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View from the top: The guitar technician (Dario Cappanera)

"Too many arse-lickers and snakes in the grass": it's not the same as it was...

“Too many arse-lickers and snakes in the grass”: it’s not the same as it was…

Who are you?
Dario Cappanera, known by everyone as ‘Kappa’ and born in Leghorn, Tuscany, in 1973.

What do you do?
I began playing guitar at the age of eight, and have played in numerous bands since, worked with instruments, amps and guitars and owned an [analogue] recording studio from 1993 to 2000. I’ve worked as a guitar and bass tech since 2001, but thanks to my studio experience, I’ve a fairly comprehensive background in the audio world – cabling, keyboards, drums, mics, etc.

Where do you do it?
I’ve mainly worked in Italy, but from 1990 to 1992 lived and worked as a guitarist and tech in Austin, Texas; in London in 1993; then, back in Italy, in various studios in Milan. Once on the scene, I worked mainly in Italy, above all when Diego Spagnoli ‘enrolled’ me with Vasco [Rossi] in 2003. I went back to the States, to LA, for the whole of 2009.

What do you do it with?
I have an unpretentious workcase containing the bare essentials: Boss tuners, overdrives and boosters for acoustic guitars, jack cables, soldering gear, all the tools necessary for guitars, including hex keys in millimetres and inches for all kinds of bridges, spare potentiometers and jacks… in short, all the odds and ends necessary for emergency repairs on the road.

What’s your biggest success to date?
I’ve worked as a guitar tech for a lot of musicians, but my biggest satisfactions were with Vasco Rossi – from 2003 to 2014 I was his band’s guitar and bass tech (for Maurizio Solieri and “Gallo” Golinelli) – and for another great guitarist, Mike Scott, ex-guitarist with Prince, with whom I worked on tours and events with [Italian singer] Giorgia.

What’s the biggest challenge coming up?
Changing my job! [Laughs] Seriously, I’ve been globetrotting since I was 18 and I’m 41 now. I’d like to stay at home with my family; working conditions aren’t what they used to be, plus I no longer have the passion and desire to experience music as I once did. It seems to be all business and technology now – too cold and impersonal, too many arse-lickers and snakes in the grass… it’s not the world I once knew.

What is the ‘issue’ that never seems to go away?
With Italian musicians, rather than a roadie or tech, you need to be a psychologist, as there are too many improvised artists and prima donnas, too many bigheads and a load of moaners. In short, they expect you to look after them too much.

As well as a tech, do you do any other work in the live or music world?
I play in an Italian metal band, La Strana Officina. I’ve played with a lot of other artists and I also have a blues project where I sing too. I’m a songwriter, too, have acted in a film and am also a yacht skipper… I’m always on the hunt for new challenges and crazy things to do. I’m quite eclectic, and in ‘simple’ tech this seems to annoy folk sometimes.

How did you start work as a tech?
After some session work in 2000, I realised it wasn’t the job for me: I’ve always hated pop music, which is Italy’s most successful genre. My roots are in blues and rock ’n’ roll, so, undecided on how to make a living and having closed my studio, I decided to try my hand as a roadie with DeltaV, a band I’d already worked with as a backliner, stage manager and monitor engineer. It was hard, crazy work, but there was friendship, esteem and a great atmosphere. Then, in 2002, I got the call from Diego Spagnoli.

How would you rate the standard of Italian techs with those abroad?
As far as professionalism, ability and know-how is concerned, Italian techs are in no way inferior to those from abroad, but there are some big differences: US and European techs deal exclusively with the backline! On the other hand, here in Italy, we’ve always worked with everything, from cabling to snakes, mics, the risers or stage set and loads of other crap. I think that this has given us that ‘something extra’, since, in my modest opinion, I think if you’re involved in hundreds of other audio aspects you learn a lot more!

What musician would you like work with as a tech and why?
I’d have liked to have been the guitar tech with one of my icons, Gary Moore (RIP), or Zakk Wylde, whom I got to know well during the years on the road, and Joe Bonamassa.

Do you find it frustrating that other technicians involved in live events always have a higher media profile than techs?
In my career as a musician, I’ve always been involved in the promotional aspects – interviews, video and photo shooting, etc. – and I think it’s part of the job, but as far as roadie and tech work is concerned, I prefer to stay in the background, not in the spotlight. I leave that crap to the various prima donnas that populate backstage areas worldwide!

This is #7 of 10 ‘views from the top’ appearing in PSNLive2015, PSNEurope‘s 10th annual analysis of the European live sound industry. This year, we quizzed incumbents of key industry roles on the ups and downs of the business. The result is a range of insights (views from the top, no less) from a diverse group of individuals, all of whose careers are inextricably linked to the fabric of live sound.