Behind the scenes of every big live show you’ve ever seen is an army of techs, sound men and roadies who make sure every last detail of the performance goes off without a hitch. They make sure the guitars are in tune, the amps are all working properly, that the drums aren’t louder than the vocals and at the end of the night all the equipment is safely packed up and ready to go to the next gig. Josh Newton is one of these people and for the past few years has been the guitar tech for Fall Out Boy’s Joe Trohman. Newton is an impressive and experianced musician in his own right and has played with everyone from acclaimed indie rockers Shiner to metalcore heroes Every Time I Die. He first met Trohman when the latter band’s singer Keith Buckley was recruited into the super group The Damned Things and Newton ended up becoming their bassist. Trohman asked him to stick around when Fall Out Boy started up again and he even filled on for the guitarist recently in the U.K. when Trohman had to cancel due to a family emergency. Read our interview with Josh Newton and find out what goes into a major tour and what a guitar tech’s worst nightmare is.
Describe for people who don’t know what exactly a guitar tech does.
Josh Newton: I load all the gear into the show, with or without a crew from the venue. I set up Joe’s equipment. I maintain his gear. I’ll usually do the sound check for the band, or at least a line check. During the show I fix any issues that go wrong and hand them guitars and keep them in tune. Pete (Wentz) and Patrick (Stump) are both pretty low maintenance in terms of their gear so they share a dude, my compadre Brian Diaz. But Joe’s super easy too. His setup is a little crazy and he’s got a lot of gear but other than having his guitars tuned, he’s not that picky. And then at the end of the show fans yell at me for picks and set lists.
You’re also a musician yourself. How did you go from playing in bands to working as a tech?
I played in Glazed Baby for a couple of years and then played second guitar with Unsane for one tour. Then I came out to Kansas City to play with Season to Risk and Shiner. After that I was playing with Reggie and the Full Effect and we did some tours with From Autumn to Ashes andwhen their bass player quit they called me so I played with them for about three years. Then I played with Every Time I Die for about four years. When Joe (Trohman) and Scott Ian from Anthrax put together The Damned Things, they asked Keith from Every Time I Die to be the singer. Initially there was another guy playing bass, but he didn’t really work out. I just sort of invited myself and drunkenly asked Keith when we were out on tour, “Who’s playing bass? I’ll do it!” Next thing I knew I was standing in a room with Scott Ian with his Jackson Yankees guitar and it was like I was in 7th grade listening to the I’m The Man cassette. It was very weird. Then when Fall Out Boy started warming up again they asked me to stick around and tune guitars.
Only for myself. I basically teched for Joe during The Damned Things as well. I wasn’t an official member until a couple tours in and he would be doing press or whatever and I would get bored and just start setting up. I think when you’ve toured as much as I have, you’ve run into pretty much every equipment issue you could have. I’m not an amp repairman by any means but I can re-tube and bias my own amp. I would hope most guitar players would kind of get a feel for how to do a guitar set-up on their own, just through trial and error. That’s what I’ve always done. I would just take care of my own stuff, and my friend’s and luckily I never had any real issues. I would just be like, “What’s wrong with your guitar? Let’s see – oh you need new pickups. I’ll put them in for you.” I just learned it by doing because I’m completely obsessed with gear. It’s basically one of the only things I care about.
When you say Joe’s got a lot of guitar gear, how much equipment are you overseeing?
Well, two amplifiers, a guitar cabinet, and a twenty space rack filled with pedals and wireless units and a mini switcher. It’s a pretty ridiculous setup. I mean, there’s a lot crazier setups than his, but considering the other members of the band and what they use, it’s pretty extreme. The other guys will just tend to go amplifier head into a guitar cab, maybe a pedal, and that’s it. Whereas we have three delay units, a reverb, crazy oscillators and whammy pedals, the full gamut. The early Fall Out Boy stuff is kind of like Drop D rock with octave chords. But now that their sound has progressed, Joe has become more like the color guy. Since the records now have a lot of samples and keyboard stuff that they don’t really do live, he tends to fill that in with weird noises via effect pedals.
What’s a guitar tech’s worst nightmare?
For me the worst thing is when things get damaged or lost in shipping. Anything else I can deal with, we can work it out, but lately I’ve been on a bad run of cases getting destroyed during shipping. That’s the worst. We have three different rigs that we’re always shipping out and leap frogging, so it’s the ultimate pain for me. We fly around so much that right now the B rig is being shipped to Australia and we’re using the A and C rig at two different shows in L.A. where we don’t have time to move the equipment from one part of town to the other. Or we use them if we’re in New York doing The Today Show and then the next day we’re in L.A. doing Ellen or something, otherwise it would cost thousands and thousands to ship that stuff overnight. And some of Joe’s stuff is pretty specialized. The rigs aren’t identical, they have different amps, but there’s multiples of everything. It’s pretty ridiculous.
You actually ended up filling in for Joe recently with Fall Out Boy and playing guitar with them in the U.K. How did that happen?
Well, Joe’s mom passed away. She had cancer and it was a gradual thing so he decided to stay with her and his family instead of leaving the country so they asked me to fill in. And it was pretty crazy. Especially because I thought I was just doing a couple of shows, and then we were in London and they were like, “Hey we need to practice tomorrow can you come to the hotel?’ We’re doing this live BBC thing that’s going to be filmed and on the radio and by the way you need to play this song you’ve never heard” (Mark Ron’s “Uptown Funk”). And I was like ‘OK. Cool. Shit.’ I was already busy learning 20 other Fall Out Boy songs, let’s make it 21. But it was fun. The fans were nice. It was really out of my wheelhouse as far as anything else I’ve done. We had a good time. I think I did OK. It was funny because I was still my own guitar tech, and as we were filling up the trucks after the gig all the fans were like “Why are they making you load the gear?” I’m like, that’s actually what I’m here to do! I just happened to play the show!
What’s next for you, both with Fall out Boy and your own musical projects?
Well, their record American Beauty/American Psycho just came out. They only took about four months off and in that time I went and worked for Volbeat so that was pretty perfect for me. I’m just doing my new project Sie Lieben Maschinen stuff with Steve Tulipana who sang for Season To Risk, which just came out on all the download sites, and a Shiner reunion show, maybe more than one though, I’m not sure yet. I’m just trying to do shows whenever I can if I happen to have the opportunity. That’s why I moved back to Kansas City, just so I could play with dudes if I had the time.
[Photo Credit: Getty Images]