Alice in Chains, Mastodon and Deftones Reflect on BlackDiamondSkye Tour
GW How important is a good guitar tech?
DuVALL Hugely important.
KELLIHER I didn’t have a guitar tech, and we’d been touring for 10 years. I’d always do my own stuff. But the bigger you get, the more stages you’re on in front of lots of people and the more stuff you’re using.
CANTRELL You just have less time to deal with all that.
KELLIHER I’ve gone through a couple guys, and the guy I’ve got now is great. There’s no talkback—we have a great relationship. He came to my practice pad a week before this tour started and went through my 60 guitars and wrote down every serial number and cleaned ’em all up, then put ’em away neatly so I knew where they where. I didn’t even ask him. And whenever I have a problem, he’s on it.
DuVALL Yeah, a good guitar tech is on it almost before you even have to say anything. Or when you say something, they go, “I don’t know, but I’m gonna figure it out.”
CANTRELL The thing about being a musician is that something is always gonna go wrong. There are too many moving parts. So having someone who can wrangle your shit and produce a solution when there’s a problem—bad cords, batteries, interference from a signal, problems with guitar intonation—it’s really important. But it takes time to develop that relationship with someone who knows what the fuck’s going on and can maybe create what you need on the fly himself—like dialing in stuff from one venue to the next. If it’s a big room, you might want to peel some stuff back; if it’s tighter, you might want to create a little more vibe. Your guy’s gotta know that.
KELLIHER Anyone can change strings or hand you a guitar, but you need someone who knows your set, knows your songs, knows what it means when you look at him in a certain way while you’re playing.
HINDS I’ve never had that dude. I’ve always had a different guitar tech every single tour. Never get it right.
GW What’s a sign you’ve got a bad tech?
CANTRELL When something’s wrong and you look over at your guitar tech and he’s shrugging his shoulders.
HINDS Or he’s talking to some girl. I’ve never once looked over at a guitar tech and had them know what I was talking about. This is what always happens: I always forget to check [drummer] Brann [Dailor]’s vocals in my monitor before we start. His vocals come in on the second song, and, man, it’ll be so loud that I’ll literally jump back. And I’ll look at the guitar tech and he’s like, “What? What?” I can’t talk to him because I’m busy playing all this crazy shit and trying to sing. I can’t say to him, “Hello, Bruce, I would like for you to turn Brann’s vocal down please. Thank you so much.” It’s more like, “Turn it down! Fuck!”
CANTRELL I’ve had that problem. We came up with something on the last couple of tours that is really handy. It’s a talkback mic that’s like a panic button. You step on it, and it lets you talk into the mic, and nobody can hear it up front. So your tech immediately knows what’s going on.
HINDS You use the same mic as your vocal mic?
HINDS I would forget the thing was on and just shout through the P.A.: “Hey, this shit is fucked up! I can’t hear shit!”
DuVALL No, you hear a change in your monitors. It cuts off and gets small.
GW Do you all use in-ear monitors?
MORENO I just started using them a couple months ago. I’m gonna keep using them, but I’ll be honest: it sounds better without them. I like the feeling of the live room. But I can totally tell I sing and play way better with them on.
DuVALL It’s changed the game for singers. It is a sacrifice, but it definitely makes you more precise.
GW What about for guitarists?
KELLIHER I was on them for a while, but I just ended up ripping them out and going, Ah!! There’s that Marshall stack and the Gibson sound again. Fuck these things. But at the same time, I’m losing my hearing. I’ve got ringing in my ears. It’s hard to sleep.
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