As guitarist and producer with A Perfect Circle, among other projects, Billy Howerdel’s career is fairly secure.
But it wasn’t always like that. He’d started out as a stage tech, preferring to keep away from performing himself – then an important early job with Fishbone became a “trial by fire.”
Howerdel told Metal Injection about the first show he worked on with the ska-funkers. “They were already on tour. They’d just fired their tech and they said, ‘Oh, by the way, the pedal board, somebody spilled a whole beer on it and it doesn’t work.
“And this is a custom Bradshaw switching system that’s a one-off. You can’t go to the store and buy it. So talk about nerve-racking!”
He was also brain-racking for a solution. “There was a strip bar next door,” he said. “So I went next door and asked the girls if I could borrow a hair dryer. And I’m sitting there with circuit boards spread out all over the floor trying to do the rice trick and trying to get the show to work. So it was definitely a trial by fire.”
Howerdel’s first-ever role had also started badly, he admitted. “I’m fresh out of high school by a week. I just turned 18. I can still remember. I handed this guy a guitar with the wrong string on it.
“Like, I think it was supposed to be the A string and I put like the D string on. He’s like, ‘I don’t know what the fuck’s going on here!’ He just hands it back to me and I remember being mortified – like, “Oh my God, I'm fired!”
He reflected how influential his years with Fishbone turned out to be. “I wound up really enjoying the tech part of things, so I liked working in service to a show,” he said. “As I worked for bigger and bigger bands and learned what to do and what not to do, that was invaluable. I made a lot of acquaintances and connections, including Maynard with Tool, because they were an opening band for Fishbone.”
Howerdel just released his debut solo album, What Normal Was.