Jennifer Batten joins PG staff in discussing the first time we ever stomped in the name of guitar.
Q: What was your first pedal, and do you still have it?
Jennifer Batten — Guest Picker
A: It was a Ross distortion pedal. I loved it. It was my first distortion pedal so I wasn’t too discerning in my early teens. To be able to go from a crystal-clean sound to getting great sustain was enough for me. Fortunately for the sake of having some space in my home, I got into the eBay habit years ago. In with the new and out with the old. Anything smaller and lighter—sign me up, because I fly for most of my gigs. My distortion now comes from the revolutionary Amp1 by Thomas Blug, a killer German guitarist who’s engineered and invented for Hughes & Kettner for 20 years and has invented what is essentially a 3-pound, 4-channel, 100-watt vintage Marshall that you can toss in your gig-bag pocket. The killer distortion comes from a nano tube. My sound has improved 1000-fold. I just toss it in my backpack when I fly.
My current obsession is: Brad Paisley. He’s a monster player and I got to play with him a couple years ago. It’s a whole new musical vocabulary for me, so extremely foreign and interesting. Tackling a Tele is in my near future!
John Bohlinger — Nashville Correspondent
A: In 9th grade, I laid out $40 in wrinkled, sweaty bills for a ’70s-era Ross compressor. I still have it on my studio board. It’s noisy, no LED, and sounds awesome.
My current obsession is: Playing what I don’t know. Fingers tend to want to travel over familiar territory, so a lot of my playing is just repeating patterns I’ve practiced for years. It’s gratifying to discover something new.
Andy Ellis — Senior Editor
A: My Vox V846 wah—a “Thomas Organ Co. Sepulveda, CA” model, serial number 1956250. I bought it at a guitar shop on Sunset in Hollywood, around 1971. Still have it! (Pictured here.)
My current obsession is: 21st-century psychedelic guitar. I was there in the mid ’60s for the first wave, and this iteration sounds equally cool to me. Current fave is Here in the Deep, the new solo album by Dave Heumann (Arbouretum). Moodier than the freakouts of ’69, but no less spellbinding—especially through my ’70s Klipsch Heresy speakers.
Joe Gore — Senior Editor
A: No nostalgia here! It was an MXR Distortion+, and I hated it. I loathed every other late-’70s/early-’80s overdrive too. They sounded boxy and fake—so much less attractive than straight guitar sound. I didn’t realize till the ’90s —when Prescription, ZVEX, and Way Huge began cloning late-’60s/early-’70s circuits—that I love the explosive crackle and hair-trigger dynamics of old transistor-based fuzzes and boosters far more than the smooth, compressed sound of IC-based overdrives.
My current obsession is: I’m digging the free-range guitar work of the band !!!. They seem obsessed with circa-1980 post-punk, when dance beats collided with noisy, abstract guitar.
Jason Shadrick — Associate Editor
A: My uncle gave me a crusty old Ross distortion that was probably from the ’70s. It was tan with just a pair of knobs that were really scratchy. Armed with a bucket full of thoughts on how to fix it, I took it to my high school electronics class where it died a slow death.
My current obsession is: I’ve been going deep on the soulful side of Americana and country music. The amazing skill and craft of Jason Isbell, Chris Stapleton, and nearly everything producer Dave Cobb touches, has given me many lessons on simple fills, strong melodies, and the art of arrangements.