Words and pictures by Neil Boland
G.A.S. — Gear Acquisition Syndrome. It’s a condition that affects all musos — rich or poor. In fact, it’s often the case that the poorer you are, the stronger the urge to binge on that ‘next’ thing you have to add to your collection.
“Yes, but I don’t have one like this,” or, “Yeah but, no but, it’s a different sound for a different style/song, so I need one of everything,” are the catch cries of many a gear addict.
It’s all the fault of stores like Found Sound in Carlton, bless ‘em. I’m back here again this month and I’ve nearly had to empty my wallet of all cash and cards or leave it in the car. Or — gaffa tape it to my leg, so at least giving in to temptation in this treasure trove of gadgets and instruments would at least involve some sort of physical pain as self-punishment.
And the main culprit of a guitar player’s inability to be cured of such an addiction? Pedals. Effects pedals. Lots and lots of effects pedals. Found Sound has a big cabinet full — from the classic essentials to the rare and wacky. I tried a few. However I was strong enough not to walk away with them.
Ibanez FC10 Fat Cat Distortion: Like all great overdrive pedals, this one’s predominantly green. This was Ibanez’s answer to the ProCo Rat, which alongside the Ibanez TS 808 Tube Screamer, is a famous overdrive/distortion pedal that everyone has heard on many a record without even knowing it. Set at low gain, it’s responsive to pick attack: clean yet fatter than your normal amp sound when picked softly and slightly dirty when picked hard. This was the aim back in the 70s and 80s with this category of pedal; to emulate the sound of an overdriven amplifier at the tenth of the price of a tube amp. And this little thing can scream just like that, especially with the gain pushed a little harder.
DOD Gonkulator Modulator FX13: A rare ring modulator pedal with potential for mind-bending tonal results. Plug it in and turn up the ‘Heave’ knob. Sounds like fuzz, right? Sort of. It’s really the volume knob, and what you’re hearing is the pedal’s real function busting to unleash itself. Tweak the ‘Suck’, ‘Smear’ and ‘Gunk’ knobs to find whacked-out atonal harmonies getting all up in your actual fretted guitar sound. Imagine that one church bell you often hear that sounds like its pitch is just a little out from the others and mix it with fuzzy guitar. Now you’re off to grungy Melvins-ville at the speed of light…and the bus driver is drunk.
ZVEX Lo-Fi Loop Junky: There are lots of loop pedals out there. But none quite like this. The Lo-Fi Loop Junky fills a niche in the market you didn’t even know existed. It repeats your guitar phrases with retro analogue audio quality, like that of an amp with a blanket thrown over it. As a stand-alone effect – with its added tape hiss and other mysterious noises – it’s a bit bamboozling for the more straight-ahead player, but I can imagine within context – in, say, an experimental rock group with Sonic Youth-like tendencies – this thing would sit perfectly. After tweaking this pedal for a few minutes, I discovered one little delight: play your phrase, loop it and turn up the ‘Depth’ and ‘Speed’ pedals all the way and your sampled phrase gets treated with a little bit of Hammond organ-ish mojo — a really cool sound for your straight guitar tone to jam over.
So if you’ve got G.A.S and you aren’t interested in a cure, well, you know where to binge.
Found Sound is located at 155 Elgin street Carlton. View the catalogue here