Here's a nice story...
Many of you are probably aware that we run a gear/tone group on Facebook. We call it the Wampler Pedals Tone Group (I know, how dazzlingly original is that?) and we made it because, well, most gear groups on Facebook appear to be frequented by people who I can't accurately describe here and still keep my job!
We had no idea how it would turn out, if we would have to delete it because those same kind of people came in but I don't know how, but it appears we got really lucky as it appears that the vast vast vast majority of the 6000+ members we have are just great people, looking to talk gear and pedals, and are not interested in being know it all show offs who state opinions as facts!
Since we started the group a couple of years ago you get to recognise certain names and then over a period of time you actually get to know them... You get used to seeing them about!
One of the first people I remember noticing was Huey Falls, purely because every post he made he signed it "SGT Huey Falls USMC Ret." - A man who is obviously extremely proud of his service, and rightly so! I got the impression after chatting to Huey within thread over the months that he wasn't a well man, I had no idea (and still don't) if this is due to his service or something after, I think he's blind also... Anyway, that's how I got to know Huey, albeit not at all, just online in a gear group, you know what I mean.
It was a few weeks ago I noticed I'd not seen him around for a while, and then a day or so later one of our members, Kevin Harrington, made this post in the group - Kevin knew Huey through the group only, and somehow found out he was about to undergo an amputation on his left leg, below the knee. He knew Huey was gassing for a new fuzz, a Velvet Fuzz no less, so he set up this go fund me to help Huey out and it was posted into the Tone Group.
Due to the extreme generosity of the members of the tone group, the $250 goal was quickly reached and breached. It looked like Huey would be his pedal after all!
Now, Alex and I had been watching this for a while and once the target was breached we talked to Brian, and we came to the conclusion that it would be best if we donate Huey a Velvet and then donate the money raised to Huey's charity of choice. Everyone in the group thought this was a grand idea!
So, thanks to the generosity and community spirit of our tone group, Huey's favourite charity of choice is $355 better off and he has his pedal! What a wonderful little community we have here! Thank you Kevin, this is all your doing. You're one of the good ones.
I started out as a pedal addict from the time I started playing guitar at age 14, listening to Mike Einziger of Incubus, and his massive pedalboard made me intrigued at the number of sounds someone could produce just clicking on a little box on the floor. The pedal addiction lasted on through the years, starting with cheap pedals and slowly upgrading over time. I loved how with a relatively cheap (compared to amps or guitars) investment could radically change my sound on the fly. My first introduction into the boutique world was a modified Boss TR-2 tremolo from Robert Keeley. Getting that pedal made me realize that there were more choices out there than the standard Digitech, Boss, Electro Harmonix’s of the world. This lead to a spiral and me driving my girlfriend (now wife) crazy.
I learned about Wampler in early 2010 when I was on a hardcore Brad Paisley kick, dedicating all of my free time to learning his guitar tricks and solos. I stumbled on a thread from TDPRI that said something about a Paisley signature overdrive, and I immediately looked up the website. It was going to be a few months before its release, but I literally checked back to the Wampler site every day for months hoping to glean some more information on the tones it could produce and what features it had. I decided to go the Christmas route and ask for it from my Wife, who again is very patient with my pedal addiction. The minute I plugged into the Paisley Drive I fell in love. It was precisely what I had been looking for, and it covered way more than just Brad’s tone. At the time I was playing through a Marshall AVT150 or through a Hot Rod Deluxe. I found with the Hot Rod Deluxe paired with the Paisley Drive that I could get closer to the tone I was looking for, and quickly moved on from the AVT150. That was the tipping point for a long relationship with Wampler that is still ongoing today.
As mentioned above, I was highly active on TDPRI (the Telecaster forum) at the time, and somehow or another I made a cheesy graphic that expressed my love for the Paisley Drive, and I was recommending it to everyone under the sun because it was just my end-all be-all favorite OD. I received a message from someone, and at the time I didn’t know it was Jason Wilding, head marketing and graphics guy for Wampler Pedals asking what my favorite parts of the Paisley Drive were, and discussing graphics and all other sorts of nonsense. It turns out that the Paisley Drive was his first graphic design for Wampler, so there was a kindred connection metaphorically because the Paisley Drive was both our first introduction to Wampler and what created our friendship. We chatted back and forth pretty regularly, and eventually became friends on Facebook a few weeks later. We talked occasionally, and he quickly became my source of GAS for all things Wampler. After getting the Paisley Drive, I had to get the Faux Analog Echo (come on, BP was using one!). After that came the Pinnacle and the Ego Compressor. The addiction just grew from there, and any spare money I had would be diverted to getting whatever new Wampler was coming out at the time, or one that I hadn’t acquired yet. The best way to describe it was that Brian was creating pedals that produced the tone that I heard in my head, and the controls were easy to dial in and self-explanatory, so I could find a useable tone within seconds of plugging in.
I became a true addict, eventually having an all-Wampler board, and still waiting and lusting for the next release. I frequented TDPRI still, and discovered The Gear Page in late 2011, early 2012. That’s what did it for me. I went into a trading and flipping frenzy that was borderline insane, at one point having one pedal going out and another coming in on the same day. I enjoyed the flipping and learning about each pedal and the trends brands took and what tonal secrets were enclosed in each box. My wife and I had just had a new baby, so time was limited playing so I spent most of my time learning and reading TGP and the ins-and-outs of various pedals. What worked, what doesn’t work. How pedal X was similar or different than pedal Y. I was on dialysis at that time (20+ years total, long story for another day). Essentially I had 5 hours of dedicated time where I was tied to a machine with needles in my arm that prevented playing guitar, so the next best thing was learning and absorbing everything pedal and amp related. I would scour the web for hours just reading and absorbing everything I could find. During this whole time however, I still maintained my love of Wampler, and I was the first person to suggest one of Brian’s pedals to any thread I could contribute to. Over time I got to know Jason better and even talked to Brian some on Facebook messenger, along with making friends with some Wampler artists along the way. My intent was that if I couldn’t work for them (only a faraway dream at the time) that I’d do everything I could to help and facilitate building the brand that I love so much.
Fast-forward to April 15th of 2014, my life changed more than words can express. That morning as I was heading out for work I received the call that there was a deceased donor that arrived at the hospital and and his kidney was the closest match they could find after me being on the transplant list for 14 years (and having 2 previous kidney transplants). I got the call, we dropped what we were doing and rushed to the hospital. Within 24 hours I had a brand new kidney, and I had been given a new medicine designed to treat my blood disease specifically (which to this day, has proven it works). April 17th of 2014 was my last dialysis to date. I preface this because it was the start of a shift in life towards the positive in every way.
Starting in late 2014, I had contacted Brian about a “Wampler Fan Club” on Instagram, and luckily he was open to the idea. I started posting pictures of players pedalboards featuring Wampler gear, basic GAS-inducing stuff that came to mind and just overall showcasing my love of the brand. During this time Brad Paisley had received a lo-fi delay prototype (The Wheelhouse) that I saw on Facebook and other social media outlets along with The Gear Page, and of course I bugged Jason to death with questions, including trying to bribe and bargain and being a general pain in the ass. I finally got the hint that it was still a prototype and that Brian wasn’t a fan of giving out protos because he prefers the pedal going to the players to be perfect. Luckily Jason had a tremendous amount of patience and knew I was just an over-excited tonechaser with a tendency towards addiction, haha. I continued growing the “Wampler Pedals Street Team” fan club Instagram account, and was attempting to coordinate with Jason to help the best I could (learning later on the other side that it was a double-edged sword, more on that later).
On my birthday in April, I woke up that morning and my wife had a surprise for me, and had my 3 year old little boy bring me a box. I had been asking for a Clarksdale (after having one and foolishly lending it out to someone and never getting it back) and I thought that’s what was waiting inside. The outer box looked familiar, and as soon as I opened it that familiar white cardboard box was staring me in the face. At the same time my wife pulled out her phone and started filming me opening the box, and I had no idea what was going on. I was shaking and nervous as could be (I have a love/hate relationship with surprises). I opened it up and lo and behold it was my very own personalized Lo-Fi delay, identical to the one custom made just for Brad Paisley, with the words “Special limited edition lo-fi delay prototype for Alex Clay”. On the inside was a handwritten note from Brian thanking me for all that I have done for the brand, and his signature on the bottom. I was speechless, and could feel my face getting redder and hotter by the minute as all of these emotions started bubbling to the surface. I somehow choked out a “Thank You” as I started tearing up a little bit, and luckily my wife stopped filming before I burst into tears of elation. I was beyond floored and couldn’t focus the rest of the day. I found out later after talking to Jason that he reached out to my wife and wanted to do it as a thank you and to celebrate my kidney making it to one year post-transplant. I think I told Brian and Jason and the team “Thank You” at least 1,000 times, and it still doesn’t seem like enough to this day. I plugged the proto in and it was EXACTLY what I was hearing on the Wheelhouse album. I’m still in shock thinking about it, and it is one of the kindest and heartwarming gifts I’ve ever received, and I’m eternally grateful to call Jason and Brian and everyone at Wampler close friends.
As the year carried on, I continued working with Jason, with him allowing me to help “reveal” some new product photos for new releases and helping to share the news of impending releases. Mid-June came along and with it a conversation with Brian that would set into motion things I had only dreamt about...
Happy 63rd birthday to Malcolm Young, legendary rhythm guitarist for one of my favorite rock bands in history, AC/DC. Thinking back, what would rock guitar, (or guitar in general) be without the contributions of Malcolm’s powerhouse rhythm driving classic songs like “Shoot to Thrill”, “Highway to Hell” “Rock and Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution” and hundreds more. Angus is an unbelievable player and is typically referred to more so than Malcolm, but I’m a firm believer that it was their ability to play off of each other and react to each other’s playing and songwriting that was the root cause of the magic that came from AC/DC. The guitar tone that Malcolm has used for years stands as one of the most iconic rock tones in guitar history. It’s powerful, percussive, and always machine precise. He always used a simple setup of a Gretsch into either a JTM45/Super Bass/Wizard amp setup running extremely hot.
Sadly, Malcolm was diagnosed with dementia and officially retired from the band at the end of September of 2014. He has had several other health issues come up since that time, but fortunately they have been resolved. In his absence, Malcolm’s nephew Stevie Young took up the rhythm guitar mantle, having previous experience with playing with AC/DC in the late 80’s.
I’d like to take a look back at Malcolm’s contributions to rock music with songs that showcase his powerhouse rhythm playing. Again, this is a highly condensed list, I highly recommend going back and listening to every AC/DC record, they’re loaded front to back with amazing guitar tone and fun guitar riffs galore. Take a listen to these and try not to nod your head or tap your feet (I know I can't do it).
“Shoot to Thrill”
I have to start with one of my absolute favorites. Every time Shoot to Thrill comes on, THAT is the epitome of what rock guitar tone is for me. It doesn’t get any better than that for me personally. Notice on the intro how Malcolm is playing a different powerful driving rhythm while Angus is adding the punctuation on top. It literally gives me goosebumps every time I hear it.
"Dog Eat Dog"
This track is one of my favorites when it comes to perfect timing. Malcolm just adds the right chords at the right spot to build tension and push the song forward.
Happy 72nd birthday to the rock and roll guitar legend that is Keith Richards! Master of playing 5 strings on his guitar, he’s known for forgoing the low E string on his tele and tuning to an open tuning to get those great grooves going. Keith is known for having many guitars to fit any occasion, but notably for his 1950’s Micawber telecaster, which was given to him on his 27th birthday from another guitar legend: Eric Clapton. “Keef” ended up modding the beloved tele and adding a ‘50’s Gibson PAF humbucker in the neck position, and a lapsteel pickup in the bridge positon. That guitar has been on all sorts of tracks, such as “Honky Tonk Women” and "Brown Sugar". That guitar is the stuff of legends, and you can always tell it’s Keef when you hear those edge of breakup yet still chimey guitar rhythms. One thing that has set him apart is the use of those open tunings. By removing the low E string, the guitar lends itself to be more exciting to play because there’s less to work with. He’s used just about every open tuning, but most notably open G quite frequently.
Keef isn’t just known for his guitar skills, he’s also known for THOROUGHLY enjoying life. He’s had some myths created due to a crazy lifestyle out on the road, and boy I bet he has some stories to tell. He’s dabbled a bit with alcohol and some recreational drugs *cough cough*, and has been known to have some fun as well as get into trouble because of those things. All in all Keef is just a really cool guy who loves guitar and playing music live. Also, let’s not forget that he even did a bit of acting in the Pirates of the Caribbean (and he NAILED IT, he missed his calling as a pirate).
I’d like to take a look back at some of Keef’s finer guitar moments. He’s not an overly flashy player with whammy bar dives and squeals, but the man knows how to keep time, and that in my opinion is more important than lead work to fit the song.
Jumpin’ Jack Flash – This just screams KEEF! It starts off with his signature guitar tone in open G with a capo on the 4th fret. Raw, fat, and just a killer groove.
Brown Sugar – Another great example of Keefs killer guitar riffs driving the rhythm of the song.
Honky Tonk Women – You can hear Keef in all of his glory on this track. His fat and gritty guitar tone stands out in a mix, with tasty lead lines and punchy chords.
We’re often asked what pedal can a person use to get Keefs guitar tone, and the Tweed 57 works exceptionally well. His tone doesn’t require a lot of gain, just a fat beefiness like those old Tweed amps used to give. Keef has been using Tweed Twins since the 90’s, so that will hit the spot. You can read more about the Tweed 57 in the overview with full demos and a full synopsis of the sounds it's capable of. Another secret weapon that works really well to add to the feel of the tone Keef gets is using the Ego Compressor to add that extra snap and compression like his excessively loud amps had when he was pushing them to the limits. You can read about the Ego Compressor more by clicking the link, which will take you to a full overview with demos and suggested settings.
Happy 66th birthday to the sharp dressed man himself, Rev. Billy F. Gibbons! Gibbons is the definition of pure blues rock guitar. With his trademark sunglasses, beanie, completely epic flowing beard and more sexy guitars and cars than a mere mortal can possibly fathom, he just emits an aura of cool every time you see him. Since starting out in ZZ Top around 1969, Gibbons has been cranking out tasty guitar riffs and pick squeals galore that create a vibe that just drives every song he’s ever played on. His tone has been sought after by many, having a fat sustain and edge that works great for most any genre, but especially blues and rock. Not only is he cool to watch, he’s known for being one of the nicest guys in the business. When discussing the Rev’s guitars, his outlandish guitars really come to mind along with his beautiful '59 Les Paul, Pearly Gates. Whether it’s the one covered completely in fur, or one that's solid neon green from top the bottom, he’s always got something crazy to put on a great show with. ZZ Top’s music has been featured on countless movies (If you’ve ever watched movies from the 80’s and early 90’s, I’m willing to bet you heard one of Billy’s guitar riffs whenever a person visited a strip club, especially if it’s a detective movie. That’s just how it is.)
Let’s take a few minutes and dig into Billy’s guitar tone and appreciate what the legend has brought forth to us! Yet again, these are just a few of Billy’s greatest, but there are hundreds more. I highly suggest listening to all of ZZ Tops albums, especially Eliminator, Tres Hombres, or for the full spectrum just grab the Greatest Hits album that came out in ’92 to get a full dose of the Rev. He was also involved in a few other projects like The Moving Sidewalks, Kings of Chaos, and Revolting Cocks, but we're focusing on his work with ZZ Top.
La Grange – One of ZZ Top’s more popular riffs. The rhythm on the intro based around that A chord just makes a guitar player feel awesome. It’s simple and excessively effective. The tone is just perfect. I don’t have any other word to describe it accurately.
Sharp Dressed Man – Another popular one guitarists love and get a great reaction out of a crowd live. Stellar sustaining tone with a fun lead to play. This is one of my favorites, and it just happens to feature another legendary artist, John Fogerty.
Dust my Broom – ZZ Top covered this Elmore James classic, adding that signature Billy Gibbons guitar tone and feel and bringing it to a new generation.
Legs – Another great offering comes in the form of a driving synthesizer rhythm layered with Gibbon’s perfect pick squeals.
We’re often emailed and asked what people can use to get tones similar to Billy’s. As with everything else, a lot of the tone is in the hands, but what dirt pedal you’re using makes a big difference too. The Velvet Fuzz is one that works really well in the Tight mode for getting those fat sustaining tones, as well as the Tweed 57 for those great tweed amp guitar tones that Billy used. You can click the links and hear demos and get the full overview of what each pedal does.
It seems just about every time I log in to any one of my social media outlets – I unfortunately come across various stories about bands who have had their gear stolen out of their van, trailer, or even studio. It’s sad that this happens to hard working musicians that often play out to put food on their table. In an instant they lose the tools of their trade and the pieces of gear they have worked hard for and come to love over a lifetime of honing their craft.
While it’s a total shame we have to even think about the safety of our gear – it is unfortunately a variable we have to take in to account and try our best to prepare against. In this blog I wanted to throw out a couple steps that could help protect your gear from getting ripped off or increasing the chances you will get it back if it does get stolen. Some of these are no-brainers but are surprisingly not practiced all that much. If I don’t mention something you to do protect your gear – let me know about it in the comment section below.
Visual: Make sure you are parked in a well-lit, visible area. Lots of clubs have parking in the back that allows you easier access to the stage. While this is often makes for an easier load-in – it also secludes your gear/ vehicle; if it all possible, try to park your car/ trailer right next to the door. Most of the clubs I have played at – will save you a spot if you call ahead. This does a couple things: Puts you near a light(s), puts you close to the bouncer working the door, and will sometimes deter thieves from making a move so close to the building. In between sets I usually have one of my guys keep an eye on the gear and I go out and check on the remaining gear in the car, locks, etc.
For you guys that are lucky enough to have a rehearsal space/ studio – make sure your doors have reinforced locks. Also – if your space has windows – think about ways to block people from the outside looking in/ and make sure they are reinforced against breakage.
GPS Tracker: So this one is a new one for me – but I will most definitely be investing in one for the future. The Spot Trace (about $100USD) – featured above - is a GPS locater you can put in your band’s trailer. This particular model will send you alerts via your smart phone to let you know if the trailer is moving (in the case of being stolen) and where it is. Pretty cool!
Records: This is one is kind of boring – but most certainly a necessity. Chances are – pretty much every piece of gear you own has a serial number. Take a few minutes to find the serial numbers of gear and write them all down. Keep the list of serial numbers in a safe place at home. In the event that your gear gets swiped – you can let the authorities know the make/ model/ serial number of your pedal, guitar, amp, etc. You can also then notify local pawn shops/ music shops about the stolen piece of gear and the serial number so they can keep an eye out for it. (Note: also keep a record of any identifying marks your gear might have. Have a guitar with a big gouge in the back by the neck pocket? – Take a picture and keep it with your records.)
Hidden ID: I learned this trick a long time ago but it I think it’s kind of clever. When you open up your pedal or guitar – write your name on a piece of tape and stick it on the inside of your gear. (Or indelible ink if you are keeping the gear forever.) Even if the crooks get rid of the serial number of your pedal – they might not know to look for the hidden name on the inside of your gear – further helping to identify it for the authorities.
Community: Lets face it – musicians, as a whole, are a pretty tight knit community and are for the most part – are a pretty awesome group of people. Get to know one another. In this day and age of social media – news travels quickly. Other than the authorities – there is often not a better of group of people to help you recover stolen gear than fellow musicians who know what to look for!
I know some of this does sound like paranoia – well it is a little. But remember the gear that took you a lifetime to collect, the gear that makes you feel better at the end of the bad day, the gear that helps you express yourself better than words can ever do – can all be lost in a minute to unscrupulous people with no moral standards - looking to make a quick dollar.
Until next time tone chasers!
I started playing the guitar at about age 8, massively influenced by my older brother, my grandfather, and my uncle (who were all players) - I started the same way as everyone else my age did. Listening to the radio and going through my, and my friends, parents record collection. Here are the songs/riffs/solos that throughout my playing life have completely turned me upside down, influenced me or in one case, bought a little tear to my eye. (Note: I’ve intentionally left out Hotel California as it’s too obvious)
Sunday Bloody Sunday – Edge (U2)
Live at Red Rocks version, obviously. My first experience with Eb tuning, It wasn’t until I saw the video I saw that he was playing it “there” so it meant the guitar must have been downtuned. I remember being blown away with Edge’s right hand and his aggressive nature of playing rhythm, the riff was cool but the playing was better.
Phantom of the Opera – Dave Murray and Adrian Smith (Iron Maiden)
I first heard the song in an advert for Lucozade, just he intro and a little of the main song riff - it was of course the studio version with Dennis Stratton playing with Davey instead of Adrain. It took me months to track the song down (ahhh… the days before the internet) and when I heard the version on Live After Death (unfortunately that performance was never videoed) Iron Maiden became my life’s obsession!
Comfortably Numb - David Gilmour (Pink Floyd)
I think this one is pretty much a no brainer for most players. I first became aware of this when a band played it in a pub one time and the guitarist got pretty close to the original. Loving what I had heard I went out and bought the album, loved every second of it but when that first solo of Comfortably Numb passed I was utterly floored. Literally shaking with emotion and joy. I've spent years dissecting the phrasing - how it just seems to fall out of his fingers still blows my mind to this day.
Answers – Steve Vai
My introduction to Mr Vai was at the Monsters of Rock Festival at Donnington in 1988 with DLR. They shared the bill with G’n’R, Kiss, Iron Maiden, Megadeth and Helloween. It was really hard not to take notice of him, apart from the extremely raucious G’n’R (with the exception of their outstanding professionalism when the crowd started to go absolutely mad) he stole the show for me. Passion and Warfare was the seminal guitar instrumental album for years, and Answers shows the one thing that is NEVER talked about when discussing Steve’s playing. Phrasing. It’s sublime. This video is the first time I saw him play it live, you can even hear the loud “Yeeeaaahhh”s from me at the start! I would give almost anything I own to be stood between Dave and Steve playing the third harmony line at the end of this song!
Blowin’ Smoke – Brent Mason
I have total and complete clarity of the first time I became aware of Brent. It was 1998 and every Monday night my local pub had a jam night that was hosted by a country/blues band (Country is rare in the UK). The bass player, a great friend of mine called Rick, was always on top of music and had all the latest and greatest imports from across the pond. One Monday I was stood in the pub, having a quiet pint before the jam and Rick put the CD on over the PA. I noticed the tone and note choice instantly. Then the next tune came on and it was just beautiful… I walked over to Rick and asked who it was, he said “Some session guy from Nashville, Brent Mason – keep listening, you’ll love the next track..”. Blowin’ Smoke came on and you could say it was the riff that changed my life. I turned the dirt off, grew a couple of nails on my right hand and I was off… And no, 17 years later, I still can’t bloody play it like he does!
You can listen to Blowin' Smoke on Brent's Soundcloud, for some reason it won't embed here.