In the 80s there was a movie called Quest for Fire. An interesting movie showing the struggle from early humans for the magical.. fire! Recently, I’ve been on a similar quest. Not for fire, but for drive pedals, and it got me thinking about why we search for drives and figured it might be an interesting post, and some comments might help with my own quest.
Drive pedals… oh, there are so many drive pedals out there. Why so many? In my opinion because a) there somewhat easier to make, but more importantly b) builders can add their flavor to circuit giving them interesting characteristics. Obviously, the demand and need for drive pedals is incredible and is what pushes the need. But what are people looking for? Why do musicians constantly change their drives?
For me, I’ve gone through some cycles with drives. Early on I used drives as my ‘medium grit’ tone. I use to play a Rivera Knucklehead and would use the drive on my dirty section that was somewhat cleaned up. That drive pedal would get it to stage 2 and the boost on the amp would take it all the way. Back in those days I would be all about the Crowther Audio Hot Cake (and with various versions of this pedal). Later, I was getting into more lead work, and would end up with the classic Tube Screamer for the lead boost, but I wasn’t a fan of the ‘tight’ drive, but I did like the mid boost and how it cut through the mix, and at this point… the quest began!
Since those days, I switched to a Matchless HC30 and my never ending hunt for drives to manage my lead boost went into full effect. I personally like a level of transparency since I do really like the tone of the Matchless. I initially went from the Spaceman Aphelion, but it was a little dark for me. Then I spent a long time on the Cochrane Tim pedal. That was on my board for a while, but with the gain up, it was a little ‘fizzy’ and ‘squeely’ with my Jazzmaster. It was hard to get the feedback, and I really need to state, that is because of the combination of my amp and the guitar. The pedal slays. I then dug up a pedal that I had and pulled off of my board years ago – Creation Audio Labs Holy Fire. Whoa! This isn’t as transparent as I want, but it made my amp explode when I stomped on it.. which I really liked. That was on my board for a couple of years, but the pedal began to have problems, so I thought I would take advantage of this set back to explore new ground. And that is where I’m at – pulling old drive pedals off the shelf and seeing how they respond. The problem I believe, is that I want a very amp-like high gain, with good low end response while not being too compressed. In a perfect world, I would totally go with a different amp for a lead boost, but 2 amps would be too much gear to haul from venue to venue. My bandmates would hate me.
Drives are funny that way, being so similar we’re faced with how it reacts and responds to the amp and guitar and the actual tone and texture of the pedal. Somewhere there is a perfect combination for me.
So am I bat-shit crazy about overdrives? Or do you guys have similar quests? Let me know by commenting below. Also, if you have any recommendations for overdrives for me.. let me know as well!