The Pedals And Effects 5 really is a reader favorite. When we decided to go with not just interviewing musicians on tour, but submitting the questions to builders who play, it elevated the column. Tom Cram from Digitech/DOD is this week's contributor and his insight is clean, helpful and smart. I also like to think we are going bring awareness to the pedal purchasing community that most builders are great musicians with just as valid ideas about gear as touring musicians (Tom sure know way more than me about gear and how to use them).
Part of me wants to add that this is somewhat in response to Kirk Hammett's tweet about his new pedal line. Though I think Kirk Hammett may have been thinking of the bigger companies like Roland or Korg, or careless with his words. Most builders I know are great musicians. After his comments hit the media, I saw builders put him on blast and I thought this was a great way to educate anyone who may not know. Pedal designers are usually musicians/players and this week's builder, Tom Cram, can rip (check his videos on Facebook) and he knows tone!
1. What is your number one/go-to pedal on your pedalboard and why?
Fuzz, always fuzz.
Right now I’m completely head-over heels in love with the Black Arts Toneworks LSTR. I can get this tough 70’s sounding biker-trash fuzz, but with punch and fast attack. I have a zillion fuzzes but the LSTR is the one that stays on my board.
2. What is your favorite combination of pedals? It can be a combination of 2 pedals or multiple pedals!
Obscura Delay > Whammy Ricochet > Ventura Vibe. I know that the rule of thumb is pitch shifters first, but I like to manipulate my delay-line loops after I’ve made them; so I put my pitch-shifter after the delay, and then into a mod pedal. Most of the background pads and loops that you hear in my Flat Earth stuff (www.theflatearth.com) is done this way. I’ll build up an interesting delay-line loop, shift it up or down in pitch and then make it sound broken and wobbly with pitch vibrato.
3. When did you realize a pedal(s) could evolve your playing/sound and what pedal(s) was it?
It was actually jump-started by rack gear. Back in ’88 I bought a battered and quite used Ibanez DM1000 rack delay and it literally changed my life. I went from being a “purist-no-effects” bassist to being forced to play guitar just so I could create rhythmic delays and loops with this thing. From there I started discovering that there were all kinds of cool pedals that I could add to the FX loop or in-line, and that became my pedal education. I’d then record the results to cassette on this big old boom box. Hmm, now that I’ve thought about this, it makes me wonder where those tapes are now.
4. In the future, what would you like to see pedal builders create (from scratch) or modify on an existing standard?
My wishes are all pretty practical: I‘d like to see the industry move to TRS I/O. I’d like to see us all get together and create some sort of cheap universal control protocol just for pedals. I’d also like to see carbon batteries go away, I think the Pedaltrain Volto and Sanyo Pedal Juice are genius.
5. What advice can you give to musicians who are trying to expand their musical horizons with pedals and effects?
Well, I think that the word “musician” in your question is key - Are you a guitarist or a musician? Further are you a musician or an artist? So with that in mind; don’t get too hung-up on what you consider to be your “tone” on the instrument and think more about what you consider to be your voice as a musician. I think of Jimmy Page a lot when it comes to questions like this. Jimmy Page has a multitude of tones, but more importantly he has a galaxy of ideas in his head and his “tones” are in service to those ideas. The quest for tone can be a cul-de-sac, but the quest for your voice is what allows you to occasionally transcend craft and create art.
Was that answer pretentious or what?
No Tom, that was on point!