Billy Howerdel recently recalled how he unexpectedly had performed in front of a large audience for the first time while working with Trent Reznor and Nine Inch Nails as a guitar tech.
Billy Howerdel reveals his experience
Howerdel has a huge experience of two decades up his sleeves as the mastermind and lead guitarist of A Perfect Circle. Billy Howerdel is certainly no stranger to performing in front of large crowds, but his “baptism of fire” in terms of live gigging came as quite a surprise during his years as a guitar tech, as he recently told Kerrang!
Howerdel joined Nine Inch Nails as Trent Reznor’s guitar tech following the release of the band’s groundbreaking LP “The Downward Spiral”, and in an earlier interview with Metal Injection, he recalls being told how “[Trent] doesn’t expect anything out of you that he doesn’t expect out of himself, and he expects a lot.”
As a result, when he saw Trent Reznor on the stage floor and unable to perform during one night of “The Downward Spiral Tour”, his first instinct was to grab the guitar and perform instead of Reznor himself:
“I didn’t know much about Nine Inch Nails before I worked on ‘The Downward Spiral’ tour. I went to see them with Maynard [James Keenan] and Gene Simmons on that tour in Hollywood – how crazy is that? The show was such an assault. When I worked with the band it was full warfare – you could truly get hurt as there were broken parts from instruments and mic stands flying through the air.
“In the middle of the show, there was a screen that came down between the band and the audience. The crowd couldn’t see through it, so when it came down it gave a chance for us techs to clear up the disaster that was the stage, which was covered in stuff. As I was cleaning up, Trent [Reznor] was lying on the ground with the wind knocked out of him.
“There was a digital clock on the side of the stage counting down to when the next song starts. The time kept ticking down and Trent was still on the ground. I shouted, ‘Let’s go, buddy’ and it was down to about 10 seconds. So I said, ‘Do you want me to play this?’ and he quietly replied, ‘Yes.’ I knew all of his parts but never did I think I’d play them, but I started playing ‘Eraser’ in front of a sold-out arena of 15,000 people.”
As the tech-turned-rockstar recalls, Reznor was also so amazed by his performance that he decided to turn it into a staple of the tour from then on:
“Up until that point I’d only played in front of humans three times in my life. The production crew were stood at the side of the stage thinking, ‘What the fuck?!’ that I’d lost my mind and had delusions of grandeur. Afterwards, Trent said, ‘That was fun, let’s do it every night,’ so we did that song for the next two weeks of shows. That was pretty cool.”
He is currently touring in support of his first solo album “What Normal Was.”