Fantastic freaks that annihilate preconceptions about how pedals should look and sound.
The effects pedal industry is booming—or was, before the coronavirus. Still, we carry on and continue to create new music and new sounds. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of different stompboxes available. Musicians and producers are clamoring to have an arsenal of sounds at their feet. What was once only possible in a recording studio can now be fully realized in almost any environment, thanks to pedals.
So, people are experimenting with sounds more than ever, and weird sounds abound, but it seems that most stompboxes are relatively plain-looking: mostly rectangular metal enclosures, usually painted or printed with some very cool designs, but still…. What does one do when one wants a pedal that looks as unique as it sounds?
They go a-hunting for strange stomps! There are pedal makers popping up who are building wild, non-traditional pedals. Some are fairly large companies that you might already know, while others are smaller operations that deserve to be better known. This article aims to share some of these wild units and their makers with our readers. We think you’ll be amazed by these creations!
Canadian company ScrewedCircuitz is Dan Roleau and Kassia Lebeau, and synthesis is their game—aimed at recording, live sampling, and the spontaneous creation of freaky, haunted-house type atmospherics. Dan builds the circuits and Kassia does the design of the enclosures. They have many strange creations, but the Ring Mod Skull pedal is one of the visually strangest. It offers a passive ring modulator with eight oscillators, lo-fi pre-amplification, and feedback loop options—all built inside a replica of a human skull!
There are controls for each of the eight different oscillators in the Ring Mod Skull. Each knob controls oscillator pitch independently. Each oscillator has its own switch that gives the user the option to flip between resistors and diodes, in order to create two different sounds within the matrix mixer. Courtesy of Dan Roleau and Kassia Labeau or ScrewedCircuitz
“We love matching the enclosure to our sound,” says Roleau. Hence, also, the Harsh Noise Coffin Synth, which is a tiny device shaped like a wooden coffin that sounds like a box full of snakes … until it starts to whoosh and whoop.
“We were inspired to create something dark, atmospheric, and harsh all-in-one,” Roleau says about the Ring Mod Skull. “The pedal is based on our very first Zombie-Head Synth, which was noisy as hell and freaked everyone out because of the realism of the enclosure. The Skull circuit is handmade from scratch using whatever components were laying around at the time. We added cool LEDs because … well, because why not? Who doesn’t like ’em? We aim to please ourselves before anyone else, so when someone appreciates our work it’s a bonus.”
Almost all ScrewedCircuitz effects and sound circuits are built inside of unique, one-of-a-kind enclosures. Plastic toy organs and locomotives, repurposed keyboards, and Walkman cassette players are all fair game, although builds like their Lo-Fi Sampler, Lo-Fi Looper, and some of their other sound twisters come in conventional enclosures.