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Staff Picks: Pedal Impressions

DMA’s guitarist Johnny Took joins the PG staff in discussing the stomps we weren’t smitten with at first sight, but later ended up loving.

Q: What pedal did you end up loving despite first impressions?

Johnny TookGuest Picker, DMA’s

A: For years I’ve been trying a bunch of delay pedals—from the big multi-effects units to old-school simple analog ones—in an effort to discover new sounds and get away from the Boss DD-7. My mates used to use them in an early band I was in, so I tried to stay clear, but I ended up folding because they are simple, fluent, and spacious. I like to use the DD-7 as a staple then double up with another weirder pedal for leads or more noise.

My current (guitar or bass-related) obsession is: Pete Drake and his talking steel guitar. Drake played pedal steel for Dylan and on George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass and produced a whole bunch of albums in Nashville in the ’60s. He also invented what’s best described as a vocoder running through a pedal steel. Check out the song called “Forever.”

Tony D’AndragoraReader of the Month

A: My dad got this old MXR Distortion+ from a friend and gave it to me. I plugged my guitar into it and hated it. Couldn’t find a single configuration I liked. Weeks later I plugged my bass into it and bam—perfect bass distortion for punk and metal. Been recording stuff with it ever since.

My current obsession is: DIY musicians/bands/producers. I’ve been teaching myself to record and mix my own music since college, and guys like Cloudkicker proved to me that it was possible to make professional-sounding music in a bedroom just by practicing and learning from people on the internet.

Editor's Note: Cloudkicker is Ben Sharp who writes and records all the instrumentation found on his album's, but in 2014 he toured (and recorded a live set) with Intronaut as his backing band to bring his studio work to life.

John BohlingerNashville Correspondent

A: I was given an Ibanez Echo Shifter about a year ago. My first thought was, “This takes up waaaaay too much real estate on my board.” Then when I plugged it in, it sounded like it was broken or wired wrong because the echo quickly went into an earsplitting feedback loop. Eventually, I grew to love how uncontrollable it is. Great for Kirk/Spock-era Star Trek sounds.

My current obsession is: Jerry Reed. He played his ass off, wrote incredible songs, including a hit for Elvis, made a bunch of movies with Burt Reynolds (Gator remains my favorite), and unironically rocked the trucker hat before anyone other than truckers. He’s an American treasure.

Ted DrozdowskiSenior Editor

A: When I got my MW Fuzzytone as a gift, I was grateful—all gear happily accepted!—but skeptical about needing fuzz/OD pedal number 11. But after a couple weeks it edged my TubeScreamer and FuzzFactory off my pedalboard. I became captivated by the richness and depth of its voice, plus its ability to darken, boost, and distort my tone all at once, while increasing presence. This humble little “gray mare” snorts and whinnies just right. It became a cool part of my latest album.

My current obsession is: Tone destruction and sonic expansion … by any means necessary.

Shawn HammondChief Content Officer

A: The ZVEX Fuzz Factory initially overwhelmed me with both its cryptically named “stab” knob, and the unpredictable way every knob’s setting affected other knobs’ responsiveness—but the latter is what makes it one of the most flexible fuzzes available.

My current obsession is: The raw glory of a guitar plugged straight into a cranked up, really responsive amp.