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Studio Series - Jon San Paolo (Electrical Audio)

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Studio Series - Jon San Paolo (Electrical Audio)

Aaron Rogers

Photo courtesy of Electrical Audio

Welcome back to the EarthQuaker Devices Studio Series! In this entry, Jon San Paolo, staff engineer, building manager, and "weekend guy" at Steve Albini's Electrical Audio shines some light on the "Electrical Method" and how he uses EarthQuaker Devices to save himself and his clients the heartache of trying to "fix it in the mix."

Do you use EQD pedals during tracking, mixing, or both? If both, roughly what ratio?
I see the most use in tracking - probably a 98:2 ratio of tracking:reamping.

What are your favorite EQD drive/fuzz pedal combos when tracking guitars? Which dirt pedals do you feel pair well with particular guitar/amp combos or certain styles of music?
They all get used pretty evenly. Being a "drums" guy, I don't have the wherewithall to shred on these, but percentage-wise there's 25% "Oh, you have this one pedal" and 75% guitar players are overwhelmed with the options and eager to try everything until they find just the right pedal. It's a pretty great problem to have.

What other electric/electronic instruments or sources do you use EQD pedals with, and what are your favorite applications?
I've used EQD pedals with our Wurlitzer and Mellotron, as well as using them as vocal inserts. My favorite applications are when someone has a stock sound (old keyboard/samples, etc.) and use pedal chains to add some newness an otherwise predictable voice.

Have you tried them on acoustic sources via inserts and found any favorite applications for a particular pedal? Do you have a favorite outboard chain you like to pair them with?
So far just vocals, and it's usually shotgunning pedals until we find just the right one.  Never the same chain twice. To your credit, there are so many EQD's here I can actually do that.

What has been your favorite standard "bread and butter" sound you've gotten from an EQD pedal? Are there any that have retired or semi-retired old favorites for the same application?
Can't say I have any bread-and-butter application. However, when a band says "gimme something insane" I'll point them towards the Rainbow Machine and it's often quite popular in its unique-ness. I also run the Hummingbird on keyed instruments, guitars and vocals when the opportunity presents itself. Either the musician digs it, or never wanted tremolo in the first place. 

What has been your favorite crazy sound you've gotten from EQD pedal? Are there any that have made their way into well-known releases that you can share links to?
I can't take credit for the sound, but there's an ass-kicker of a band called Lardo that was essentially built around the Bit Commander. That was the brainchild of their guitarist, Brian Pennington. They did their first record, Gunmetal Eyes at another place with me, but they'll be back in August to do their second record at Electrical.

Which 2 EQD pedals do you use the most overall, and what would you typically use them on?
Almost everything is guitar, but most commonly seen under my watch are the Rainbow Machine and the Hummingbird. Park Fuzz gets a close third. 

What do you think is the most overlooked or underrated EQD pedal, and what do you like to use it on?
My knee-jerk is to say the Hummingbird, because tremolo is underrated in general and this one has been well-liked.

How do EQD pedals facilitate getting finished sound earlier in the recording process?
This mindset is generally the Electrical Method, which is to get as much accomplished on its way to tape as we can manage, giving the band a better sense of how the final mix will sound as early on as possible. Finding good pedals (and the odds are good that EQD will be a part of that process if a band is trying out house gear) while setting up is definitely a part of that.

How much time/frustration does this save later in the process?
DAMN NEAR ALL OF IT! "We'll figure it out later" is like fingers on the chalkboard to me.

How much energy does this lend to your process?
If I understand the question correctly, if you're talking about front-loading the tone decisions - it's energy well spent at the beginning to conserve for the end, where often time is not our friend.

About Jon:

Electrical Audio Staff Engineer, Building Manager and "Weekend Guy", Jon San Paolo was found in a basket outside of Electrical's front door in 2005. He was fed small rations of Cap'n Crunch and Hot Pockets while the staff tried to track down his "real" family. After deeming their efforts as fruitless, they eventually put him to work. A native of Springfield, Missouri, Jon is a graduate of the Conservatory of Recording Arts and Sciences and holds a Broadcasting degree from Drury University.