This scene from Chapter 7 was originally the introduction of Billy Wales, Bloody Waters’ initial-alike guitar tech. Billy is a minor character who only really gets to appear in two or three scenes in the book, beyond this one, and most of those are only walk-on parts. The truth is, this scene only ever existed because I love to write the phrase ‘guitar tech’.
4. Harvesting the Wretched
Clarice didn’t want to hire a guitar tech. She just couldn’t bear the thought some stranger handling her gear. But when Johnny asked if she preferred to give the responsibility to some random crew of roadies, she knew he was right. Clarice reluctantly had Kranz place a small ad in one of the music trades:
Pro guitarist seeks damn
good guitar tech. Local
and touring. C. Marnier,
box 4105, San Francisco,
She did not get a large number of responses. Clarice set up interviews with four applicants; three of them showed up.
The second one was a short, skinny, round-shouldered kid Kranz introduced as Billy Wales. He was about the same age as Clarice.
“Pleased t-to meet you, Miss Marnier,” said Billy, offering Clarice his hand.
Clarice shook it. His grip was stronger than she had expected–his palms were small, but his fingers were long enough to engulf her entire hand. “And you, Billy.”
Billy had brought with him a guitar case and a milk crate full of FX pedals. Good quality gear, too: mostly the same brands that Clarice used.
She and Kranz led him into one of the tiny micro-studios at the back of NimHyde’s office suites. Clarice turned to the manager pointed at the sound-proofed glass doors. “Out.”
“I think my input might be valuable, Clarice.”
“Kranz, you don’t know shit about guitars.”
Billy blushed and looked at his shoes: a pair of huge, new-looking Converse basketball boots.
“But, I know people.”
“I know ju jutsu,” said Clarice.
“But, nothing. Out”
Clarice turned to Billy, who had backed himself into a far corner of the room. “I read your resume, Billy.”
“Y-yes?” he said.
“It says you’re in a new band?”
“Uh, Wretched, uh, Harvest. Yeah.”
“Tell me about Wretched Harvest.”
“We’ve only played a few of gigs so far. We’re, a, kind of…we’re a rock band.”
“Of course you are.”
Billy glanced nervously over her shoulder. Without even looking, Clarice knew that Kranz was standing behind the glass door, staring in like a tourist at a zoo. “Ignore him,” she said. “He’s not as important as he thinks he is.”
“Now let’s see if you can play.”
“Um, shall I take out my, um, guitar?”
“I think you better.”
Billy opened his case and took out his guitar.
It was a big, blue seven-string, the same brand and model as The Motherfucker. Only the color was different, although Clarice fancied hers had an aura of evil that Billy’s instrument lacked.
“Is that new?” said Clarice.
“I’ve had it a couple of years,” said Billy. “But I take care of it.”
“Why did you bring a seven-string?”
“Well, uh,” said Billy. “Because that’s what you play most of your stuff on. I brought all the FX pedals I thought you might be using, too.”
“You know who I am?”
“Uh, sure,” he said. “You did the DreadLords’ only, uh, only good album. And I’ve got your Ignition Corps EP. And a few other things you did.”
“You’ve heard of Ignition Corps?”
“Yes, I, uh, heard some of your stuff played on college radio. Then I saw you play in LA. And I saw you support the DreadLords in Pasadena–that was actually why I went to the show. I even got your DreadLords album when that came out.”
“What did you think of it?”
“I like Ignition Corps better,” he said, “Although the production is a bit rough. The DreadLords stuff is good, but…it’s DreadLords.”
He was honest, at least.
Clarice grinned nastily. “Can you play any of my songs?”
“Uh, yes,” said Billy. “Um, Hardwired Evil, and…”
“Don’t tell me about it,” said Clarice. “Play it.”
“No,” said Clarice. “I want to hear it as close to what’s on the album as you can manage. You brought all the gear…let’s see you put it together.”
Sweating, nervous, fumbling, Billy strung together the effects pedals. He plugged the guitar into the pedals and the pedals into the 60 Watt Marshall stack that stood at the back of the room. Billy slung on the guitar, checked the tuning. Listened to the tone. He changed the order in which the pedals were serialized twice. Adjusted the dials on the amplifier. Fiddled with the settings on each individual pedal. Found the correct pickup on the guitar.
It took him about five minutes.
“Uh, okay,” said Billy. “Um, Hardwired Evil, as recorded by the DreadLords, guitars by, um, Clarice Marnier.”
The sound he’d set up was about as close to the recorded sound as Clarice could have hoped, given the different amp and the different room. Despite his awkward posture and his previous fumbling, Billy was a very capable guitarist: he hit all of the notes and he hit them on time. Clarice liked his arrangement of the different guitar lines, too–he put in as much of the rhythm section as he needed to shape the song, while still managing to play most of the leads.
Billy stopped right before the big solo and looked up. “I’m sorry, I don’t have the solo up to speed yet.”
“Let’s hear what you got,” said Clarice.
He played it at about three-quarters speed, in time and note-for-note–including most of the subtle bends and whammy pedal manipulations that the published tablature of the songs had missed.
“Okay,” said Clarice. “Enough. Thanks for coming. We’ll call you to say if you got the job once we’re done with the other interviews.”
“Thanks,” said Billy. Still sweating, blinking hard, Billy put down his guitar and bent to switch off the amplifier. “I really, uh, like your stuff…”
The door shut with a soft thump–Clarice was already gone.
A week later Kranz rang him and told him to come and meet the band at a large studio downtown; Clarice wanted him there for their first recording session.