Thursday, 21 April 2011

That's one more crap idea out the way on the route to the good stuff.

One flavour of fuzz with a different flavour at the edges...? Well it just seems like... more fuzz, really.
Again wondering what I was thinking.

Maybe the fact I keep pouncing on ideas (which turn to shit before my very eyes) is something that means things get a momentum and get made - if they're OK.

On with the dubstep pedal then, which - yeah, you guessed it - I think will rock.

In a weird and unique way.

Today, a big cardboard box arrived full of metal enclosures that I designed! All painted ('black leatherette') and drilled - and the sockets all fit in the holes, and the pcb fits inside! With only a smallish amount of filing needed!
I'd take a photo, but you've seen it already, and I don't want to bore you. It's exciting though.

Instead, here's me at the Big Chill, showing some love to my red Boss analogue delay. Notice the lovely old blue Boss compressor next to it. Boss are so great - and everyone ignores them.

And I've got no pedal board!

And rather big hands!

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

It just sounds rubbish. There, I said it!

The internet is all spin. Stuff presented in the most positive/optimistic/exaggerated way. If ever you have an idea, and you slyly google it, looking for evidence of it already occurring, don't be downhearted by what you find. Yeah it's all been done before, apparently by some formidible backwater genius on the other side of the world - who's just trying to show themself in the most positive light. I mean, I do it too...

But let me tell you now, my clean attack distortion idea is just not working. I've tried hard, and finally got to a stage where I can hear the circuit doing what it should. And it sounds... not good. What was I thinking??! I can hear in my head what I was after, and I'm just nowhere with it. It's lots of work to get reality to match - but I'm not encouraged enough to persevere.

So. anything else I can do with the bits? Well, with some adapting I could do a 2-stage distortion, a 'regular' overdrive doing normal stuff - but with an insane, circuit-bending, howling fuzz that peaks through at the end of the note as it dies away, or at the very instant the note starts. Right now that seems quite a good idea; relatively simple to do, pretty cheap - and as far as I know, there's nothing else like it.

And what would the regular distortion be? I'm not one of those types who chips away at a fuzz circuit, changing component values, adding and subtracting bits. That's just not that exciting. The most fun stuff (other than playing through it) was coming up with the primaeval fuzz in the first place, and that's already been done. So stick a Big Muff in the box to start with and be done with it - on to the circuit-bending.

Meanwhile, this poster never saw the light of day... So here it is now.
Whenever I look really really closely at an LED, it reminds me of nothing more than the distant star around which homo sapiens' future home orbits.

That's quite far out really.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011


So all electric guitarists go on forever about their favourite fuzzbox/distortion pedal, and how there's never been anything to better it. It's all Tubescreamer, Big Muff, Fuzzface, Rat, etc etc. So what's an aspiring pedal builder to do when people are stuck in the products of 30 or 40 years ago?

Make copies of them, of course.
Sure, tweak a few values here and there - but basically make clones. But it just doesn't seem like progress to me.

So, you know I'm thinking of new ideas to make... Well what about a box with all that lot inside in one go - and get it over with?! Fuzz upon fuzz upon fuzz; a Great Wall Of Fuzz; fuzzes in series; in parallel fighting each other, gnarly twisted waveforms in stereo. How fucked up can you get the sound?

Quite a long time ago I was writing for a monthly musicians' magazine, and was asked to do a distortion pedal round-up; basically phone round every company I could think of and get them sent to me to review. After about ten days I was OD'ing on overdrive, but testing and comparing away like a trooper. At the end, of course the editor wanted to know what they sounded like all plugged in at once, so I managed to get 38 jack-to-jack leads together and plugged that many in...

It's safe to say the resulting sound had a nice lot of sustain. In fact, play a single note into the top of it, and a pure flatlining tone was emitted at the other end, which, as the string vibration gradually died away, was gradually overwhelmed by a sort of huge outboard motor sound effect... the background hiss amplified to a whole new order of magnitude.
It soon became apparent though that the most important effect would be the last one; whatever that one passed through or didn't pass through - that's the decider.

So this is the ideal one I'd put last.
All others are rubbish.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Managing to not go crazy

Been waiting around for PCBs to arrive. They're four days overdue (four days!). When they do, I can see if they fit the prototype box I've had made - holes and everything... And if all's OK, I press the big box-making switch!

In the meantime I've been working on a distortion pedal that's clean for the initial strum of the guitar, the pick-hitting-string part, and immediately afterwards is distorted for the rest of the sound. Should lead to some interesting attack punch, something that's often lacking from boxes that squash the sound flat, and also the amp might like that clean hit.

Sometimes when people record guitar, they do experiments like mic'ing up the strings acoustically - to get the plectrum 'zing' - and mixing that into the sound. I did a session with major rock producer Michael Beinhorn back in the day, when we spent twelve hours just getting the guitar sound; no problems, but that's how long it took to position about twenty mics on the Marshall and Mesa stacks and my Twin Reverb, adjust the rack gear (JMP1, Sansamp) and his modular synth also mixed in. A whole row of faders pushed up to make one unstoppable sound!
He didn't mic the guitar itself though. I think he'd be up for hearing this pedal, mind; said he didn't like pedals - but then included my Tonebender/Fender Twin combination.

PCBs still not here.

I bought some Kevlar a while back - for J's valentine card (bulletproof!). It's mad stuff; looks like regular fabric, and then you get your scissors out to cut a bit... and there's something wrong... What's up with these scissors??!
It's weirdly strong. I was using big sharp scissors, and the bit I finally cut out looked like I'd done it with a penknife.

Hey - how about a new game!
... 'Stone, Kevlar, Scissors'
Kevlar beats stone and scissors.

Friday, 8 April 2011

Protected Christ

I couldn't resist drawing this that I found in the V&A Museum a few weeks back...Left on display in one of the large sculpture rooms, I think they were preparing to move some of the pieces - but actually maybe it was a statement by the museum's curators on religion today. Or why, with all the modern comforts we have, we're still not happy. We're gently but firmly restricted - and it's our downfall... killing with kindness...

I think it's a more interesting picture than if the figure wasn't packaged up; content of a picture is really important, and so often overlooked. Abstract art heads towards pure expression by the artist, but surely the subject someone picks means something?
What do I know.

I've been thinking alot about new ideas for pedals. I've got a number of 'building blocks' that I've developed, sections of a circuit that do a particular thing... That I can put together to do a particular job with a high chance of it actually working. But there's always some problem (often at the end) that needs to be overcome - the thing that makes it really worthwhile and satisfying. It'd just be too easy otherwise.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011



... Well, actually Drury Precision Engineering of Alford, Lincolnshire made this - but I told them what to do, and was (virtually) looking over their shoulder while they forged and welded.
They really couldn't have done it without me!

Saturday, 2 April 2011

Flares vs straight

So I paid the money for 20 boxes to be made.
It's a big old lump.
I'm thinking that I should be able to shift that many pedals - it's just a matter of how long it'll take.

The box itself has a slight 'flare' to it when viewed from above, like exaggerated perspective, and it'll replace the current box which looks very 'square' from above. Now, I think this makes all the difference; look at this photo of a motel I made for a video.

The first motel I made had a parallel sided tower - but then I took it apart and (with a load of effort) gave it the false perspective thing... I think it makes a difference.

Hope I'll like the boxes when they arrive.