Stepping on something strange: The best guitar stomp oddities
Thanks to a vast array of analog and digital effects units, changing the way an electric guitar or bass sounds has never been easier. But if you're on the lookout for something a little out of the ordinary, truly bizarre or just plain mad, we've selected five of the craziest stomp boxes we've ever come across. Prepare to get really weird.
We start our journey into crazy stomp creations in the Netherlands with Dr No Effects. The boutique effects maker has recently hit the headlines after collaborating with Queens of the Stone Age guitarist Troy van Leeuwen on a couple of floor pedals. But it's not the beautifully strange Octavia or Raven that caught our attention, it's the Turd Fuzz that preceded them.
Given the time of year, you might be forgiven for thinking that what's described as the "shittiest guitar pedal in the world of guitar effects" is a joke, but it's real and is priced at €209 (US$220). The NOS transistors in the handmade fuzz circuit are promised to deliver filthy old-school grit that's good for six-string or bass.
The fuzz circuit is activated by stepping on the turd, which squishes down as only a turd can and the eyes of a fly sitting on side of the curly brown stuff light up to indicate an engaged circuit. Insanely brilliant. You can see the Turd Fuzz in action in the short video below.
We stick with fuzz for our second helping, this time adding joystick control to a floor stomp with the Janus from Walrus Audio. Wait, what? Yes indeed, a joystick-controlled effects pedal.
The Janus rocks two joysticks, each assigned to its own effect and each with separate X and Y axis control. The Tremolo joystick is used to determine rate and depth of the effect, while the Fuzz joystick sets the amount of distortion and adjusts tone.
Each onboard effect can be isolated from one another and used solo, or mixed and matched as desired using the blend and volume knobs.
We can certainly see the attraction of joystick control, but bending down to use them in a live setting could be a bit of a pain. Unless, like Steven Drozd of the Flaming Lips in the video below, you're the kind of player who sits around noodling. The Janus carries a list price of $279.
Next up, a simply stunning work of mechanical art called the Candela Vibrophase. The over-the-top invention of the "mad scientist" of effects pedal creation, Zachary Vex, this beauty is all about polished brass and melting wax.
Light from a single tea light candle is harvested by two small monocrystalline solar cells, with the 9 V/0.33 mA of electricity generated powering the unit's audio circuit. A small Stirling engine uses the heat from the same candle to drive a flywheel, which in turn spins a CD-size patterned disc.
The play of light and shade captured by four photo cells in the tube housing the audio circuit essentially causes the signal from the guitar to pulse. Different patterns on the spinning disc cause different effects and a magnet moved towards the flywheel slows down the spin, lengthening the phased pulse.
It's a barking mad build, but is expertly done and absolutely captivating. A showpiece at Winter NAMM 2016, Vex is accepting orders for the Candela Vibrophase, with each unit costing around US$6,000 and taking 2 months to build.
The Greyfly (above) is the result of a collaboration between Fuzzrocious Pedals and Electro-Faustus, and combines a Grey Stache Fuzz circuit with a Blackfly spring-powered noise circuit for buzzing and fuzzing chaos.
The player is able to add some strange sounds to the signal by tapping or scraping the springs mounted to the outside of the enclosure, hitting the killswitch or engaging the gritty fuzz section for dirty distortion. You can see and hear the sonic craziness that results in the video above. The Greyfly costs US$300.
Last, but by no means least, is a truly bizarre effects pedal from Korg called the Miku. When engaged, the pedal will transform string and strum action on the guitar into singing voices that wouldn't be too out of place at a Japanese karaoke.
The voices in question are based around a singing synth sensation called Hatsune Miku, realized as a 16 year old girl with long turquoise hair and a song repertoire of over 100,000. The vocaloid pedal has 11 voice patterns to choose from, with a "lyric" for a Japanese song available as a preset. A companion iPhone app can be used to enter custom lyrics, to have the guitar sing original songs.
The Miku stomp is most definitely odd, but almost guaranteed to bring a smile to the face of whoever is listening – as you can see for yourself in the following video. The Miku stomp will cost you around US$100.