Joe Bonamassa Revealed His Favorite Boss Distortion Pedal and We’re Shocked

Although known for being one of the torch bearers of the classic old-school blues-rock music, Joe Bonamassa has a somewhat unexpected favorite among Boss distortion pedals.

Of course, the company is famous for making so many different dirtboxes over the years, anything from smooth-clipping overdrives to insane fuzzes. But although one would expect that Joe would rather go with a vintage-style pedal to subtly push his tube amps over the edge, he’s actually really into MT-2 Metal Zone.

Yes, that’s right. In a recently published interview segment for the Guitarist magazine, Bonamassa said:

“My favorite BOSS dirt pedal – and I know this is going to sound really fucking strange – is the [MT-2] Metal Zone.”

Joe Bonamassa testing a new EVH guitar onstage - Bonamassa Backstage

Not only that, but Bonamassa admits that he’s been into this pedal and this kind of tone for a long time. After all, he did grow up during the 1980s when everyone was crazy about high-gain tones.

“Being a child of the ’80s,” Bonamassa recalled, “I really dug the Metal Zone. I was a Metal Zone guy. I thought you could get some cool midrange things out of it with a clean amp. Just because it’s called the Metal Zone, that doesn’t mean you need to run the gain all the way up.”

The weirdest thing about this is that, weirdly enough, Joe’s revelation isn’t much of a shock. Plenty of other “unexpected” names are, or were, into Boss Metal Zone. First launched in 1991, MT-2 was a continuation of the old HM-2 Heavy Metal pedal that blew up in the 1980s. But although intended as a metal-oriented unit, it can do a lot more than that in certain settings.

Boss Metal Zone - The King Of Versatility?

Apart from metal musicians, you’d find that the likes of Tom DeLonge or even blues-rock legend Warren Haynes have used one over the years. The most unexpected name we could thing of is none other than Prince. The guys from Daft Punk also used it, as well as Simon Neil of Biffy Clyro.

Over the years, the pedal got a somewhat negative reputation. The tone people got with it slowly started getting unpopular with naysayers criticizing its overly harsh tone. But in more recent years, it slowly started getting more popular again. Back in 2017, Periphery’s Mark Holcomb even claimed that MT-2 was a huge inspiration for him.

“I started playing guitar in 1995, I was 13,” he told Reverb. “Less than a year into it, I wanted to get something that would make me sound like James Hetfield.”

My First Pedal: Mark Holcomb Plays the Boss MT-2 Metal Zone | Reverb Interview

“The genius thing about Metal Zone is that it just says Metal Zone on it. Any idiot with eyes can be like, ‘Wow! This is gonna make me sound metal! I’ll buy this!'”

“And yeah, that’s what I did. I picked it up, plugged it in and I swear to god, it was my favorite pedal for years! It gave me that cartoonishly ridiculous scooped metal sound.”

“That was my doorway to playing Metallica riffs all day, ’cause that’s really all I used it for. I’d play Metallica riffs, Megadeth riffs, Pantera riffs, that’s what I cut my teeth on. I haven’t played through a Metal Zone in probably 15 years.”

BOSS METALZONE - WORST DISTORTION PEDAL EVER?

Getting more into the matter, he explained:

“I think if I didn’t have it as a teenager, it would have been a lot harder for me to stand there in my room miming along to Metallica, daydreaming about playing stadiums. I would play the whole ‘Master of Puppets’ record, standing with my Epiphone Les Paul down to my knees and a fake mic stand [in front of me].”

“In retrospect, it’s ridiculous; it did not sound good at all, but it helped me envision what it was like to be a heavy metal guitar player.”

Clutch - Red Alert (Boss Metal Zone) [Official Video]

And there’s also a band like Clutch who were so inspired by Metal Zone that they wrote and recorded a song called “Red Alert (Boss Metal Zone).” During a 2022 interview with Guitar World, Clutch frontman Neil Fallon was asked about how this song came to be and whether he used the pedal for this track. He replied:

“I never did [use one] – I think Tim [Sult, guitarist] purchased one, but I don’t recall if he tracked with it. I saw that, and then I heard that it was a scientist trying to prove how easy it was to spread disinformation. I just took a step back and was like, ‘It’s easy to become accustomed to absurdities these days, but this is so absurd.”

Photo: Dmileson (Joe Bonamassa – Radio City Music Hall Jan 2014)

Author

  • David Slavkovic

    David always planned for music to be nothing more than a hobby. However, after a short career as an agricultural engineer he ended up news editor at KillerGuitarRigs, senior editor at Ultimate-Guitar.com, as well as a freelance contributor to online magazines such as GuitaristNextdoor.