The first time I met Armand I was scared shitless. As I sized him up I thought I’d finally done it, I finally fucked the girlfriend/sister/mother of a dude WAAAAAAY bigger than me and this time he knew my name and number. One look at Armand was all it took for me to wet my pants and cry like a baby – and not in the good way.
Way back in 99 while on tour with the instrument abusing snot nosed punk band Amen I once again found myself the sole backline tech. Being the only one wasn’t new to me what was fucking me up was the amount of damage I would have to repair night after night. These cats were attacking their poor guitars like they were child raping kitten killers. I would dread every load in because I was just sober enough to assess the previous nights mayhem which in turn prompted a new bindle of motivation so I could perform ingenious (if I do say so myself) acts of sonic cosmetic surgery practically utilizing anything and everything so the band could make it through another set.
While the band was coming up with new and interesting ways to dismantle an innocent six string with nothing but a pick and a power chord. Sometimes these repairs were purely ascetic a scratch here a torn out pickup (from the back???) there. Mostly, they were lifesaving transplants, broken headstocks, halved bodies, every screw, brace, wad of chewed up bubble gum would breathe new life into the main guitars. Back ups what are those?
And right before I opened the first case, fate intervened and made my day go from shit to oh shit.
From the dark I heard, “Is there a guy named Hickey working for Amen.”
“some big tattooed dude is out back asking to see a Jef Hickey is that you?’
“um maybe aw fuck”
I took a long look at broken neck and thought “I’m about to know how you feel”. I started to sweat, not the hot sticky drug induced post nut glistening I know an love, but an unpaid for dirty cold gambling sweat, while I desperately conjured up some lame excuse for something I might’ve or might not have done.
Now unless I’m looking for someone, which at that time I wasn’t, someone looking for “Hickey” is 90% of the time not a good thing. Odds are forever in your favor that I was being hunted by either a pissed off boyfriend/girlfriend, a form of law enforcement of some sorts, or the parents of some chick, her boyfriend and her were the ones patting a bat in their sweaty palms.
Contrary to popular belief I’m not a total pussy and if I need to face the music well let’s dance bitch. As it were I reluctantly leave the safety of fort guitar world and investigate who is asking for me and passive aggressively find out what the fuck they want. (for the records the other 10% is the likely probability a former drug buddy knows I’m in town and is bringing me unsolicited goodies and well that demands a looksee)
There next to the buses I spot my stalker. The hairless Sasquatch is towering over Amen’s guitar player Sonny Mayo and as far as I can tell Sonny isn’t in the monsters grip and it appears…they are…laughing, so I take a deep breath and burst out of the backstage door and bellow
“Who the fuck is looking for me!”
Hoping to frighten the beast I charge towards my boss demanding an audience with my tracker only to be stopped dead in my spasm by a sheer wall of tattooed flesh topped with the cutest Paul Bunyon face and the big teddy bear offers me a paw and I ah shucks shake it.
“So you’re Jef Hickey” inquired the massive hulk of a fella with a boyish grin.
“I was wondering if I could hang out with you and watch what you do. Sonny said I should experience Hickey since they picked you over me for this tour.”
“Who me?” I ask looking around for another more capable tech who happens to be cursed with the same name as me, just nowhere as handsome.
And just like that, insta-friend with Armand Hammer Crump. Just mix some cold beers and the love of ramps and bam buds for life. He didn’t want to rearrange my face or get me loaded he just wanted to hang out and maybe – a slim maybe at that – learn something he didn’t know. The truth was he was a gifted tech the kind of roadie all roadies should be measured by and I don’t mean by inches. In fact I’ve learned more for Armand…a hell of a lot more than he learned from me. (I think I taught him to lay a bill over an unchopped pile of blow so it doesn’t fly all over the place as you artfully crush it to smithereens).
For those of you that have never had the pleasure of hanging with him Armand he was as I like to classify “the player tech” He loved playing guitars as much as he loved keeping them looking and sounding their best. He shunned the limelight for a maglite. He was behind the scenes hardly making a scene. The dude was as chill as they come if I could cook him up in a spoon I’d be addicted to Crump.
Thankfully he wasn’t the player techs evil twin “frustrated musician tech” who thinks he’s better than his boss, won’t stop noodling and is always trying to get a song he wrote played during sound check – hell no Armand was a model roadie and the road was much more interesting with him on it.
From that fateful day until just this past December 21st when I saw him backstage at Guns n’ Roses Armand and I would criss cross this planet bumping into each other in remote parts of the world always happy to see each other. Hickey! Armand Hammer! would be heard by everyone around as we would greet each other like little girls. Me, out slumming it/vanning it/clubbing it with my little known metal band eeking out a living and Armand keeping the mighty Kerry King in tune and as evil as can be in arenas and stadiums with catering and loaders..lucky bastard.
Having a small army of mutual friends we’d throw out names inquiring the status of this dude and that chick. If he met you for the first time he would sincerely ask about you and your wife/girlfriend/groupie listening intently as you fill him in with -in my case – juicy details. Since I’m a hopeless fan boy -just like Armand – he would make my little metal fantasies come true with handfuls of picks and other trinkets of whatever guitarist he was taking care of, or had crossed his path. I will never forget the day he let me strap on Kerry’s infamous nail armband looking at me with a steely “I know” look as I savored the moment like some crazed Slayer fan.
As I’ve said before I don’t believe in any afterlife (Heaven and Hell are nothing but a killer band) and just the fact that Armand is senselessly gone only adds fuel to my well greased and warmed up NO GOD argument that I have cocked and loaded anytime some believer wants to lock horns and halos with me. God didn’t need a FOH engineer and Hatter was stolen from us and I’ll bet my testicles God didn’t need a fucking guitar tech…nothing goes out of tune in Heaven.
If one more person tries to explain that God needed Armand and Hatter I’ll beat you Roman like with your bible. Thinking about how fucking senseless Armand’s death is makes me so fucking angry. Just like Paul Gray, Dimebag and Pete Steele were taken away too fucking soon only strengthens the fact there is no god. But I’m not going to use this memorial as a soap box, all I know is I’m angry and sad thank you Jesus.
But okay if you wanna play make believe I will too.
Let’s say there’s an afterlife party and the band is getting ready to entertain the masses Hendrix, Dime, Cobain, Rhoads, have been practicing all week to keep Dio happy and every guitar ever known to exist is in desperate need of some new strings who else would be summoned by the head tour manager to keep them in tune – and since God invented irony having SLAYER’S roadie do the honors is unholy in a holy kind of irony but funny nonetheless. Whatever the case heaven, hell, purgatory, the great guitar boat in the sky or in the hearts of all his friends Armand will live on.
If there is another dimension, say creations most exclusive Guitar Underworld where your tombstone is your laminate I’m certain Armand is looking for Quorthon ready to jam a little Bathory. I can picture my little buddy ripping “Woman of Dark Desires” his cherub rock cheeks burning red complete with blackened angel wings, a devilish grin (like he’d just swallowed Hetfield) and a broken halo listing to one side repaired with some gaff tape for all eternity.
I’m gonna fucking miss you.