Saturday, February 28, 2009


Ladies and Gentlemen, feast your eyes upon my new Electro-Harmonix Big Muff Pi fuzz pedal. I bought it on Ebay a few days ago.

Fuzz is a new thing for me. I've had other distortion pedals, mind you, but that's quite a different aesthetic. Most distortion pedals are designed to emulate the sound of an overdriven tube amplifier, or simply to push your amp's tubes into overdrive. That's the ubiquitous electric guitar sound: rich, singing, saturated with overtones. (Incidentally, the highly musical way tubes distort an audio signal is the reason why twenty-first century guitar amp technology still uses them. Most solid state amps are sad, buzzy things.) My go-to distortion pedal is one of the best, a Fulltone OCD. It's known for being extremely touch-sensitive -- I can control the amount of distortion with my guitar's volume control or by varying how hard I play -- and for how little it colors the tone of the guitar.

By contrast, a fuzz pedal like the Big Muff makes your amp sound like it's about to vomit its guts across the room.

Fuzz is the earliest form of distortion effect. It has its origins in the 50s and early 60s, when guitarists like Link Wray and Johnny Burnette were doctoring their amps to get the sound: slashing their speaker cones with razor blades, removing a tube here and there, maybe plugging the speaker output of one amp into the input jack of another (which must have sounded amazing until they exploded). That's the kind of thing a fuzz pedal emulates. It's the sound of damage, chaos, and violence. Of shoplifting, driving drunk, and having unprotected sex with heavily tattooed strangers. It's a horrible, horrible thing.

As a recovering classical guitarist, having spent so many years refining my tone, obsessing over the fine details of string gauge and fingernail geometry and angle of attack and other nuances of technique, I'm finding this thing more fun than a bathtub full of guppies. I've been spending hours in my music room, ladling out earfuls of primitive audio sludge and giggling like a madman.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Really, I mean it. STOP DYING, people.

It's getting to be a bad time to be a famous person I like. I just found out Erick Purkhiser died a couple of days ago. He was better known as Lux Interior, cofounder and lead singer of the Cramps. I can't really describe what a loss this is. Damn it. Damn the world.

(If you know the Cramps and their work, then you can guess exactly how safe for work these videos are. If you don't, you have only yourself to blame.)