EarthQuaker Devices’ YouTube show Show Us Your Junk! is always essential viewing for guitar effects pedal nuts and gear aficionados of all stripes, affording us a deeper understanding of an artist’s gear choices, and there’s always something cool and weird and worthy of further investigation.
In the latest episode, however, it is EQD’s founder and president Jamie Stillman who is putting his collection in front of the camera, and if offers a fascinating insight into the gear tastes of one of the most exciting effects pedal designers today, and also some of the psychological aspects of collecting gear.
Shot on various basements and former EQD office spaces in Akron, Ohio, Stillman’s collection was started accidentally, with his parents’ basement hosting band practice and becoming a repository of gear, then grew from impulse hoarding and a curiosity about what something might sound like and how it could influence an EarthQuaker Devices design.
Not all of it is super-premium. Quite the opposite. Much of it, Stillman admits, is inoperable, or simply sounds terrible, like an old organ that is “actual junk, total garbage”, serving little purpose other than decoration.
“I actually have no idea how I ended up collecting junk but I have been hoarding mediocre since I was 14 or 15,” says Stillman. “Like, half-working PV 215 cabinets, old pedals, broken cables, shitty guitars that look like nice guitars.”
For Stillman, the gear bug got serious under the influence of Fugazi and Sonic Youth. Back then he had an Epiphone SC-550 Scroll. He now owns a 1974 Rickenbacker 360 because Guy Picciotto used one and he always had great tone, even when playing in high volume, high-gain situations. Stillman’s Ricky behaves a little differently, though.
“Any times I’ve ever tried to do it it just feeds back horribly and sounds really thin,” he says. “So, apparently I am missing the secret.”
Other super-cool – and maybe surprising – items in his collection include a Jimmy Carbonetti custom build electric guitar, a lurid pink BC Rich Gunslinger S-style with a reverse headstock, and an Ibanez double-neck rip-off of Gibson’s EDS-1275.
His inventory of guitar amps, effects pedal and studio and recording equipment is where things really get out of control. There are some real obscure amps; a Teisco Check Mate 25 he bought for 40 bucks from Guitar Center, an AIMS Personalized Producer that has been rebuilt by EQD’s Joe Golden, and a Peavey Musician head that was bought after he saw Troy Van Leeuwen use one with Queens Of The Stone Age.
But by some distance, the weirdest item of all is a DIY multi-effects integrated pedalboard and rack unit that resembles a prop from Buck Rogers In The 25th Century. In reality, it’s probably from the ‘80s, though Stillman is not sure.
“I don’t think it ever worked! And I can’t help but think that if it did work it would be so unreliable and probably very, very noisy,” he says. “But, as far as I can tell, it is the only piece of gear like legitimate folk art I have ever seen. I wish I had more information about this thing. I wish I could find the person who made this.”
As Stillman tells it, much of this stuff just accumulates. Some gets used, some is handy for a pedal designer to have on-hand for reference, others just gather dust, but all of it contributes to a sense of anxiety.
“That stuff piles up and I think the overwhelming feeling that I have from having such a big collection is anxiety, like, I have all these things and I am never going to get to them,” he says. “Every time I pick them up I go, ‘That’s why I bought it, because it does this thing’ and I never use it again. And if you don’t use old stuff, it falls apart. I’m sort of responsible for killing all of the stuff that sits in my basement and that gives me a lot of anxiety.”
It’s an interesting perspective, one that will strike a chord with any of us who are running out of storage space and of uses for the gear we bought because it once sounded good for a musical idea we once had 10 years ago but outgrown. Such is life.
Also, on EarthQuaker Devices’ YouTube channel, there’s a late ‘80s-style ad presented by Cranker & Cranker aimed at players who are having problems with their overdrive pedals? Is this a subtle easter-egg teaser that EQD is bringing back the OOP Speaker Cranker, the single-knob overdrive pedal that operates a little like an extra preamp tube in your amp?
That would be big news. Last year, there was a special limited run Special Cranker for the Japanese market, featuring a few different controls. As Stillman admitted then, the Speaker Cranker is his favourite overdrive. Maybe it will return in some form, Special or otherwise.