Howells is a musician and the philanthropically-inclined manager of Guitar Center in Castleton. Q: What is your background in music?
I’ve been playing guitar since I was 14. Throughout school, in bands, and I played while I was in the Service as well. Played in a few jam bands, but was never a touring musician.
Q: Are there any painful broken rock ’n’ roll dreams that surface when dealing with the vastly untalented and the overtly talented on a daily basis?
We’re still living the dream of being in bands someday. I have a band forming called Sky Chiefs, which is a rockabilly/shockabilly band. I’m still chasing the dream and living the dream; it’s great to be in an environment where I’m surrounded by musicians.
Q: How do you handle the shredders?
I don’t notice them anymore. If it’s quiet in the store it means there is no atmosphere, no one wanting to play. When there are shredders in the store I know that people come here because they want to hang out. I notice it more when it’s quiet. I go nuts when it’s quiet.
Q: How has Guitar Center outlasted competitors like the ill-fated Mars Music?
By doing whatever it takes to take care of our customers.
Q: Under your command, how has Guitar Center gotten involved in sponsorship of live music in Indianapolis?
We try to be a part of everything we can. We have a good rapport with venues in town and radio stations. A lot of times they need help with backline gear or cross promoting in the store. There are budgets as far as advertising goes, but there are many more ways to help out other than cutting a check.
Q: What was your reaction to local musician Michael Kelsey winning the GC national Guitarmageddon competition?
Flabbergasted. Wonderful player. We were really excited that he went all the way. As soon as I saw him I knew he was going to win. He mopped the floors with everyone else. He’s become a great friend of the store.
Q: Other favorite visitors to the store?
Oasis, Papa Roach, John Mayer. He’s a very nice guy. Ninety-nine percent of the well-known touring musicians that stop in have been very cool. Really laid-back and unsnobby.
Q: How do you see your role in the music community?
I want to provide an atmosphere as a grand networking station for musicians in town. We’re not corporate giants. Our philosophy still revolves around a mom and pop store. Until four or five years ago we were still before we became public. We’re still focused on the core value of taking care of customers. We’re all musicians, from the warehouse guy to the door staff, we’re all musicians of some sort and we want to treat people the way we want to be treated.