For quite a while, during my time with Leisur Hive, I used only a few pedals. Vans with drivers seemed easier to come by back then for some reason, so I tended to use the Trace Elliot, just on the edge of breaking up, with a Boss DS-1 (later replaced by a weird old Rockson pedal that sounded like a cross between a Big Muff and a cement mixer) and a couple of analog delays.
Things are little more refined and subtle these days. Apart from the pedals I use to make a big un-refinded, un-subtle noise of course. Due to often being faced with a random choice of mystery amps, I wanted to get some kind of decent basic sound from a handful of pedals so that I could then just dial in a clean, flat sound from the amp and use the pedals to shape the basic tone. From the tuner I go straight into a compressor – a “Dr J” – which has a mix knob to let some of the dynamics through. Nice and clean and clear without sounding plasticky (is there such a word?).
From there it’s into an Electro Harmonix Soul Food for a tiny bit of grit and a small but pleasing mid-bump (nowhere near as much as a Tubescreamer but still pleasantly bumpy). Most of the time these two pedals are always on – but if I’m playing through a particularly nice amp I might switch the Soul Food off and just live with the amp’s natural tone, or if the amp is particularly sparkly (like certain Fenders) I might ease off the compressor a bit, or even switch it off. Depends on the amp really, but with those two pedals and a fairly flat setting on the amp’s EQ I can be pretty confident that I’ll sound like me whatever amp I’m faced with. Most of the time.
From there things get a little more exciting with a Red Witch delay pedal. It’s one of those “compact” pedals and is therefore impossible for me to actually see without wearing decent contact lenses. There are few things in life more disapointing than attempting to stomp on an effects pedal only to realise you’ve missed it completely and have accidentally kicked a particularly short, shiny-headed audience member in the forehead.
The Red Witch does that wobbly pitch-bendy tape echo thing very well indeed and can get really psychedelic at times. Speaking of psychedelia, I like to place this delay before another overdrive pedal. Some people hate the sound of a delay breaking up and distorting like that, but these people clearly have not listened to enough Chrome albums. That overdrive is the cheap Joyo clone of the Fulltone OCD. The Joyo Ultimate Drive – which is a ridiculous and pompous name. This pedal also has a visual design straight out of one of those “Worst Tattoos in the World” Tumblr blogs, but it sounds lovely. Very amp-like (in fact it’s the closest I’ve found in a pedal to the overdriven sound of the Tramp’s lead channel).
There is no shame in using cheap clones if they sound good. For what it’s worth, we used a real Fulltone in the studio on the new album, and we may well get hold of another sometime soon, but for now the Joyo is sturdy, sounds fucking amazing and looks so utterly stupid that no-one will bother nicking it.
That’s the bulk of the pedals really – a base tone followed by psychedelic delay and full, amp-like overdrive. Additionally there are a few other weird toys on the board: a tiny (but incredibly fierce) Muff-like fuzz, small multi-modulation pedal (Nux Modcore / Donner Alchemy. The same pedal in different clothing. Digital and cheap but actually very nice. The chorus is at least as lush and warm as any old analog Boss pedal. There’s also tremolo, vibrato, phaser etc. I tend to use such effects sparingly so cramming them into one box makes sense for me)
A special mention ought to go to the second delay pedal in the chain (I like to have two on the board, one before and one after the distortions). I picked up an Ibanez DE-7 on ebay and have now become unhealthily obsessed with trying to track down more of them. It sounds like the Universal Womb swallowing time itself.