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Official website for EarthQuaker Devices. We build guitar effects by hand in the quaint landlocked city of Akron, Ohio.

Rigs of EQD: Aaron Rogers

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Rigs of EQD: Aaron Rogers

Bradley Thorla

Name and primary instrument?

My name is Aaron Rogers and I play the bass guitar. I do copywriting & PR for EarthQuaker Devices, which means I'm responsible for most of the silliness which takes place on our social media, and I do some writing in this here blog.

Aaron power-stancin' at his practice spot. Photo: Bradley Thorla

Aaron power-stancin' at his practice spot. Photo: Bradley Thorla

List your current musical projects and a few that you've been involved with in the past.

I played bass in Ultrasphinx from 2012-2016 (?). We toured a little bit around the Midwest and East Coast, and released a 7" and a full-length. We pulled a Fugazi and now we’re on “permanent hiatus.”

Before that, I was in a band called Blockades with Sean MF Djuricic (of Akron “indie vets” Interfuse) that was kind of a Hot Snakes / Melvins hybrid. We always wrote the music for our set the night before we played it, so it was fast and loose. That band lived by two rules: Downstrokes Only & Everything Louder Than Everything Else.

I don’t think anyone cares / wants to hear anything I did earlier than that.

What is the goal of your rig and why?

To do as much damage as possible (and still fit in the backseat of a Honda Accord). Why not?

Are you going for a specific sound or more for variety?

I built my current rig specifically for Ultrasphinx.

Photo: Bradley Thorla

Photo: Bradley Thorla

I didn’t have much bass gear when we started, so I tried to put together a rig that would let the bass guitar be the glue between Ian Cummins’ insane drumming, Joe Dennis’ dense altered-tuning chord voicings, and his layers of multitracked vocals (on record, anyway).

Joe came to our first rehearsal with a 5-string acoustic guitar tuned DADAA, which we amplified with my Sovtek Mig-60, and at first it seemed like we’d be some kind of prog / freak-folk band, so my tone was probably a little rounder back then - less distorted, with more low-mids.

Early Ultrasphinx backline. 2012? Photo: Aaron Rogers

Early Ultrasphinx backline. 2012? Photo: Aaron Rogers

At our first shows, we ran Joe's vocals into a harmonica mic with some effects pedals through a solid state Fender amp, in addition to the regular PA mic, which played up the freak-folk element. I think we used a Guyatone tremolo, an Electo-Harmonix Holy Grail, and maybe something else. It was tough to pull off without feedback, but the bleed from the harmonica mic with the effects gave our earliest shows a cool ambience, like we brought our own echo chamber with us.

When Joe started bringing his Les Paul (with six strings tuned DADAAA) to practice and playing through a Bassman Ten 4x10 combo is about the same time I started collecting overdrive pedals and more or less trying to rip-off David Wm. Sims from the Jesus Lizard. We ditched the spacey vocal effects, lost the folky elements and turned into, like, a mathy (ugh, I hate that term) noise-rock band with Dischord / Touch & Go tendencies, or at least we thought so, anyway. At our first show we were told that we sounded "like a combination of Soundgarden, Drive Like Jehu, and the Blue Oÿster Cult."

I landed on a brighter distorted sound that I thought sat nicely between the kick drum and vocal. I used a Rat for a while, then a Talons, and eventually landed on the Monarch / White Light combo I used for the next four years. The song "Username_Assword" is probably the best recorded example of that tone.

My “clean” sound is a Tronographic Rusty Box into a SansAmp RBI and two 1x15 Dietz style cabinets - a Mesa Boogie Diesel, and a Dietz clone I bought from some dude on Craigslist. Each cabinet has an Electro-Voice EVM-15L speaker.

For overdrive sounds, I was mostly using a Monarch into a White Light, and then I’d blend in my clean-ish sound with a Boss LS-2 Line Selector. I love how the White Light compresses when you slam the front end of it with the Monarch. I could get wild feedback if I let it go, but the rest of the time the bass would sit tight in the mix and the harmonics would still rip your head off.

Besides that, I used a Hoof on the song “Ruling Planets.” My rig was basically four distortion pedals into an amp that was itself on the edge of distortion!

What's in that chain, my dude?

Photo: Bradley Thorla

Photo: Bradley Thorla

Electrical Guitar Company Series One Bass > Tronographic Rusty Box preamp > Boss LS-2 Line Selector > EarthQuaker Devices Monarch (LS-2 Loop A) > Mantic Vitriol (LS-2 Loop B) > EarthQuaker Devices Space Spiral > Electro-Harmonix Micro Pog > TC Electronic Polytune 2 Noir

This is a little different than what I used in Ultrasphinx. I’m just jammin’ by myself at home these days, so I replaced my MXR Carbon Copy with a Space Spiral for a more animated delay sound. I keep my tuner at the end of the chain for a total kill switch.

Frankenstein Jazz Bass & Monarch / White Light combo in full effect. Photo: Matt Stansberry

Frankenstein Jazz Bass & Monarch / White Light combo in full effect. Photo: Matt Stansberry

I didn't have my EGC back then, so I played a frankenstein Jazz bass that's a '78 USA maple neck mounted on a Japanese body from the 80s with mystery pickups and a Badass bridge. I used a GK 400-RB amp at our early shows, but I blew it up, so I switched to the SansAmp and a 500-watt QSC power amp.

If you lost all your effects pedals, which one would absolutely need to be replaced first?

The tuner! Besides that, probably the Rusty Box, because it’s the foundation of my tone. I’d feel powerless without it.

Any pedals you've been digging recently?

Playing the Space Spiral is the most fun I’ve had with any effects pedal in my life. I love how Jamie voiced the modulation on the repeats. It’s the only delay pedal I’ve tried that feels like it’s talking back to you when you play it. I feel like I’ve only scratched the surface on that lil’ buddy.

Photo: Bradley Thorla

Photo: Bradley Thorla

Apart from that, the last pedal I bought is Mantic Vitriol. It does the growly distorted thing I like really well, but the EQ is what makes it special. Cranking up the “Lo” control sucks the air out of the room.

Favorite pedal company outside of EarthQuaker?

Well, EarthQuaker Devices would still be my favorite pedal company even if I didn’t already work here. Besides that, I think Mantic makes some of the nastiest bass pedals out there. Electro-Harmonix has been on fire lately. I really liked the Mel9 when I tried it, and their new Blurst filter looks really interesting.

Photo: McKenzie Beynon

Photo: McKenzie Beynon

Brad Thorla is EarthQuaker’s fourth longest tenured employee, currently handling Inventory Systems Management, Artist Relations, 2nd/3rd camera, and you’ll usually see him at trade shows. He plays drums in the EQD house band, Relaxer, and his photography can be found on Instagram via @bradleythorla.