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A versatile fuzz inspired by the legendarily damaged tones of Link Wray, Ike Turner, and Grady Martin.
Wide range of tones. Unique fuzz tones. Easy to control. Very responsive to picking dynamics and other effects.
Bias and tone controls would benefit from detents.
Electro-Harmonix Ripped Speaker
The idea of broken gear can be triggering to many folks, but many of us think that some amps sound best in the moments just before they kick the bucket. The EHX Ripped Speaker successfully captures that sound—without the panic and desperation that normally follow. And just as a malfunctioning amp can go unnoticed or totally change your vibe, the Ripped Speaker runs the gamut from subtle to blown out.
The pedal’s rip knob, which is the bias control, is the secret to the most damaged sounds. With a moderate amount of fuzz, the EHX creates the buzzy spurts and sputters that we associate with broken gear, from Link Wray’s punctured speaker cones to the sounds of dying tubes and batteries. The Ripped Speaker is capable of much more though. With the bias control at a neutral setting, scanning the range of the tone knob with various doses of fuzz provides everything from spiky Fuzzrite-style distortion to warm, bluesy tones. Cranking the bias control not only evokes broken gear but also saturated gated-fuzz mayhem that the weirdest noise freaks will be stoked about.
- Middle pickup position. Tone at 2 o’clock, fuzz at 9 o’clock, rip at 9 o’clock, noon, and 3 o’clock.
- Neck pickup. Tone at 2 o’clock, fuzz at noon, rip at 9 o’clock, noon, and 3 o’clock.
- Bridge pickup. Tone at 2 o’clock, fuzz at 5 o’clock, rip at 9 o’clock, noon, and 3 o’clock.
- Neck pickup. Tone at 9 o’clock, fuzz at 5 o’clock, rip at 2 o’clock.
The Ripped Speaker is responsive to pedals placed before it, and I had a blast stacking it after an overdrive and a phaser, both of which pushed the pedal to greater extremes. And while it’s easy to control and operate, the hottest sounds will keep you on your toes.
Test Gear: Creston JM-style, Gibson SG Special, Fender Tweed Deluxe
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Joff Oddie shows PG his own Jag-Master creation and then plasters it with pedals bending (and distorting) space and time.
Listening to the tidal wave in “Giant Peach,” the riotous “Moaning Lisa Smile,” or the punked-up “Play the Greatest Hits,” it’s hard to imagine Wolf Alice as an acoustic duo. Then talk to Joff Oddie about his integral use of effects—“These pedals can do such crazy things; to not do crazy things with things that can do crazy things seems odd”—and the band’s origin story becomes even more improbable. But it’s true: Wolf Alice started with guitarist/singer Ellie Rowsell and guitarist Oddie playing acoustic-folk music during open-mic nights in North London pubs.
After self-releasing an EP, they expanded and electrified their sound with the help of Theo Ellis (bass/synths) and Joel Amey (drums/synths). Now sure, plenty of the band’s repertoire from their four official releases stays in the quieter, softer settings—creating maximum drama—but Joff and the gang give some animation to nearly every note played. (To give further cred to the group’s juxtaposition of floating like a butterfly and stinging like a bee, in a 2015 PG interview Oddie cited John Fahey and Sonic Youth as two of his biggest influences.)
“On Blue Weekend, we leaned into our past quite a bit, where we layered up sounds with acoustic instruments. We used loads of 12-strings, banjos, resonators, and tenor guitars,” Oddie says about the band’s recent release. “We’re even performing an acoustic fingerstyle number—‘Safe From Heartbreak (if you never fall in love)’—each night, so it’s nice to get back there.”
Before Wolf Alice’s sold-out show at Nashville’s Cannery Ballroom, guitarist Oddie shared an hour with PG’s Chris Kies. The resulting conversation covered the cathartic process of building his first guitar during lockdown (a Jaguar-Jazzmaster hybrid) and why he switched to a pair of Fenders that are “a big sheet of paper that you can paint on.” Plus, he illustrates how every moment in a Wolf Alice set has a pedal, and those moments are unique and not repeated.
[Brought to you by D’Addario 360 Rechargeable Tuner: http://ddar.io/Nexxus.RigRundown]
After wrapping work on the band’s third full-length album, 2021’s Blue Weekend, Wolf Alice guitarist Joff Oddie had a wide-open calendar. The ongoing pandemic lockdowns and restrictions finally provided him the time he’d need build his dream machine. He dusted off the blank of mahogany under his bed and ordered some crude hand tools. He cut, carved, and contoured the Jazzmaster-y body (a shade bigger than Joff’s old No. 1 Jaguars) to his specs and stance. Originally, he was going to slap a parts neck and fretboard on his homemade body, but rolling with the momentum and confidence, he ordered more wood (torrefied flame maple for the neck and rosewood for the fretboard). To help with the Jag’s slinky 24"-scale length and make it easier to play the higher frets (especially for the chords in “Delicious Things”), Joff extended his guitar’s scale length to 24.75". And the neck profile is insanely thin (as in “Ibanez RG” shredder slim).
The rest of its bits are standard for an offset—a Fender Vintage-Style Floating Tremolo, a Mastery bridge, and simplified switching—while it growls with a set of Lollar Jaguars. All of his guitars take Ernie Ball Skinny Top Heavy Bottoms (.010–.052) and he stings the strings with Dunlop Nylon Standard 1.0 mm picks.
For most of the 10-plus years Wolf Alice has been electric, this 1962 Fender Jaguar reissue has been Oddie’s main guitar. He bought it completely clean, with student loan money, in Wood Green, London, off Gumtree (the U.K.’s equivalent to Craigslist) when he and fellow co-founder Ellie Roswell decided to amplify their music. “I don’t know why I bought it, to be honest. I remember seeing a Jaguar in a guitar shop when I was a kid and thinking, ‘that’s an ugly-looking guitar,’” he confesses. “I had started listening to Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr., and My Bloody Valentine in late my teens and early 20s, but I think I got it wrong, because they all play Jazzmasters [laughs]. I eventually fell in love with the eccentricities of the Jag.”
Years back, this worn-down jangle machine was upgraded with Lollar Jaguar pickups and an M1 Mastery bridge, and it has maintained that pedigree ever since. “Since putting a bit longer scale length on my build, giving it more resonance, I’ve noticed how the Jag’s shorter scale can have a deader, plinky-plunky sound,” admits Oddie. “For years I overcompensated the rest of my setup with my amps (bass on 10) and utilizing specific pedals to increase the Jag’s sustain.”
This one tends to appreciate distortion, gain, and fuzz, so Joff will strap it on for the heavier, more rocking songs like “Moaning Lisa Smile” or “Giant Peach.”
“I’m not using this guitar to its full potential right now,” concedes Oddie. “I’m just scratching the surface and just using it as a Strat, but I did request it from Fender because it has the special stuff.” The Fender EOB Sustainer Stratocaster was co-designed by Radiohead’s Ed O’Brien and his longtime tech (and Oddie’s current tech) Adam Cummings. It’s still stock and features the unique setup of a Seymour Duncan JB Jr. humbucker (bridge), a Texas Special single-coil (middle), and a Fernandes Sustainer (neck). It has a “really lovely clean sound,” so Joff uses this for the band’s softer songs, like “Lipstick on the Glass.”
Jangling with Johnny
“We’ve only just begun.” Oddie quotes the Carpenters when referring to this pristine Fender Johnny Marr Jaguar that sees stage time for Blue Weekend’s dreamy-pop number “How Can I Make It Ok?” He notes during the Rundown that the Bare Knuckle Johnny Marr single-coils give the guitar a “paddier, ’80s sound” and that “it’s one of the best guitars being made at the moment. It’s something really special.”
Picking the P
For Blue Weekend’s “No Hard Feelings,” Joff will put on this Fender American Professional II Precision Bass and pick out chords far up the neck while bassist Theo Ellis plays on a Roland RD-2000 Stage Piano.
Double Your Pleasure. Double Your Fun.
Joff once toured with a Fender Hot Rod Deluxe III and a handwired Vox AC30HW2. Shortly after their first album, My Love Is Cool, Joff started to require more volume and less color. “For me, the Twin’s blank canvas—huge amounts of headroom with big, clean sounds—is a big sheet of paper that you can paint on.” These Fender ’65 Twin Reverb reissues are both on and are set in a double-mono platform. For European tours, he’ll sub out one of the Twin reissues for a proper ’70s silver-panel Twin Reverb.
Joff’s “Death Star”—Home to Oddities and Curiosities
“As ridiculous as this sounds, the concept of this board was to get as much functionality out of something that can also get on a plane,” says Oddie. “It also needed to be on the floor, because I’m not interested in having them in a rack offstage. I’m a control freak and I like to see what’s going on.” Let’s dive into this FAA-regulated pedalboard built by Matt Tag aka the Guitar Butler. Everything starts by going into the RJM Music Mastermind PBC, where Joff has meticulously mapped several presets for every song in Wolf Alice’s nightly setlist. Oddie employs a six-pack of complicated, deep workstations from Strymon (BigSky and TimeLine) and Empress (Nebulus, Phaser, Tremolo2, and Multidrive). Even broader sounds and tone splicing happen with Joff’s pair of digital power plants from Line 6 (HX Effects and HX Stomp). The lower right corner has a deuce of dirts (JHS Sweat Tea V3 and Analog Man King of Tone). And a heralded green giant (Electro-Harmonix Russian Big Muff) and trio of tiny tone teakers (Wampler Tumnus, Mooer Tender Octaver, and Mooer Yellow Comp) round things out on Joff’s main board. An auxiliary board to the side houses a Dunlop Cry Baby Wah and a Morley PVO+ optical Volume Plus.
Underneath the hood there are various power supplies from GigRig (Generators, Isolators, and high-current Timelords and Supanovas) and a Strymon Zuma.
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Photo by Chad Kelco
Melodies, hooks, clean tones, and no guitar solos. Are we sure this Elliott Smith fan fronts a doom-metal band? (We’re sure!)
Legend has it the name Monolord refers to a friend of the band with the same moniker who lost hearing in his left ear, and later said it didn’t matter if the band recorded anything in stereo, because he could not hear it anyway. It’s a funny, though slightly tragic, bit of backstory, but that handle is befitting in yet another, perhaps even more profound, way. Doom and stoner metal are arguably the torch-bearing subgenres for hard rock guitar players, and if any band seems to hold the keys to the castle at this moment, it’s Monolord.
The reason is simple: Thomas V Jäger’s guitar riffs—the raison d’être of Monolord’s songcraft—are relentlessly catchy and infused with immense groove and swagger. When asked how he vets potential riffs for Monolord songs, Jäger, who is also the band’s singer and main songwriter, offers this: “The core of it is some kind of hook that makes it stand out just a little bit—that’s what I’m looking for. It’s really hard to pinpoint exactly what it is. We still want real heavy records, but at the same time you need hooks, you need something that people will remember.”
MONOLORD - The Weary (Official Music Video)
Hooks may be more commonly associated with pop than metal songwriting, but Monolord’s latest magnum opus, Your Time to Shine, is rife with them. From the opening salvo of “The Weary,” Jäger’s guitar playing conjures majestic tones, conveying the zeitgeist of our time with equal parts bombast and melancholy. His playing on songs like “To Each Their Own” and “Your Time to Shine,” fueled by indelible grooves that ebb and flow (the band foregoes click tracks), carries an emotional heft that “soundtracks the ruined world,” as Consequence so aptly described it. And his layered approach to recording guitars infuses the band’s heavy backbone with a sublime melodic sensibility.
While Monolord is an indisputable riff-rock juggernaut, only one of the five cuts on Your Time to Shine, “The Siren of Yersinia,” has a bonafide guitar solo on it. “You could probably arrange the songs so there’s a guitar solo on every track, but that’s not really what we’re looking for,” explains Jäger, who ascribes to a less-is-more ethos. “Of course, there are lead guitar parts here and there, in every song, but they’re mostly written, not improvised. It’s like another melody.” Such embellishments function as additional riffs or motifs within the jigsaw puzzle of Monolord’s sound, in service to the melodic framework of songs rather than as obligatory showcases of technical prowess. And when that one solo does finally appear in the album’s final track, “it’s better,” says Jäger, "because there are not any other solos on the record.”
TIDBIT: The band’s new album clocks in at 39 minutes and features five songs—only one with a guitar solo, but all packed with a plethora of licks, melodies, and melodic fills.
“When you’re playing slower, you have to be more precise, because it’s not as forgiving as if you’re playing punk rock or death metal or whatever.”
Monolord formed in Gothenburg, Sweden, in 2013, out of Marulk, a boogie-rock band that included Jäger and drummer and mixing engineer Esben Willems. They needed an outlet to indulge their heavier affinities, and so, after hooking up with bassist Mika Häkki, they transformed. Their 2014 debut, Empress Rising, is an exercise in musical restraint, showcasing the trio’s ability to riff on and develop a single motif. Vænir followed in 2015, followed by Rust (2017) and No Comfort(2019)—each one further cementing Monolord as a major name in the doom genre. Aside from his guitar playing, Jäger’s ghostly, Ozzy-esque vocals (think “Planet Caravan” by Black Sabbath) add yet another distinctive melodic element to the band’s bone-crushing, heavy-yet-droning riffs.
Jäger says that when the band began, songwriting was more like “loose ideas just thrown all over the place.” Now, however, he has his own home studio, so it’s like doing pre-production. “Except I don’t play drums. I program those most of the time, so that when Mika and Esben hear the song, they can get the vibe. I try to make [a demo] as complete as possible.” His studio consists of an old PC running Windows XP with Pro Tools 8 and a Digidesign 002 interface. “It’s a really old setup,” he admits, “but I just love having a room crammed with stuff where I can turn around, pick up a cowbell, and just start playing and recording.”
Thomas V Jäger’s Gear
The Monolords, from left to right: drummer Esben Willems, guitarist and frontman Thomas V Jäger, and bassist Mika Häkki.
Photo by Chad Kelco
- Two 1981 Greco V-types
- Gibson SG-1
- (Jäger’s guitars have Lace Finger Burners humbuckers.)
- Orange Dual Dark 50
- Two Orange PPC412C 4x12s with Celestion Vintage 30s
- Orange OR100
- Orange PPC412HP8 high-powered 4x12 with Celestion G12K-100 speakers
- Boss BF-2 Flanger
- Boss HM-2 Heavy Metal
- Boss RE-20 Space Echo
- Carl Martin Octa-Switch MK3
- dunn effects Death Knob HM-2 EQ Blender
- Dunlop JHM9 Jimi Hendrix Cry Baby Mini Wah
- Electro-Harmonix Nano Small Stone
- Hiero Effects Phatoum Fuzz/Churchburner
- Laney Black Country Customs Tony Iommi Signature TI-Boost
- Orange Amp Detonator Buffered A/B/Y Switcher
Strings and Picks
- D’Addario NYXL1156 (.011–.056)
- Dunlop Ultex 1.14 mm
Jäger has been doing the bulk of his songwriting lately not on a cowbell but on an acoustic guitar tuned to standard, which adds another twist to Monolord’s sound, since he and Häkki tune down to B-standard on their electrics. “If I play an E on the acoustic guitar, that [position] is B on the electric guitar that’s down-tuned,” he explains. “Sometimes I switch it, so the chord starts in the E [5th] position on the down-tuned guitar, but in ‘The ‘Weary,’ for example, the verse is in B, simply because I wrote it in E on the acoustic guitar.” Mostly his actual writing process is pretty straightforward. “I sit on my couch, take a cup of coffee, I have my notebook, and I just start to check ideas. Then, if I get the vibe, [with] more than one riff, I go upstairs, turn on the computer and record a demo.”
Because Monolord is only a three-piece, Jäger admits it’s hard to recreate his layered recording approach while playing live. “It works as long as there’s not a third guitar harmony,” he explains. “So, with the bass and just one guitar, it doesn’t feel like we need a second guitar for most of the parts with the harmonies. I don’t know if it has something to do with tuning down. If we have a chord progression, and there’s a lead guitar over that enhancing stuff, it’s hard to do both. So, on some songs I go with the chords, and some songs I go with a lead. It’s just what suits the songs best.” He adds that during some solos, Häkki will play chords live, instead of just single-string notes.
“There are lead guitar parts here and there, in every song, but they’re mostly written, not improvised. It’s like another melody.”
Lately, Jäger has been experimenting with his guitar tone by going with less distortion and adjusting his EQ settings. “I cut a lot of bass on my guitar sound these days,” he says. “I didn’t do that from the beginning, because we wanted this massive wall. But now I try to get as close to Malcolm Young as I can. So when you strike an E chord, you feel the bass response and the mid response, but not too bright—you get this low-mid and high-mid kind of ‘swoosh’ or ‘whoosh.’ It’s a good crunchy darker version of Malcolm Young’s rhythm guitar sound. The first thing I check when I turn on the amps onstage is the clean sound, and then I can do some adjustments, and when that sounds great, the fuzz sounds great, too.”
Speaking of fuzz, Jäger relies primarily on a Hiero Effects Phatoum Fuzz/Churchburner, a Boss FZ-2 Hyper Fuzz clone built “by a guy in Russia.” For leads, he uses the Laney Black Country Customs Tony Iommi Signature TI-Boost. “I run that together with a [dunn effects Death Knob] HM-2 EQ Blender that you can blend into the signal,” he explains. “I read that David Gilmour used the Boss HM-2 for leads at some point in his career. So, I took out my old HM-2 and tried it, and I immediately knew what he was talking about. You get this tone that just cuts through everything. It’s got all these mids and aggressive highs, but it’s a bit too noisy, and I got a lot of feedback because I wanted to push it to the max. I tried the low-gain TI-Boost together with the [dunn effects Death Knob] HM-2 Blender EQ and I can get really creamy mids, but it doesn’t feedback as bad as the HM-2.”
Jäger’s fleet of Orange amps give him plenty of juice for Monolord’s sweet-and-heavy sound. He plugs in with one of his Goya V-type guitars or a Gibson SG-1.
Photo by Josefine Larsson
Aside from the obvious aforementioned influences, Jäger says he’s most inspired by guitarists who are also great songwriters. “Most of the time I’m listening to old ’70s rock, like MC5, with Wayne Kramer and Fred Smith—they are amazing,” he says. “And also Nicke Andersson of Entombed and the Hellacopters, among other bands—he’s been an inspiration.” Surprisingly, American singer/songwriter Elliott Smith is also among his favorites. “He’s not really this awesome guitar player, but if you like low-key singer/songwriter stuff, his record Either/Or is amazing. It’s not really a guitar record at all. It’s just low-key strumming and good chord progressions.”
Jäger says he’s truly inspired by guitarists “that can play more than one instrument and create a lot of good music.” And he cites Cathedral’s Garry “Gaz” Jennings as another influence. “When he starts to play guitar, I can hear it’s him right away. And if you can hear that from someone, I think you have done a rather good job being this guitarist that doesn’t sound like everybody else. No matter what setting, you can still hear that sound.”
“I try to get as close to Malcolm Young as I can. So when you strike an E chord, you feel the bass response and the mid response, but not too bright.”
When it comes to the matter of spearheading a musical movement, Jäger offers the following assessment: “Even though it’s called doom, the foundation is rock ’n’ roll. Of course we want to make heavy songs, but not ridiculously heavy. We also need some clarity and some tone. So, I’m not sure if I call our music doom. It’s more doom-rock.”
Other signatures of Monolord’s songs are length and tempo, hence the five-song track list on the 39-minute Your Time to Shine. And Monolord’s tempos are usually, in classical terms, lentissimo, which presents particular performance-related challenges. “When you write shorter songs, you can bang out the chords and you are done,” explains Jäger. “But when you’re playing slower, you have to be more precise, because it’s not as forgiving as playing punk rock or death metal or whatever. Of course, you’ve got to be tight when playing death metal, too, but being a bit late or a bit early is not as visible as if you’re playing slow. ‘I’ll Be Damned’ was really hard to keep down because we all wanted to play faster. It feels good to play a bit faster sometimes.”
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