Recently, Guitar World published a brief exchange with modern blues legend Joe Bonamassa with the musician answering what’s the one pedal that he can’t go without. This is a part of Guitar World’s bigger feature that includes numerous guitarists answering the same question.
As for Bonamassa, who kind of got (in)famous in recent years over his negative stance towards excessive guitar pedal use, his choice is a classic overdrive pedal. He offered:
“My most-used pedal over the years has been the Ibanez Tube Screamer in both the TS9 and TS808 configurations.”
Joe also added:
“Historically, I have been in very different musical situations requiring different amounts of gain structure. A ‘green box’ is usable in almost any situation with almost any amp. It gives you a nice step up in the midrange frequencies (around 800Hz) that is useful for not only soloing but for power chords and big rhythms.”
Discussing this classic pedal and its many variations further, Bonamassa also reflected on some of the “boutique” clones of the Tube Screamer. After all, we’re looking at probably the most copied guitar pedals of all time. However, if you ask Joe, nothing beats the good old reissue of the 808. He added:
“There have been many versions of the Tube Screamer, and many boutique [Tube Screamer] copies have been made over the years. But for my $80 you can’t beat a reissue Ibanez TS808 to create a great sound with both Fender and Gibson electric guitars.”
What we should address, however, is that Ibanez’s TS808 is within the $140-150 territory. And even the used ones are way past the $80 price that he mentioned. We could assume that Joe overlooked some of the price changes and inflation over the years and just stuck with the last price he was familiar with. Nonetheless, he got his point across.
As far as other guitar players who were questioned about pedals that they can’t go without, Extreme’s Nuno Bettencourt also shared his choice recently. But although choosing a classic like Pro Co Rat wasn’t much of a surprise, Bettencourt did reveal a somewhat unconventional way he uses this distortion box. He said:
“I generally prefer going straight into my amp, except for this [Pro Co] Rat pedal that I’ve had for ages.”
“It’s supposed to be a distortion, but I turn the distortion all the way off. It’s there purely to tighten up my bottom-end, especially for single-note riffs like ‘Suzi (Wants Her All Day What?)‘ from ‘Extreme II: Pornograffitti.‘”
“I’m the only guitar player in the band, so I want to cut through and sound big. The only way to get the response I need is through a Rat pedal. It’s been there since day one and ain’t going anywhere.”
He also added:
“I tried playing without one and fuckin’ hated it! [Laughs] Other players think it’s not doing anything and would probably wonder if the battery is dead. It doesn’t change a single thing except for the tightness of the bass frequencies.”
Going back to Joe Bonamassa, the musician got some mixed reactions to his statement a few years ago where he mentioned how he’s “really gotten over” guitar pedals. He explained:
“I’ve really gotten over pedals. I can’t keep up with this craze of boutique pedals that make you sound like everything but your guitar. I can’t get my head around it.
“So you don’t want to play a guitar [properly] so you buy a box that makes it sound like an algorithm like you just fired up your computer and you can spend the night staring at your fuckin’ shoes? C’mon man…”
“I know I’ll get shit for saying this, but it’s fucking lazy. It’s insulting to people who spent 35 years playing and learning, like a lot of players. And we continue to work at it! These guys can barely play a chord but call themselves soundscapists. Get the fuck outta here! It’s bullshit.
“There’s so much masking and spin going on there. Can we get real for a minute? What do you actually play? Pick up an acoustic guitar… Try that!”
However, ne never denied actually using pedals but was somewhat weirded out (to put it mildly) by how some guitar players tend to be so obsessive about various gadgets. About a year later, he clarified the comment by detailing his rig and saying:
“Let’s talk about the elephant in the room, these pedals. I’ve said some positive things about pedals in the past…”
Asked about why everyone is giving him so much hard time about it, Bonamassa replied:
“Well, some of it is self-inflicted wounds, some of it is just misunderstood, and some of it is just part of being a grump. At the end of the day, everybody has good and bad days. The guy was interviewing me that day, I was probably stressed out and grumpy about something, I just unleashed…
“Anyway, we all survived, the Sun rose the next day.“
“Everybody likes pedals, everybody uses pedals. Me included. Just to clarify some of these mystiques and myths. I feel that these are to augment and accentuate playing. Not to create playing. That’s my opinion.“
“I think sometimes people become too reliant on the stomp-box for everything. Even the song. That’s just one guy’s opinion, who plays ‘grandfather’s blues.’ That’s just me.“
“So this is what I use, I use a grandfather’s pedalboard. Because it’s all taped to the floor. There is no pedalboard. And we run batteries. All of these are developed by Jeorge Tripps.“
“This is a standard-issue Blue Hippo. I toyed with the idea of doing a Leslie because I like Peter Frampton. But the problem is the logistics of a Leslie. You have to mic it, then it has to come through here.“
“I tried to find one of those Mesa Boogie Revolvers, which turned out to be harder to find then artifacts off the Titanic. So the solution was, I just need something that replicates a sound of a Leslie on the fast speed because when you’re comping chords behind a solo it’s fun. Just entertains me while I’m up here.“
“Blue Hippo, I have it taped because I kick it. But it’s at one o’clock on both of the knobs, and I have it set to the chorus, not the vibrato.“