We at Pedals And Effects have a series called "The Pedals And Effects 5" where we've asked fellow touring musicians five questions we think could help our readers (and fellow musicians) gain some insight to the world of effects. Today's installment is a little different because it features, not only a great musician, but a legendary pedal builder, Jamie Stillman of Earthquaker Devices!
When you really think about it, a lot of pedal builders are already gigging musicians, and since they are creators of effects so reaching out to them was a no brainer. We thought we would have a Pedals And Effects 5 builders/players edition because most designers either play either guitar, bass, synths, drums or, like our first guest Jamie Stillman of Earthquaker Devices, they are multi-instrumentalists.
I have known Jamie since we started emailing back in 2010 after I heard about his Ghost Disaster Reverb/Delay. He was the only employee at Earthquaker Devices and he hammered out pedals in the basement of his home. After corresponding via email, texts, and phone calls, I finally met Jamie at an L.A. Guitar show and we have been great friends ever since.
Jamie continues to be the biggest boutique pedal builder in the game, and has created some of the best effects in the last 5-6 years. The Rainbow Machine, Hoof Reaper, Hummingbird, Afterneath and his newest game changer, the Avalanche Run, have all made myself and a lot of my friends' sound giant and more unique. Jamie has had a huge impact on music's sound and I believe he will always be a leading innovator in pedal building while still killing it musically with his band Relaxer!
1. What is your number one/go-to pedal on your pedalboard and why?
It would have to be the Speaker Cranker. I designed the pedal specifically for the Music Man HD130 I've been using live for the last 6-7 years. It has a solid state preamp and a tube power amp so it has a ton of clean headroom, which is great for using a lot of pedals and using volume for dramatic effect. The Speaker Cranker adds the character of a slightly broken up tube amp without changing the overall tone, or limiting the headroom. I've tried to play shows without it, and I'm never happy with the tone.
2. What is your favorite combination of pedals? It can be a combination of two pedals or multiple pedals!
It would be a tie between 2 groups: Hoof, Grand Orbiter and Hummingbird (all used with an excessive amount of volume) is my favorite combination if I’m looking to make it sound like everything is exploding. My other favorite combo is the Hoof with either the Organizer or the Digitech Drop if I’m looking to make a part as overtly caveman-heavy as I can.
3. When did you realize a pedal(s) could evolve your playing/sound and what pedal(s) was it?
I had a few pedals here and there when I was a kid, but the first pedal that I couldn't live without was a KMD analog delay. I bought it in 1995 and I think I used it at every show until my band broke up in 2004. I still have it - It's covered by a disgusting brown sludge but still sounds amazing.
4. In the future, what would you like to see pedal builders create (from scratch) or modify on an existing standard?
More things that they would actually use and less shit that is just keeping up with whatever others are doing. I also think people should start using all the available DSP technology to create more interesting things rather than just trying to make the most perfect emulation of previous analog design. Loaded question considering that is my job and all! I try to do my part, even when something is an old standard, I'll never be happy with it until it works to suit my own personal needs.
5. What advice can you give to musicians who are trying to expand their musical horizons with pedals and effects?
I tried to answer this about 10 different ways, but the the best answer is the most cliché: Don't be afraid to experiment. Like, there are totally no rules bro, feel free to get free and shit.