When we asked Juan Alderete (Halo Orbit, the Mars Volta, Racer X) what he planned to do for his clinic at EarthQuaker Day 2017, his response was “transverse the effected low end spectrum of the electric bass into your band’s sound.” We’re happy to say he delivered as promised.
What makes Juan’s approach to using effects pedals so unique is that to him, stompboxes are about more than just chasing tone. Juan uses effects to inspire himself (and others) to explore new territory and introduce new voices into the musical lexicon.
Beginning with the infamous “Helicopter Jam,” he engages the Hummingbird tremolo, using its hard-chop rhythms to illustrate how time-based effects can inspire a rhythm section to play around with different tempos and beats to lock into a new groove. When he activates the Grand Orbiter phaser set to a slow, swirling sweep, the gentle modulation connects the harmonic content of his playing with the staccato pulse of the Hummingbird with a touch of psychedelia.
Also, Juan recalls his days in the Mars Volta when pedals like the Bit Commander octave synth were a vital part of the band’s sound, especially when sharing festival stages with EDM acts, whose laptop-based digital production often made rock bands sound small by comparison.
“That’s my whole plan with bass,” he says. “I’m tryin’ to like, keep us in the game, keep thumping, and keep people wanting what we do.”