Hammering away with Sir Cadbury Cobbett

Hammers of Misfortune is the brainchild of my bandmate in Ludicra, Sir John “Cadbury” Cobbett. They are in the midst of working on a new record to be released on Metal Blade sometime in the future.

I got the call from John. “I need my pedal back.” Crap. The pedal I was supposed to fine tune. Oops. Oh well, I got it working, at least. Problem is, I was working in Oakland, and John is hard at work in South San Francisco. And it’s rush hour. So I guess after getting here I’m sticking around and writing about what the fuck Hammers is nailing down.

First, it should probably be described the way Hammers is recording. I’d say it’s the wave of the future, except I’ve already recorded similarly a couple times with Impaled. And we ripped the idea from Engorged when they did it in 2004: recording at home on a laptop.

That is to say, recording guitars. If you own a decent laptop, you can buy (ahem… yeah right) a copy of ProTools or Cubase or Logic. You can record guitars at home and either use amp modelers (Impaled’s route that kinda bums me out because I have gear I like for the first time in my life) or like Hammers is doing, you can reamp.

There’s still a place for wunderbar engineer / producer Justin Weiss here at Trakworx.

This guy rules over any big name producer from some dumb band and has made Ludicra, Slough Feg, and Brocas Helm shine through the years. For this Hammers recording, Justin recorded bass and drums direct to 2 inch tape, like the above named bands, as he always has through his trusty Otari MX-80. Don’t call it a comeback, for Ludicra and the others, analog recording has been here for years. Fuck trends.

For the first time, however, John took it on himself to record himself and new second guit-fiddler Leila Abdul Rauf’s guitars at his home. It was seven 10 hour long sessions for the pair, nailing their parts to satisfaction, and they didn’t pay a dime for it. Smart.

Then, it was back to the studio for John to work with his old buddy Justin to take those guitar signals and play Masters of the Toneiverse. Along with John’s old JCM 800 Lead, they also put the tracks through Leila’s JCM 800 Lead and her Triple Rectifier, and a rented Peavey 5150. The results for the rhythm guitar tracks are phenomenally crushing.

As I step in, John and Justin are currently reamping the solos. It’s weird, hearing a soulful, metal guitar thrashing loud in the other room and see John like this:

The pedal John had me bring is his totally ridiculously huge Tel-Ray Morley Rotating-Wah-Volume, or RWV.

Fucking HUGE. It utilizes unstate of the art oil can technology to create a weird tremolo delay. I braved bridge traffic for 45 minutes, and you’ll likely hear this thing once on the record. The oil can delay was originally a smart way Tel-Ray invented to replace tape delay for amps. The they started making pedals as Morley, which according to John’s lore, was a pun on the Leslie speaker company’s name. Alas, the pedal’s rubber band (yes, this is 1970s tech at it’s finest) snapped. Lucky I was here with a ratchet set and could get at the motor. Now the pedal is looking like this:

You can see the motor which drives a metal disc around inside electrolytic oil and rubs against rubber pickups. Rub ‘er pickups? But I just met ‘er.

On top of this, John is driving the leads through three other vintage Morleys in a bid for the Guiness World’s Record for largest pedal board.

There’s the somewhat normal WVO wah volume, and then two more strange beasts. The PFL and the PFA are a foot actuated flanger and phaser, respectively. Why? Cause Morley men do it with their feet.

Like all Morley’s, they are controlled by a light sensor that gets more or less light from the power indicator by rocking the treadle. The phaser light, though, actually dims and brightens to cycle the phase. Weird!

The phaser wasn’t working great, though, when I noticed the light was dim compared to the other pedals. By unscrewing the back panel, we switched the 387 power indicator bulb with the wah’s and the phaser came to life. These old pedals are workhorses, older than me, but they do take a lot of soothing. If you got a Morley that, “doesn’t work,” check the bulb, numnuts.

Lastly, Justin has John’s signal intermitently going through a Thermionic brand tube overdrive labeled TE-01.

I’m not familiar with the brand myself, but Justin tells me this is hand wired by a single guy in Seattle. It’s a true tube overdrive, meaning it’s actually overdriving a single AC powered 12AX7 tube, keeping both plates of the tube firing red hot. This is more than just clipping a signal for distortion, this is fucking OVERDRIVE, bitches. By my ears, the results seem to be worth it.

So John and Hammers get to have their cake and eat it, too. All the benefits of old and new married into one totally overblown and yet financially viable recording process for these cult, prog maestros. Who says some old (sometimes VERY old) dogs can’t learn new tricks.

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