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Question and Obsession: Pandora’s Stompbox

Cass McCombs and PG editors discuss the pro pedalboards they dream about.

Q: What pro guitarist’s pedalboard has impressed or influenced you the most?

Cass McCombsGuest Picker
A: For many years I was ethically against the use of pedals. It seemed like a crutch or worse, a distraction from the real raw energies, which is what the hands are doing. There’s nothing a pedal can do that Angus Young can’t do with two volume knobs. And Bo Diddley, John Lee Hooker. No pedals. Then one day, I added a tuner and it was all over. I’d opened up Pandora’s stompbox. I’m really into how Curt Kirkwood of the Meat Puppets saturates gain and delay. He keeps his pedalboard to a minimum, it seems, and somehow can bend just a couple pedals into outer-space warfare to Ornette Coleman territory to metal, blues, country, whatever... it always goes back to the hands. That’s what the guy who owned the guitar shop when I was a kid told me.

Current obsession: The 12-string guitar. Thumb and fingerpicks, the whole nine yards. I’ve had a 12-string for years and used it on a few records, but now I have it out and am playing it every day. There’s so many tones and rhythmic stuff that comes out of it, kind of like magic. It has a cling-clang sensibility to it that attracts spontaneous choices. I was listening to Jesse Fuller recently and it inspired me to pull out the 12-string. You get to go down the rabbit hole with all the 12-string players... Willie McTell, Rev. Gary Davis, Lead Belly. It’s loud even when it’s quiet—I like that.

Richard CoveduckReader of the Month
A: Lindsey Buckingham. A Rick Turner Model 1 into a Mesa/Boogie Triple Rectifier. In between, just two, only two pedals: a basic Boss overdrive and a basic Boss delay. That’s it, plus immense talent and hard work. Admirable!

Current obsession: The compositional craft of Lady Gaga, musically and lyrically. She transcends genre, both pop and jazz, while I take her songs into acoustic/electric blues guitar. Jeff Beck’s version of “Bad Romance”: Wow! I remember the Beatles arrival; she is comparable. Here’s a photo of me with her: I’m the old guy in the 1972 jean jacket.

The jacket’s been to Clapton, Zeppelin, Russell, Floyd, all the way up to Grande. I love music!

Ted DrozdwoskiSenior Editor
A: David Gilmour’s, circa ’73-’75, when his rig included the Dallas Arbiter Fuzz Face, Colorsound Power Boost, Binson Echorec, and the elusive Synthi Hi-Fly—the more playful ingredients for Wish You Were Here and Dark Side of the Moon.


Current obsession: Finding a truly interesting sounding vintage-style fuzz clone that’s stage worthy. I’ve lately been seeking something that apes the Burns Buzzaround, with Robert Fripp’s In the Court of the Crimson King solo tone in mind. Got to find out who makes an awesome one, with that fat spread and middy sizzle!

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Charles SaufleyGear Editor
A: Neil Young’s Crazy Horse rig. The controller at his feet is really a nerve center for a sprawling, archaic, electro-mechanical octopus: Sal Trentino’s Whizzer remotely tweaking Neil’s tweed Deluxe, a tube Maestro Echoplex, a Fender Reverb tank. And the actual pedals in the mix are mostly pretty weird ones like the Mu-Tron Octave Divider. I’ve been on the audience side of the resulting tidal wave several times. I’d give a lot to bathe in the sound from Neil’s spot on the stage.

Obsession: Informing my guitar playing with as much non-guitar influence—visual, atmospheric, sonic, emotional, and environmental—as possible.