We hook up with hotshot fuzz-wright and oddball artificer Tim Webster of London’s Fredric Effects…
1. What was the first pedal you built and how did the design come about?
“The first pedal I really got into was the [InterFax HP-1] Harmonic Percolator that [Steve] Albini used; I’ve always loved Shellac - I even have some aluminium neck guitars! The Harmonic Perkolator led to the Fredric Effects Utility Percolator, which is still very popular.
“The very first pedal I built and sold in any significant number was a clone of the 1970s MXR Distortion +. The original pedal had 1N270 germanium clipping diodes. Later, I combined that circuit with the [Dan Armstrong] Green Ringer ring mod and that went on to become the Fredric Effects Grumbly Wolf.”
2. What is it that makes Fredric Effects unique?
“Fredric Effects has a slightly oddball ethos and a willingness to take on some of the weirder stuff that other people might not look at - things that sound obnoxious and a little unusual, such as the Systech Harmonic Energizer, or the weird Japanese fuzzes, like the [Shin-ei] FY-2 fuzz and the Ibanez Standard Fuzz.”
3. What’s your best-selling pedal and why do you think that is?
“It’s the ones that sound ‘nice’, like the [West Germany Vintage] Tremolo and the Zombie Klone, or Golden Eagle. It’s subjective as to whether the Zombie Klone sounds better than other Klon clones, but they sell well, so I can only assume they sound good.”
4. Which notable players/bands have used Fredric Effects pedals?
“Future Of The Left, Kurt Vile, Biffy Clyro, The Jesus And Mary Chain, Foals, Marmozets (they used a Pocket Weasel in the studio), Arrows of Love, Bombay Bicycle Club… Oh, and the touring guitarist for Boyzone!”
5. What’s new on the horizon with Fredric Effects?
“There’s a Fredric Effects guitar coming out - the prototypes are currently named ‘Zeitnik’. It’s offset, like a Fender Jaguar or a Hopf Telstar, and has a built-in preamp circuit called the ThumbCutter, which is a clean germanium boost going into a hard-clipping op-amp silicon fuzz. The pickups are designed in-house and are single coils of a non-standard size, not too dissimilar to the old DeArmond ‘gold foils’. You can put the pickups in and out of phase with a rotary switch.
“Also, I’m going to be doing a Univox Square Wave fuzz reissue - I’ve tested the circuit and it sounds cool. I’d love to make a reissue of the Shin-ei Psychedelic Machine; it was a desktop studio unit (like the Roland Space Echo) that combined the Uni-Vibe and Super-Fuzz circuits. They’re incredibly rare, but I saw one go for about £900 at auction recently.”
6. Name some common mistakes that guitarists make with effects...
“The worst mistake is frying a pedal, so check the voltage before you plug in! I normally build a protection diode in, that will blow before anything else does, but at best you’re still going to have a pedal that doesn’t work.
“Also, if you’re experiencing problems with hum, check you haven’t got a laptop or mobile phone plugged into the same power outlet as your pedals - those power supplies often generate noise that goes straight into the guitar circuit.”
7. What’s your best tone tip?
“Stay off the beaten track, keep on experimenting and don’t listen to people on the internet - there’s no hard and fast rules when it comes to effects. I really like the sound of pickups when they’re out of phase - y’know, that kind of cocked wahpedal sound. I recently bought some nice CTS push-pull pots and rewired a Musima guitar to switch the polarity of the pickups in and out of phase.”
8. What pedals are on your own effects board?
“From the guitar, I have a Kl*n buffer going into a Utility Perkolator, then a Foxrite silicon fuzz, a Zesty Comp (my version of the Dan Armstrong Orange Squeezer), a Mad Professor Snow White Auto Wah, and an Ibanez ES2 Echo Shifter. I like putting compression after fuzz - that’s like a Hüsker Dü thing.”
9. What new pedal triggers your GAS most now?
“I really love the Ghost Effects Warmjet V - y’know, the Brian Eno fuzz. It’s got that really cool, raspy, Shin-ei kind of sound. Also, I need to get another MXR Script Phase 90 - they sound absolutely amazing, but my girlfriend nicked my one!”
10. What are your favourite effects moments on record and why?
“I love the sound of Mudhoney’s EP Superfuzz Bigmuff - that’s what first made me aware of fuzz pedals. Also, I love the sounds that Prince got from using Boss pedals - the sounds on the early records and live recordings are brilliant.”