Sola Sound’s Yorkshire connection reveals how he carried the legendary Tone Bender baton up north with D*A*M…
What was the first pedal you built and how did the design come about?
“The first pedal I built - that worked!- was from Craig Anderton’s book [Electronic Projects For Musicians]. It was called the Tube Sound Fuzz and it used a CMOS chip. The first D*A*M [Differential Audio Manifestationz] pedal was the Rooster, which was basically a [Dallas] Rangemaster in a small box.
"I really liked Tony Iommi’s sound, and the Rangemaster was an important part of that. They were expensive back then, but they’re even more expensive now!”
What do you think it is about D*A*M that makes it unique?
“I’m honest about things and it’s quite simple stuff - we don’t make anything too complicated, and if I’ve based one of our pedals on something, that’s the first thing I’ll say. Like the Meathead is based on a Fuzz Face - there’s no hiding that. There’s a lot of marketing hype surrounding pedals these days.”
What’s your best-selling pedal and why do you think that is?
“Anything Tone Bender related. It’s gone really crazy with the old 60s Sola Sound stuff. The original ones are selling for thousands these days. Sola Sound is one of the oldest companies - it was founded in 1962, and they’ve never stopped doing Sola Sound and Colorsound pedals.
"Back in 2009, we were making our version of a Professional MKII, and underneath was written ‘Sola Sound Tone Bender Replica’. Being a bit naive, I didn’t think that putting another company’s name on my pedals was a bad thing, but they got in touch and said, ‘Would you please not do that?’
"So I apologised. I was trying to give them kudos, or respect, y’know? A couple of weeks later they rang again and said, ‘How do you fancy building them for us?’”
Which notable players/bands have used D*A*M pedals?
“I like it when there’s a musical connection in my head. I like Monster Magnet and Phil [Caivano] uses our stuff. Terry Glaze from Pantera uses our pedals for some of his solo stuff, and we got one of the [Sola Sound] Professional MKII Tone Benders to Jimmy Page.”
Is there anything new on the horizon with D*A*M?
“This year we’ve mainly been focusing on the Sola Sound stuff. I’m cracking on with the MK1.5 and the MKII Tone Benders, and Danny [Tunstill] is cracking on with the Sola Sound BUM Fuzz, which is like the Edwyn Collins [A Girl Like You] B&M Fuzz Unit.”
Tell us a secret about effects that you’ve discovered…
“Well, if I told you a secret, it wouldn’t be a secret any more, would it? [laughs]. But okay… When it comes down to germanium transistor circuits, such as old Fuzz Faces and Rangemaster units, anyone can just slap the parts together, but that doesn’t mean it’ll end up sounding like it should do - it’s all about the biasing. That’s the main thing.”
Name some common mistakes guitarists make with effects…
“Don’t buy a fuzz pedal and expect to immediately sound like Jimi Hendrix or Jimmy Page from whatever song off whatever record. Germanium transistors are little gremlins and they’re really sensitive to temperature, the type of amp, amp volume, and so on… and who knows what the picture was when they recorded those parts?”
What new pedal triggers your GAS most now?
“I don’t really pay attention to anything past 1978! That’s what I’m into. It’s like music - I’d rather just go back to the roots of it. If I’m working on something, I don’t really want to know what anyone else is doing; I’d rather interpret it for myself.”
What’s your favourite vintage pedal and why?
“It’d be a Sola Sound MKII Professional Tone Bender. It varies, but that’s the one I always come back to. I like the MKII’s gain structure and midrange. I’ve got a real soft spot for it - it’s just a greatsounding pedal.”
What pedals are on your own effects ’board?
“I don’t have an effects ’board! I’ve never owned a pedalboard. I’m still stuck in the past. I play bass in a couple of bands and I just use one fuzz pedal. I’ll choose whatever fuzz pedal to use and it goes in the backpack - that’s pretty much it. I can’t even remember the last time I plugged two pedals together in a row.
"I don’t even like putting a tuner in line. I’ll tune before the gig, unplug it and hope for the best! But I totally understand the pedalboard thing and, obviously, D*A*M makes very pedalboard-friendly effects.”