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New Interview With Ed's Guitar Tech
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  1. #1
    Bop bada, shoobe doo wah
    Join Date
    Nov 2003
    Minneapolis, MN
    November 29th, 2004

    Guitars101.com has just posted a long and insightful interview with Lonnie Totman, the chief mechanic in Ed's onstage pit crew:


    " Lonnie was gracious enough to grant me this interview right after he came
    off tour, so I personally want to thank him for that. I'm far from a
    journalist guys, but hopefully everybody will dig this one.

    1. So how long have you been involved with guitars Lonnie?

    My first experience learning to play was about 29 years ago. Approx. 4
    years later I started to take it somewhat seriously. From day one I was
    taking them apart and trying to figure out how they worked. I eventually
    started to take apart amps and pedals, then switchers and midi pedals etc.
    Hasn't ended and still rip things apart!! I have found a way to keep it a
    hobby when at home for enjoyment and learning. Studied some electronics
    over the years as well. Alot of this development was long before all the
    info on the internet etc. It was a 'figure it out on your own' situation
    and I loved every minute of it.

    2. Of all the gear you've had over the years, what would be your most
    prized piece of equipment?

    1967 Marshall plexi 50w head and a 1966 Marshall 4x12 with green back 20's
    (not25's). Killer amp. Also a pair of Lexicon PCM 42 delay's.

    3. Describe a typical day on tour: pre show, during the show, and post

    This is going to be a long answer, hope no one minds.. There is no typical
    day but I'll try to present it that way. Its also slightly different for
    each band. Generally I get up at 7:30am ish. If we have driven overnight
    to the next gig my first mission is get off the bus and find a shower in
    the arena. Very important start! Generally I don't have to start working
    until approx. 11am however. The extra couple hours I create for myself
    here gives me time to contact suppliers for parts etc. when needed, so
    thats the time where I catch up on e-mails and phone calls. On the VH tour
    our stage manager knew I was in the building early everyday and we used
    that to our advantage by directing the band gear from the tractor trailer
    to the necessary location. That allowed it to be in place for the other
    backline guys when they arrived. Its all about teamwork. There are a
    couple other things I did at this point that were specific to Ed's setup
    because it was specific to the stage layout. This doesn't apply to every
    tour. For example: running his loom under the stage while the carps are
    building set stuff on top of the stage. Next up is guiding the band gear
    onto the stage and getting it into position with the local hands. This is
    where things move at a faster pace with wiring the rig etc. Your trying to
    get it done efficiently/quickly yet properly to get to the maintenance
    aspect as soon as you can. Next you generally try to get the guitars
    restrung, batteries changed, necessary cleaning etc. as soon as you can.
    Now it starts to get interesting because its different every day. The
    maintenance can entail anything and generally you never really know what
    will come up. It can be anything from intonating a guitar to changing a
    speaker to changing damaged guitar parts to fixing a broken cable, or re-
    setting up the gain structure of a section of the rig, or re-programming
    some patches that the player mentioned were not quite right the night
    before, or replacing a broken switch or led on the pedal board. Sometimes
    it can get more specific like replacing a relay in a switcher, or a dc to
    dc converter in a patchbox etc. This kind of stuff depends on the techs
    level of knowledge or experience. Some send it out to be repaired. Like I
    said, its different everyday. Next up is playing the rig for a bit and
    dialing the amps a little so it sounds right in the room and try to keep
    it in the ballpark of what the player is looking for. At this point we do
    line check which is basically the audio guys making sure they are
    receiving everything at front-of-house. Sometimes if something is not
    sounding right to them we work together to figure it out. Once this is out
    of the way you get back to your maintenance program. Hopefully you have
    time to hit catering for a quick lunch about now. Sometimes, depending on
    the gig of course, I get into modding some of the gear and that can be
    alot of fun. It really depends on the player and your time schedule. This
    is not a required part of being a guitar tech but I really enjoy working
    with the player in this way. Its great when you can make something sound
    alot better and of course its all about getting the player in a zone that
    he likes. With Ed we didn't get into that too much because he pretty much
    wants his gear the way it is as long as its consistent. I had some fun
    doing a few mods for one of our opening acts (Jonas). Their guitar player
    (Cory) and I were chatting one day and that lead to modding his old
    Marshall and Tube Screamer for him. He was really happy with the results
    and that was a fun way to get some of that creative side out. Generally
    its getting close to sound-check at this point so you spend the last bit
    of time making sure the guitars are tuned and all the small details are in
    place to make the player feel comfortable. Sound-check is different for
    every band. Some don't do it at all, some keep it short and some are as
    long as a show. Alot of it is the band working with the monitor people to
    make sure everything sounds right on stage. This is also the time when the
    player will point out if they want something adjusted a little differently
    and this can be anything from the guitar to a processor to an amp. Again,
    you never really know. Once sound-check is over you try to bang off as
    much of the changes that came up in sound-check as you can. Dinner!!!!!!
    Another important part of the day and a little bit of time to get away
    from the job hopefully. Then I head back to my tech world and finish up
    last minute things. Usually I have about an hour or a half hour here plus
    the time during the opening act. Changeover is next and its very fast
    paced. This entails placing pedal-boards and connecting them, putting down
    set-lists etc. and testing all gear again. Hopefully no problems come up
    here because if it does you have a VERY short time to deal with it. This
    is where the pressure starts and you have to know how to deal with
    whatever comes up very quickly. Most times its cool but every once in a
    while you get a curve ball. Its VERY important to get it solved quick so
    the player doesn't have to be involved in anyway. Its important to keep
    their mindset as positive as possible. Showtime!!! In short we tune
    guitars and hand them to the player when needed and solve any problems
    that might come up. On some gigs its more involved. For example: I might
    do all the patch changes so the player can concentrate on playing. Depends
    on the tour. Ed does his own switching. Its important to stay focused
    because you never know what will happen during the show. It can be as
    simple as a broken string to an amp go down. The idea of course is to work
    hard during the day so nothing will happen during the show but anything
    can come at anytime. How do you predict a fan landing on a pedal board and
    messing things up? You can't and it doesn't happen often but I have dealt
    with it!!! If you have a rig with alot going on (ie: several amps.
    hundreds of feet of cabling, many pedals etc. and your signal goes out it
    can be anywhere. You really have to know what your doing to take that on
    and come up smiling. Showtime is when you (and the player) really find out
    what your about. Its a fix it right now kind of situation but its VERY
    important to keep calm while dealing with it. If your freaking out its
    hard to give the player a sense of confidence. Ed throws some curveballs
    at you during some shows as well. For example: there were several times
    when his amp was not quite reacting the way he wanted. Generally that
    comes down to tube gain structure. I changed alot of tubes DURING the
    show. The first time he asked this of me I was thinking "umm right now
    Ed"? So I swap them out and pull out my meter and start biasing the amp.
    Ed says "what are ya doin' ?". "Biasing your amp Ed". He responds with
    "Just crank it man!" This is pretty unusual but it keeps you on your toes
    and it kept it interesting. I had alot of tubes on hand and was ready for
    it after that! Shows over!! This is the fastest pace of the day. The idea
    is to work with local hands and get all the gear you are responsible for
    packed as fast as you possibly can but in a way that is safe to the people
    around you and not damage the gear. Alot of this stuff is very heavy and
    people can get hurt. The reason why we have to move so fast here really
    comes down to "time is money". Next up is getting the band gear to the
    trucks and making sure it goes in in the right order. Backline (band gear)
    are first in the trucks. If we take too long we hold every dept. up. The
    longer we take the longer everyone takes and that translates into local
    labour costs. The pace is crazy but it can be fun. Everyday on VH the drum
    tech and I had a fun challenge going on to see who could pack up faster.
    It kept it fun and gave us something to rib each other about. At this
    point we are basically done. Next I find a quick shower and get on-line to
    pick up e-mails. Maybe I'm receiving a package of parts tomorrow and I
    need to know what to expect. Its also a good time to e-mail my sister and
    tell her I miss her. Now I head back to the bus and try to relax a bit.
    Sometimes hard to do with the quick pace of the show and loadout. Next is
    sleep!!!! Then its 7:30am and I wakeup in another city and do it all over
    again!! For those who like to count: By the time I get back to the bus at
    night its usually 12:30am ish. Thats a long day!!!!

    4. With all the buzz surrounding the big Van Halen tour this year, how has
    life on the road with one of rock's most legendary acts been?

    To be honest it has been a heck of alot of work. I don't view any artist
    for who they are in terms of fame etc. There is no doubt that Ed is an
    icon but I don't see how anyone in my position could view a player/band in
    that way and be good at at. I'm here to do a job and have to take it very
    seriously and responsibly. Ed and I got along very well and that is
    important. I had fun and met some great people along the way but like I
    said, it was alot of work.

    5. Regarding Ed's use of the chord instead of the wireless, is there
    really a purpose for this? And would you see him switching back to the
    wireless unit anytime soon? From a fan's perspective, most of us want him
    to ditch it so he can stop trippin over the darn thing!

    The bottom line is wireless units change your tone and dynamic range. Ed
    has used them for years and I think he finally got tired of the loss of
    immediacy from using a wireless. People use wireless for freedom of
    movement and thats it. If your #1 concern is tone wireless is not the way
    to go. I have had alot of experience with everything from inexpensive
    units up to $13-14,000 units. Nothing beats a good cable. One of the keys
    to making a cable work sonically for Ed is the Axess-Electronics BS-2
    buffer. We run about 75 feet of cable under the stage from his pedal-board
    to his head and that's alot of signal loss. Using a buffer to couple a
    high impedance source with a low impedance load is essential in a case
    like this but not all buffers are the same. The Axess BS-2 is a fantastic
    sounding device. If it didn't sound great we never would have gotten it
    passed Ed's ears. He's very particular about how his rig feels and sounds.
    I don't see him returning to a wireless but ultimately that is not for me
    to say. The way his rig feels (dynamic range, pick attack etc.) are
    priorities to him. That essentially disappears or greatly decreases with
    wireless. I don't think he trips over it too much. It does get hung up
    from time to time but the trade-off is worth it. Its important for him to
    enjoy his experience on stage and that translates to fan enjoyment IMO.
    Using a cable does contribute to this factor. He feels more "connected" to
    his rig with a cable.

    6. There are alot of rumors surrounding Ed and this band, so could you
    please shine some light on how these guys are, not only as musicians, but
    just as people in general.

    There are alot of rumors flying around and there is obviously some history
    but I can only comment on how they interacted with me. At the end of the
    day they are people and all people have good and bad moments. There is no
    way you could spend that much time around someone and not see most sides
    of the picture but I'm not going to go into their personal lives too much
    because that is no ones business. I enjoyed my interactions with each
    member. Ed is an interesting person. During the solo sections he would
    hang in my tech world alot and we had some great conversations. He's a
    smart guy and we have some common interests that have nothing to do with
    music. Ed is a person with a big heart. Believe it or not out of any
    player I have worked with he is the most thankful appreciative guy. He
    constantly thanks you for all your hard work and lets you know that your
    doing a great job. That means alot. He also lets you know if things are
    not right but thats cool because its important to know that. Mike is one
    of the nicest guys is the business. Had the pleasure of hanging out with
    him a couple times away from the gig and he is just a great person. Always
    enjoying himself. I had the least interaction with Sammy because he didn't
    do sound-checks. He would stop by my tech world from time to time during
    the show for a brief chat or we would pass in the hallways and he always
    had a big smile. He's a cool guy and seems to like to keep it fun. Alex is
    interesting as well. He is really into things. He's involved in all the
    production aspects and wants everything to be right. He is focused and I
    respect that alot. The Reverend is a cool guy and I enjoyed being around
    him as well. He would joke with me from time to time saying "are you still
    here"? It was in fun of course, he knew my gig was alot of work.

    7. Of all the guitars Ed uses during the course of a show (Wolfgang's, the
    5150 Frankenstrat, or the new EVH Charvel's) which does you prefer and

    The guitars were fine, the problem was Floyd Rose tremolos. They are
    simply too soft. I'm not speaking for Ed here, you have to ask him for his
    opinion. As a tech I have a right to my own opinion when I'm responsible
    for it. When they first arrived on the market they were machined brass and
    they were a serious piece of machinery, but for a long time they have been
    made of some sort of softer molded metal. They are too soft for the abuse
    Ed puts them through. They also sounded alot better when made of brass. Ed
    is VERY rough on them, its a big part of his style. Ed requires all the
    bolts to be locked down as hard as possible because if its not it will
    move. He really gives them a workout, never seen anything like it. I was
    replacing so many Floyd parts you wouldn't believe it. Saddles, string
    blocks, you name it. Pretty much a nut every 2 or 3 shows, sometimes
    daily. We would crush them or strip them out. The tolerances are not tight
    enough either. Many of the nuts were slightly different heights. That can
    be a pain when forced to change them that often. The design of a Floyd is
    great, just wish they were a bit tougher. It works well for most players
    but Ed is not most players. If I had to pick one guitar however it would
    be the 5150 Frankenstrat. It sounds great but its just really cool. Alot
    of history. Also has an original old Floyd on it.

    8. Describe the first time you went on stage as Edward Van Halen's tech
    and how it felt holding Ed's guitar?

    OMG it was crazy. It was in Atlantic City NJ. VH have a custom stage so
    its the same layout in an arena. When we did amphitheaters we couldn't use
    that stage but the riggers and carps etc. went to great lengths to keep it
    consistent for the band and their techs. My first show was neither
    situation and the only time this came up on the tour. Couldn't have made
    it tougher if it were planned! It was an outdoor gig in a parking lot with
    a rented stage. It threw everything way behind. Generally we get the band
    gear to the stage at about 11:30ish am and sound-check was at 4:30ish.
    This day we didn't get the stage until 3:30pm!!! I had no idea what cases
    were what. Everyone knew I was the new guy and were very welcoming but you
    could tell many of them knew I was screwed that day. It started to get so
    late that several of them started to joke with me about it. In a situation
    like that you really are screwed but I work very well under pressure and
    don't feel nervous no matter what situation I'm placed in. I had so little
    time to pull everything off that I had no time to think about it. You go
    into this mode and just do it. To be honest I have alot of experience as a
    touring tech and that helps prepare you for something like this. Its also
    not the first time I've been faced with this type of situation. I also
    have alot ofknowledge in guitar rig building, amp modding/repair etc. etc.
    and that gives you alot to draw on. Another factor here is that I do my
    homework. Dave Friedman (of Rack Systems, builder of Ed's rig) is a good
    friend of mine. I went over every inch of Ed's rig on paper for signal
    flow and the best way to tackle gain structure, how its powered and
    grounded etc. Its not so much self confidence as much as actualizing your
    abilities. Another very fortunate thing was Mike Keegan, Ed's former tech.
    He was very kind to drop by and help me out a bit pointing out what was in
    what case etc. and how he sets things up. He really is a wonderful person
    and I'm not just saying that because of this situation. He is just a
    really good guy. Thank you Mike. Everything ended up happening on schedule
    and went off flawlessly. I really didn't have time to think "hey, this is
    EVH's guitar"!!! Actually that never really hit me the whole tour. Maybe
    in time.

    9. How has your playing changed (or improved) by working with Edward?

    This is a very good and unexpected question. Ed has a very unusual right
    hand technique and that is part of what makes him unique. I'm well aware
    that the majority of a persons sound is in their hands. I think seeing
    that uniqueness in Ed helped me reaffirm my own uniqueness. We all have

    10. How many guitars does Ed bring on tour?

    We had 6 for some of it (5 wolfgangs) and the 5150 Frankenstrat. The
    Frankenstrat needed some MAJOR repair and was giving us tuning problems so
    he sent it home at end of 3rd leg. I simply didn't have the time to tackle
    the problems with this guitar and it has alot of history so I didn't want
    to mess with it. That guitar sounds great!!! We had a new Charvel sent to
    us for every show, sometimes 2 or 3. Basically Ed likes to play one guitar
    for the entire show. He appears to connect with the vibe of one guitar and
    likes to stick with that. For the 3rd leg it wasthe Tobacco Wolfgang and
    the 4th leg was the Green Wolfgang.

    11. How did you land the gig in the first place?

    I have been doing this for many years now having toured with artists like
    KidRock, The Offspring, Tori Amos, Shakira, A Perfect Circle, and many
    Canadian bands (I live in Toronto) such as Our Lady Peace, I Mother Earth,
    Nelly Furtado, Finger 11, Big Wreck/ Ian Thornley etc. as well as some
    rehearsals/one-offs with Marylin Manson and Mary J Blige . Throughout
    these experiences you develop many relationships. One of them is Dave
    Friedman of Rack Systems in North Hollywood. Dave has become a very good
    friend and has helped me out alot. (I owe you another sushi dinner
    Dave!&#33. He built Ed's current guitar rig and happens to be friends with
    Ed's friend/personal assistant Matt. It all came together from that.

    12. What are the best and worst parts of your job?

    The worst part of it would be being away from home and from the people you
    most care about. The long days and fast pace are a bit much from time to
    time but you do get used to it. The best things are many. I really enjoy
    the interaction of working with all theother crew people. Some of them are
    characters!! . We really are a team and each dept. relies on the other so
    you really feel like your part of something. There are many great people
    on these crews and it can be fun. I also have a very independent side and
    one aspect that appeals to me is that I don't have someone breathing down
    my neck all the time telling me what to do. The person hiring you knows
    that you know what to do and when and generally leaves you to it. I enjoy
    the pressure during the show. You are in a position that when something
    does go wrong you have to deal with it right NOW. Many jobs are not like
    that as often as this and I like that for some reason. Seeing so much of
    the world is also a wonderful part of it. I think the most important thing
    I have learnt from that is that we really are all the same. All of our
    political/religious etc. differences are bulls**t.

    13. What is the craziest backstage story that you are allowed to tell us?

    Ha! You really should ask Kevin, Michael Anthony's tech. He has been with
    VH for over 24 years and has seen it all. He has great stories..

    14. There are rumors flying around about Ed's antics during the song Right
    Now at the final show on 11/19/04. Would you be able to tell us as to why
    Ed smashed his green Wolfgang? Some say that it was just a goof, others
    say it symbolizes the end of Ed and Peavey's relationship, and of course
    the rumors of Ed's supposed alcohol abuse. Would you be able to shine some
    light on what exactly happened at that last gig?

    I'm not interested in commenting on this with the exception of stating
    that it had nothing to do with anything gear related. He wasn't frustrated
    because something wasn't working properly.

    15. You've been on the road with these guys for a while now. What's your
    favorite song to hear night in and out, or are you so focused on Ed and
    being ready for any possible problems, that you really don't have time to
    get into the show?

    To be honest I'm as focused as I can be on Ed. I grew up on VH so I enjoy
    the music but thats not what I'm there for. If I had to pick one song it
    would probably be Unchained. Who can resist that riff, esp. when he kicks
    in the flanger and of course the vocal melody/lyrics.

    16. Lastly, once simple question that I just feel the need to ask. Sam or
    Dave? (Answer at your own risk&#33

    Thats not fair!!! Its hard for me to just look at the music aspect of it.
    At the end of the day these guys are people and that is a factor as well.
    I haven't worked with Dave so I have no basis for comment on a human
    level. Sammy has a really positive vibe and enjoys himself and that's
    important to the mind set of the tour from an internal perspective. Sammy
    has alot of fun on stage and the audience obviously picks up on that. In
    terms of the music....I grew up on early VH and loved Dave's character and
    lyrics. He was bigger than life and he was about as good as it will ever
    be as a front-man for a rock band in his day. He was up there with Freddy
    Mercury and Bono IMO and had the audience in the palm of their hand as it
    were. Sammy's stuff is really melodic/fun and it took VH to new heights in
    terms of fan base. I don't think I can choose between the two. I see
    positives in both and enjoy both. Thanks for reading everyone! "

  2. #2
    THEE bassist for VH
    Join Date
    Oct 2003
    someplace you're not
    Good interview. No. 14 wasn't surprising though as I'm sure that he wants to remain Ed's guitar tech! Amazing too, after reading about Ed's little tantrums throughout the tour regarding equipment and supposedly throwing a guitar or two at the man!

  3. #3
    Band Technician
    Join Date
    Jun 2004
    Great interview. Thanks for the link ryanpday.
    Everybody wants some ! I want some too !

  4. #4
    THEE bassist for VH
    Join Date
    Oct 2003
    someplace you're not
    My question is what ever happened to Matt Bruck? Was he along on this tour or has he moved on? Lonnie Totman is a new name to me! Whatever became of Robin "Rudy" Leiren, Ed's original guitar tech? Anyone know?

  5. #5
    Metal Up Your A$$!
    Join Date
    Oct 2004
    Far, far away
    This guy got a good answer to the last question.
    He really thinks before speaks and that's good.
    Great job, ryanpday. :184:
    Wolfgang Van Halen - "I love being a bass player. Its just me and Al a groove section. Just boom, boom, boom, and were good". GW
    Edward Van Halen - "What is next for Wolf is the next record and the next tour. Hes no different than I am. Music is his life. If he goes back to school, Ill probably go with him. GC

  6. #6
    Bop bada, shoobe doo wah
    Join Date
    Nov 2003
    Minneapolis, MN
    Originally posted by evh_rules@Dec 1 2004, 07:16 AM
    Great interview. Thanks for the link ryanpday.
    You are very welcome. It was a pretty good read.



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