“It’s the pedal I really learned how to build pedals on,” says Jamie Stillman.
It had to start somewhere. For the Hoof fuzz, it began with grainy cell-phone video of a Black Keys gig in Boston on November 11, 2006. Patrick Carney pummels his kit into submission; his loose-yet-tight playing swings like an empty barn door blowing in the dusty breeze after a stampede, squeaky hinges keeping eighth-note time.
Even though it’s being pummeled by early '00s video compression, it’s clear listening to this performance today that Dan Auerbach’s fuzz tone stomps like no other. People often ask why The Black Keys didn’t have a bass player back then, and the answer is simple: Dan’s guitar sound is so huge that there isn’t any room. The rest, as they say, is history.
On Dan’s pedalboard that gig was a fuzz pedal built by his then-tour manager and sometimes-tech, Jamie Stillman, called the Hoof fuzz. Uninspired by his own compressed and saturated sounding Russian Big Muff, (vintage Russian units are known for variances in tone) Stillman set out to design his own fuzz circuit to replicate the unique dirty-but-defined raunchiness of Auerbach’s unit.
Using a hybrid silicon/germanium design and hand-matched transistors, Stillman cracked the code on a crushing fuzz sound that preserves low-end (even on bass!) and retains clarity even when cranked. The result, which he dubbed the Hoof fuzz, caught on with the online guitar community, and his one-man bedroom operation quickly grew to a team of nine basement-dwelling circuit builders, screenprinters, enclosure drillers, wirers, assemblers, and so on. Two workshops and about fifty employees later, a lot has changed at EQD (we have 401ks and free yoga classes now), but the Hoof’s construction, and more importantly, the tone remains the same.