Dan "the Borga" O Neil Guitar tech to the stars chats with musicgearsource.
MGS - First off Dan thanks for taking the time to talk with us.
Dan – Hey Brother not a problem. I am now retired after 20 years so I have some time on my hands when I am not in my office running th e business.
MGS - What got you started into the crazy world of rock n roll touring?
Dan – Well I think a lot of crew guys start out the same I was a bass player and played for many years on and off with different bands in New Jersey. I deceided after all of the band hoping I liked fixing the gear better then I liked playing it. Besides the 80’s metal scene was starting to wear me out. So my best friend then and now is/was PJ Farley the bass player for the 80’s band “Trixter” and now plays in the band “RA”, so I started working for Trixter and then management wanted me to get some tours under my belt so I went out with a friend of m9ine on the “Modern English” tour in 1985. When I came back PJ needed a bass tech so I jumped on the bus in Paramus, NJ and the rest is history.
MGS -Can you give us a year by year rundown of the tours you have done in the past?
Dan - That’s tough there was a lot of drinking during the late 80’s & early 90’s but I will try.
1985-1986 – Modern English (Production Manager)
1986-1992 – Trixter (Bass Tech, Stage Manager)
1990-1998 – Slayer (Kerry King Guitar Tech)
1992-2002 – Cyndi Lauper (Production Manager)
2000-2004 –REO Speedwagon (Bass, Keyboard, Guitar Tech) (2003 Guitar Tech only Lead Singer)
In Between these years I worked with other bands such as Frank and Nancy Sinatra, Dream Theater, Joan Jett, TheThe, Depeche Mode, Kiss, LA Gunns, Overkill, Accept, Revellie, Lynch Mob, Non-Fiction, Maggie’s Dream & Tonic and few other I don’t care to mention.
MGS - What was the funniest thing,most memorable thing and the coolest thing that has happened to you on the road.
Dan – Funniest thing I would say is the Warrant, Trixter, Firehouse tour “Blood, Sweat & Beers. That was a non stop party and one of the best tours of my life. I think a lot of it has to do with a bottle of tequila daily and stripper but it’s pretty faint.
Coolest thing – On the Blood, Sweat & Beers tour the Trixter crew opened up for them and we played infront of about 10,000 people pretty damn cool.
MGS - Did you get to spend anytime with Neal Schon? Anything cool you can tell us about him?
Dan – I talked to him a few time and I did the VH-1 show with them as everyone guitar tech. He is a super nice guy and has always been very friendly to me.
MGS - Do any of the guys use effects pedals? Alot of our readers are pedal heads.
Dan – I Know Dave Amato uses the following pedals: Dunlop Univibe, Boss Chorus Ensemble, Boss PS-2, Boss RV-2, Boss DD-3, Boss DSO-2, Dunlop Cry Baby Wha.
MGS - Slayer eh? Thats some hardcore music. Wasn’t it funny to go from "South of Heaven" to "I Cant fight this feeling"?
Dan – Not really I went back and forth between tours from Slayer to Cyndi Lauper for a few years. The guy in Slayer are great Guys and Kerry King is one of my best friends.
MGS - My sister is Trixter fan number one. They happened to be playing in Toledo on her Bday several years back we took her she went nuts.....we took her to the KISS/Trixter show her first concert, she went nuts.
Dan - That Toledo Show is where I asked my now wife for 11 years now to marry me. Weird.
MGS - Wow! I guess its a small world. That was in 92.
MGS - Spending the last 5 years with REO Speedwagon can you give us a night by night rundown of your duties? From load in to load out.
Dan – Now keep in mind I used to take care of Lead Singers guitars, Bass & also Keyboards for REO that consisted of 22 Guitars and Basses, 1 B-3 and 2 Leslies, and One piano. So I basically worked constantly from load in to load out. Since the beginning of 2003 I was only taking care of the lead singers guitars so I had some time on my hands once in a while.
Well lets see load in normally happens at 10:00am. James “Rosie” Greenawalt our production manager and I along with other crew members would normally survey the stage to see what parts of the set we were going to use depending on stage size. Once we had that all figured out it was a normal load in we dumped our full 53” semi and got everything up and running. Around 12:30 we would break for lunch, and then back at it around 1:30 during that time period I would normally get a couple of guitars done I.E. Strings, Cleaning and frets. (Kevin plays pretty hard so his frets need to be worked every day) and then around 4:00pm the band would come in for sound check that normally lasts about 90 minutes. After that I would finish up what ever guitars I needed to finish. Then it was dinner time after dinner a little relaxing on the bus and show time. Once the show was over we packed it all back up and loaded up and showered and hit he bus for some RnR.
MGS - What guitars, amps and effects has REO been using the last couple years. Our readers love details down to cables, picks, and strings.
Dan – Well this will be a long list so here we go.
Kevin Cronin uses, Ovation Viper Guitars, Martin Acoustics, 1959 Fender Strat, 1962 Gibson les Paul Jr, 1968 Fender Tele.
Amps: Vox AC-30 Handwire heads with a VOX AC-30 Handwire Cabinate in a ISO Box off stage.
Kevin also uses Samson Dual Synth 5 wirelesses, Bradshaw Multi Switchers and a Custom Made Switcher for the Trem & Reverb for the VOX heads.
Bruce Hall: uses Fender Basses, Ampeg Power Amps and Trace Elliot Pre amps, Bruce also Uses Samson Synth 5 wirelesses and Whirlwind Multi Switchers. And Fender Triablge Bass Picks.
Dave Amato I don’t know everything but I know he uses Nady 950 Wirelesses, Marshal Amps & Cabs, And Dunlop pedals and Bradshaw switchers.
Brian Hitt Uses : Ludwig Drums, Zildjian, REMO, Vic Firth, Pintec, Trigger Perfect, Gibraltar, Pork Pie, Clark Synthesis, Randall May Enterprises, and Grip Peddler pedal grips.
Neal Doughty uses Hammond B-3, Korg Karmas, Setco Piano Shell with a Kurzweil PC2X.
All Band Members use Dean Markley Strings, and D’andrea Picks for playing and Intune picks for throw-a-ways.
MGS - When was the first time you were starstruck?
Dan - It hasn’t happened yet.
MGS - You said nothing was off limits. What does say the Journey, Styx, Reo tour pay? Does the band pay direct or is it a management company?
Dan – Well I can only speak for REO on this one. And basically each crew guy cuts his own deal so no one knows each others deal but all I can say is a high 4 figures a week is a nice salary.
The bands business manager pays us weekly via direct deposit
MGS - Ever score any cool gear from any of these cats?
Dan - Well lets see Kevin gave me as a xmas present last year a Roland 88 weighted keyboard. And in the past I have been given a couple of bass & acoustic guitars in the past.
MGS - Did you ever get in on the tickets for greens fees that REO was known for? Or were you tuning guitars when they were golfing?
Dan – I started playing golf last year but 99% of the time I am working so basically I never got to play golf on a show day.
MGS - Ever get to jam with any of these guys?
Dan – Yes Dave Amato and Brian Hitt and I have jammed a few time playing Ted Nugent songs.
MGS - Practical jokes on tour?
Dan – None I can remember I grew out of that after my Booze days 11 years sober now.
MGS - What would a "bad night" be? Any major trainwrecks on stage? Major gear failures?
Dan – Well I build my rigs to last and work for along time. Right now Kerry King from Slayer is still using the same rig I built 8 years ago.
I think one of the main problems we have on tour is wireless inferference that happens a lot. But I always build hardwire systems into my rigs and they are patched VIA the switcher so it only taks a few seconds to switch to a cable.
MGS - Any hero stories of say Kevin Cronin too sick to go on so you strapped on the guitar and went on stage and tore it up? I would imagine thats a fantasy for alot of techs. I remember lets see it coming true for the guy in Metallica. Heard of any others? Is there like a tech mafia?
Dan – Nope sorry I like it behind the scenes a lot better. Except when I am playing in my own band.
MGS - Its plug time. Anything to plug? Special thanks? etc.
Dan – Well damn this will be a long list. I would like to thank the following companies and people:
Dean Markley Strings, Dean Markley & Dave Leinhard - Ampeg Amps, Matt Picker – Fender Custom Shop Ronnie Pena & Alex Perez – Ovation Guitars, John Budny & Darren Wallace – Hammond Suzuki, Teresa Edelstien – D’Andrea, Jason McAbe – Intune Guitar Picks, Bert – EMG Electronics, Jack Nau – Bob Bradshaw, Steve, Carol, Bob, Pam, Brian, Mindy, Ken & Jason, Karl from Roadie.net, My Entire REO Speedwagon Family, PJ Farley, And Last but by far the least my Wife and Kids and the rest of my family. And with a sad note I put these names up Pat Farley, Gary “Gaz” Douglas, Bobby Thomson, “Rigger Dan”, “Dime Bag Darrell” (R.I.P my friends we will party again one day)
Plug: www.oneilandson.com my family business which is doing unreal. I will also be opening up a guitar repair and rack building shop next year here in Ohio.
MGS - Its been a pleasure Dan, thanks alot for your time and keep rockin.
Dan – Any time Brother I am hear if you ever need anything. This was a blast if you want to know anything else please feel free to ask I love answering questions.