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Honey, I’m home… now what?
Even the most popular bands and ambitious booking agents can’t tour forever. So, what does a tech do when they get home? First and foremost, they reconnect loved ones and reassure their children that, yes, they are their father. Thankfully, today’s technology keeps families closer on the road than ever before—members of the road crew (and band) regularly video chat via Skype or Facetime and stay constantly connected with Facebook and email. And because they are flying all over the world for gigs, techs rack up quite the frequent flyer mileage, so they often make up for lost time with spur-of-the-moment vacations.
But what does a trained tinkering gearhead do when he’s put back into domestic captivity? “When I’m home I still enjoy rat-rodding guitars with very time-consuming and odd art finishes and designs with found objects like rust and bones,” says Francis. “I also consult for a few companies, but being that I like the way things sound when they’re broken [laughs], I doubt they listen to me very much.”
Other techs start up their own companies—within the industry and beyond.
“When I’m off the road I have my own pedal company that I build handwired, point-to-point overdrive and boost pedals,” says Appleton. “I still love to play so I still do session work and jam around town when I’m home in Nashville.”
When not supporting Alex Lifeson or Phil Collen on the road, Appleton rocks out with his own band in Nashville.
Termini works in an audio/video business installing home theater systems and smart home technology. He says it’s a tentative backup plan if the road-life and music business becomes too much. Trejo spends quality time in his personal shop setting up and customizing guitars for friends, family, and other musicians. Dickson is working on some pickup projects and other guitar-related ideas with Mojotone and still spends plenty of time writing and playing music. In addition, he’s hoping to find some voiceover work.
And Buffa spends his infrequent free time building racks with longtime friend Mark Synder, including pedalboards for John Petrucci, Peter Frampton, and some of Napa Valley, California’s winery owners who double as gearheads. Buffa’s even used his rack-aptitude to build wooden racks for wineries in California and Brooklyn.
On the road again
Despite the time away from loved ones, never-ending soundchecks, travel nightmares, and budding side businesses, the techs we spoke with don’t stay off the road for long—they are road warriors through and through. It’s most certainly not for everybody, but for this small community of guitar techs, it’s one of their true passions in life. Some have known it since they first realized the job existed, while others stumbled onto the profession through trial and error. No matter the route, the destination is the same—working on some of the most important gear for the biggest guitarists.
Farmer gets into the groove with the crew onstage at a Mule show
Beyond the mere fascination for gear and admiration of the players they work for, these guys all love being a part of something that touches someone. “I know I can say for all the techs I’ve known and have worked with that it’s just phenomenal being a part of something like the art of music,” says Farmer. “We take pride in our job—however big or small our role—when we see how emotional people get and how music positively effects them. It’s a beautiful way to make a living.”
Remember to check back next week with part 2, which will feature tech tips, pointers, and ideas on how to maximize your tone and be prepared for any gig catastrophe.