Tom Weber was Eddie Van Halen’s guitar tech for 13 years from 2007 to 2020.
Think that job was easy? It wasn’t.
But the job interview may have been even harder.
In fact, Weber told as much to The Jeremy White Show earlier this month (see clip below). “I flew out to LA, and Matt Bruck picked me up,” Weber said, speaking about his introduction to the legendary guitar player. “We go out to 5150 [studio], Matt takes a guitar out of a gig bag and hands it to me, and he said, ‘You’re to set this up the way you think Ed would like it, and I’m to give you absolutely no information to go by.’”
Just like that. Within moments of seeing how he might fit and work with Van Halen, Weber was thrown one of his guitars and told to, essentially, make it work.
But Weber was up to the task.
With the “trial-by-fire” moment underway, Weber said he felt some pressure. At the time, Weber said, “things weren’t going well” for the Van Halen team. The group was already on their third guitar tech in production rehearsal.
But Weber didn’t panic. He remembered a momentary meeting with Van Halen in 1987 and used that, plus his extensive knowledge of the guitar’s fretboard, to make a statement.
“Ed and I met in 1987–I was the house audio engineer at Starwood Amphitheatre in Nashville–and I remember shaking hands with him,” Weber said. “He had a really strong grip.
“I figured, ‘Ed’s got a hell of a left hand.’ I’m going to have to set the intonation flat enough so that when he grabs the neck, the notes are right.”
The move worked. But Weber wasn’t done. He thought about Van Halen’s classical training and his guitar playing style.
“When you strike a guitar to tune it, the note starts out sharp, then it settles into pitch,” Weber said. “Ed Van Halen is not going to stay in one place long enough for the note to settle into pitch.
“He’s also a classically trained pianist, so the strings open on the guitar don’t mean anything. They have to be in tune with themselves when he’s playing in any given song.”
To solve the issue, Weber tuned the guitar in the fifth position and, as he says, “split the difference,” which left the high D-sharp string 14 cents flat but in tune with the other strings. “If I played one of Ed’s guitars the way that I play my own guitars, I’d sound like a blithering idiot. I’d be so out of tune,” Weber offered.
But it worked again. Van Halen was sold… and now in love. The guitarist gave Weber another guitar to tweak—and Weber rose to that challenge as well. Van Halen reportedly told him, “It’s perfect. Where have you been all of my life?”
To which Weber replied, “’On the other end of the phone waiting for you to fucking call me.’ [Eddie] had my telephone number since 1987.”
It would seem that, despite the time it took for Van Halen to call on Weber, this is a case of all’s well that ends well.
Photo by David Tan/Shinko Music/Getty Images