Mastodon’s Troy Sanders Names His Go-To Distortion Pedal (and It’s Made By a Smaller Brand)

For Mastodon bassist and singer, there’s one distortion pedal that he feels is his “go-to” dirtbox.

If we’re looking at a band like Mastodon, finding the right tone is a very important part of the creative process. After all, there are two great and creative guitar players in the band, Bill Kelliher and Brent Hinds, and Sanders also needs to find his sonic space in there. Paired with the band’s intricate yet incredibly appealing riffs, Mastodon builds this massive wall of sound that’s difficult to beat.

When it comes to live shows, Sanders says that he prefers a Big Muff clone made by a small boutique builder, Wren & Cuff. Speaking to Guitar World in a recent interview, the bassist explained:

“I own a lot of different distortion pedals, and I bring out a different one for every tour. My go-to is called a Tall Font Russian, made by a small company called Wren & Cuff in California. It’s based on the old Big Muff.”

Rig Rundown - Mastodon's Brent Hinds, Bill Kelliher, and Troy Sanders

As Troy also explained, the pedal sounds pretty much the same as Big Muff. “In fact, I once A/B’ed them together and I couldn’t tell the difference,” he added.

This, however, isn’t the only distortion pedal he’s really into. Apart from the Tall Font Russian, there’s a couple of more that he feels work the best for him. Troy offered:

“I also have a Rottweiler distortion, made by TC Electronic, and then my classic Russian-made Big Muff. Those three are my go-to distortions.”

Despite being one of the biggest names in metal music these days, Sanders still has that fiery passion for finding new, exciting stuff in guitar gear stores.

“I know it’s ridiculous that I still go to stores and want to buy pedals just to see what they sound like,” he explained. But at the same time, he still feels like it’s a good sign. Sanders continued:

“On the other hand, it’s cool that the fire is still burning in me, that I still want to want to jam with my bandmates, and that I look forward to writing new songs and going on tour. I hope that fire continues to burn.” 

During the same interview, Troy also discussed his specific position in Mastodon and what it’s really like for him to work in a very guitar-oriented band. As he explains, it’s all about finding the best balance and not having your parts stick out too much.

Mastodon - More Than I Could Chew [Official Music Video]

“As the bass player in a heavily guitar-driven band, I don’t need to be in the spotlight any more than I already am,” he explained. “I try to get some feel when the time is right, but because we have two guitar wizards and a mountain range of a drummer, my role doesn’t usually need to be any more than just rocking out.”

Of course, Mastodon is well-known for being a multi-frontman band. Everyone except for Bill Kelliher has lead vocal parts. Meanwhile, we can only hear Kelliher’s voice in brief parts of “Blood and Thunder.”

Reflecting on his role in the band in terms of juggling vocals, Sanders said:

“We have a vocal tag team between Brann [Dailor, Mastodon drummer], Brent, and myself. We bounce ideas off each other to see what the strongest one is.”

Exploring The Troy Sanders Precision Bass | Fender Artist Signature | Fender

“Then it takes loads of practice and repetition because playing bass and singing is a lot like rubbing your belly and patting your head. There are two different rhythms going on at once! I just try to be as tasteful as possible on the bass. Then I go into vocal mode.”

This whole complex beautiful mess that is Mastodon’s music isn’t all that easy to navigate through. And it’s especially challenging when doing live shows.

“I lose perspective,” Sanders said when asked about how he handles his bass parts live. “I know my bandmates are playing super-well, but sometimes it’s just so massive that it takes me the entire set to know what’s really happening.”

Mastodon live at Rock am Ring 2022

“That should make me concentrate harder, but I kind of levitate into this mental dreamscape and I probably make more mistakes than ever! I’m just so glad that we can still do it and that it’s the same four guys. 

“Relationships are difficult to sustain, whether it’s a friend or a girlfriend or whoever, so I’m proud of the fact that we’ve stayed close for so long. It never ceases to amaze me that we’re still able to do what we do.”

Photo: Alfred Nitsch (20170615-120-Nova Rock 2017-Mastodon-Troy Sanders)

  • David Slavkovic

    David always planned for music to be nothing more than a hobby. However, after a short career as an agricultural engineer he ended up news editor at KillerGuitarRigs, senior editor at, as well as a freelance contributor to online magazines such as GuitaristNextdoor and brands like Sam Ash.