Mastodon's Bill Kelliher tells us in this edition of Gear Factor that he came to the guitar late, but as we've seen over the years, he's definitely able to fire out killer riffs.

"What got me into playing guitar was that all my friends were playing. I was the last guy out of six of my buddies who were all playing guitar,” says Kelliher, who adds that Van Halen was the band who put him on his path. "When I first saw Van Halen, I looked up and said, ‘Man, that’s what I want to do with my life,’" says the guitarist.

Admittedly, his friends had a head start on him as a youngster, but he recalls a friend playing Randy Rhoads riffs from Ozzy Osbourne's "Crazy Train" as his turning point. "I felt like giving up in the moment. I felt like they were just too good," said Kelliher of trying to keep up with his buddies. "I could play ‘Smoke on the Water’ and stuff. But I told myself that if I could learn how to play that riff in ‘Crazy Train’ that I had a standing chance.”

Other early influences of note included Iron Maiden and the Dead Kennedys, with the latter really speaking to the guitarist. "I had accidentally got this Dead Kennedys tape passed along to me in the art room and my friend was like, ‘Dude, this is the stupidest music you’ve ever heard and it’s terrible,’ but I heard it and I coveted it. I was like, ‘This music is awesome. I don’t know what you’re thinking. This music is crazy. It’s cool as shit and I love it.’”

Records also gave him an entry point into additional music, noting that bands like Metallica and Slayer were photographed wearing other band T-shirts or sporting stickers on their instruments. Because of Jeff Hanneman having a Dead Kennedys sticker on his guitar, he gave Slayer a try.

As for his own music, Kelliher takes us back to his early days with his first band, Crinkle Pig, sharing the origins of that name as well as one of the first riffs he'd written. The guitarist also reveals that after being in a number of bands that didn't take themselves too seriously, he was well aware that Mastodon was a definite pro band. "With Mastodon, it was like, we’re serious now. We’re going to write some heavy shit and be fucking evil.”

Taking viewers through some of his favorite riffs, we get bits of "Crusher Destroyer," "Asleep in the Deep" and "Spectrelight," revealing that the band typically writes in three different tunings -- D standard, Drop C and Drop A.

“I like incorporating a lot of those open strings. Every song I write has got an open string somewhere. It’s kind of like an exclamation point to the low string," says Kelliher.

The Mastodon guitarist also gives us bits of "Fallen Torches," their new Bill & Ted Face the Music song "Rufus Lives" and his Grammy-winning Emperor of Sand favorite, "Sultan's Curse."

Watch Bill Kelliher's full Gear Factor episode below and look for Mastodon's Medium Rarities coming Sept. 11 and check out the Bill & Ted Face the Music soundtrack available now.

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