Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Recipe: Sauteed Sweet Potato Greens

Last week, we received sweet potato greens through our CSA. Sweet potato greens! Who knew? As with all of the new greens we’ve tried in the last few months, I sauteed these in a little butter and garlic. I tossed some of the more tender stems in the mix as well and added some stock to cook everything further.

The weirdest part is that when the greens first hit the butter, it smelled like I was roasting sweet potatoes. As for taste and texture, they reminded me of collards. Only more tender and less bitter.

We served them with grass-fed NY strip and roasted cherry tomatoes with goat cheese. Yum.

Our five year-old loved them and demanded we have them again the next night as part of her "Kindergarten-eve dinner." he next evening, I tried to use some of the thicker and they stayed too tough. So my advice is stick with the leaves and only the most tender of the stems. Here’s hoping we get more of them this week!


One bunch of Sweet Potato Greens
2-4 Tbsp butter
1 smashed clove of garlic
  • Saute until wilted.
  • Test the stems.
  • If they are soft enough, salt and serve.
  • If they are still tough, add a cup of stock, cover, and simmer until they reach the desired level of tenderness.
That’s it. hocofood@@@

Review: Cusack Screamer Fuzz Bass

A few weeks ago, I picked up the new Cusack  Effects Screamer Fuzz Bass. The first thing I noticed when I removed it from the box is the build quality (and sense of humor) of Cusack.

The Look
It’s well known that Cusack make their mini chickenhead knobs in house. What’s cooler though is that they paint their pedals and then use a CNC machine to cut/carve the graphics and even the serial number into the pedals. About that sense of humor: there is a large-mouth bass cnc’d into the Screamer Fuzz Bass enclosure. Bass. Bass. Get it?

The Controls
Level: This controls the output level of the pedal.
Fuzz: This controls the amount of fuzz. All the way left is no fuzz, all the way right is heaven/armegeddon (depending on your feelings on fuzz)
Scream: Left is zero gain, right is a ton!
Clip Selector: This allows you to select either the Standard, Crushed, or Assymetrical LED clipping. I liked crushed for guitar and standard for bass.

The Sound

I’m a guitar player. So the first thing I did with the Screamer Fuzz Bass was to plug my Reverend Roundhouse HB into it and run that out to my Reverend Goblin through a 12’ Eminence Wizard. I set the scream at 9 o’clock, the fuzz around 4 o’clock, and set the level for unity gain. I hit an A power chord and was rewarded with a thick gritty fuzz. There’s something in the fuzz that reminds me of a muff, but the articulation, mids, and note decay sound and feel more like a Tonebender. According to the fine folks at Cusack, the Screamer Fuzz Bass features a new custom circuit built around an op amp. Whatever it is, it sounds great. I spent the better part of the next hour riffing through the Screamer Fuzz Bass. Your Touch by the Black Keys was especially fun to play through it. And it sounded great on some Siamese Dream era Pumpkin riffs.

Later in the week, the Screamer Fuzz Bass came to band practice with me. I used it on a few songs and was impressed by the combination of low-end and cut. It’s a great sound for low-string riffing and power chords but it still works well for leads. Rocking it on a song we call GSRS (Grungy Stoner Riff Song) it sounded like Seattle circa the early 90’s – sludgy and thick with sustain for days.

Next, I handed it over to our bass player and had him rock some fuzz bass for a few songs. Aside from making our drummer cringe (he’s a bit of a traditionalist) it was a hit. It’s amazing how well it keeps the low frequencies intact without resorting to blending in the clean signal. The only other pedal I have heard do this is the Zvex Mastotron (which I happen to have on hand for a review as well).

And boy does the Screamer Fuzz Bass have a lot of volume on tap. In the switch from me to the bass player, one of us must have bumped the level knob up. When our bass player stepped on it, the walls rattled and it felt like the ceiling was going to cave in. I can’t imagine a time when a bass player would need that much boost, but it excels at slamming the front end of a amp.

Dialing back the fuzz and using just the overdrive sounds great on bass and would be great for adding emphasis for a melodic bassline. The overdrive alone was less thrilling to me on guitar (but that’s not it’s stated purpose).

The other thing to point out is just how noise-free the circuit is. For having this amount of gain on tap, it’s amazing how little noise it adds with the gain cranked. I couldn’t hear any added noise with humbuckers.
I can't find a weakness in this pedal. If I had to find a weakness, it would be that the fuzz doesn’t clean up with the volume knob on your guitar. The overdrive section cleans up beautifully when you roll off your volume knob though, so I'm really just splitting hairs at this point.

If you play bass and like fuzz, you should buy (or at least try) the Screamer Fuzz Bass asap. If you play guitar and are looking for something with it’s own sound but somewhere crossed between a Tonebender and a Muff, check it out. It sounds great, is dead silent, and is built like a tank!

Interview: Tom Dalton, FuzzHugger

P90Noir Interview with Tom Dalton, FuzzHugger(fx)

P90Noir: How long have you been building pedals and how did you get started?

Tom: First, I've got to say, hi and thanks! And that P90s happen to be my favorite pickups. Most of my pedals were designed and tested on P90s.

I've been building pedals for...12 years? I started small and slow, with bypass / signal-routing boxes, really just out of personal need, or bandmates' needs—it was a long time before FuzzHugger came into being. But even though things have really grown,  at the end of the day, it's still me painting and wiring pedals. (Though I've got to thank Laura Bennett and Pat Corrigan for painting some FuzzHugger pedals, Inga for shipping and moral support, and Pete for working on some new circuits.)

P90Noir: Fuzz seems to be your forte, what is it about fuzz pedals that you like so much?

Tom: My search for the perfect fuzz was what got me into pedals in the first place. And even though fuzz is just a niche in the overall pedal world, fuzz fans flock together...I think partly because there's a lot to talk about! I'm not sure you could have a whole message board dedicated to delay love (and if there were/is, I imagine there would be 2-3 factions all debating the merits of 3-5 hot delays). There seems to be more set rules about what people want in a delay (it needs to have at least X amount of delay time, or needs to be darkish and analog, or needs to be pristine and perfect)...where there's a whole range of fuzz sounds, and people don't just want one or two (like delay, sticking with the example), but might want a gated fuzz, crunchy fuzz, and overdriven and sustaining fuzz, a crackly and noisy fuzz, an oscillating fuzz (and there's even a huge variety in the oscillation you can produce with different fuzzes). Fuzz covers tones from crapping-out to unbelievably harmonically rich. So there are less set rules with fuzz, what constitutes good, bad, and good-bad.

P90Noir: Which of your designs are you most proud of? Why?

Tom: The first pedal that pops into my head is the Pocket Arcade. It has five modes of all-analog octave up, octave up fuzz, octave down glitch, and controllable oscillation...and it's in a 2.37” x 4.37” enclosure (even just from a layout and switching standpoint, I'm proud of my work there). But I also have to mention the Algal Bloom and AB-Synth, as the two pedals that really kick-started FuzzHugger(fx) and are still drawing interest a few years later. I think that's because they're something different, in a Big Muff and Fuzz Face dominated market.

P90Noir: Looking at some of your pedals, it’s clear that you have an appreciation for square wave, Velcro, and more “extreme” fuzz sounds. What’s your favorite circuit (from another builder), the one that the builder got just right on the first go?

Tom: I definitely appreciate extreme sounds, but they have to be usable...not only fun, but something that can fit into people's music (there is the Magic Meter overdrive, which goes from subtle to extreme...and the Algal Bloom, that's not only a musical fuzz, but can be backed off into pretty overdrives...even the AB-Synth is more controllable—and tamable—than ever in its new v2 configuration). Part of my goal is wide-range controls: if I can make a circuit get a little extreme, I will...but if I can also add a knob to bring it totally down to earth, I'll add that too. It's almost painful for me to know that there's a great knob I could've added but didn't.
Now to your question! (Haha...people who email me can expect long answers.) This is tough, cause I've played so many pedals and have a lot of builder friends, but I'll name the first few that pop out. One is the sadly/apparently defunct Mellowtone's Wolf Computer. After a few minutes of what?!, you learn your way around the controls, and it's a really brilliant and versatile pedal. Another is the *Dr. Scientist Frazz's versatile and has a really unique made me smile right away.

P90Noir: I notice that you link to the Beavis Audio statement against batteries. I for one swear that I can feel/hear a difference when using some vintage-style pedals with a battery. I’d love to kick batteries entirely but I love them for these uses. Do you feel like your pedals sound and feel the same with an adapter as they do with batteries?

Tom: First, I recommend everyone reads Beavis' page on batteries. But I think, in general, 9 volts of power equals 9 volts of power (though adapters can bring in extra noise, you can root out the problem or upgrade your adapter)'s when the battery starts draining that the difference (to me) comes into play, because then we actually have a difference in voltage. A few of my pedals—the ones I think benefit from it—have a voltage knob. Then you can adjust from 9 volts and down. (Or if you have a 12v adapter, from 12v down!) Then, you can dial in the exact response you want in seconds, without waiting for a battery to drain.

P90Noir: What kind of music do you listen to mostly? Does what you listen to impact the circuits you design and build?

Tom: This is a tough one. I'm kind of quiet about my musical tastes, because they're so varied...and I don't want to color anyone's feelings about the genre my pedals are intended for. What I'm listening to doesn't change the pedals I build. When I'm working on a new pedal, I'm thinking cross-genre, more about the tones and usability than the style of music. But on a personal level, here's a quick taste of what I listened to most in the past year: Paul Simon, They Might Be Giants, El-P, early Weezer, the Mountain Goats.

P90Noir: Do you know of any examples where your pedals where used on a specific track by an artist? Who out there is touring with one or more of your pedals on their board? 

Tom: There are so many local, regional, and semi-obscure national bands with my pedals...and I've gotta thank them first (The Boys Themselves, Starling Electric, Oh So, We Were Wolves, Dangerous Ponies, and a bunch more). There are bands out there making amazing music, and the only difference is, they're not famous (yet?). When it comes to the really famous bands, I don't want to exploit them, and I don't know what endorsement deals they might have. But several internationally famous, multi-million-record-selling bands have FuzzHugger pedals on their boards. Apart from those bands, I will mention The Long Winters and The Special Goodness, who you may not have heard of, but have been personal favorites of mine for 10 years...having them play FuzzHugger pedals was incredibly exciting for me.

P90Noir: What’s on the horizon for FuzzHugger? Any new pedals we should keep an eye out for?

Tom: The Phantom Octave is coming back, with a new graphic, and there are always new graphics and one-off finishes popping up. I don't want to say too much, but in 2013, there will be two new non-fuzz FuzzHugger pedals! And non-fuzz doesn't mean boost or overdrive, but somewhere FuzzHugger has never gone before.

P90Noir: That’s it for me. Do you want to add anything in closing?
Tom: Thanks! I'd just like to say that people are welcome to email me with any questions, and also invite people to come post on!

*Author's note: I should be receiving in a Dr. Scientist Frazzdazzler in the next few weeks and will be posting a review. Keep an eye out!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Pigtronix FAT Drive

Pigtronix FAT Drive - Review

A few days ago, I picked up the new FAT Drive and Philosopher’s Rock from Pigtronix. I loved the Philosopher’s Tone, so I was eager to try the Rock. I decided to try the Fat on more of a whim. I’m glad I did.

According to the Pigtronix website, “The FAT Drive is an all analog tube sound overdrive. The FAT Drive’s multiple cascaded gain stages enable you to nail sounds ranging from bluesy overdrive to rich saturation, all while retaining musical dynamics and the original character of your instrument.”

That’s pretty much dead on.
Playing the FAT, I immediately thought of a list of other three-letter words that can be used to describe the sound and feel.

AMP – The FAT responds like a good tube amp. Touch the strings lightly and you get clean tones with just an edge of hair on them. DIG in and you get rich grind and gain. Crank the gain on the pedal and you can use the volume knob on your guitar to go from clean to mean and everything in between.

CUT – EQ adjustments on the FAT come courtesy of a variable low pass filter. With the tone knob all of the way clockwise, the filter is out of the circuit and you have a tone that is bright without being harsh. With my Reverend Roundhouse (LP type guitar) on the neck pickup, and the tone control wide open, the FAT delivered a singing lead sound that had just the right treble content for standing out in a dense mix. Rolling the tone back to one o’clock makes for a nice thick rhythm sound, perfect for rock rhythm sounds. And switching to the bridge pickup with the tone and noon, is a beautiful amp-like crunch.

RIP - Flicking the “more” switch up from here brings on a boat-load more gain and sustain but still retains punch and clarity. I’m mostly an “indie rock and alt/country player” these days, but this sound had me immediately rocking the intro of Sweet Child O’ Mine (and channeling the 8th grade me who spent an afternoon some 20 years ago learning the part and rocking it through an Ibanez Roadstar II and a crappy Gorilla amp).

With the Tele, the cut knob did a great job of keeping the bridge pickup from getting harsh, all the while adding a great gritty twang. And in low-gain settings, it had me playing Remedy by the Black Crowes. While the FAT sounds amp-like, it doesn't sound like a specific amp. There's something about the way it transitions so smoothly into distortion that makes me think AC30 or Fender Tweed Deluxe, but it's more of a feel thing than a tone thing.

I'll be honest, I was having so much fun with the Roundhouse and Tele, that I barely played my Strat or P90 guitar through the FAT. With the strat, it adds a really nice FAT drive. And with the P90's, you can dial in a great thick meaty tone that is great for leads and riffs. In short, the FAT allows the sound of each guitar to shine through.

As far as combing with other pedals. The FAT performed well in front of and following various pedals. With light drive, and following a germanium fuzz face, the FAT helped the fuzz to cut a little better. Boosting a  "Marshall in a Box" type pedal, the FAT created a more natural sounding drive from the "Marshall."

It’s a saturated (pun intended) market for overdrive pedals out there. But if you’re in the market for a great sounding and versatile drive or just need a new flavor, I can’t recommend the FAT highly enough. It’s one of the more natural sounding overdrive pedals I’ve come across in a while. GET one.