Since taking guitar lessons at high school, Adam Day has always had axes in hand – though they normally belong to other people... So what does the role of guitar tech really entail at the high-end, when you're looking after the likes of Slash, AC/DC, and Journey's Neal Schon?
Does the role of guitar tech change from artist to artist, or is there a consistency of sorts at this level?
There is a consistency, definitely. It obviously depends if you’re working with one or more than one artist, but you’re responsible for basically all of their equipment from the ground up. The first tour I went on was with a buddy of mine – he taught me guitar when I was at High School. I was 19, he was 21, and I had just enough guitar under my belt to go out on the road, but I was nowhere near as accomplished as I am now. I think you have to kind of dive in head-first, which is what I did, and I haven’t done a whole lot of other work in other avenues since.
You were with Slash for 19 years, and your current mainstay is Journey’s guitarist, Neal Schon...
Yeah that’s right; I’ve been looking after Neal for just over five years now. I actually did part of the last ACDC tour too, but it’s been pretty solid with Neal.
I guess it depends on the guitarist’s inventory – but how difficult is the job?
I don’t think it matters how many instruments you’re dealing with, but a broader array of guitars will certainly provide different challenges. Neal has a lot of wacky stuff, including seven-, eight-, and nine-string guitars, so when he uses that kind of kit, you have to know what’s going on with it.
I know a seven-string adds a low B string, but I’m lost on the others... Can you divulge?
[laughs] To be honest, I don’t know if there is a standard tuning for eight- and nine-string guitars! Neal will often make up tunings, and actually it becomes a great writing tool when you have that kind of ability at your disposal.
You’ve used Lectrosonics wireless systems for some time on guitars – what do you need to see in a wireless system to make the transition from a cable?
Well, for a guitar player, guitar sound and set- up is so personalised, but whether it’s a guitar or a digital signal processor that’s supposed to be the best for whatever reason, it doesn’t mean that somebody’s going to like it; and that goes with wireless systems as well. It really comes down to personal preference. I know what Lectrosonics does to certain instruments, and how it reacts, as opposed to some other units; I was first referred to Lectrosonics by Steve Stevens some time ago, and got Slash involved. We did a little showdown with three or four wireless systems, and Slash preferred Lectrosonics. Once again, it all comes down to personal preference; but to me, it’s a great translation of a guitar through a cable, and the dynamics that you may or may not miss.
Is it perfect? Is it identical? I don’t think it is – not yet; wireless still may be missing some bandwidth that a cable has, but I know that players like Neal [Schon] like the wireless better than the cable because he can boost it a little bit, you know? There are always different variables and criteria for different artists as to what they’re looking for.
Have you had any issues with reliability?
I have had zero RF issues with this [Lectrosonics] stuff. We’re using the R400a receivers and the LMa transmitters, and we haven’t really changed our setup since the days of Slash and Malcolm Young [ACDC]; Malcolm might not move around as much as Slash, but it’s just as demanding a task sonically and re- liability-wise, so the system has got to be rock solid – and it always has been. Slash would run around stadiums, and we never had a drop-out once. The only issues I’ve ever had are operator errors, which are my fault; absolutely nothing on the Lectrosonics side.