A job interview is perhaps one of the most nerve-wracking experiences you can endure, but to interview for the position of Eddie Van Halen's electric guitar tech must have produced a whole other level of pre-interview nerves.
It was an experience, though, that Tom Weber – Van Halen’s former guitar tech, who worked with him between 2007 and 2020 – underwent, and one he ultimately aced thanks to some seriously inspired off-the-cuff thinking.
Telling his tale to The Jeremy White Show, Weber recalled the crazy interview process he had to go through before he was formally offered the role of Eddie’s guitar tech.
“I flew out to LA, and Matt Bruck picked me up,” Weber began. “We go out to 5150 [studio], Matt takes a guitar out of a gig bag and hands it to me, and he said, ‘You’re to set this up the way you think Ed would like it, and I’m to give you absolutely no information to go by.’”
With the “trial-by-fire” interview came a mountain of pressure. According to Weber, “things weren’t going well” for the Van Halen team, who were already on their third guitar tech in production rehearsal.
However, rather than panicking, Weber drew upon his extensive knowledge of the fretboard – and a chance encounter he had with Van Halen himself – to inform his approach.
Weber continued, “Ed and I met in 1987 – I was the house audio engineer at Starwood Amphitheatre in Nashville – and I remember shaking hands with him. He had a really strong grip.”
“I figured, ‘Ed’s got a hell of a left hand.’ I’m going to have to set the intonation flat enough so that when he grabs the neck, the notes are right.”
It was an inspired decision, though Weber went well beyond addressing the intonation. For his next tweak, he thought more specifically about how Van Halen’s playing style – and his background in classical piano – should influence his setup.
“When you strike a guitar to tune it,” the tech continued, “the note starts out sharp, then it settles into pitch. Ed Van Halen is not going to stay in one place long enough for the note to settle into pitch.
“He’s also a classically trained pianist, so the strings open on the guitar don't mean anything. They have to be in tune with themselves when he's playing in any given song.”
To overcome this problem, Weber temper tuned the guitar in the fifth position and "split the difference" – a process that left the high D# string 14 cents flat but in tune relative to the other strings.
It was a risky move: in Weber’s own words, “If I played one of Ed’s guitars the way that I play my own guitars, I’d sound like a blithering idiot. I’d be so out of tune.”
Unsurprisingly, Weber’s risk paid its dues. After it was collected and ferried to Van Halen for a tryout, Bruck returned with the good news.
“Dude, I’ve been with Ed for 17 years, and you’re the closest guy so far,” said Bruck, who also admitted that “nobody in the world can tune a guitar” for Eddie Van Halen.
Impressed by Weber’s work, Van Halen gave the guitar tech another six-string to work his magic on as a test to see if he was actually good and not just “lucky." Safe to say he delivered the goods once again.
Upon trying the guitar out in front of Weber – he only had to play one chord unplugged – Van Halen simply said, “It’s perfect. Where have you been all of my life?”
“'On the other end of the phone waiting for you to fucking call me!'" Weber had replied. "He had my telephone number since 1987.”
As far as job interviews go, it sounds as though Weber may have experienced the most daunting one of all. Still, he got to work closely with Van Halen for 13 years, so perhaps it wasn't so bad after all.