Saturday, December 29, 2012

Interview with Brian Wampler

Interview with Brian Wampler, Wampler Pedals

A few weeks ago I sent some interview questions over to Brian Wampler with the plan that he would answer via e-mail, and I would post to this blog. Brian had the great idea of doing a video interview. So Brian and his colleague, Travis sat down with the video camera and Travis asked Brian my questions.

The interview is embedded below. I don't want to spoil the fun, but I will say that I asked about his general thoughts on pedals and pedal making, what got him into it, his favorite classic (or contemporary) circuits, designs he's most proud of, and what's on the horizon. And for those of us awaiting the return of the Cranked AC, be sure to tune into the full video.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Review: Earthquaker Devices Organizer

Organizer Set for Faux B3
I’ve been rocking out with the Earthquaker Devices Organizer a lot over the last few weeks. And I have to say, I’m kind of in love. To date, I’ve been using a Micro POG and the leslie model on my M9 to do faux Hammond sounds on guitar.

With the Organizer, I can do this with just one pedal. For “faking” a B3, I liked minimizing the “Direct” guitar sound on the Organizer and using only the effected sounds (see image to left). It’s a really fun sound

Where the Organizer really shines is in providing a subtle organ pad under rhythm guitar parts. For this, I adjust the direct level on the Organizer all the way up and pull back on the “Up,” “Down,” and “Choir” levels (see image below). To try it on your own, set the controls like the pedal pictured below.

Now run a nice crunchy tone into the Organizer and through your amp. Hit some power chords. Maybe play Baba O’Riley by the Who or something in that vein? Listen to how the Organizer provides weight and a subtle thickness to your rhythm parts. It’s awesome!

Now switch off of that crunchy sound (maybe add some light compression) and play some arpeggiated stuff (I added a little delay and played some Cure and U2 songs). Listen to how the Organizer sweetens things and adds a subtle pad under your guitar. I’m loving the Organizer for playing rhythm on slower songs live (in a band without keys). It instantly makes things sound fuller and more polished (but by no means muddy or busy).

Organizer Set as Organ Pad

Finally, for those Black Keys fans, you can get close to the main riff from Gold on the Ceiling by running the Organizer into your favorite fuzz (I used the EQD Tone Reaper and my old Sovtek Muff). Set the Organizer with the up at noon, the down around 9 or 10 o'clock, the choir and lag at zero, the tone at 1 o'clock, and the direct at 11 o'clock.

The tracking on the Organizer is near flawless. But like any pitch shift or harmony pedal, it's important that you put a well-tuned guitar into it. If your guitar is out of tune, the Organizer can't help with the octaves.

The only complaint I can make is that there is a slight delay between striking a note and when the processed sound comes out. This isn’t a problem for organ pad sounds or mellow rhythm work. It’s a little tough for fast rhythmically intricate stuff. But it’s really short delay and by no means a deal breaker.

If you've been looking for something to add a new dimension to your guitar sound or need to fill in for an organ player on a song or two, I'd recommend the Earthquaker Devices Organizer. Now, if only they'd make a similar pedal with more of a synth pad sound. I'd pick that one up as well.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Strike at the Fuzz Factory

Zvex Fuzz Factory Review

For years, I dreamed of owning a Fuzz Factory. So many knobs, so many great reviews, so many famous users. I mean, how could Nels Cline and Stephen Malkmus be wrong?

I recently acquired one, and while it's a hard beast to tame, there are indeed some amazing sounds waiting to be unlocked. Just be careful using it at really loud volumes until you get the hang of it (more on this later).

First, un-boxing the Fuzz Factory is a real treat. I know I shouldn't care about packaging, but when a pedal comes swaddled in a micro-fiber cloth, I take notice.


Vol: The Fuzz Factory has a ton of volume on tap. For most settings, it achieves unity gain at around 8 or 9 o'clock.

Gate: This is the control to know. It works like a noise gate, and it will save your ears when your amp is cranked and you adjust the Drive or Stab control and send the Fuzz Factory into self-oscillation.

Comp: Harder attack when turned left squishier when turned right. Gets real thin and "pinched" when turned all the way right. Works with your guitar's volume knob to tune feedback when you get crazy.

Drive: This one is easy, it controls the amount of fuzz. It goes from fuzzy to fuzzier to fuzziest. And they're all good! And it does nothing when Comp is cranked all the way.

Stab: No, this does not turn the Fuzz Factory into a weapon. It tames the beast within. Backing it off much beyond 2 o'clock on the dial gets crazy. If you're not into crazy feedback and wild oscillations, I'd keep the Stab cranked. If you like to have fun and experiment, roll this knob back and get lost in the sonic mayhem!

This pedal was a blast at home and so much fun for coming up with new parts and for recording (I used some of it's crazy sounds on the last track of my bands new album). Sure, it likes Strat and P90 pickups much more than the humbuckers in my main guitar, but no matter what, it kicked out great singing fuzz that cleaned up well when you rolled off the volume on guitar. And with minor adjustments to any of the knobs you could get a huge variety of tones. And that’s not even considering the cool oscillation noises you can get and control with your volume knob.

There's a great chart on the ZVex site with sample settings. I'd recommend taking an adhesive address label, drawing a few sets of five circles and affixing that to the front of your Fuzz Factory. You are going to come up with lots of great sounds. But the controls on the Fuzz Factory are so interactive that you won't find those same sounds again (quickly) without keeping some notes.

For my use, I came up with two main fuzz settings. One that was like a nice Fuzz Face (thick and smooth) and another with a nice upper octave effect. I then mapped out some crazier settings. There's much fun to be had at the extremes of the Fuzz Factory. But spouses, kids, pets, and neighbors will likely disagree. Oh, and if you run phase, tremolo, or some other modulation before the Fuzz Factory in oscillation mode things get even sillier. Don't blame me if you lose a few hours (or days) with this thing.

The Fuzz Factory is more fun than a barrel of monkeys. But like a barrel of monkeys, it can get out of hand quickly and make a real mess of your house. Sure there are some "safe" and classic sounds lurking inside. But the real fun comes when you tweak the knobs and it starts sounding like a tornado of fire engines and screaming banshees. That's when the magic happens.