Category: Music

Superblast!

A room with a view

I’m not one for making last-minute travel plans. Mostly it’s the cost that puts me off. I’m also not a fan of the stress that comes when everything is booked and you’re left with the feeling of, “Well, now what do we do?” And anyway, spontaneity is over-rated and unbecoming once one reaches a certain age.

That being said, it’s important to recognize opportunity when it presents itself, even if it’s not necessarily easy or convenient. For example: a high-school friend mentions that he’s got an extra ticket to a sold-out concert this weekend. It’s a chance easily dismissed, especially if attending the show means flying to another city. It will be expensive and time consuming. It’ll be loud and hot and smelly. And your buddy isn’t the guy you hung out with 20 years ago. So really, it’s not worth it. Move along.

Of course, the band is one of your favorites. And that plane ticket actually won’t break the bank. Not that this makes such a trip any more sensible.

These are the first and second thoughts I had when I discovered a friend from long ago had an extra ticket to see Lush in Chicago. Fortunately, I heard one of those third thoughts when my wife said, “You should go.”

So I did go. And it was expensive. And loud, hot, and smelly. And my buddy wasn’t the same person I once knew.

Lush (plus bassist Phil King out of frame) perform at the Vic in Chicago

And that was all okay, because as it turns out, I wasn’t the same person either. Catching up with Kevin, I was reminded that some friendships transcend time and distance. Such friendships are few, and it should be mandatory to have a drink with those friends at least once every decade or so. Someday they won’t be around. Someday you won’t be around.

The show itself was nothing short of fucking amazing, but as a longtime fan of Lush, you’d expect me to say that. I’m not a music critic, and this isn’t a review. If that matters, you can get that here. Suffice it to say that this concert gave me the rare opportunity for something more than a trip down memory lane for a handful of best-of moments. It was an opportunity to re-engage with music that has held a meaningful place in my life. I am, as I always have been, blown away by their art. When art moves you like that, it should not be taken lightly.

Most importantly, I am reminded to listen to those third thoughts: you should go.

Emma Anderson dazzles us allMiki Berenyi and Phil King are solidMiki Berenyi's voice still soars while Justin Welch drives the beat

 

Thoughts about Clipping and Distortion

Working on an overdrive pedal, here’s a few resources about clipping and distortion:

And a more general resource about the TubeScreamer circuit:

And a good compilation of general breadboard techniques:

BYOC Pedal Build

I love BOSS compact pedals. Of all the various guitar effects, they are my favorites. There are detractors to the line, of course, but I think BOSS stompboxes are brilliant.

To start with, they are masterpieces of industrial design, ingeniously solving so many problems that all guitar pedals face. The casings are robust. The large, raised footbed makes them easy to operate without accidentally hitting the control knobs with an errant step. The battery is housed in a separate compartment which is opened via a single thumbscrew. Simple bold colors make the pedals easily identifiable on a darkened stage, and a consistent form factor makes them easily interchangeable.

Say what you will about tone suck, but the electronics inside are also remarkable. While the pedals may not utilize the highest grade of electronic components or deliver sound nuances capable of satisfying every artist, BOSS stompboxes find a balance between affordability and quality output that work for most people, including many professional musicians. And if it’s good enough for the likes of David Gilmour or Eric Clapton, it’s probably good enough for me.

Recently, when I decided I wanted to add another overdrive effect to my pedalboard, I knew that what I wanted was something Tube Screamer flavored. I’m not going to enter into the debate about whether the vintage ones are better or whatever. Most people can’t tell the difference between all the different varieties, and I’ve got better things to do than worry whether an effect gets me the precise tone color I desire. Among those “better” things? Build the effect myself.

The final product
The final product

So I looked at the kits offered by BYOC, and settled on their Classic Overdrive. Rather than put it into a standard case, however, I decided to mod the whole thing slightly to fit it into a BOSS enclosure from a dead pedal that I found on eBay. The biggest problem was getting the footswitch to fit, for which I had to make a modified latch for the battery/switch cover plate. Other components, such as the jacks and the AC adapter were taken from the broken pedal because they fit into the case better. I painted the whole thing, and using bake-on waterslide transfer decals was able to emulate the trademark BOSS font and appearance. After a few coats of polyurethane, the thing is ready to play. The effect works very well, and was easy to assemble thanks to the kit. I think I’m going to be very happy with it as a second OD on my board, and I can foresee experimenting with other pedal builds in the future.

Here’s a soundclip.

Here’s some pictures of the process.

The BOSS pedal disassembled.
The BOSS pedal..
Closeup of the hinge latch mod.
Closeup of the hinge latch mod.
Closeup of the footswitch mod.
Closeup of the footswitch mod.
BYOC kit parts.
BYOC kit parts.
The board.
The board.

Everything fits!
Everything fits!