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Guitar for the Practicing Musician   Oct. 1994

48 Hours in the Life of Danzig's John Christ
By John Christ

May, 1994 - When it was suggested that I write a little ditty
about some of my activities that occur in an average 48 hours, I
found the idea quite an interesting one. But which two days
should I choose? First and foremost, I have no "average" days,
only light or insane ones! This year has been full of crazy,
two-day spurts of madness. So I've decided to focus on the ante
and penultimate days before hitting the road with Danzig, touring
all summer in support of our forthcoming album Danzig 4.
   I've got a million things to do and time is extremely short.
I'm now in a state of near insanity I call "pre-tour mode." The
Danzig summer trek begins with our headlining the Dynamo Festival
in Holland on May 22nd for an estimated 100,000 rain-soaked,
metal-hungry Hollanders. We return to the States May 23rd to
start up the first leg of the Metallica "Shit in the Shed Tour,"
appearing in the middle slot on the bill, kicking things off near
Buffalo, NY on May 30th.
   My days break down into early morning phone calls, some time
in the gym, barrages of calls to Hollywood and the valley, then
running around doing the business set up by all the calls. In
L.A., timing can be everything. In my case, I must plan my
errands around the intense traffic created by the infamous
January 17th Northridge earthquake. My previous 30-minute commute
now takes anywhere from one hour to two hours-plus. When do I
eat? While driving, of course!
   The hectic days leading up to the tour are filled with
interviews and photo shoots for guitar-related publications. One
shoot with photo ace Marty Temme took five hours and included two
outdoor locations. (We finished at five o'clock - just in time
for rush hour!) One morning an interviewer called before 9 a.m.
so I just did the interview in bed. In the next week, Marty and I
managed to cram in two more quick photo sessions. The sessions
themselves were easy; it was getting together to approve the
shots that took some slick scheduling.
   For about a month Rob Nishida and Mace Bailey of Ibanez have
been helping me design and build a custom guitar. We are all
excited about the possibilities. Ibanez is the first company to
approach me about custom guitars. I had no idea how much time and
effort goes into the creation of one guitar - but I do now.
   The successful 1993 release of Danzig's remixed "Mother" has
generated tremendous interest in the band. This recent notoriety
has made making connections and establishing new relationships
(i.e., endorsements - YEAH!!) With musical equipment
manufacturers, distributors, and retailers much easier, but very
time consuming. Ah, the perks.....

Wednesday, May 18th
7:00 a.m.
   I get up for a quick breakfast and start dialing Laura at
D'Andrea picks regarding an endorsement deal for custom picks for
myself and [Danzig bassist] Eerie Von. My guitar tech, Crash (or
my Crash tech), got the deal going (huh?). Laura and I had been
playing phone tag for a few days but now she was faxing me the
contracts (" please read, sign, and fax a.s.a.p"). I waited;
the fax didn't come. Hence another round of calls. Okay, success.
   My next call is to Bill Fox at Celestion speakers. We're
trying to work out the logistics of the purchase, shipping, and
destination of nine vintage 30-watt Celestion speakers. By now
I'm buddies with his answering service. I leave the address and
number of Zounds, a North Jersey rehearsal studio we'll be using
the week we have off before starting our tour with Metallica.
Next, I phone our tour manager to give him the info and go-ahead
to finish the transaction. One more quick message to leave for
Terry Dennis of D'Aquisto strings/Spectraflex cables, and I'm off
to the gym.
8:45-10:00 a.m.
   Pump iron and scream from the pain.
10:30 a.m.
   Call Anthony at Mates Warehouse in North Hollywood about
loading Danzig gear from our storage space to his in preparation
for shipment by Rocket Cargo to the rehearsal space in New
Jersey. I attempt to locate [Danzig drummer Chuck] Biscuits and
Eerie to help move gear. Oh well....
   Next, I leave a message for Bob Bradshaw (owner and guitar rig
meister of Custom Audio Electronics, North Hollywood), telling
him that I'll call back at 1 p.m. to see how he's doing with my
rig. I receive my daily call from American Recordings' publicity
babe Melissa, confirming a 3 p.m. photo session/interview with
the evil Slayer axemen Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman at their
temporary apartment in Burbank.
11:30 a.m.
   Anthony picks me up at my girlfriend's apartment in the
valley. We drive the truck to the storage space. (That's the easy
part.) I don't have the code for the security gate; I have to go
to the office for a new one. Somehow they had managed to delete
my name from the records. I had the key to the locker, but that
means nada. I had to call our accountants and get them to fax a
letter on company stationary giving me permission to enter the
unit. It took 20 minutes (not too bad). Then the real fun
started. The storage locker was packed to the clouds! Take a
guess what was on top. Two loaded Ampeg SVT speaker cabinets! We
had some serious roadie fun for an hour and a half. (I agree - it
does sound odd for the lead guitarist of Danzig to be moving a
whole backline around. Don't they pay people to do that sort of
1:30 p.m.
   My Custom Ibanez guitar was to be ready by mid afternoon, so I
called Mace, an Ibanez luthier. To my dismay, he told me that the
paint wouldn't be dry until tomorrow. That is also when the gear
is to be picked up by Rocket Cargo. I make a quick call to Custom
Audio Electronics to check on my rig. Bob (Bradshaw) is still
working on a Metallica rig, but says he'll get to mine as soon as
possible. Now I'm in pre-panic mode. It's two days before we go
to Holland to play the biggest show of my life and my rig is in
pieces in Bob's shop! Still, I have faith.
2:00-2:30 p.m.
   I phone my roommate, Noel, to check on how the ABC-TV movie
promo music is coming. We've had little over a week to come up
with a demo tape of at least six 30-second cues for ABC's promo
department. If they like what they hear, we stand to get a fair
bit of future work.
   Permit me to digress for a moment. You see, my roommate (a
musician as well as a television technical director/producer) and
I were asked by an ABC producer to compose a piece of music for a
30-second promotion spot for a made-for-TV movie entitled A Place
For Annie, starring Sissy Spacek. The producers liked it enough
to ask us to do another cue for a Jane Seymour movie, plus one
for their May sweeps campaign. (Gotta love those TV royalties!)
3:00 p.m.
   Miraculously, I show up for the photo session/interview on
time with the Ibanez prototype guitar. I get the distinct
impression the magazine people hoped I'd bring my B.C. Rich "Rich
Bitch." Oh well.... "Okay, we're all here - where the #*&%@ is
the photographer?" Someone says, "Just up the hill."
Photographers always lie! They know it's the only way to get
musicians to stand still long enough to get a good picture. The
location is 300 yards up a steep hill, and we're in the hot sun,
wearing black, and carrying guitars. There were Jeff, Kerry, and
I, the three heavy metal guitar hikers from hell. Being the nice
guys we are, we were only slightly sarcastic and obnoxious to the
photographer. Maybe that's why it took nearly 35 minutes to shoot
12 shots. (It couldn't have been us, could it? I don't know. Ask
the interviewer, who was guffawing and giggling throughout. Go
figure.) Afterwards an entertaining although sometimes slightly
too deep interview took place. It was flavored with occasional
blasts from the television of anti-Clinton conservatism from
Jeff's new hero, Rush Limbaugh. Time was running short. After a
couple more quick calls, I concluded my part of the interview and
sped off to Hollywood.
5:30 p.m.
   I arrive at a rinky-dink leather shop to pick up the custom
gauntlets I had ordered. These were to be inexpensive final
touches to the "evil guitar god" look. Well, the sign on the door
said, "Be back at 5." The owner arrived 15 minutes later
apologizing in Russian. What do you think happened next? You got
it - they didn't fit well. And they were both right-handed! You
truly do get what you pay for. I'll wear them once and throw them
into the crowd.
6:30 p.m.
   After fighing rush-hour traffic for 30 minutes on the 101, I
arrive at Custom Audio Electronics, starving. Bob had pity on me
and we walked down to Little Caesar's for a sandwich. My sandwich
caused a 10-minute backup of orders. Bob and I used that time to
trade horror stories of guitar gear troubles we'd each had on the
road. He had some doozies from his days working with guitarist
and longtime friend Steve Lukather. It was an omen.
   Back at the shop, we discussed the changes and additions to my
rig. The basic setup was unchanged. The major additions were: a
Custom Audio Electronics RS-10 programmable stomp-proof pedal
board; a (C.A.E.) 4x4 switcher unit; and a half rack space Boss
effects unit. Bob showed me how to program the pedal board using
the handy MIDI-program mapping functions of my effects units. We
then reprogrammed my old presets into the RS-10, and set up some
new generic sounds in the Boss unit to get me going. After the
payoff (Ouch! You do get what you pay for....), a quick setup
procedure briefing, and a short barrage of phone calls, I was off
on my final errand of the day (or was it night already?).
10:00 p.m.
   At the warehouse Anthony greets me with a tired smile. The
poor guy had to unload the truck into the warehouse by himself.
We sorted gear according to where it was going and tagged it
green for "go," red for "no" (ain't we smart???). I loaded my
guitars and put my extra clothes and stuff in my wardrobe case.
Botta-bing! Finished for the day.
11:00 p.m.
   I arrive back at my girlfriend's apartment to an incredible
meatloaf dinner with all the trimmings. I barely finish eating
before passing out on her couch. (God bless her!)

Thursday, May 19th
8:00 a.m.
   I slowly wake and get myself off to the gym. It's my last pre-tour workout. SHWEET!!!
10:15 a.m.
   It's time to go to Ibanez to pick up my new axe. The guys in
the shop give me last-minute pointers about setting up the
guitar. Now, of course, we have to take photos of me with the
finished product. I call Eerie at the Rock'n'Roll Hyatt on Sunset
and let him know I'm running late. The band is meeting there at
11:30 a.m. to depart for the first of three photo shoots today.
12 noon
   Next, it's off to North Hollywood to deliver my guitar to
Anthony at the Mates warehouse. Now extremely late, I race toward
the Hollywood Hyatt.
12:30 p.m.
   I arrive at the hotel before Glenn and Chuck. Go figure. At
least there is a limo waiting.
1:30 p.m.
   An hour and a half late after collecting Glenn and Chuck, we
arrive at the first shoot for Request magazine. The poor
photographer is forced to work at light speed. All in all, it
went okay.
2:30 p.m.
   The band piles back into the limo and cruises across town to a
studio in Culver City. This is a rare double photo session: one
is for the back cover of our forthcoming CD; the other is for the
cover of RIP magazine. The CD cover shoot situation has the band
lined up in coffins, with eyes closed and hands crossed on our
chests. It's reminiscent of an old 19th Century still photograph
of dead outlaws on display - but there is one distinct
difference: in our shot, President Clinton is seen standing in
the foreground shaking the hand of a policeman armed with a
shotgun. In the background are a policewoman and two Secret
Service men, played by American Recordings employees. In-between
the two sessions I manage to squeeze in a phone-call to my dad to
wish him a happy birthday. As if I hadn't had enough of
photographers and pictures, I also call Marty and ask him to meet
me in the valley later to approve some shots from our last
session. I need some cool looks to send to Ibanez, Terry Dennis
at D'Aquisto strings and Spectraflex cables, and to various
domestic and European publications.
9:30 p.m.
   Back in the valley I meet with Marty and then do some last-minute shopping on my way over to my girlfriend's place. She
helps me pack before heading off to the living room for our last
few hours of quality couch potato time. Tomorrow at noon I leave
for six weeks.

   Two days later in Holland, Murphy's Law struck a swift kick to
the chest. The promoter failed to provide some vital equipment.
He had the wrong drums, the wrong Marshall cabinets, and wireless
units with no antennas! Ah, Europe.... To make things more
interesting, my new and improved guitar rig wasn't operating
properly. My tech, Crash, had not seen my gear since last summer.
Imagine, if you will, the two of us on stage in front of 110,000
drunk, impatient fans, fiddling with wires and connections,
hoping to get lucky. Such was not the case. We decided to go back
to basics. We ran the guitar through an old distortion pedal and
straight into the front of my VHT Pitbull head. The show was fine
until the standby switch on the Pitbull vibrated to the "off"
position during the solo in "Am I Demon." Other than a bit too
much distortion in the quiet parts of two songs, things went
surprisingly well. Mere words cannot describe the relief I felt
when it was all over. There's nothing like the excitement of
overcoming massive obstacles in front of the largest gathering of
people you've ever seen! Such are the (mis)adventures of life out
on the road!