2020 is going to be a historical year for a number of reasons, most of them sucky, and I am sure I speak for a good proportion of our readers when I say that the death of Eddie Van Halen was a major downer that we could have done without. Everyone at Wampler was shocked and saddened, particularly Brian who attributes a good part of his drive to create Wampler pedals to his quest for getting Eddie’s brown sound nailed. Our Facebook obituary was the most viewed post we have made for the last 12 months showing just how much reach Van Halen has in the community. My personal page and the Wampler Tone Group were filled with tributes from far and wide, even my drummer mates were acknowledging him, and profiles and cover pics changed into a sea of Red, White, and Black.
Unlike Brian, I personally was never an Eddie Van Halen “Superfan” back in the day – Thrash metal was new and it had my ear – but his music was always around me, played by my friends, respected by all, and his influence on my playing started back when I was 15 and I first picked up a guitar. After a few lessons with my school pal my confidence in my own skills was naturally high being so young and naive so we learned a bit of the tapping from Eruption. I definitely dined out on this for years with non guitarist friends who thought I had chops. I did not. But it mattered not. My respect for EVH was set early and never wavered. My guitar teacher on the other hand is a one hundred percent confirmed card carrying Superfan. His amp of choice is a Soldano SLO-100 pumped through an EVH cab. In his view Eddie was the greatest of all time after Hendrix and, many robust discussions later, I cannot disagree. And nor should I want to. I think we can all agree that nobody moved the goal posts as much as Eddie Van Halen did, possibly since since Hendrix, and arguably no one has done so much since. Van Halen’s debut album is the best debut album of any band ever. Period. Ok except maybe Led Zep I…but you get my drift…oh and Are You experienced?…but my point is made…add to this the fact that he had patented a number of enhancements to our beloved instrument and you start to see why he was one of a kind.
Our good friend Andy Wood posted an amazing and emotional Eruption tribute which just sounded spectacular and we knew then that we had to grab him for a podcast…..
If you’ve not heard the podcast I’d definitely recommend going to give it a listen. The insights from Andy, an established artist and supreme guitarist in his own right, more than compensate for you listening to my enthusiastic British wisecracks! I found it fascinating that all four of us, from totally different backgrounds and of differing ages, were all so absolutely unanimous in our praise and admiration. As the incumbent Pink Floyd fan at Wampler, I am definitely not used to Brian agreeing with my views on Artists…
And that brings me onto the new pedal that we sneaked out last Friday. Now we knew this was not going to be a particularly surprising release for many as we had already shown you the Claymore tribute pedal we made for Alex. This is the “Standard” version of that pedal that we had alluded to – or rather I should say – the Claymore is a special edition limited run of this pedal, The Belle Overdrive.
I confess I had never played the pedal that this was originally based on so when this arrived I was not sure what to expect. I knew from my discussions with Brian and various other “gearheads” that this was a “light dirt” pedal that was super popular with Country players but as I am not one of those I wondered how I would get on with it. I didn’t have to wonder for too long. The range on this pedal is phenomenal – and with all of my guitars and both my amps. It is really useable across the range of gain from a very light edge of breakup sound to an almost “Bluesbreaker” type of distortion. Once again, Brian has managed to pack a heck of a lot of punch into a small package, and also a heck of a lot of additional features.
With telecasters, this thing sings, with Gibson PAF style pickups, it not only sings, it wails like a banshee too. Running this through both the clean and the lead channel on my Rivera was a revelation – this thing is so flexible it added sparkle wherever I used it. Then I tried stacking it into my Tumnus. About twenty five minutes of pure noodling later I was texting Brian telling him I have found the best blues tone ever. Fat? Check. Creamy? Check. Wailing? Check. Soulful? Double Check. With a neck pickup and this combination I found myself in absolute blues heaven. Brian, you’ve only gone and bloomin’ done it again I thought.
The additional bass control on this pedal, whilst presenting us with some aesthetic challenges for a 4 knob layout, really adds the magic here. When you dial in the gain the low end can become a little overbearing, but with this additional control, you can dial it in without the boom. Or you can do the inverse – have the gain low and the Bass control high and get the sweetest of boosts.
My signal chain of Belle -> Tumnus -> Ethereal really is one of the most pleasing 3 pedal combos I have ever found. You know that moment when you’re playing, maybe just noodling a bit, and the sound makes you smile and then inspires you to play better? Well that happened. A lot. I found myself listening to my playing and thinking “heck, I have improved” and it was all inspired by this pedal. It’s been a long year for us here at Wampler. Events totally beyond our control have utterly scuppered some of our previous plans but suddenly almost all seemed right again, if only briefly. This pedal reminded me firmly of why we do what we do. To inspire creativity. To make people smile.