Billy Howerdel, when not putting the kibosh on his band A Perfect Circle releasing an album this year, is an entertaining interview. Speaking with Premier Guitar about his guitar rig, Howerdel remembered his life as a guitar tech on Nine Inch Nails’ The Downward Spiral tour. Being a guitar tech for the band must’ve been a thankless job, especially since there were a lot of guitars being trashed and thrown around during that tour. 137, by Howerdel’s memory. In the video, looking at a Gibson Les Paul, he remembers the following:
“I was a guitar tech for many years, I worked for Nine Inch Nails, [they were] one of the bands. This was the first guitar I got in my hands to work on of Trent‘s.
I laid it down, and I think one of the instructions that came down the pipe that day was that he wanted to trade out a pickup. So I was soldering, and I laid the soldering iron down, and it just slipped, and I did that [burned the finish.] It hit the finish. I was like, ‘Oh my god…’ I felt like, ‘I’m fired, right?’
And then the tech next to me was working on stuff, and it’s almost like going into war. He just goes, ‘Dude, that’s the least of your concerns. That is not a big deal as of what’s going to happen tonight.’”
“This was ‘The Downward Spiral‘ tour in ’94-95—this thing got launched into the truss within minutes. This guitar actually got the headstock ripped off it within the first couple of weeks working on it, maybe even the first week. This got put in the crowd, someone ripped the headstock off, it went missing, and I got another guitar of this exact color that came in. I fashioned this thing [headstock] on there poorly, it’s at the wrong angle, it went on a couple different times. I don’t know if you guys can see, if that angle translates, but it’s not the right pitch at all.”
“I don’t want anything changed about it. I’ve actually talked with Gibson about doing a signature model, and this is one of the key things, is reducing that pitch to that, because this is my favorite guitar.”
“That [Nine Inch Nails] tour, I went through 137 Les Pauls when I did the final count, so this was the number one of all of them. At the end of the tour Trent just says, ‘Take two or three guitars with you, whatever you want.’ Of course, I grabbed this…”
So the cool thing about being a guitar tech for Trent Reznor is that you get to keep a couple Les Pauls when you’re done. That’s an awesome perk, and it’s resulted in his favorite axe. The hour-long video of the band’s rig is interesting if you’re into that sort of thing, as it also features James Iha and bassist Matt McJunkins. Howerdel’s interview begins at around the 26:30 mark.