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Review Zoo catch up with Guitar Tech, Willem van Roekel (Blind Guardian, Vandenberg)

Hi Willem, welcome to Review Zoo!

What got you into Guitar Teching?

I was already “modifying” my own guitars at a young age, It wasn’t until the late nineties when I was out with The Golden Earring as a PA-Tech that I learned that there were actually a couple of guys taking care of the Earrings guitars. I never imagined it was an existing job. To be fair, I was only 16 years old at that point. So there and then I figured I needed to get into that!

What does your average day look like as a Guitar Tech? 

My daily schedule goes something like this…

Load In: Loading gear onto the stage with help of stage hands, Setup Guitar World, Daily maintenance, Setup player positions and test  the setups…

Line check / Sound check: Have everything working and ready for roll call. If the band comes in for a soundcheck I’d like to have everything show ready. (You never know what songs they decide to play)After SC we spike everything and move mic-stand and pedalboards off stage.

Pre show / changeover: Prep for show, setup player positions again, Line check for show, Tape Setlists, Towels & Drinks, Get show ready. Show: Doing the necessary guitar changes, while scanning the stage, After Show: Pack Up and Load Out, with help of local stagehands

Which bands/Artists have you teched for? 

Currently I am out with Blind Guardian on their world-tour. While I am working shows and tours in between with (Adrian) Vandenberg. I was out with Within Temptation for a couple of years and did about 7 years with Epica earlier in my career. In between I am sort of all over the place doing shows and tours with Beth Hart, Paradise Lost and The Kelly Family. Satyricon, Biohazard and all kinds of Dutch bands like Racoon, Jett Rebel, Bløf and Ilse Delange.

What do you enjoy most about being a Guitar Tech? 

They say if you do what you love, you never work a day in your life. I like that about being a touring technician. The combo of traveling and bringing joy to the people is a beautiful thing.

What does accommodation look like when you’re on tour? Is a tour bus your home for the tour or do you stay in hotels, and how is tour life? 

Accommodation all depends on the type and level of tour. It’s either hotels or buses. From there it goes from cheap to luxurious…I come from punk rock, so usually I am happy with anything. Now that I am a few years older I prefer having a private space on my days off. 

Do you get to see much of the countries you visit while touring? 

We travel a lot for work, we’ve seen places. Some places are something else!  But usually Airports, hotels, the venue and if we are lucky, a local restaurant or bar.

Sometimes I go out of my way and plan some sightseeing. But that only happens a few times in one tour I’d say.

Where do you look forward to visiting for the cuisine? 

I love Latin America (in general)…. I love Steak, Fajitas de Pollo and Quesadillas ... .Nothing better than a good Brazilian Churrascaria or an Argentinian Steak!

What do meal times look like when you’re out on tour? Do you have catering?

It depends on the type and level of tour…. Sometimes it’s restaurants, sometimes its local catering, sometimes it’s tour catering. All of the above can vary between basic to luxurious. 

Favourite Guitar you’ve played? 

Oh man, If you are working with a certain guitar for months you start feeling comfortable with it and you end up buying one for yourself…I think it might be Steffen Helleblad’s (Within Temptation) Chris Broderick Signature Jackson…. Never bought one of those though!

Favourite amp you’ve played through? 

That would be my own trusted Marshal VS-100, it's a solid state amp so even on low volumes it has a nice sound.

As a Guitar Tech, do you have input on equipment the artist might use in the future?

Yeah, It happens. By now I have so much experience with different types of gear that some people ask me what would work in their setups. I am totally not a gear-nerd, but obviously need to learn each piece of gear I get to work with. Also whenever gear gets too old or damaged we need to open the discussion about getting new gear, which is always nice. Currently I’m working with a Neural-Quad Cortex rig for Adrian Vandenberg for our upcoming US-Tour. Last time he played a gig there was with Whitesnake and involved a lot of amps. So now I am building this setup from scratch. He is, even though he is old-school, very into modern gear.

Any funny tour stories you can share with us? 

My god… without naming names it’s no fun to tell these stories… and they are more fun while drinking beer! Let’s say I experienced accidents with our bus in the Rocky Mountains and there was a moment where we had someone accidentally mistake the guitar player's shoes for a toilet…Once or twice we’ve forgotten a bass player at a truckstop in Texas… 

What do you look forward to most when you get back from tour? 

I probably look forward to going out on the next adventure again…But my favourite self-cooked meals are also high on the list.

What are you currently listening to?

I have been listening to some metal lately, it’s winter you know…. Fluisteraars “Bloem” is awesome. Iotunn “Access all worlds” or Insomnium “Winters Gate” are favourites…I just saw Iotunn on the 70.000Tons Cruise earlier this month.

What’s your favorite album of all time?

I might get shot for this… One of my all-time favs is Metallica’s Load

What hobbies do you enjoy doing in your spare time? 

I love animals and nature, so usually I visit a (petting) zoo or something like that. Parks and hike trails are cool too. Recently in Manaus Brazil we went to the Amazonia Museum. It’s basically a safe piece of real jungle with signing and pathways. 

Do you play any instruments in your own time?

Until I started touring on a serious level my band activity was quite high. I was out pretty much every weekend for shows all over The Netherlands, Belgium and Germany. Now I just pickup a guitar every now and then, when I am home.

Do you have any of your own bands/projects you’d like to mention? 

Nope, all that is ancient history, and nothing is online…. Good fun though

Please can you tell us about the Guitars and Amps etc you own personally?

I never really got into tube amps for myself. I own a nice Marshall VS100 combo but I used it in combination with digital gear. I started with Zoom products, moved to Line 6 and a while ago I sold my Kemper Profiler and bought a Neural Quad Cortex.The QC machine is amazing. It is so easy to make good scenes and most importantly it sounds great!!

Is there anything you’d like to mention? 

Thanks for reaching out and getting people to talk about the different jobs in the music industry. 

And Kid’s finish your schooling! It is a music business! It might be good to know some economy before getting into these jobs. 


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