The Varidrive by SIB! is a gnarly fully AC powered vacuum tube overdrive. It’s got a real analog growl, pushing that tube to the limits for real distortion.
For such a nicely engineered pedal, they forgot one thing: there’s zero indication when you’ve engaged the effect… I mean, other than screaming overdrive in your ears. But visually, ya got nothing, and during a hard core punk rock gig, it can sometimes be hard to tell. Luckily, SIB! already put an LED on their pedal to indicate it’s getting power. It’s not so hard to change that out for a bicolor LED to indicate power AND when the effect is engaged.
I’ve been posting pretty sporadically this year. I’ve been working hard on projects for the band and such, but the muse to write and an actual electronic work station have been missing since the wife and I found ourselves together in a single bedroom apartment. Oh yeah, and I work a lot, funneling most of my paycheck to pay off debt. Funny how life gets in the way of, you know, this self-aggrandizing bullshit.
Well, last night I found myself on the floor of our rehearsal space, trying not to lose screws in the carpet and diagnosing bandmates’ broken gear. Sean managed to fry out the zener projection diode in his just-acquired DigiTech Black-13 pedal by plugging in the wrong voltage. Ben’s B-52 Stealth Series ST-100A had some bad power tubes. It’s all stuff that’s very important to fix, but not very interesting to write a post on. So, I thought maybe it’s a good time to stop exulting myself. Instead, I’ll let others do that by showing off their work that some of my posts helped along. Altruistic to the end.
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.
John Cobbett of Hammers of Misfortune is an old school kind of guy and I’m not just making age jokes. He runs a Marshall JCM800 for some transparent rockin’ tone from his ’70s Les Paul guitar. A great set-up and dead easy. Maybe too easy. When it comes to leads, it can be hard to pop out over a six-piece prog band. With no boost channel to switch to, Cobbett uses another classic, the MXR Distortion+ guitar pedal. It subtly boosts his tone and adds some more skreem to those licky lixxx.
After losing his first one, John picked up this “beauty” off of eBay. Back when we played together in a band, I was just starting to dick around with all my own pedals. Cobbett asked if it was possible to add a power indicator light to his Distortion+. It was and is. Looking back, though, I think I could’ve done it better.
The BOSS HM-2 Heavy Metal guitar distortion pedal holds a special place in death metal history. It is the sound of Sweden. This cheap, compact design pedal was used heavily at Sunlight Studios to make the “buzzsaw” guitar tone famous on so many original Swedish death metal records from Entombed, Dismember, Nihilist, At the Gates, and Edge of Sanity; later, on scores and scores of not so memorable imitation records.
In fact, that’s pretty much all this pedal can do. Dynamics? Forget it. Put all levels on 10, detune, and jam. Of course, there’s some amp EQ details in there somewhere, but forget it. This pedal gets so much worship for such a one-trick pony. My old band mate, Leon del Muerte, is one of those worshippers. He liked the light plate I added to my old Phase 90 and wanted his HM-2 to get the same treatment. Sure, the HM-2 already has a power indicator light, but he wanted it to SHINE like the god he saw it as. I took it from his apartment as he hugged it goodbye and I went to work (2 months later).
Hear your leader, cult minions! The salvaged homunculus dubbed “Killbot” by it’s brilliant, handsome, and departed inventor the Ghoul Hunter, is in need of an upgrade to continue it’s mission… kill Ghoul!
Yes, the mechanized cyborg was rebuilt from the remains found at the ruins of the Ghoul Hunter’s castle following it’s first battle with Ghoul. Our cult scientists added chain guns, pneumatic claw, titanium-steel armor, and the brain of the most power-hungry bastard and anti-Semitic jerk in history… Walt Disney! With this power, Killbot defeated Ghoul and their pig-faced pathetic piece of shit lackey. But Ghoul escaped back to their accursed catacombs.
The MXR Phase 90 is kind of the benchmark for phasers. It’s been made famous by being THE phaser for Mr. Eddie Van Halen and a score of others. It’s a four stage phaser with matched jfets, meaning in plain talk that it sounds tits. It’s a smooth sounding phaser with a rich tonality. There are many versions since it was first introduced in the 70s: the original script logo version, the first block letter version, the originals with added LED indicator, and then the many re-issues since the Dunlop company bought the rights to the MXR name. The quality of the version, if you go by general opinion, is almost always commensurate with the age.
I was looking for and older one of these, and finally scored a block logo, non-LED version that I’ve dated as being made around 1978. It’s roughly the same kind Mr. Van Halen likely used. This is one of the “good ones.” I can definitely vouch for the sound, being that my Phase 90 sounds amazing on bass or guitar.