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I’ve had the pleasure of working and hanging out with Darren a few times. The dude knows how to hang and get his work done. If you want to be a tech, you can learn a few things from Darren.

Who have you toured with throughout the years?
Started out with a little Atlanta band called Four Hour Fogger… A 4-piece crazy punk rock band that my brother Troy and Brent were in. That got me hooked. They toured with The Casualties until Mastodon started. Since then- Behemoth, 3 Inches of Blood, Megadeth, Testament, Job For a Cowboy, Anthrax, The Damned Things, Mastodon, Hell Yeah, High on Fire, In Flames and probably a few that I’m leaving out.

How did you get into the business of teching and how have you evolved since your early days?
I LITERALLY fell into it. I was a merch dude forever.  I would always help out with backline because there was no one else to help out with it! It wasn’t until Masto was opening for Slayer that everything kind of fell into place. First day we pulled up in our van with all our gear on our laps and Slayers production manager asked where our ‘tour manager’ was. The band all pointed at me since I was the only guy not in the band. It then trickled down to ‘where’s your drum tech at?’  We need drums onstage.’ Again, finger pointed to me.  That’s pretty much how I got into it. I was always interested in fixing broken shit but that’s kinda what got the wheels in motion.

You are a touring machine.  When Mastodon’s off the road are you always willing to go out with other bands?  Do you like to break it up a bit stylistically or are you keen on heavy music?
I am always willing to go out with other bands – on one condition – I have to like the band.  I’m not that desperate that I’ll take a gig for the sake of a paycheck.  I have to live in close quarters with whomever I work for so I want to make sure we get along well. Plus, I have to sit through an entire set every night and I refuse to listen to some shit band I wouldn’t listen to at home!!

You’ve teched for some bands that are very particular about their shit.  What are some things you really focus on before, during, and after the set to ensure a job well done and a pat on the ass instead of a punch in the face at the end of the night?  Have you ever been in fights over how you did you job?
Honestly, at the end of the day my job is to make everything right when my dude walks on stage. I just focus on making sure that is exactly what happens.  Trust me, pats on the ass are way better than punches to the face. Its funny because I’ll get yelled at about something that’s out of my control, i.e. monitors not correct, feedback from FOH, other guitar player is out of tune, etc. The fact is, the only reason my dude is yelling at me is because its fucking loud onstage!! I just like to double-check every little thing so that there are absolutely no issues during the show. There’s always an instance where something goes wrong – we’re all human and we’re dealing with finicky electronics. Shit happens.  It’s all about knowing how to fix it in an emergency. Always have a backup plan!!

What’s it like teching for a band like Mastodon? What are some interesting situations you have run into on the teching side and how did you solve those issues?
Oh man. Where do I start?  For Masto, it’s a bit different. I’ve been with Troy and Brent for over 15 years, Brann and Bill for 10. We’re family. As far as teching for them, it’s easy. I know them inside and out. I know that when my bro taps his right foot twice and taps his nose – kick and snare need to come up in the side fills, etc. I can read them like a glove. But then there’s the downside to it – I get blamed for anything that goes wrong since ultimately, it’s my fault. It’s hard dealing with your best friends/family coming down on you for something fucking up but it’s my job to keep shit from farting out!!  Just have to remember to keep friendship out of the workplace.  For the hour or so they’re onstage, I’m just a guitar tech. I’m not his brother or his friend, etc.

What are some gear companies you deal with directly?  And how do you maintain those relationships so that when you are in a bind, you will get what you need?  Are you yourself endorsed by any companies?
I deal with pretty much all of Masto endorsers and gear companies directly as do the band guys themselves. I tend to think we all have an awesome relationship with the companies that we use. Ampeg, Mesa Boogie, Orange, Fender, Gibson, Planet Waves/D’Addario, Dunlop, First Act, Shure, Yamaha and more. We’ve developed such great relationships with these guys that we can actually go out for beers when we’re in town and NOT talk shop. I guess that means that we’re all friends??!!! I think the fact that we are brutally honest with any company that wants to give us gear to try out makes a lot of difference. We don’t want to waste anyone’s time and take gear that we wont actually use. To me, that seems almost like stealing!

As far as dealing with companies goes, do bands rely on you to order gear or form relationships so that if needed, you can order certain things?
I handle all the ordering of gear. The guys are all hands on but when it comes to finalizing the deal, but I pretty much handle it all. That’s the mundane ‘bullshit’ that nobody wants to be bothered with. All it is is logistics. Trying to figure out where we are on a certain date and how to get what we need there by a certain date. It’s not rocket science; it just takes a certain amount of communication. No big deal really!

What are some mistakes young techs make these days?  What are some things a young tech needs to know when they want to make a successful career out of teching vs. making it a short lived party?  Is it essential to become friends and learn from other techs?
Don’t become too attached to someone.  That’s when either you start taking advantage of the artist or vice-versa. You become too good of pals and without realizing, you forget who works for who. My brother and I watched this happen from the sidelines and learned from it. When he’s on stage, I’m not his kid brother he used to hold down and fart on, I’m his employee. As soon as the truck is packed, we’re arm in arm telling stories of our first French kiss with the same girl in high school.  I actually just made that last bit up but we do share some stupid stories together.  I think the only ‘advice’ would be to just take shit seriously. Your job is to make sure that everything is A-OK when your guy walks up onstage. There’s nothing like standing in front of a sold out crowd and your guitar doesn’t work because your tech was too busy chattin’ up some girl. Young dudes coming into it may think it’s a kickass vacation – which it is! BUT, before you know it, you’re in your mid-late 30′s, 40’s and this is all you know and are stuck in this career, which is not a bad thing at all but you never want the reputation of ‘that dipshit who was kissing that chick behind the monitor desk while Scott Ian’s guitar rig took a shit at Donnington.  Good luck finding a gig.

How important is the reputation as a tech that wants to stay employed?
I think reputation is 90 percent of the job!  The people that are out here doing this are a rare breed.  Somehow, someway we all know each other. I mean, let’s be honest, I have the reputation of a complete balls-to-the-wall party animal. Which I happily live up to, but, at the end of the day, my job is done and it’s done properly. There are a bunch of guys and gals out there that are way better than me at what we do, but have absolutely no people skills.  You have to be able to get along with ANYONE and deal with all sorts of situations while out on tour for umpteen months at a time.  I think the guys that have a solid head on their shoulders and are comfy with what they do have a good future.

You like to party and yet you wake up the next morning ready to work.  What’s your secret?
I can’t give that away!!!  No, I have no idea to be honest. When I’m at home I’ll go equally as nuts as if I have a day off the next day on tour yet, my hangovers are soooo severe that I cant/won’t get out of bed. I think it’s all mental. I know that when I’m on tour, I KNOW that I have to be unloading my truck at 9 am and there’s no one else that’s going to do that. When I’m at home, there’s absolutely NOTHING I have to do (except change kitty litter and let pups out) but my lady usually handles that stuff! I think I just allow myself to be hungover at home. Unfortunately you can’t call in sick on this job.

Thanks, Darren!

 

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