Nine Inch NailsRob Sheridan

Nine Inch Nails Went Through Nearly 140 Gibson Les Paul’s On ‘The Downward Spiral’ Tour


Prior to finding fame in A Perfect Circle and ASHES dIVIDE, guitarist Billy Howerdel served as a guitar tech, with one of his jobs being Nine Inch Nails‘s chaotic “Downward Spiral” era of touring. Howerdel spoke how hard that tour was on the guitars themselves in the below rig rundown video with Premier Guitar. One particular Gibson Les Paul from that tour he’s held on to this date, despite its numerous battlescars. In part he offered of it and the casualty count of the tour:

“I was a guitar tech for many years, I worked for Nine Inch Nails, [they were] one of the bands. This wass the first guitar I got in my hands to work on of Trent‘s.

I laid it down, and I think one of the instructions that came down the pipe that day was that he wanted to trade out a pickup. So I was soldering, and I laid the soldering iron down, and it just slipped, and I did that [burned the finish.] It hit the finish. I was like, ‘Oh my god…’ I felt like, ‘I’m fired, right?’

And then the tech next to me was working on stuff, and it’s almost like going into war. He just goes, ‘Dude, that’s the least of your concerns. That is not a big deal as of what’s going to happen tonight.'”

“This was ‘The Downward Spiral‘ tour in ’94-95—this thing got launched into the truss within minutes. This guitar actually got the headstock ripped off it within the first couple of weeks working on it, maybe even the first week. This got put in the crowd, someone ripped the headstock off, it went missing, and I got another guitar of this exact color that came in. I fashioned this thing [headstock] on there poorly, it’s at the wrong angle, it went on a couple different times. I don’t know if you guys can see, if that angle translates, but it’s not the right pitch at all.”

“I don’t want anything changed about it. I’ve actually talked with Gibson about doing a signature model, and this is one of the key things, is reducing that pitch to that, because this is my favorite guitar.”

“That [Nine Inch Nails] tour, I went through 137 Les Pauls when I did the final count, so this was the number one of all of them. At the end of the tour Trent just says, ‘Take two or three guitars with you, whatever you want.’ Of course, I grabbed this…”

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