The beauty of the beast known as the modern electric guitar player are the infinite ways in which he tracks down, devours, and spits out his influences. Though a lot of them feast on similar fare?the Beatles, Zep, and Hendrix are always in the crosshairs?they all hear music, even the same music, absolutely differently. No two of them end up sounding alike. And they’re all armed with the same weapon: A hunk of wood and a half-dozen wires. Which makes the whole process even more astonishing.

Play the Beatles for one metal maverick, and he interprets them as instrument-to-amp monster riffs on ultimate distort settings. Play it for another guitarist and he unholsters a six-string colored by stomp boxes and pedals and awash in delays and echoes.

Here, five players reveal who they’ve consumed. Some of them cite the same classic bands, but you’d never know from listening to their albums. Because it’s just about impossible to hear these same influences cutting across the multiple styles represented by these guitarists.

Featured artists:
Bill Kelliher (Mastodon); Matt Skiba (Alkaline Trio); Adam Gontier (Three Days Grace); PJ Decicco (Armor for Sleep); and Ben Curtis (Secret Machines).

Bill Kelliher of MastodonBill Kelliher from Mastodon

My dad being Irish, he brought home a bunch of U2 records. I used to do a lot of stuff like U2 and new wave stuff. So I kind of started out with the easier stuff. And you know, like Van Halen and Zeppelin. Jimmy Page was definitely a guitar hero. We have a lot of influences and a lot of my stuff comes from early Metallica. Rush, when they first came out, they were great rock and roll, a Led Zeppelin kind of ripoff almost, singing about going to work and drinking some beer. You know what I mean? Like the workingman. Then Neil Peart joined the band and they kind of got all weird. Not weird, they got better, but they totally changed their style. They started singing about Kubla Kahn and rainbows.

I guess a lot of the old influences kind of come out. I never kept up with  the newest cool thing like the Steve Vai and the Yngwie Malmsteen and all that crap. Even though my friends who were playing guitar when I was in high school would be like, “Oh, dude, check this out!” And they’d play a million miles an hour. I was like, “Yeah, whatever.  I’m just gonna kind of ride the E and do some Zeppelin jams or AC/DC or something.” 

Everyone in the group has different influences obviously, ranging from country to Genesis to heavy metal to whatever. We allow everyone to put whatever riffs they want in there together. We usually put people’s riff under a microscope and kind of see, like a jigsaw puzzle, which parts fit perfectly with the next part. It’s like putting those parts together so we try and go every single way until they sound like they’re not forced.

Matt SkibaMatt Skiba from Alkaline Trio

My bandmates are really, really into Led Zeppelin; it’s definitely rubbed off on me. I had friends growing up that were really into it. They were all sort of like hippie guys and I was really into punk rock, so I was like, “F--k the Doors! Zeppelin sucks!” We’d give each other a hard time, but now I really realize how amazing that stuff was. Hendrix was beyond words; Zeppelin is incredible as well.  So I appreciate that stuff a lot. There’s definitely some Zeppelin happening here and there.

Adam GontierAdam Gontier from Three Days Grace

We’re influenced by lots of different stuff. We’re influenced by Nirvana and the Seattle music scene. The Beatles. And classic rock bands from the ’70s, and the ’80s. It brings a different element to the band, for sure.


P.J. DeCicco PJ DeCicco from Armor for Sleep
You are the sum of your own influences. I guess in a way, you’re not really influenced by what’s going on today as much as what was going on when you were growing up. I guess we kind of come from more of like a punk rock background, more like NoFx and New Jersey stuff like Saves the Day, Thursday, and Bouncing Souls. I think that’s a big part of who we are. And there’s also, you know, classic rock: Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd, and everything. When I was younger, I just remember being obsessed with Jimi Hendrix for, you know, a few years basically. I bought a Hendrix t-shirt that was like a rare t-shirt and didn’t ever want to stop wearing it. You know, that kind of thing. So it was definitely a huge influence on me personally. And I know that classic rock has just been a common influence on us in general. That plays a part in the experimental aspect of our music.

We grew up with musical parents. My parents were always listening to Steely Dan in the car. So I like Steely Dan now. And my dad, you know, listens to all sorts of crazy stuff from the ’70s like Strawberry Alarm Clock [actually from 1967 and their hit, “Incense and Peppermints"]


Ben Curtis of the Secret MachinesBen Curtis, formerly of the Secret Machines

I listened to Hendrix, of course, but not Cream so much. Another great three-piece were the Minutemen. I’m kind of aware of bands like the Police and Green Day. I don’t think I’ve really necessarily taken too much from those bands creatively. Our decision to stick with three people had more to do with what was happening between the three of us rather than some ambition we had to be a three-piece band.

People say that we sound English but I’m not really sure what that means exactly. I grew up in Oklahoma and when I turned on the radio, the only rock station was classic rock radio. So the only thing I heard were the Beatles, Zeppelin, and Pink Floyd. Seventy-five percent of it was all English bands. But no one ever told me that; I never thought of it as English music. We just play a certain way and all of a sudden you have people asking you, “Man, you guys sound like an English band!” It’s really bizarre because it never really occurred to me that there was an alternative. Maybe it’s kind of a reaction to us and where we’re coming from. We weren’t going to be Skynyrd, that’s for sure!