Impaled’s first national tour was with Nile in the year 2000. Nile controlled a bunch of oogey-boogey Egyptial style samples from a PC tower on stage. I was sure they played Tetris between songs to relax. On another tour with Origin, we thought they’d upped the D.I.Y. by burning a CD with samples on it to play through a Sony Discman, the height of technology. Then came the iPod: relatively cheap, small, and it worked pretty good. For Impaled, Jason hooked up a series of samples and would walk back to his amp to push the “forward” button. I did the same thing a few years later while touring with GWAR. I thought, “There must be a better way.” And there is. But I had to invent it.
Well, I didn’t actually invent shit. I did put together a bunch of other already invented shit in what I think is a pretty novel way. The iSewage uNot incorporates an iPod, a DI box, a stereo-summing circuit, and a momentary foot switch. A musician can control an iPod with his foot for use as a sampler while playing music. Apple plugged in all the technology you need to make it happen, but they forgot to include the instructions.
I had gotten about half way through a really great post for this week over the last few days, but disaster struck. My Ampeg V-4B went SNAFU. I smelled something smoking at practice. I thought it was my strings from some awesome bass licks. Nope, I had a tube red plating in the back if my amp. It was about to blow. I turned everything off and had to figure this shit out. I had a show in Canada to play and no back up amp!
Over the next couple days, I checked shit out. I tested all the tube socket voltages with the tubes out, in case it was feeding my tubes too much voltage or not draining enough. This is dangerous territory here and not for the inexperienced. We’re talking leads getting 560V. That will kill you. Long story short, everything tested fine. So, WTF?
In the last installment of this thrilling three part series, I covered the internal changes I made to my Crybaby GCB-95 wah, which became my treasured Sewer Bæby. Being that was one of my first excursions into pedal modifications, I decided to take it all the way to learn a thing or three. I wanted to muck about with the aesthetics to show pride in my work, so I learned at least one way to reskin this cat.
The best way to paint any stomp box is powder coating. That’s the process whereby particles of color are electro-magnetically applied to a metal and then cooked on to form a super protective layer of paint. That’s the way the pros do it. I’m not a pro. I didn’t have the luxury of owning a powder coating system when I did this and I imagine most people never will. Cans of paint it is.
The Sewer Bæby… MY Sewer Bæby. This was one of my first pedal modification projects and it still remains one of the favorite effects I own. What happens when you take a salvaged, humble Dunlop Crybaby GCB-95 Wah and mod it? Falling into the rabbit hole of pedal geekery is one thing. Having a wah custom to your tastes is second. I’ve already written about how I added true-bypass and a much needed power indicating LED to this little guy. Next, I got into the guts and made it a kick ass bass wah: my fucking BABY.
The wah circuit is quite simple in terms of the quantity of parts. It’s a very interesting circuit, though, as it’s application wasn’t even intended by the inventors. It was supposed to be a mid-boost, but instead acted as a variable band-pass filter that simulated the human voice. If you’re interested in the intricacies of it, there’s no better article than The Technology of Wah Pedals over at Geofex.com. Alternatively, you can do just as I did: dive in based on a bunch of photos and descriptions of sound to shape up the tone of your wah.
Going back, way back, I found a broken Dunlop GCB-95 Crybaby wah pedal in our jam space. I thought, huh, maybe I could use this if I figure out what was wrong with it. It turned out to be a loose battery clip, easily fixed. Then I thought, huh, sounds okay, what would make it sound better? A few internet searches later, I was led down the rabbit hole into the wild and wooly (more like impractical and laborious) world of modifying effects pedals. With a bit more knowledge under the belt, it’s time reevaluate what I did and look at what is still one of my favorite pedals on my board, the Sewer Bæby.
It’s a little beat up after a some years touring, but the hot rod paint job I gave the Sewer Bæby to distinguish it from yer typical Crybaby still looks alright. Of course none of that matters; it’s the inside that counts, right? Tell that to whomever you set on a blind date with Temple Grandin.
It’s easy to slap an LED onto a pedal. At least, it’s easy for me now. I’ve moved onto bigger and badder. Largely through trial and error, I’ve managed to make a few sick amps well again. I’m still a novice, but I’m learning and it’s fun. The online world is a treasure trove of knowledge and helpful people. Those helpful people told me I was doing some stupid things. I was able to rectify at least one of those things.
This is a light bulb limiter. You can’t buy one and they’re all built a little different. It’s extremely helpful when dealing with a broken amp. In a previous repair of a Peavey XXX guitar amplifier, I was blowing fuses left and right (maybe center, too). The light bulb limiter is a D.I.Y. device that coulda saved me a lotta pain.
Just why does Pro Co only make one pedal? Because they got it right the first time. The Rat distortion box is legendary and it sounds killer, in my humble opinion. Okay, okay, Pro Co has made a few other stomp boxes, but they’re all based around the original Rat circuit and the legendary LM308 IC op-amp. The Turbo Rat, the Rat2, the You Dirty Rat, the Deucetone Rat, and the Rat R2DU rack mount are all descendant of the original: the gnarlier then gnarl white face Rat.
This is a white face Rat from around 1984. There are a few cosmetic differences, however, as I put some modifications into this little guy. A fella I knew asked me to do this before either of us realized the value this pedal could have probably scored on the eBay marketplace. So be it… he ended up trading it to me for some other work I did and I’m happy to call it “mine.” One of my earlier forays into pedal modifications, I’m pleased with the simple changes I made.
There used to be a day when I would put my amp under my car seat for travel. It was an Ampeg B2. I found out that was a good way to have all the EQ knobs broken. Years later I toured with an Ampeg SVT-2Pro rack mount amp… and never bothered rack mounting it. Sure, a guitar always goes in a case. Why bother with an amplifier? It’s just that thing that MAKES IT LOUD.
I got older and poorer, though, while my amp choice got older and more valuable. The folly of youth left me. There was no way was I going to leave on a huge tour again without making sure every amp had a case, especially the vintage Ampeg V4B I was now playing through. When we headed out with GWAR, Sean borrowed a case, we got Dan one while on the road, and I… of course, I had to cobble something together that was special.
I started with this little gem that was tossed for junk outside our practice studio. It was broken and battered, but had a lot of potential.