Everyone’s pedal journey is different. Yet many of us exist between two poles pulling us to either streamline and scale down our board or extend and expand it. There are many reasons for this: financial, ease of use, space, etc. But this week on TPS, Dan & Mick hosted the duo guitarists of Baroness who proved that the bigger and bolder the board, the better.
In the course of the last few years, Dan & Mick have seen their fair share of pedalboards. However, the set of gear underfoot for Barnoness’ John Baizley & Gina Gleason was massive. Just how big? Well, even their widest angle lens had trouble capturing the full scope of the pedalboards.
So why does Baroness go so big on their boards? In the course of their conversations and demos on TPS, they offered up at least three reasons.
Conversations about Gear Can Lead to Major Collaborations
When Baizley isn’t writing or performing his own music, he’s at the helm of a small Philadelphia purveyor of boutique pedals, Philly Fuzz. When Philly Fuzz received an email from a customer that was mere blocks away from Baizley’s place, he reached out to connect. Turns out, that customer was Gleason. She was not only looking for an ideal fuzz but also in the market for joining a new band after playing 400+ shows per year as a shredding stage performer with Cirque du Soleil.
As the two jammed for the first time, Baizley recalls that it took him about fifteen seconds to realize that he found Baroness’ new guitarists. The two clicked, yet what sparked that connection was the quest for a pedal. The lesson here, then, is that the conversations we have around gear are about more than our own interests in effects. They connect us with a guild of potential collaborators. Those conversations wouldn’t occur without the stompboxes that bind us.
Flanking Guitar Pedals for Establishing Complementary Sounds
With two guitars contributing to the sonic infrastructure of Baroness, Baizley and Gleason don’t look like your standard metal-inspired band. Both play Fender single coil guitars into more traditional Fender tube amps. Not your standard fare for the genre!
Yet it is this clean and clear palette that allows them to design pedalboards that offer up a surprising diversity of drive, ambient, octave, and modulated sounds that play well without competing against one another. As Baizley and Gleason explained their approach on stage and studio, they emphasized that even when playing in parallel they’re never competing. Rather, the effect edifices they build on their own always contribute to the other.
By having a wider and more diverse range of effects underfoot, both ensure the integrity of their own sound while playing in a size and space that enhances the sounds of the other. With more on the floor, the range of possibilities to play together goes up exponentially.
Pedalboards as Arsenals for Studio and Stage Creation
Sure, there’s something to be said for some of our most iconic guitarists who wrote the modern history of rock and roll by playing direct into an amp. However, as Baizley explained, Baroness, like many other modern bands, is playing in fairly fixed and exhausted model of music. They have a pair of guitarists, a bassist, and a drummer. From his perspective, pretty much everything that can be done in that traditional structure has been done. The need, therefore, is for fresh inspiration and innovation from other elements of the band. This is where gear comes in to play.
Having a pair of massive pedalboards has challenged Baroness to become more analytic about their songwriting. The dynamics and developments of songs become less about structure and major shifts as they are about organic growth, texture, and space that evolves throughout a song. Not every new sound you discover is going to pave the way forward for your next big hit. Yet, for Baizley and Gleason, this journey of exploration is essential for finding that one gem that sparks into something new.
Similarly, the performance aspect becomes about embracing some unpredictability and harnessing new ideas in the moment as you ride the wave of an unexpected explosion of ambience from a pedal. It’s those moments that make the show and set.
For Baizley, “the obligation of guitar players in 2019 is to find those stones that haven’t been turned over in the river yet and see what’s underneath them, regardless of how ugly or beautiful what’s underneath them may be.”
So whatever river you find yourself in, keep turning, keep exploring, and never stop hunting for that new sound amidst the rubble!
TPS Episode Rig Rundown:
Guitars: Fender American Professional Stratocaster, Fender American Professional Telecaster.
Pedals: Philly Fuzz Infidel, EarthQuaker Devices Westwood, MXR M75 Super Badass Distortion, Fulltone OCD, Xotic SP Compressor, Retro-Sonic Compressor, Digitech Whammy, Electro-Harmonix Micro POG, Strymon Mobius, Retro-Sonic Chorus, MXR EVH90, EarthQuaker Devices Data Corrupter, Strymon Timeline, EarthQuaker Devices Dispatch Master, EarthQuaker Devices Disaster Transport Sr, Boss DD-8 Digital Delay, Electro-Harmonix Holy Grail Neo, TC Electronic PolyTune 3, Ernie Ball JR Volume Pedal.
Amps: Fender Super Reverb (reissue) with 4 x 10-inch Jensen P10R speakers, Fender Bassbreaker 15 with 1×12 Celestion V-Type speaker, Fender Hot Rod Deluxe III with Celestion G12P-80, Fender Blues Junior III with 1 x 12-inch Fender Lightning Bolt speaker by Eminence.