Sehat Effectors

One of my favorite pedal companies out there is Sehat Effectors, based in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. Co-founders Kusuma Prasetyo Putro and Aljuliano Pandan Bara make the brilliant, oddball Moisture Phone Fuzz Deluxe, which comes in germanium and silicon versions. This wacky contraption consists of unruly fuzz built into discarded land-line telephones. The handset receiver has a functional microphone that works in tandem with the fuzz—allowing it to be a guitar and vocal effect simultaneously.

This pedal is as cool and crazy as it looks, with controls for wave shape, bloom, sustain, fuzz, oscillation, modulation, attack, and tone. Check out the video to hear just how raw and radical a sonic palette the Moisture Phone Fuzz Deluxe dials up. Photo by Aisha Loe

I asked Putro to explain his process for creating this crazy device: “We use old wall-office intercoms—most of them are made in Japan—from the ’80s and ’90s. During the ’80s, the circuit was manufactured using a germanium amplifier circuit to drive the speaker and the microphone on the phone’s handle. Luckily, the germanium transistors are usually still working and can be re-used for another purpose. In this case, we use those germanium transistors for our Moisture Fuzz circuit, which is the heart of this pedal.

“The ’90s phones we use are lighter, because all materials were made from plastic and the shape is much rounder than the ’80s phones. The electronics inside these ’90s phones are fully silicon technology. This makes for a more modern type of sound. In addition to the Moisture Fuzz circuit, we added extra features like an additional jack and preamp with individual volume control for the microphone input [which is the phone’s receiver]. We also put the NE555 Atari Punk Console circuit [an oscillator] in there, which works in conjunction with the fuzz circuit to give an extra noise function.

“The purpose is to make a crazy noise experience.”— Kusuma Prasetyo Putro, Sehat Effectors

You can get the oscillating noise from the Moisture circuit and square wave tremolo that keeps interrupting the signal, but you can control the speed/rate of the square wave with your input signal—either from your instrument or the microphone input. The purpose is to make a crazy noise experience.”

This thing is absolutely bonkers! I can personally attest to the wonderful mayhem of this device. It’s the ultimate guitar and vocal fuzz noise machine. Pedals that can do both guitar and vocal effects simultaneously can be very fun to use onstage and are useful studio tools as well. Sehat’s other contraptions include the RX Synth Telephone and RX Synth Fuzz, which use the NE555 to create absolute mayhem.

Sehat’s Moisture Phone Fuzz Deluxe is a furious ball of fuzz and fizz, with extremely sensitive controls for its extremely insensitive sounds.

Cascade Pedals
This one-man company based in Asheville, North Carolina, is joyfully dedicated to making colorful guitar pedals, and grew out of builder Charles Mostoller’s desire to make a one-of-a-kind pedalboard packed with custom boxes.

While Cascade makes some hip-looking but otherwise conventionally housed stomps, there are some notable exceptions, like the Scooby-Doo Mystery Machine Fuzz. Courtesy of Chris Mostoller/Cascade Pedals

His stomps are distinctive looking, with bright-hued conventional enclosures (like his popular MOSFET Hosstortion, which has a shiny green shell and see-through dials) or unconventional containers like vintage Tung-Sol auto lamp boxes and tobacco tins, but a few of his older builds—like an overdrive inside a vintage Pac-Man game controller box—point toward his latest creation: the Scooby-Doo Mystery Machine Fuzz, which is a crunchy batch of fuzzy goodness built inside an actual toy Mystery Machine van. The result is eye-catching, of course, and sounds killer.

“I’m always stopping at garage sales looking for funky, weird things that I can repurpose as pedal enclosures. That’s when I stumbled on the Scooby-Doo Mystery Machine van.”—Charles Mostoller, Cascade Pedals

“I’m always stopping at garage sales looking for funky, weird things that I can repurpose as pedal enclosures,” says Mostoller. “That’s when I stumbled on the Scooby-Doo Mystery Machine van. I grabbed one to see if I could make it work. It turns out there’s plenty of room inside for a killer two-transistor, one-knob fuzz. I’m a huge fan of the Scooby-Doo cartoons, so I love the response these have gotten. I’ve made a half-dozen Mystery Machines so far, and I love building them.”

While it looks more conventional than a plastic micro-bus filled with cartoon teenagers and their dog, the Hosstortion provides a listen to one of the company’s essential fuzz sounds, built around a MOSFET circuit with 3-band EQ.

Rainger FX
Perhaps the most well-known builder of zany stomps is David Rainger. He started his North West London-based company, Rainger FX, in 2009. His outfit designs and builds intriguing and often offbeat pedals that don’t just look weird, but make some positively bizarre sounds and feature unconventional controls.

Lending a new meaning to “one for the road,” the Rainger FX Minibar has two liquid sensors in its center cup that shape gain structure based on the density and viscosity of the fluid poured into it, and color tone based on a liquid’s opacity or darkness. Courtesy of David Rainger/Ranger FX

“For a while, I’d been having pedals built from scratch or customized,” Rainger says, explaining his start in pedal building. “In the 2000s, I started to make my own—just one-offs, for my personal use. After a while, I realized other guitarists would be interested in using them, too.

“We’re aiming to provide new sounds inspired by music around right now, with a totally distinctive visual style and use,” he declares. “Pedals should sound great, be totally reliable, and be fun! We like LEDs a lot, and a visual representation of the sound, from a basic on/off indicator upwards, is very important. If the whole thing can be done simply … then that’s best of all.”

“Pedals should sound great, be totally reliable, and be fun!”—David Rainger, Rainger FX

Rainger makes so many unusual pedals it was hard to choose one to focus on. Their names tell the story: Dr. Freakenstein Chop Fuzz, Bleep and Igor Controller, the Air Traffic Controller white noise/filter. They are all strange and wonderful. However, Rainger’s latest, the Minibar Liquid Analyser, is really a stand-out. It’s a stompbox mini-pedal that uses the properties of liquid you put into its cup-like central container to define the amount of gain, treble, and bass in your sound. Yes, you read that correctly: You put liquid inside the thing! In fact, it makes no noise at all until you pour liquid into it. Try any combination of liquids you can dream up. Then, when you’ve got your own unique stew and sound, screw the lid on tight and you’re ready to go. If you shake the pedal while playing a note, you get a kind of tremolo as the mixture slops about. Turn the Minibar on its side and the sound decays away to nothing as the liquid connection is broken. Sit it back upright, and the sound returns. It’s insane!

Which way to the kitchen? Listen to how soy sauce, tap water, coffee, and other liquids bring the noise with David Rainger’s latest device.

As the demand for unique-looking, uncommon effects and sound tools continues to increase, there will undoubtedly be more makers of weird stuff coming onto the scene. One day, pedalboards everywhere are going to look as crazy-cool as they sound, because unique pedals give players an extra bit of individuality—something that feels, and looks, special and personal.