to a concert are trying to experience. It might be some drugs, they might be just wanting to have a good time and hear some crazy weird keyboards and delays, guitar solos, and have some cool lights and video, and we’re always trying to make our shows better as well.”

Thus, Alex Lifeson was Kelliher’s first guitar hero, but he never had a chance to meet him, as he disclosed later in the same interview. He also never got to see Rush live due to his inconvenience. He was actually about to go on a tour with Mastodon just before one of Rush’s final shows, which had left him quite sad.