(5 questions we ask artists – the same 5, every time)
Today’s entry for the Pedals and Effects 5 features Tera Melos bassist, and pedal junkie Nathan Latona! For those just tuning in, “The Pedals and Effects 5” is where we ask musicians of all styles and all walks of life how they first got into pedals, and what pedals are currently inspiring them. It will be the same five questions every time, so be sure to keep an eye out to see what your favorite artist has to say about their favorite pedals and effects. From their unconventional sounds, cutthroat live shows and obsession with the Simpsons, Tera Melos has been heralded as one of the pioneers of “math rock,” Tera Melos released their latest album X’ed Out in 2013, you can find out more information about Tera Melos here.
1. What is your number one/go-to pedal on your pedalboard and why?
This one is tough one, there are a lot that come to mind, but if you put a gun to my head I would probably say that I over-use the BOSS PS-5 Super Shifter. I use it for a few different things, but I really like using it to shift to a 3rd or a 5th instead of fretting the note. subtle little effect that makes the bass sound a little rubbery, or like it is a fretless being mimicked on a keyboard.
2. What is your favorite combination of pedals? It can be a combination of 2 pedals or multiple pedals.
I like taking the Digitech Bass Whammy, setting it to harmonize a 10th under the natural note I am playing, and pairing it with a dense sounding dirt/or fuzz pedal like the Earthquaker Devices Dirt Transmitter or the Devi Ever Big Distortion Sound Machine. Throw in some of that shifting that I mentioned with the BOSS PS-5, and you get some really demented, synth-y sounding stuff.
3. When did you realize a pedal(s) could evolve your playing/sound and what pedal(s) was it?
When we started the band, we were a four piece, I was reluctant to get into pedals for a few reasons. Nick and Jeff (our original 2nd guitarist) had started to acquire a good amount of effects and were doing cool things with them, but I kind of felt that my role and the role of the bass was, well, just to play bass and hold the song together while all of these other wacky noises were going on around me.
There was also some resistance on my part because of the dynamic of the band at that time, and I wasn’t very open to suggestions from other people regarding my gear. Like, if someone told me that I should get an octave pedal, I would feel insulted at the notion that I was being told what to do — which is totally stupid looking back. I was using a Sansamp and a tuner that I would place haphazardly on the floor wherever we would play. I eventually added a BOSS bass overdrive pedal because I figured there was some use for it in our more chaotic parts, but that was about it. Three pedals plopped on the floor with maybe a little bit of tape to hold them in place. Naturally, it was suggested that I get a board and put the pedals on the board, but of course I resisted. In fact, it took Jeff showing up at a show we were playing with my three pedals velcro-ed to a board for me to actually start using a pedal board. It was really sweet and I think we all joked about it and the other guys were like “see? now you have room for a few other pedals too!”.
At one point either Nick or Jeff let me borrow a BOSS DD-3, and I spent a whole 8 hour shift at the liquor store I was working at fucking around with it. I brought in a practice amp, a cable, and that pedal–no instrument–and just made weird sounds by tapping on the exposed 1/4″ input and twisting nobs. It clicked for me then that you could do a lot of outside of the box things with effects, and I started to build up my own supply after that. Sometime after that, Jeff quit the band, we became a three-piece, and there was a lot more room to experiment more with effects, and I continued to build from there.
4. In the future, what would you like to see pedal builders create (from scratch) or modify on an existing standard?
I am always on the lookout for a really gnarly, super square wave form tremolo. Like, extreme square. Able to really chop up bass notes. There are a lot of tremolo pedals out there, but the are designed more for guitarists and are more diverse than what I am looking for. I think that diversity is cool in a pedal, but I really just want a tremolo that breaks up the signal so rigidly and hits so hard that it makes people in the crowd sick and have to leave the room.
5. What advice can you give to musicians who are trying to expand their musical horizons with pedals and effects?
I would say to not be afraid to get really wacky. If you are not getting a desired result, consider pairing what you are getting with a combination of other effects to discover something totally bizarre. Don’t feel that something can’t be applied to what you are doing–this really held me back at the formation of our band–find a way that it can be applied. Experiment a ton; you are going to forget settings and tricks and need to develop new ones that you will also forget and so on. It is all part of the adventure.