Artist Interview: Trace Foster

Who are you and what do you do?

Trace Foster (Right) with Angus Young (Left)

TI’m Trace Foster and I’m a guitar technician and player/songwriter/producer. I’ve been in the industry for 40 years now.


Where did you start from, what’s your musical origin story? 

I grew up outside of Chicago in Rockford, Illinois (Cheap Trick territory). I’ve been playing guitar since the age of 10. My brother was a professional player and helped influence me. I moved to LA in the 80’s and played in various bands. I’ve always been a musician first, but somewhere along the way I was offered a job to help out in the studio. My time in the studio led to me being asked to tech for Melissa Etheridge. I worked with her for 18 years, both as a tech and a guitarist/keyboardist.


How did you end up becoming a tech? Most people don’t start out with a plan to become a tech, so what made you realise it was the job for you?

As a struggling guitarist, I was tired of owing record companies money. When I went to work with Melissa, it was like “oh, you’re going to actually pay me good money?” That was my moment of realization. Honestly, I never really wanted to be a guitar tech. It’s just the more I looked to play, the more offers I got to tech. That’s just the way it went.


Trace Foster (Left) with Tom Hamilton (Right)

What have been your biggest gigs as a tech and what was it like working on them?

My biggest guitar gigs have been Angus Young (ACDC), Ronnie Wood (Rolling Stones), and Joe Perry (Aerosmith). For bass guitarists, Tom Hamilton (Aerosmith) and Geezer Butler (Black Sabbath) were my crowning achievements. I’ve done thousands of gigs, but these really stick out the most.

I’m also an engineer and one time, when I was in Joe Perry’s studio, we were chatting and suddenly it hit me, “oh my god, that’s Joe Perry.” In my head, I went back to being a kid learning Aerosmith songs. The same goes for seeing Angus Young on stage, walking over to me, and handing me a guitar. That never got old.


What do you enjoy most about being a tech?

I love the process. I get to design these guys’ rigs. An artist asks me to create their rig, and then they return a few hours later and it’s done. I love seeing their faces. It’s an honor really.


As somebody who has worked with a lot of musicians, what are the common challenges when putting a rig together? Is it difficult to balance the requirements of the artists with the things you need to make your job possible?

The most challenging aspect is to know the person and what THEY need. Because a lot of these guys that do what I do think the rigs they’re building sound great, but the person they work for doesn’t necessarily like it. This isn’t about you as a player. This is about your artist and what they want.

The thing I’m good at is just knowing what’s good and what’s bad. I have a lot of influence over what gear goes into an artist’s rig. They trust me and there’s a lot of mutual respect between us. I learned a long time ago, it’s better to ask for forgiveness than for what you need. Management and artists aren’t always on the same page about spending. I just have to go out and get it done and hope management reimburses me.


Outside of your work as a tech, do you have any cool musical projects you’d like to tell us about? 

I can’t say anything yet, but I’ve got a project I’ve formed with some major players. It’s going to be very special. It’s the type of project where, when I reflect on it, I realize everything has come “full circle” for me.


How do Origin Effects and our products fit into your work?

Everything I’ve ever used from Origin has been amazing and built like a tank. The BassRIG, for instance, feels like you’re picking up a mini Ampeg. I’ve used the BassRIG Super Vintage with Tom Hamilton. It’s an integral part of his rig. He recently went to Fractal and we split the signal between it and the BassRIG. He used the pedal a bit more than the Fractal too. With Bon Jovi, John Shanks used the Cali 76 and, considering he plays like 60 guitars, it really helped “tame the beast.” Some guitars had low output, some high, and that thing really smoothed them out.