A behind-the-scenes look at eight of the most remarkable pedal collections we’ve seen in quite some time.
Best CoastBobb Bruno and Bethany Cosentino
Perhaps even more so than his former roommate, Nels Cline, Best Coast’s Bobb Bruno has a definite affinity for stompboxes. His board takes advantage of offerings from a slew of boutique outfits—including a couple of custom pedals whose aesthetics are as interesting as their tones—and his taste in pedals has also guided what front woman Bethany Cosentino stomps on.
Upon first hitting his board, Bruno’s signal goes into a TC Electronic PolyTune, heads to a TSVG Best Coast Signature Fluzzy (based on the old Ibanez Standard Fuzz), then goes to a custom American Loopers switcher (the white pedal with the green skull) that has an Electro-Harmonix Nano POG and a Mr. Black Eterna Gold in loop 1, and a Bigfoot FX Magnavibe and a Catalinbread Valcoder in loop 2. Bruno’s “gnarly” Forever Fuzz—the pedal covered in purple-and-black faux fur—was given to him by Nels Cline and features a built-in filter circuit. A Strymon Tap Favorite switch triggers the tape-chorus simulation in Bruno’s Strymon Deco, but he also uses the tape-delay simulation for slapback echo, and the tape-saturation section for solos and rhythm sounds. The Mid-Fi Electronics pedal next to the Tap Favorite houses two effects—a Psych Byke fuzz and Fuzz Wall—and the MXR Noise Clamp next door helps keep them manageable. An MI Audio Super Crunch Box, Bruno’s main distortion, is used for roughly 75 percent of a given set. The board is rounded out by a Catalinbread Zero Point flanger, a TSVG Hard Stuff, a Strymon El Capistan, a Catalinbread Talisman plate-reverb simulator, and a Line 6 DL4 (not pictured).
Cosentino’s board is outfitted with a TC Electronic PolyTune 2, an Xotic EP Booster—which is on all the time—a Mojo Hand Fx Bluebonnet, a Wampler Euphoria, a HardWire/DigiTech Supernatural, a Malekko Ekko 616, and an Electro-Harmonix Holy Grail Nano that is also on all the time.
Between the Buried and MePaul Waggoner, Dustie Waring, and Dan Briggs
Given their penchant for epic, complex arrangements, it should come as no surprise that the axe men of prog-metal outfit Between the Buried and Me warmly embrace stomp stations that can quickly morph tones in tons of ways.
Both of BTBM’s 6-stringers, Paul Waggoner and Dustie Waring, get the lion’s share of their sounds from Fractal Audio Axe-Fx II XL rack units. Waggoner manipulates his presets using a Rocktron All Access foot controller and two Mission Engineering EP-1 expression pedals that control volume and delay times. A Strymon TimeLine is used for clean delay sounds, while a Wampler Faux Tape Echo provides longer, shimmering delays, a Port City Salem Boost helps solos cut through, a Wampler Leviathan brings the fuzz, and a TC Electronic PolyTune keeps his guitars in tune.
Waring navigates his Axe-Fx II XL presets with a Fractal Audio MFC-101 Mark III foot controller. Like Waggoner, he uses two Mission Engineering EP-1 expression pedals to tweak effect parameters, but the only two standard stompboxes in his live rig are a TC Electronic PolyTune Mini and a Port City Salem Boost, the latter of which he says makes things sound “huge, fat, and tube-y.”
>BTBM bassist Dan Briggs’s pedalboard includes a Boss TU-2 tuner, a Wampler Faux Tape Echo (used for a constant warbling tone), an Electro-Harmonix Bass Micro Synth (for washes like those on Rush’s “Tom Sawyer”), three Boss stomps—a DD-3 digital delay, a TR-2 Tremolo, and a PS-3 pitch shifter—and a Darkglass Electronics Duality Fuzz.
Eagles of Death MetalDave Catching and Matt McJunkins
Although Eagles of Death Metal singer/guitarist Jesse Hughes eschews pedals in favor of the simpler, rawer approach of going straight into his amps, touring guitarist Dave Catching (co-founder of famed Rancho De La Luna recording studio) and bassist Matt McJunkins more than make up for the dearth of stompable things onstage.
Catching’s signal first hits a TC Electronic PolyTune 2 Noir, then goes to a Jim Dunlop Cry Baby Wah—he loves leaving the pedal cocked open a bit for nasally solos and cutting riffs—then proceeds to a Jim Dunlop Rotovibe, an EarthQuaker Devices Palisades (for solo boosts), a Fulltone Ultimate Octave, a TC Electronic T2 reverb, an EarthQuaker Devices Dispatch Master, a TC Electronic Flashback Triple Delay, a Mantic Flex, and a Malekko Scrutator bit-crusher.
Because McJunkins runs his amps hot, he looks to get extremely overdriven and wonky sounds out of his three pedals—a germanium Malekko B:Assmaster that “smoothly adds some bass, girth, and fatness” to his core sound, a ZVEX Mastotron for synth-like tones, and a Malekko Scrutator. Other utility units on his board include a Boss TU-3 tuner, a Voodoo Lab Pedal Power 2 Plus, and an active Radial J48 direct box that sends a clean signal to the front-of-house soundboard.
To conjure the gritty, throbbing tones of American roots-rock mainstays like “Fortunate Son,” “Proud Mary,” and “Born on the Bayou,” former Creedence Clearwater Revival frontman John Fogerty stomps on a wide array of vintage-toned boxes—including several off-the-beaten-path boutique selections that prove the classic-rock god is as into guitar gear as ever. His pedals reside in two offstage rack drawers, where they are controlled by Fogerty’s guitar tech, Dave Whiston.
Fogerty’s first rack drawer features a Moog Minifooger MF Delay, a Strymon El Capistan, a SolidGoldFX Surf Rider, an ancient Zeta Systems vibrato/tremolo, and an Electro-Harmonix Small Clone, all powered by a Voodoo Lab Pedal Power 2 Plus.
The second rack drawer includes a Wren and Cuff Box of War, three Xotic RC Boosters (labeled Curly, Larry, and Moe), a Boss RV-5 digital reverb, a Voodoo Lab Tremolo, and a Strymon BigSky. The pedals on this board get their juice from a Custom Audio Electronics power brick.
Heart's Nancy Wilson
To dial in tones while playing live versions of canonical classic-rock hits such as “Barracuda,” “Magic Man,” and “Crazy on You,” Nancy Wilson relies on a handful of stomps controlled in the wings from stage right by longtime tech Jeff Ousley. Her electric signal hits her board by way of a Whirlwind A/B selector, then travels to an Ibanez TS9 Tube Screamer, a Way Huge Swollen Pickle, an ancient Ibanez flanger, and a Budda ZenMan OD/Boost. A Voodoo Lab Pedal Power supplies the juice, and channel switcher pedals for each of Wilson’s amp heads (a Peavey-era Budda Superdrive 30 II and a backup Fender Tone-Master) round out the board.
My Morning JacketCarl Broemel
Kentucky-based quintet My Morning Jacket steeps its rich sound in everything from roots and psych rock to plaintive country, with a unique, flavorful final brew that’s tied together by the soaring vocals of frontman Jim James. But while the flamboyant James (who also plays guitar) tends to get the lion’s share of MMJ attention, lead guitarist Carl Broemel’s chameleonic qualities—including his ability to switch from standard 6-string to the more complicated world of pedal steel—are just as crucial in defining the veteran band’s sound. Here we look at the gear Broemel uses to replicate tunes from seven studio albums on the road.
The control center for Broemel’s board is a GigRig G2 switching system that lets him quickly access a wide range of pedal settings and combinations. Stomps controlled by the G2 include a TC Electronic PolyTune Mini, an Analog Man CompROSSor, Hudson Electronics Stroll On fuzz, Spaceman Saturn V Harmonic Booster, Fulltone Full-Drive 2, Boss RV-5 Digital Reverb, Empress Tape Delay, SIB Mr. Echo, Electro-Harmonix POG2, Fulltone Supa-Trem, an Ernie Ball volume pedal, and a pair of Eventide H9s. (One H9 routes to a separate MIDI controller and the Boomerang Wholly Roller.)
For his pedal steel musings, Broemel’s board includes a Hilton Electronics volume pedal, Sarno Music Solutions Steel Guitar Black Box, MiniMoog MF Delay, an Eventide ModFactor, EarthQuaker Devices Dispatch Master, and a Durham Electronics Sex Drive. He controls all the effects via a Voodoo Lab Pedal Switcher.
SlipknotMick Thomson and Jim Root
Considering not only how tight and precise their down-tuned, interlocking riffs must be, but also the dense, nine-person mix they must fit into, it makes perfect sense that Jim Root and Mick Thomson from blockbuster Des Moines metal outfit Slipknot keep their pedalboards pretty trim and straightforward. In fact, arguably the biggest lesson to be learned from their stomp stations is how subtly and sparingly their effects are used.
Thomson’s rack drawer houses six effects, plus a Voodoo Lab Pedal Power ISO-5 and a Peterson Stomp Classic tuner. His noisemakers include a Maxon OD-820 Overdrive Pro for lead boosts, an Electro-Harmonix Bassballs (used on “Disasterpiece”), an MXR Carbon Copy (used for parts of “Vermillion”), a Death by Audio Fuzz War, and a custom-made octave fuzz created by tech Kevin Allen after Thomson requested the filthiest, gnarliest, most obnoxious-sounding fuzz box possible—because, as the guitarist sees it, “the fuzz better fuck your sound up.” The custom fuzz is used for parts of “Duality.” Allen uses a Voodoo Lab Ground Control Pro from offstage to activate Thomson’s various effect combinations.
Root’s drawer of stomps is home to an old Boss NS-2 Noise Suppressor—he says the updated circuitry and lead-free solder in new versions impact his sound too much—an MXR Auto Q wah, Maxon AF-9 envelope filter and PT-9 Pro+ phaser pedals, two MXR Carbon Copy delays, and Electro-Harmonix Holy Grail Nano and Micro POG stomps. A T-Rex FuelTank Classic powers it all. Root’s onstage satellite board includes a controller for his Dunlop Cry Baby Rack Module wah, a third MXR Carbon Copy for creating oscillation chaos, a Maxon FV10 Fuzz Elements Void, an MXR GT-OD, and a Dunlop JH1D Jimi Hendrix wah—the latter of which he likes for its traditional, early-Vox-like sound. The wah is connected to a G-Lab True Bypass Wah-Pad, which not only makes the pedal true-bypass but also removes the need to push the rocker pedal toe down to activate the effect.
ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons
Anyone remotely familiar with “the Reverend” Billy Gibbons’ ZZ Top catalog won’t be too shocked by the dearth of pedals used to conjure his gritty Texas-blues tones on his current touring board. Probably the biggest surprise here is that while he has two sets of pedals (for redundancy in case one rig goes out), the pedals are not exactly the same in both setups—although this is something that tech Elwood Francis attributes to the simple fun of periodically trying out new toys as they are acquired on the road. The two stomp setups, like the rest of Gibbons' rig components, are kept in two offstage racks.
In this setup, Gibbons gets a boost and a little extra dirt from a Rainger FX El Distorto, while an MXR JHM2 Jimi Hendrix 70th Anniversary Tribute Series Octavio provides octave-fuzz tones, an Electro-Harmonix Pitch Fork alters pitch, and an MXR Carbon Copy adds a touch of analog-delay ambience. Tuning is handled by a Peterson Strobe Classic, and various distortion presets in a Marshall JMP-1 rack unit (not pictured) are accessed via a Tech 21 MIDI Mouse.
This pedal drawer is similar to the other in that it also has a Peterson tuner (a StroboStomp 2), a Tech 21 MIDI Mouse, an MXR Carbon Copy, and a Dunlop JHOC1 Jimi Hendrix Octavio (which is purportedly the same circuit as the MXR JHM2), but here further pitch-shifting needs are fulfilled by an MXR Bass Octave Deluxe, and the Octavio runs through a Boss GE-7 graphic-EQ pedal. PG