Brian ‘Head’ Welch, Mastodon’s Troy Sanders, Megadeth’s Dave Ellefson Rock The Playback Independent Music Expo

Kevin Tall

Aspiring musicians — and fans of all stripes — flocked to Tampa, Florida, this weekend for the Playback Independent Music Expo. This metal-heavy meeting of the minds featured a series of panels, workshops, master classes and more — featuring the likes of Korn’s Brian “Head” Welch, Troy Sanders of Mastodon, Kyle Sanders of Hellyeah, Queensryche’s Todd La Torre, Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal, drummer Dirk Verbeuren & legendary bassist David Ellefson of Megadeth, and Jason Bieler of Saigon Kick, amongst others. The accomplished musicians were on hand to offer some wisdom to attendees trying to make it in a challenging, and often confusing, environment.

In addition to the star musicians mentioned above, PBX attendees had access to legendary producers Mike Clink (Guns N’ Roses’ Appetite For Destruction & Use Your Illusion, Megadeth’s Rust In Peace), Max Norman (Ozzy Osbourne’s Blizzard of Ozz & Diary of a Madman, Megadeth’s Countdown to Extinction) and Toby Wright (Alice in Chains’ Alice in Chains& Jar of Flies, Sevendust’s Home, Korn’s Follow the Leader).

Organized by metal industry guru Thom Hazaert — who runs the EMP label group with Ellefson — the event served as an opportunity for those who’ve found success in the music business to pass on some guidance to the next generation of rockers. Information ranging from marketing and production to the importance of musical education was on hand, provided courtesy of special guest Lee Whitmore of the Grammy Music Education Coalition.

Featured image credit: Kevin Tall

For its inaugural run, PBX was well organized and well attended, doubtless owing to Hazaert’s myriad connections within the scene. But expo attendees weren’t the only ones who appreciated the event.

“This is really cool, it’s intimate, and last night was awesome,” Welch said, referring to the “Playback: LIVE” show, featuring David Ellefson’s Basstory, held the night prior at Tampa’s historic Brass Mug.

In addition to the promised “intimate evening of riffs and repartee,” those lucky enough to catch the show were treated to PBX attendees taking the stage as part of the Basstory set. Ellefson was joined on stage by bassists Troy and Kyle Sanders, of Mastodon and Hellyeah respectively, with Welch on guitar and Bumblefoot producing his signature double guitar. Hazaert even provided the vocals, joining the impromptu supergroup.

As if a star-studded show and words of wisdom weren’t enough, per the Inquisitr, PBX attendees got to hear the cautionary tale of Brian “Head” Welch and his struggles with addiction, much owing to a lifestyle spent on the road.


But there were also plenty of moments of levity. Candlebox co-founder and guitarist Peter Klett shared one of his favorite “happy guitar moments.”

“Getting my first electric [guitar] was pretty cool,” he said. “One of the funny things — we toured with Metallica for a couple of months — the funny thing about it is that, for me as a guitar player it was cool, because each one of the members but Kirk [Hammet] told me I was a great guitar player. They’re all like ‘You’re great,’ and Kirk said nothing.”

Welch shared his own amusing anecdote.

“I got a Peavey Mystic that was my first, like, real electric guitar, and an amp,” he said. “I started getting into George Lynch heavy… I wanted a tiger-striped guitar ’cause of George Lynch. I was like, ‘Man, I gotta make some money, how do I make some money?’ And I met Munky [James Shaffer], the other guitar player from Korn, and he had an acoustic… He came over to my house and saw me shred. I was playing around to some Dokken albums and everything, so he was like ‘Man, I need to get an electric.’ And I was like, ‘Hey, I’ll sell you mine.’ I jacked up the price and I got that Charvel. His dad paid for it. That’s my happiest guitar moment. There’s a photo in my first book of me holding a tiger-striped guitar. Thanks, Munk’s dad!”

Ron "Bumblefoot" Thal, Mastodon's Troy Sanders and Megadeth's David Ellefson perform during the Basstory set at Playback: LIVE.
Featured image credit: Kevin Tall