Tone makers - Tim Webster: "Fredric Effects has a slightly oddball ethos and a willingness to take on some of the weirder stuff"

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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?

The worst mistake is frying a pedal, so check the voltage before you plug in!

“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!”

The ever-popular Utility Perkolator pedal

The ever-popular Utility Perkolator pedal

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?

Don’t listen to people on the internet - there’s no hard and fast rules when it comes to effects

“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.”

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