Guitar tech Marcus Catanzaro: Neil Finn and the Fleetwood Mac Tour
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Guitar tech Marcus Catanzaro chats working with Neil Finn on the Fleetwood Mac Tour

Ever wonder what it takes to keep a touring juggernaut like Fleetwood Mac on track? Marcus Catanzaro, guitar tech for Neil Finn on the band’s current world tour, knows a thing or two about big gigs, staying organised and contingency planning.

In this fascinating chat, Catanzaro generously sheds light on what it takes to work at the highest level, the military operation of touring with Fleetwood Mac and a very special Gretsch.

Marcus Catanzaro side of stage
Photo: Justin Wysong. Instagram: @justinwysong

Marcus Catanzaro has scaled the heights of touring and is the guitar tech for none other than Neil Finn. He took five to chat with us in the middle of the Fleetwood Mac world tour.

ENMORE AUDIO: What kind of skills do you need to be a professional guitar tech?

MARCUS: The work of a guitar tech varies at different levels. The most basic of roles starting out will require you to tune a guitar, set up an amp and then be on the lookout for when both of those things break, explode or get thrown into the crowd.

As you get into more high level touring, you very much want to have a good knowledge of electronics and power, a greater understanding of guitars and amps and how to repair everything to do with both (because you no doubt will be fixing these things a lot!), as well as a good understanding of your artist and what makes them most comfortable to go out and do what they do best.

If I had to pick one particular thing that I think is most important for an aspiring tech to work on, it would be their attitude. You can learn to repair a truss rod, or bias an amp, but if you are a dick, you won’t ever the get to chance to do either.

Neil Finn Guitar rack
Photo: Jason Paul. Instagram: @itsjasonpaul

ENMORE AUDIO: How do you build up to a gig like Fleetwood Mac? What does climbing through the ranks look like in the guitar tech world?

MARCUS: I don’t know that this is a very easy question to answer. Jobs in the music industry don’t seem to have a clear direct path to them and everyone has such different stories of how they got to living life the road.

For me personally, I started working for a bunch of my favourite punk and hardcore bands from a really young age for free, because I wanted to be around them and to be constantly on tour. As time went on, I always took what ever job that came my way, so long as I felt that it was still in the music industry and would assist to achieve the end goal of touring professionally for a living.

I played in bands, I worked as a booking agent, I ran a venue, I was a session guitarist on TV shows and a tour manager. Each and every role taught me some new angle of this industry that I previously didn’t know. Starting work for a huge band like Fleetwood Mac is incredibly daunting and there are so many other talented techs who could step in and nail it, but at the end of the day, you just have to have the best attitude, a good understanding of the job and a willingness to learn to do things better, always. Did I mention luck? Luck seems to be a big part of it all.

Marcus with acoustic
Photo: Justin Wysong. Instagram: @justinwysong

ENMORE AUDIO: Do you have a system for keeping on top of gear, running repairs and set lists?

MARCUS: Being organised is key! I run a digital setlist on a monitor in my workbox. This document contains all songs (currently played or not) along with specific guitar choices, the best alternative or backup guitar, tunings, capos and any other notes. I have 16 guitars out on the road for Mr Finn, so I have a very particular stringing schedule as well as reminders that pop up in my calendar for things like batteries and checking moisture levels, etc.

ENMORE AUDIO: Is there a musical investment on your part? Do you have to know all of Neil’s parts to understand the guitar setup?

MARCUS: I think because of my past, I naturally have a musical investment, but I wouldn’t say that is necessary to be a great tech at all. Coming in to the Fleetwood gig with Neil Finn was exciting because I was given a little bit of freedom to exercise my creativity and help find the right combination of amps and guitars to fit with each song.

I spent countless hours in a huge empty studio in Los Angeles last year, plugging in 40 different vintage amps and 150 different combinations of those amps to try and find the right short list of tones to present to Neil. For some people, that sounds like hell, but for me, that’s my absolute favourite part of this job. To be able to assist such a great mind such as Neil Finn to achieve what he is hearing in head and have him get excited by it? It’s such a rush.

ENMORE AUDIO: Which gear are you specifically responsible for? The whole rig all the way to the amps, or just guitars, or something in between?

MARCUS: On Fleetwood I’m in charge of all things Neil Finn from the dressing room door to his spot on stage and everything in between. That extensive list covers 16 or so guitars (thank you Gretsch and Maton!) 6 amplifiers (2 on stage and 4 offstage in isolation cabinets), 2 pedal boards, 200 feet of looms, a switching rack, a wireless rack and some dressing room warmup gear.

ENMORE AUDIO: With such a high profile tour and massive arena shows, I’m imagining the crew runs like clockwork. Is that the case? Or are there moments of chaos?

MARCUS: Not a single moment of chaos. Although I’ve spent almost 20 years of my life on tour working in some way shape or form, this level of arena touring is pretty fresh to me. I’ve seen it done pretty good before, but Fleetwood is next level. Every single member of this crew is crazy experienced, talented and cool headed.

Neil Finn pedalboard
Photo: Jason Paul. Instagram: @itsjasonpaul

We travel the world with everything you see when watching the show. Stage, PA, lights, video, power equipment and motors. Around 16 trucks worth all up of “stuff”. Each night, all of that comes down and goes into a truck within a two hour window. It is truly baffling how all of this happens so safely and efficiently each and every night.

ENMORE AUDIO: Have you had any tense moments watching side of stage? An emergency repair in the middle of the set?

MARCUS: I’ve had multiple heart stopping moments in my career. Generally, it happens with slightly lower budget bands, who maybe can’t afford the spares of the gear, or who haven’t yet had that moment where the whole show stops in front of 20,000 people to realise just how important said spare is.

It’s a huge learning curve for artists and crew coming up. The old saying of “one is none and two is one” applies big time when out on the road. The gear is subject to such huge amounts of trauma that it’s not a matter of will it break, it’s a matter of when will it break. A legendary tech out here on Fleetwood really drilled that in to me when I got there. Our job as tech’s isn’t to stop things from breaking, but to mitigate the downtime when they do.

When your artist is holding guitar A, what is going to be ready to switch with it when it breaks? Is it in the same tuning and ready to go?  I think that my multiple experiences over the years as a guitarist standing on stage with an amp that isn’t working has helped me understand just how horrible that feels for the artist. So the key is to find a solution, and get it done quick.

ENMORE AUDIO: Do you have a favourite piece of gear on the tour?

MARCUS: I have to say Neil’s 1958 Gretsch Firebird is probably it. There is something about that guitar that just can’t be described. So much so actually, that when we were in Los Angeles last year for rehearsals, I spent a bunch of time at the Gretsch custom shop facility with Mike Taft and master builder Stephen Stern.

Marcus with Gretsch
Photo: Jason Paul. Instagram: @itsjasonpaul

I took the ’58 Firebird and said, “ this is Neil’s magic guitar, its the one, its unique and like no other guitar…now lets build a replica” (see, as above, always have a backup, especially for the one of a kind magic gear). So Stephen and Mike along with Tom from TV Jones pickups, spent countless hours measuring, tracing and marking out all of the key features of this guitar. What ended up being built is truly a piece of art. Everything you see, hear or feel from the original is created on the custom shop.

ENMORE AUDIO: Any other touring plans for the near future?

MARCUS: We are currently just finishing up the Australia and New Zealand leg of the Fleetwood tour, then we have another 6 weeks in North America to finish up the almost 15 month cycle. I have a few more Childish Gambino shows to do and then on to a decent chunk of time overseas in the studio with Mr Finn. Next year doesn’t look like slowing down!