As any major performing guitarist knows, a good guitar tech can be valuble to have on hand when things go awry. Here industry veteran Josh Newton shares his experience working as a guitar tech, and helps artists determine whether or not hiring one is the right call for them.
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There are many different jobs in the music industry, but knowing who to hire and when to hire them requires thought and planning. The needs and budgets of developing artists and labels aren’t the same as those for established ones. Making the right decisions and hiring the right people is where indie.ninja comes in. ‘Why Every Indie Needs A Ninja’ lets you know when it’s time to bring in a professional and how they can help take your career to the next level.
Any guitarist who’s ever strummed an out of tune guitar or broken a string on stage mid-song knows the importance of having a guitar tech. Josh Newton has played guitar and bass in a number of noted bands over the years, including Shiner, Every Time I Die, and his most recent effort, Sie Lieben Maschinen. When not busy making music, he works as a guitar tech for such bands as Fall Out Boy, Band of Horses, Kings of Leon, and The Breeders, among others. Hear what goes into the job and when he thinks you need to start handing your guitars off to a professional.
I became a professional guitar tech after playing bass in The Damned Things with Joe Trohman of Fall Out Boy. He and I really hit it off, so when Fall Out Boy decided to come out of hiatus, he asked if I’d be interested in being his guitar tech. I’d already teched for myself for about 20 years by that point, and I’m completely obsessed with gear, so it seemed like a great opportunity. It’s been about six years now and I really like it.
On a daily basis, my duties as a guitar tech include loading the gear in, setting up the backline, checking out/cleaning/restringing the guitars, line check, soundcheck (some bigger bands don’t show up until about show time), working the show, packing up the gear, loading the truck, sleep, repeat.
With Fall Out Boy, we went from Joe doing a lot of guitar changes to him pretty much sticking with the same guitar for 99% of the show. Now I mostly change his patches on his switching system for him. With Band of Horses there were a TON of guitar changes, crazy tunings, capos, and about 17 guitars. That was a busy, mildly stressful “gig.”
I always try to have spares of everything; fuses, cables, etc. I like to have spare spares. Some bands don’t roll with backup guitars, which is crazy to me as you never know what’s going to happen. You might not break any strings, but someone could lower a lighting truss onto your guitar boat and pop off some headstocks. I once had stagehands in Oklahoma push my entire rig off the side of the stage accidentally. That was great! Spare tubes to the rescue.
I’d say you need a guitar tech when you’re too busy doing actual “rock business” things every day - press, radio, photo shoots - to have time to set up your own gear. If you’re a club band and you’d rather not break the rock star illusion or just hang out to meet sexual partners, you absolutely don’t need/can’t afford someone. Just my opinion, YMMV. For what it’s worth, I had a tech on a couple of tours and hated it. I felt like a lazy jerk. Hahaha.