Hello pedal enthusiasts. Nick Reinhart here, doing some guest blogging for EarthQuaker Devices. Some of you may know me from my music, namely Tera Melos, or my work with Zach Hill, or possibly a new band I have with Nels Cline, Mike Watt, and Greg Saunier called Big Walnuts Yonder. Others might recognize me from Juan Alderete's Pedals and Effects website and youtube channel where we tweak out on pedals and argue about where you should put chorus in your signal chain. And maybe a few people have seen me demo'ing (aka making bizarre sounds) for EarthQuaker here or there.
I'm not certain where this guest blog is headed, so I'm just gonna dive in. But I reckon it'll come around to my warm, ooey-gooey feelings for EarthQuaker Devices at some point.
So, firstly, I've been messing about with effect pedals since I started playing guitar at age 11. My first pedal was a DOD FX52 classic fuzz. Then I discovered delay/looping shortly thereafter with the DOD FX9 and around that same time I got one of those Korg Pandora multi effect processors, like one of the super early ones. And this was all by age 14.
Fast forward ten years and I'm on tour with a massive pedal board that's mostly comprised of craigslist junk like the Danelectro Tuna Melt and Fab Chorus, both of which I'd gotten for under $10. And then there's the jungle of mismatched wall warts from thrift stores or maybe my mom's old cordless phone and half working patch cables and drunk idiots spilling beer all over them. My fascination with effect pedals was immediate, but my obnoxious collection and deeper well of knowledge and respect for the craft was a slow burn. I never gave myself many tonal options, for practical reasons. There was no a/b-ing a bunch of different overdrives for the record we were recording the next week. It was - “I've got a Boss OS-2 that I got for $40 awhile back and amp distortion,” and that was it.
My part time job at Party City didn't afford me the luxury of a pedal collection that would have easily gotten me into sonic territories previously unexplored. I'd been touring for nearly 10 years before I ever owned a “boutique” pedal. I'm actually really grateful for that though, because it forced me to work within a much smaller confine of sound and develop interesting ideas that were maybe a little less obvious than, say, having all of these amazing, hi-tech, sought after, “true bypass” gadgets at your toes.
In 2013 I started hearing a lot about EarthQuaker Devices. That was right around the time you started seeing their boxes popping up on pedal boards at just about every show you went to. They were easy to spot, as most of them are eye popping and colorful. Friends wouldn't shut up about them, recording studios were stocked with the EQD catalog - it was sort of coming from all directions. So after the universe made it painfully clear, I figured it was time to check these pedals out.
I did some research and landed on 3 pedals - the Rainbow Machine, Bit Commander and Organizer (which remain to this day 3 of my overall favorite pedals). At that point I was friendly with Juan and when I was looking into EQD I'd asked him what he thought I might like. I mentioned the Rainbow Machine and he tried to steer me towards the Disaster Transport SR. (another classic), saying that the Rainbow Machine had blown up and that everyone was using it at the moment. I took that as a challenge. I wanted to use my experience of broken pedal exploration/tinkering and apply that to a non-broken, dynamically rich, really oddball effect.
When I got the boxes in the mail it was a bit of a mind blow. First thing you notice when putting your greasy paws on an EarthQuaker pedal is the craftsmanship. They like to make it very clear (see any of their instruction sheets) that all pedals are handmade in Akron, OH, and when you're actually holding one you understand why. These things are tanks. So solid. And at this point half the stuff on my board was plastic and falling apart, so that was big for me. Then of course you plug em in and realize there's no turning back.
I got pretty deep on them fast. The Bit Commander replaced my MXR Blue Box and went way beyond it. It's one of the heaviest sounding pedals I own - a massive synth-in-a-box. The lag function on the Organizer hooked me immediately. And I was able to get a lot of really interesting sounds I'd yet to hear out of the Rainbow Machine (beyond pitch shifting) as I had suspected was possible - delay, chorus, self oscillation, etc. And that was my introduction to EarthQuaker Devices.
After that our friendship blossomed and EarthQuaker Devices quickly became one of my favorites builders. They were also the first pedal company to acknowledge me as a one of those tap-dancin' pedal stompers. Everything about what they do and how they do it speaks to me on many levels - the people, the weird sounds, the bright, powder coated boxes, the Ohio accents, the wacky birthday cakes they get for every one of their badass employees . . . it's a long list of really neat things coming out of that warehouse and their brains. Lots of companies will often feign the “family” environment thing, but EQD literally feels like your family. Even before we're headed out on tour emails are exchanged making sure we have time to go hang out with the Stillmans and Co.
2016 has already been a wild year for the fam. They blasted out 8 pedals at Winter NAMM - new fuzzes, overdrives, an envelope filter with sample and hold, a preamp boost, a dynamic tremolo, a one knobber distortion inspired by a Sunn Model T, and their highly anticipated first step into DSP - The Avalanche Run delay/reverb. I can only imagine where Jamie's mind will wander sonically with that sort of technology at his finger tips. Exciting!
I recently chained together a Spatial Delivery, Spires, Bellows and a Night Wire. I think it yielded some pretty neat results.
The Spires into the Bellows is lethal, and of course they both stand on their own as great dirt boxes. I don't generally love filter pedals with guitar - rather, I have not found a useful, interesting way to apply them to my playing. But in this case, when paired with this combo and put before the distorted stuff it sounds GREAT. Having the up/down sweep options on the Spatial Delivery is perfect. The Night Wire's filter section is a lot of fun, and I know I've talked about this before in other videos, but using volume swells with dynamic tremolos really helps to engage the speed ramping in the "attack" mode.
Well that about wraps up this guest blog. If you all will have me back i'll think of something else to yammer on about in the pedal world. Until then, keep experimenting and letting your sonic freak flag fly.