For the latest installment in the Dunlop On The Record interview series, we caught up with our old friend, Primus bassist / frontman / mastermind Les Claypool as he wrapped up the most recent Duo De Twang national tour. (Full disclosure: Les’ partner in the Duo De Twang is Dunlop’s own Bryan Kehoe.) As you might expect, Les had some fun with these questions, and we wouldn’t expect anything else from him. Enjoy…
Dan T. asks: What is your top tip and/or exercise routine to help nail the slap and pop technique you do so flawlessly?
I don’t “slap or pop” (isn’t that a masturbatory term?). It’s called “thumpin’ and pluckin’” and it was popularized by the great Larry Graham in the late ’60s and throughout the ’70s. That being said, the most important thing is to keep one’s hands limber and supple yet the skin on the finger tips must be calloused and tough to withstand the rigors of the “thump and pluck.” I’ve, for many years, had a routine of emerging my hands completely in two large jars of mayonnaise on a daily basis for at least 3 hours at a time. This keeps the joints lubricated and the soft tissues flexible. It wasn’t until recent years that I’ve found Miracle Whip as a preferable alternative since the vinegar in the mixture tends to slough the skin because of its acidic virtues.
Patrick C. asks: Les, what are your top three favorite pedals on your board right now?
I really like the “Clark Griswold” pedals. I have one that is pea green and it’s called “The Family Truckster” model. I suggest you Google it because it is awesome. I would just use three of those in tandem.
Joe G. asks: What is your desert island bass, pedal and amp?
As far as a “desert island bass, pedal and amp” I would choose the biggest bass I could possibly find, something like a Gibson Thunderbird or anything along those lines. I would also say Ampeg SVT with 8×10 cabinet. I would choose these not as much for the sound but for the bulk and density of the wood because I imagine I will be needing as much campfire fuel as possible since I am stuck on a desert island. I would also choose whatever pedal is most reflective, like maybe an old chrome Morley so I could use it like a mirror to signal any potential passing airplane or ship in hopes of getting rescued from such a wretched place.
Michael H. asks: What are some of your biggest influences when it comes to writing music, and what are some of your current favorite musical acts?
I only listen to Van Halen and usually just the left channel. That’s always current.
Doug W. asks: What is it about Carl Thompson basses that you love, and do you have them set up in a certain way to accommodate your unique playing style?
The best thing about Carl Thompson basses is that they are made from chocolate, 77% cacao actually, so when you get peckish during a long gig you can chew on it. It’s quite satisfying. Lately I’ve been using my own PACHYDERM basses because I’m now on a more restrictive diet and since they are made from exotic woods, I’m less apt to chew on them and subsequently break my diet.
Eric B. asks: Where did the idea for Duo De Twang come from? And do you have plans for future Duo de Twang music and albums?
The idea of Duo De Twang is COMPLETELY Bryan Kehoe’s idea and the future lies solely with him as I always do whatever he tells me to do.
As you might have heard, 2014 marks MXR’s 40th anniversary. To celebrate, we’ve been releasing blog and video content—see the end of this post for the latest MXR mini doc release—providing players with an informative, inside look at one of the most iconic stompbox brands in history. As part of this celebration, we tracked down each of MXR’s four original core pedals in vintage form, and we’ll be giving one away each month for the next four months. We’re kicking off this sweet giveaway with the Distortion+.
First released in 1972 along with the Phase 90, the Dyna Comp Compressor, and the Blue Box Octave Fuzz, the Distortion+ is powered by germanium transistors which create a warm sound famous for its diverse range—at lower settings, it serves up thick, tubey overdrive, but when cranked, you can take it to the frontiers of fuzz land. Just listen to hit records from the Grateful Dead, Iron Maiden, early Ozzy Osbourne, and Radiohead among many others that testify to the Distortion+’s versatility.
Want to get your hands on a genuine 1976 specimen? The one pictured below? Go on, get a good look at it. It could be yours.
This particular pedal has been inspected, tested, and approved by Dunlop New Electronics Director and Way Huge founder Jeorge Tripps. He dated the pedal using the serial numbers inscribed on its potentiometers. It’s in proper working condition, and you’ll get an inspection card signed by the man himself for verification. We took a few shots of the inspection process, which included the removal of decades old foam on the inside of the bottom plate.
Getting your hands on this piece of history is as simple as answering three questions in the comment section below. You see, we recently asked many of our official Dunlop Artists about their connections, as players and creators of music, to MXR and its effects. We also want to hear about your connection to MXR. All you have to do is answer the following three questions, and we’ll choose one of you at random to receive this pedal. We will also use our favorite responses in an upcoming blog post.
Now for the questions…
When did you first hear what you knew to be an MXR effect, what was it, and who was playing it and/or what song was it on?
What was your first MXR effect?
What’s your favorite MXR effect, and why?
Use the comments section below to answer these three questions. Again, we’ll include our favorite answers in an upcoming blog post, and choose one winner at random to win this vintage 1976 MXR Distortion+! We’ll announce the winner on Wednesday, April 30th.
And while you’re thinking about your answers, check out the first installment of our MXR mini documentary series below, featuring original MXR employee Ron Wilkerson.
It’s no secret that Dunlop has close ties to the Experience Hendrix organization; we’re the stewards of the Hendrix legacy when it comes to musical gear, from custom commemorative picks to the iconic guitar effects that Jimi used to change the sound of sound, express his personal creativity, and motivate and inspire generations of guitarists after him. We’re also closely connected to Hendrix fans, simply because we are huge fans. And as such, we’re thrilled about the Experience Hendrix Tour 2014—it’s the ideal homage to Jimi’s musical legacy, and features the artists who best represent the spirit and music of Jimi Hendrix.
As the Experience Hendrix Tour 2014 rolled through two big Midwestern dates—Chicago, IL and Milwaukee, WI—we caught up with the artists and road crew, and embedded our media team on site to capture the excitement. We came away with a short documentary about this year’s tour and its featured artists, as well as three great episodes of DunlopTV.
The documentary short—featuring Billy Cox, Eric Gales, David Hildago, Brad Whitford and many more—and the first of the DunlopTV episodes, with Zakk Wylde, are posted here (check back over the coming weeks for the next two Experience Hendrix DTV episodes with Eric Johnson, and Buddy Guy). We’ve also added our video interviews with Dweezil Zappa and Kenny Wayne Shepherd, two contemporary players whose approach to guitar playing has been influenced by Jimi. Enjoy!
We got a box in the mail last week from Joe Bonamassa that contained an autographed copy of We Want To Groove, the latest album from Joe’s side project Rock Candy Funk Party; the Rock Candy Funk Party Takes New York at The Iridium DVD/CD set; and the Way Huge Ring Worm ring modulator that Joe used during a three-night run at The Baked Potato this past February, and during a subsequent performance on Late Night with Conan O’Brien. Check it out…
As you can plainly hear in the video, Joe uses the Ring Worm to get funky and a little weird on his solo (which starts around 1:50 in). He autographed and annotated the face of the Ring Worm to mark his settings, as well as commemorate the Baked Potato and Conan appearances, and asked us to offer it up to one lucky fan! Sooo….
Use the comments section below to tell us how YOU get funky and weird on guitar! We’ll select one commenter at random on Friday 4/11 to win the Ring Worm, the autographed CD, and the live in NYC DVD/CD set!
Read Other Installments in the MXR 40TH ANNIVERSARY Blog Series:
As you may have heard, we’re celebrating MXR’s 40th anniversary throughout 2014. Everyone knows MXR as one of the most iconic stompbox effect companies in history, but did you know that MXR also made a ton of rackmount effects that were used by some of rock’s biggest names? If not, have no fear—we’ve got the rundown for you below, along with a few sweet shots of the vintage rack units we have here at the shop.
In the late ’70s, MXR was one of the pioneers at the forefront of the digital wave. By the time it ventured into the realm of rackmount processors, MXR already owned a huge share of the stompbox effect market. The step into digital processing was a logical one—the company had already earned its reputation for delivering great sounding analog effects in cool little packages that fit comfortably at your feet. But recording studios and audio engineers needed something more than a bright orange box. They required higher fidelity and a seriously high-tech look, and they weren’t as limited by pedalboard real estate as live musicians tended to be. Enter the MXR line of rack effects.
The line began with 2-space rack units such as the M-113 Digital Delay, M-124 Dual 15-Band Graphic EQ, M-126 Flanger/Doubler, and the M-129 Pitch Transposer. These were joined shortly by the more full-featured Delay System II and the M-180 Omni, the company’s first multi-effects processor. The effects boasted state-of-the-art sound in tour-approved enclosures and instantly attracted the attention of the world’s greatest musicians. The MXR Digital Delay and Delay System II in particular found favor with many top stars. David Gilmour stocked his touring racks with both MXR delays. Frank Zappa was also a fan of the “blue face” MXR Digital Delay. Brian May famously demoed his classic “Brighton Rock” echoes with two Delay System II units. The great Jaco Pastorius employed an MXR delay as an early looping device, using the sample and hold function to solo over.
Despite the fact that the MXR company fell on hard times in the mid-’80s, the rack effects endured, and found new life with each successive generation of players. The Flanger/Doubler became an integral part of one of the most transformative metal tones of the ’90s when Dimebag Darrell of Pantera made it a central component of his rig. Heavy players the world over flocked to the Flanger/Doubler for the massive tone thickening and widening that Dime made famous.
In addition to the 2U effects listed above, MXR also released single-space processors, including the Digital Time Delay. The only thing that tone freaks need to know about this unit is that Eric Johnson, arguably the biggest tone chaser of all time, keeps one on his pedalboard (yes, his pedalboard) to this day.
A huge part of the appeal of these MXR rack pieces is the fact that they were all very friendly to guitar signals. Where a lot of rack gear insisted on line-level, low-impedance signals, MXR effects were perfectly happy with the Hi-Z signals that guitars provided, resulting in a very plug-and-play experience. Rather than fuss and futz with other signal processors, guitarists could simply plug in, get great tone, and create with the MXR effects.
Whether players know it or not, MXR rack effects made a huge impact on tone in the ’80s, ’90s, and today. The sounds forged in those products live on in the MXR effects of today. Have you ever used an MXR rack effect?
Read Other Installments in the MXR 40TH ANNIVERSARY Blog Series:
This year, Dunlop is celebrating MXR’s 40th anniversary, and we’re taking the opportunity to educate the playing public about the brand with a ton of blog and YouTube content to be rolled out through 2014. Let’s start with some tasty little morsels of information to whet your appetite. Have you ever wondered what the letters MXR stand for? What the first four MXR pedals were? Or what the most popular MXR pedal is? We put together an infographic to answer those and other questions. Check it out below.
You can download this infographic as a PDF so you can print it out, or just have a nice big digital copy of your very own: CLICK HERE.
Read Other Installments in the MXR 40TH ANNIVERSARY Blog Series:
Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door. For guitarists, that better mousetrap arrived in the early ’70s when Keith Barr gave the world the MXR Phase 90. It was the first of many brightly colored effects pedals that would find their way onto stages and into recording studios worldwide.
Barr and his partner Terry Sherwood owned an audio repair shop in Rochester, New York, where they were shocked by the poor quality of the guitar effects their customers brought in. Barr and Sherwood decided they could give guitar players a better sounding, cooler looking, and more reliable stompbox. MXR was born, and the company gave guitarists access to amazing sounds—some of which were previously available only in high-end studios—delivering those sounds in rugged, roadworthy enclosures.
The response was immediate and overwhelming. Starting with a few dozen Phase 90s constructed in a basement and sold out of a car at gigs, MXR added three more pedals to the core lineup: the Distortion +, the Dyna Comp® Compressor, and the Blue Box Octave Fuzz. Soon, the growing company was cranking out thousands and thousands of stompboxes and distributing them all over the planet. Guitarists everywhere were plugging into MXR pedals, and those chains of multi-colored boxes became synonymous with out-of-this-world sounds and limitless possibilities.
The long list of timeless recordings that feature MXR pedals includes classic tunes by such giants as Led Zeppelin, Van Halen, the Rolling Stones, and many, many others. The vicious distortion on Blizzard of Ozz? MXR Distortion +. Jimmy Page’s “Fool in the Rain” solo? MXR Blue Box. Virtually every song on Van Halen I? Phase 90. Keith Richards’ trippy tone on “Shattered”? Phase 100. The intuitive operation and bullet-proof reliability of MXR pedals ensured that those guitar heroes could reproduce the sounds of their hit records night after night on the road as well as in the recording studio.
The music business can be fickle, however, and MXR’s fortunes would shift in the ’80s as other manufacturers began to catch up. MXR closed its doors, but the core products never fell out of favor. Jim Dunlop recognized this, and acquired and resurrected the MXR brand. Fittingly, Dunlop’s first MXR releases were the Phase 90, the Distortion +, the Dyna Comp Compressor, and the Blue Box Octave Fuzz. Dunlop’s acquisition meant that guitarists could once again get their hands on the classic MXR effects, and it also represented a continuation of Keith Barr’s innovative legacy with the eventual release of many new designs.
Pedals such as the Carbon Copy® Analog Delay, Custom Badass ’78 Distortion, and Smart Gate Noise Gate have become modern classics. The Bass Innovations line offers bass players pedals designed with their very specific needs in mind, and the MXR Custom Shop serves as a testing ground for the MXR team’s most ambitious and adventurous ideas.
What’s more, the MXR roster now includes classic non-MXR effects such as the Talk Box and the Uni-Vibe Chorus/Vibrato—recreated with dead-on accuracy and imbued with all the qualities that made MXR famous—in addition to several signature effects developed in conjunction with guitar players such as Eddie Van Halen, Slash, Zakk Wylde, and Dimebag Darrell.
The 40th anniversary of MXR’s incorporation finds the company more vibrant and exciting than ever, offering dozens of models for guitar players and bass players, with the time-honored effects that got the company started sitting proudly alongside forward-thinking boxes never dreamed of by the founders.
The fact that we can’t remember a time when there weren’t hundreds of stompboxes to choose from is due in large part to MXR. The company’s first print ad, which appeared on the back cover of Rolling Stone and featured the then-unheard-of Phase 90, stated simply, “MXR: We Are Here.” Those words are far truer on the 40th anniversary than they were when they were written. The next 40 years will only bring more incredible sounds in neat little boxes to innovative musicians everywhere as the company that created such a big part of the soundtrack of our past provides the tools to take music into the future. Prepare to be amazed all over again.
This year, we’re celebrating MXR’s 40 years of innovation with a series of mini documentary videos covering its history—from being sold out of a suitcase to appearing on the world’s biggest stages—along with numerous artists, engineers, pedal designers, and original MXR personnel telling stories of sonic inspiration and discovery. Watch the trailer below for just a small sample of what’s to come…
This spring, the Experience Hendrix Tour is kicking off for another round. It’s got a huge lineup of amazing musicians, including original Band of Gypsys bass player Billy Cox as well as Dunlop artists Zakk Wylde and Buddy Guy to Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Eric Gales, and Eric Johnson. It’s going to be one hell of a fitting tribute to Jimi Hendrix. Go to experiencehendrixtour.com to see the rest of the star-studded lineup and find out where and when you can get your tickets.
Since many of the artists playing will be using Dunlop effects on this tour, we decided to revisit our look at the effects Jimi Hendrix used and how he used them. Do you use any of the effects he helped make famous? Let us know in the comment section!
Jimi Hendrix: His Effects and How He Used Them
The modern age of the electric guitarist begins with Jimi Hendrix. His creative use of the tools at his disposal set a precedent for tone crafting and sonic texturing that countless numbers of players continue to pursue today. With a combination of effects that included the Fuzz Face® Distortion, the Cry Baby® Wah Wah, the Uni-Vibe® Chorus/Vibrato, and the Octavio® Octave Fuzz, Hendrix was able to vary his tones in seemingly endless ways that fail to sound dated nearly 50 years on. Equal parts sonic braggadocio and understated elegance, Hendrix used his instrument, his hands, his effects, and most importantly his ears to concoct a brilliant synergy of sound and song rarely, if ever, equaled.
Below we take a look at the key effects Hendrix used to change the face of music forever.
With a Fuzz Face Distortion, Hendrix could elicit an endless variety of tones by using different pickup combinations, manipulating his guitar’s volume control, and picking at different areas of a string. This unruly stompbox not only gave him a full-on primal howl with its burly, fat-sounding fuzz tones—it afforded him remarkably detailed clean textures as well.
The album Are You Experienced remains a shining example of Hendrix’s ingenious use of the effect. The song “Manic Depression,” for example, has Hendrix veer in and out of grainy yet-almost-twangy tones during the verses only to go to full-on meltdown during the solo with howling sustain and thick-as-a-brick midrange. By backing down his guitar’s volume control, Hendrix used the exaggerated treble bite and hyper-sensitive attack the Fuzz Face offers to enhance clean tones and make them really speak. Another example of this sonic yin-yang is, among others, “Third Stone From the Sun,” as it features some amazingly jangly chordal work as well as the insane sonic equivalent of WWIII, all achieved with help from the Fuzz Face.
Released in August of ’67, “Burning of the Midnight Lamp” is the first recorded example of Hendrix using a Cry Baby Wah Wah. From then on, Hendrix used the effect often. “Up From the Skies” from Axis: Bold as Love shows Jimi’s jazziest and most subtle use of the wah wah as he uses it to add quick, throaty sweeps to the tune’s hip chord voicings.
For the most part, Hendrix’s wah wah technique was extremely bold. Whether it was for propulsive rhythmic accents, like on the stinky funk of “Little Miss Lover,” or as a constant force on tracks such as “Still Raining, Still Dreaming” or “Voodoo Chile (Slight Return),” Hendrix managed to use the wah wah in cavalier, over-the-top ways without ever wearing it out—not an easy feat!
With the release of Band of Gypsys in 1970, Hendrix managed to elevate another effect to hallowed status—the Uni-Vibe Chorus/Vibrato. With its thick, smoky swirl, this effect’s complex “phasiness” throbs and undulates throughout the entire live album. Although Hendrix used the Uni-Vibe on a handful of studio recordings late in his career, it’s “Machine Gun” from Band of Gypsys that stands as his ultimate statement with the effect. From the tune’s outset, Hendrix’s use of space enhances the spookiness of the Uni-Vibe’s hazy modulation. As the tune ramps up, Hendrix ups the intensity and keeps it there, starting his solo with a single sustained note that tears right through your soul.”
And who can forget the singular, most important Uni-Vibe sound of all? On his version of “The Star Spangled Banner” at Woodstock, Hendrix single-handedly created the anthem for a generation. Utilizing the swirly, chewy goodness of the Uni-Vibe to great effect, he sent millions into a psychedelic trance that some have yet to return from.
Hendrix used the Octavio for some of his prettiest passages as well as for some of his gnarliest. The song “One Rainy Wish” from Axis: Bold as Love definitely falls into the former category as Hendrix uses the Octavio to add a dreamy otherworldliness that enhances the tune’s sweetness. However, “Who Knows” and “We Gotta Live Together” from Band of Gypsys find Hendrix eliciting barks, belches, and skronks as he unleashes a veritable clinic on using the Octavio while playing double-stop 4ths and 5ths—he even throws in some wah wah for good measure. Sick! Listen to the end riff of “We Gotta Live Together” for even more stony low note howl. The most famous Octavio track, however, is undoubtedly “Purple Haze.” You can hear how Hendrix uses his pickup and volume knob settings as well as his picking attack to vary between different flavors of effect on different parts of the tune. Master composer, interplanetary blues man, and sonic visionary—genius!
Finally, please watch the first two videos in our series of artist interviews about the influence Jimi Hendrix had on the use of guitar effects in rock music, and his influence as a player and an artist, featuring Dweezil Zappa, and Kenny Wayne Shepherd…
NAMM 2014 has come and gone. We’ve shaken our hangovers, head cold and flus, regrouped the troops and are back in office in full force.
We had another great show, introduced a whole host of new products—which you can read all about, with demo videos, in a previous post on the Dunlop Blog—saw a lot of old friends, made a lot of new friends, and did a lot of good business. As usual, the show was a whirlwind of new gear, loud sounds, camera flashes and video shoots, and we wouldn’t miss it for the world.
We’d like to thank our friends and partners in the musical instruments industry who provided us with gear we used on stage… Aguilar, Carr Amplifiers, Mesa Boogie, LAA Amps, Fargen Amps, Atelier Z, Spector, Luttrell Guitarworks, Arcane Pickups, Echopark Guitars, GoGo Tuners, Moollon, Lava Cables, Trussart Guitars, Samson, Retro Guitars, and Hercules.
Please enjoy this gallery of photos chronicling our experiences on the NAMM Show floor…
NAMM 2014 is here, and that means it’s time to announce some sweet new Dunlop gear. Head over to our New Products section to see individual pages for each product, but here’s a rundown (with videos!):
First, let’s talk pedals. We have new releases from our standard MXR® line, including the FET Driver and the Uni-Vibe® Chorus/Vibrato. From MXR Bass Innovations, we have the Bass Preamp, and from the Custom Shop, watch out for the La Machine—a garage rocker’s fuzzy dream come true—the Phase 99—featuring two Phase 90 circuits in a single pedal—and the suped up Micro Amp +.
As if that wasn’t enough, we’ve brought back the tone conditioning mojo of the Echoplex® EP-3 tape echo unit in the form of the Echoplex Preamp. From Cry Baby®, we have the Halo™ inductor-equipped Clyde McCoy® Wah Wah. And for those of you who’ve been asking for the features of the Volume (X) volume/expression pedal in the larger housing of the DVP1 Volume Pedal, we’ve got the Volume (XL).
Last but not least, Way Huge® has some tasty morsels for you. The Havalina™ Germanium Fuzz and the Swollen Pickle™ Dirty Donny Edition, which serves up the same corpulent fuzz as the MkII but with a smaller housing, six external controls, and a sweet paint job from legendary rock artist Dirty Donny.
Now let’s talk accessories—we’ve got some sweet new Dunlop Picks and Bass Strings. Primetone™ Sculpted Plectra feature hand-burnished sculpted edges for fast, articulate runs and effortless strumming. By popular demand, we’ve inducted the Ultex® Jazz III XL, Tortex® Jazz III XL, and Tortex Jazz III White picks into the Cult of Jazz III. And finally, for you bass players out there who want to stand out in the mix with a crisp top end without giving up any of your fundamental, look no further than Dunlop Super Bright™ Bass Strings, available in both Steel and Nickel.
Are you or any of your friends attending NAMM 2014? If so, make your way over to our booth at #4568 and check out all the new gear firsthand.