THE ART OF GUITAR TECHING!
Alessandro Nicoli has worked as a guitar technician for many years with a wide array of bands from local acts like Angus & Julia Stone and Wolfmother to internationals such as Norwegian band Kvelertak. A little over a year ago, Alessandro Nicoli found himself guitar-teching for ferocious heavy metal icons Lamb of God. Alessandro gives us an exclusive insight into his world.
When did you go from playing guitar to doing more tech-related work?
I was born in Australia, but grew up in Italy. After school, I started playing in some local bands but nothing serious. I went to many gigs as a punter, and eventually became interested in the tech side of things. Once I returned to Australia in 2006, I met Greg from the Drum Cartel in Brisbane, a great drum tech with a drum hire company. He initially taught me a lot and guided me to my first few gigs as a roadie. I relocated to Melbourne in 2011, and have been working at the awesome Deluxe Guitars off tour.
Did you have many mentors along the way?
Over the years I started learning from different luthiers and amp guys, and tech’s that I have toured with and most importantly the road itself. Ant Milne (The Jedi) has taught me a lot and Richard Howell, a luthier from Mornington Victoria. Everyone I have worked with, I have tried to learn their perspective on things.
Tell us the sequence of events which led you to becoming a guitar tech for Lamb of God. Who you had been working for prior?
I was suggested for the job, and started at Soundwave Festival last year. The band had someone locked in for the following tour, but things did not work out so I was called again. Over the years I have worked for a few bands including: Angus and Julia Stone, Wolfmother, Kvelertak, Architecture in Helsinki, Children Collide, Temper Trap, Gyroscope, Alkaline Trio, Evermore, The Getaway Plan, Gyroscope.
Are you responsible for the maintenance of all the band’s guitars?
For Lamb of God, I look after stage right on stage, which is Willie Adler (guitar) and John Campbell (bass). Mark Morton is looked after by Jake Hobbs, which is on stage left.
What is the core guitar gear Willie is currently using … guitars, amps, pedals?
Willie plays Mesa Boogie Mark V for amplifiers, through Mesa 4×12’’ cabinets. He uses his signature ESP guitars, SIT strings, signature model Dunlop pedals and picks.
I recently installed a Radial JX44, which allows you to run 4 inputs, and 6 isolated outputs with and fx loop for all the pedals. The 4 inputs run to the 4 wireless channels. We’re running Shure ULXD4Q for wireless, running wireless workbench via Ethernet between the units. This allows me to select frequencies for Willie’s rig and John’s through a few simple clicks.
Outputs: half run to 2 amps, output 3 to spare amp. Output 1 is the iso amp, this runs to an isolated cabinet which is in a road case with 2 microphones inside behind the stage, this is the FOH sound. Output 2 is the stage amp, which runs to the 2x stage cabinets (which have no microphone, just more for stage volume). In the fx loop of the JX44, I run Willie’s fx, which are all inside the rack. Rackmounted dbx 266 compressor and gate, then through MXR distortion pedal, MXR chorus and Boss NS2, real simple. The 2 amps have a custom made switcher which allows me to change both amps channels to clean for clean parts, with the added fx of the chorus pedal turned on.
Generally, how many guitars do the band go out on tour with?
In my stage right vault, I have 10 guitars and basses in total. Two guitars will be my main in each tuning (drop D, and drop c#), two of my spares and my last one for the warm up room. This applies for bass also.
What does a day on the road with Lamb of God consist of? What are you required to do?
Normally for a headline run, we load in around 11 am, as audio and lights are done. I set up my guitar world stage right wing. I have a total of 8 cases and I am set up pretty quickly. Once the rig is up and running, I restring all played guitars from the previous night and fine tune for soundcheck. Depending on the day, the band might soundcheck and if they don’t, the crew will do it. After supports are set up, it’s time for a quick bite at catering and if you are lucky some nap time. Warm up guitars are dropped off to the room an hour before showtime, and once the show is over, we pack up, have a shower and time for the tour bus to leave.
Are you involved much with Willie’s effects system during a gig?
Depending on the set list, there might be some switching but normally not much for Willie. Besides some boost, or turning on chorus with the clean sound, that’s pretty much it. Mark’s tech has a lot more switching going on.
Have the sounds on the latest Lamb of God album required any change of gear or tunings?
The songs on the new record are in drop D and drop C#. The Lamb of God gear has stayed mostly the same for the last few records.
What kind of mods if any have you made recently to the guitars and for what reason?
Recently Willie started using Fishman pickups, active pickups that are charged from the back through mini usb. These pickups allow you to use different voicings and are fine tuned to what Willie likes.
Is it difficult to maintain Lamb of God’s guitars as opposed to other bands?
Not really, with every band it’s the same approach. Everyday before soundcheck I try to check the guitars and fine tune them as best as possible. I also need to constantly check for neck bow and intonation, which is very important. Some other artists I have worked for trash their guitars, so sometimes I might have some more work to do but I’m always up for a new challenge.
You work with a lot of Australian bands too. How different can circumstances be from gig to gig? Are some guitarists a hell of a lot fussier than others?
Every new tour is like being at a new school in a new class, every artist is different. Some artists are more fussier than others but I just think that they know what they like and expect it to be done. Some are simple, others more complex. My job is to make sure they have the best show, so I try my hardest to make that happen. The artist might change but my input stays the same.
Had any gear nightmare gigs you’d rather forget? (that I’m asking you to remember!)
The last show of an Angus and Julia Stone show in San Francisco after a 4 month tour. At change over, our freight from Canada was nowhere to be seen, so we had no gear for the show … but the show must go on. We asked the local backline company a few hours prior to give us any guitar and pedal that they had and hoped for the best. We asked every band at the festival if they could help. Only half the stage was ready to go gear-wise, but shortly after that, our gear arrived. Normally you would like a few hours with the gear pre- show, but this was punk rock, they went straight on stage and plugged in. I was still pulling guitars out of cases when the first song started. The show was great though!
What’s are some good tips for looking after your guitars on the road?
Keeping them clean. Sweat from sweaty gigs is never good. Keeping an eye on the set up, adjusting the neck and the intonation as the weather and movement will change the guitar daily. Contact cleaner to keep the electronics lubed up and clean.
Do you ever have time to make your own music?
No and to be honest I love the tech life. I spend my free time learning, building some amps for my own fun and some pedals. I enjoy the occasional jam with my mates, but I really love teching.
When do you hook up with Lamb of God again and what else is in store for you for 2016?
Lamb of God are doing 2x USA runs starting in a few days and going till June, and rest of the year will be traveling around the rest of the world for the album cycle.
Overlord from Lamb of God’s latest album ‘VII: Sturm Und Drang’