Pedalboards. You can love ’em or hate ’em (if you hate them though, there might be something wrong with you). One thing’s for sure – they’re here to stay. Why? Pedals are kind of like matchbox cars for guitarists – small, collectible and oh so easy to become addicted to.
When you start touring the world and making bank as a full-time rock star, it only makes sense for your collection to get a little out of hand. To celebrate this phenomenon, we’ve compiled ten of the best pedalboards that went a little too far.
For the minimalists out there, this list might not be for you. But if you’re a fan of pedalboards, gorge on these grossly excessive collections.
Sweetwater and Rob Scallon
Though it’s not the rig of a touring artist, the feat pulled off by Scallon and the mega music retailer Sweetwater can’t be ignored. A total of 319 pedals were connected and switched on – eventually – and run through 7 Marshall heads and 14 cabinets.
The resulting sound, well, let’s just say it got a bit loud. It’s not really the most tour-friendly setup, considering that you need an army of helpers to make any sounds. It happened though, and we can only wait with bated breath until this insane record is broken again.
Kevin Shields – My Bloody Valentine
My Bloody Valentine burst onto the scene in the early ’90s with their tidal waves of guitar creating the genre of shoegaze. To craft these unique sounds, Kevin Shields relied on novel uses of the tremolo arm, a selection of alternate tunings and as you can imagine, an unhealthy amount of effects pedals.
Touring this rig comes with obvious complications, but this photo indicates that he keeps on top of it all by separating the epic setup into an array of bite-sized boards. Still though, Shields must’ve developed some pretty handy tapdancing skills over the years.
The Edge – U2
Has there ever been a touring juggernaut on the scale of U2? Stadium rock is the norm for this giant band from Ireland and thus, guitarist The Edge has more than a few choice toys to play with. Looking at the relatively neat and compact assortment below you might think, what gives?
Well, if you look closely, you’ll notice the labels under the buttons of that central panel. They actually work as switches for the racks of outboard that make up the iconic U2 guitar sound. So, The Edge doesn’t have so much of an excessive pedalboard, but an entire studio that follows him around the world.
Adam Granduciel – The War On Drugs
If you’ve ever listened to The War On Drugs – the project of singer/songwriter/producer/guitar lord Adam Granduciel, you’ll notice that the guy pays very close attention to the sonic textures on his records. If sweeping rock epics with undulating, atmospheric guitars is your jam, then you’ll be a fan.
On stage, Granduciel likes to wrap himself in a sonic cocoon – behind him an array of guitar amps and in front, a smorgasbord of stompboxes and switches for outboard gear. Beautiful stuff.
Adrian Belew has made his name in pushing the boundaries of rock guitar with ceaseless experimentation in his solo work, as frontman for King Crimson and collaborations with Frank Zappa, David Bowie, Laurie Anderson, Nine Inch Nails and more. As you might expect, he’s not afraid of using expansive pedalboards.
This rig from the Adrian Belew Power Trio days comprises not only pedals but a whole studio’s worth of synths, mixers, drum machines and more. For someone who’s constantly on the search for new tones, surely this collection is only going to get bigger and better.
Doug Wimbish – Living Colour
But what about the bass players I hear you ask? There’s probably not as many bassists with over-the-top pedalboards, but Doug Wimbish from rock-funk fusion legends Living Colour certainly bucks the trend.
His rig encompasses everything you could ever need from a bass tone, plus a few extra elements. There’s a few bass archetypes – the SansAmp springs to mind – but he clearly gets experimental, with a selection of modulation pedals. There’s even some digital sampling thrown into the mix.
John Frusciante – Red Hot Chili Peppers
Like U2, Red Hot Chili Peppers are a touring behemoth who specialise in stadium rock. And since Frusciante began his long stint with the band as a teenager, the Chili Peppers’ fame – and the size of his pedalboard – grew exponentially.
As pedalboards grow, guitarists tend to arrange them in a semi-circular fashion to make them easier to reach. Frusciante’s is in a rare straight line formation and it makes you wonder how on earth he can reach both ends in quick succession. Well, if it ain’t broke…
J Mascis – Dinosaur Jr.
If you’ve experienced the multi-layered distortion onslaught of Dinosaur Jr. you might have guessed that there was a bit of grunt under the hood when it comes to pedals. One look at the gratuitously gorgeous pedalboard of J Mascis and you’ll see how this magical sound came to be.
It’s about as grimy and gritty as you’d expect, with years of scars from the road and absolutely crammed with all kinds of distortion and fuzz (including the rare Ram’s Head Big Muff). Also, it must surely win the prize for the beefiest power supply on the list.
Andy Summers – The Police
Andy Summers, most famous for creating some of recent history’s more memorable pieces of guitar riffage with The Police, has taken the semicircle concept to the extreme. When he was in the studio recently recording a new solo album, he went full circle.
One of the most famous guitar tone innovators of the ’80s, he famously eschewed extreme distortion, favouring heavily modulated tones and was an early adopter of guitar synthesis.
L.A. bass player Juan Alderete has played with Racer X, The Mars Volta and grew up on a diet of jazz and prog. His vast pedalboard reflects the myriad influences that make up his musical personality.
Reportedly at over 400 pedals deep into his collection, Alderete’s board below obviously doesn’t utilise all of his pedals, but it’s still more than enough to get through a gig. His obsession has spilled over into Pedals and Effects – a website that’s dedicated to all things new in the pedal world. Suffice it to say, if you’re in the market for a new pedal, Alderete’s probably got something to say about it.