Last week in my Cool Preamps They Don’t Make Any More post I mentioned the very first Guitar World I ever got – the March 1991 edition with ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons and Dusty Hill on the cover. That magazine was hugely influential to me – I’d just begun high school and had got an electric guitar for Christmas 1990. I was not yet 13 and I felt like a whole new world had opened up within those pages. It was time to put aside Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Dino Riders and Voltron, and to instead devote my excitement towards Valley Arts, Hamer and Seymour Duncan.
My guitar rig at the time consisted of a Status Stratocaster copy (no, I don’t think it’s the same Status that makes those awesome headless basses – but if anyone knows something about this brand, please share!) and a Marathon MX3 amp. The amp had two controls: Volume and Tone. The only time I got anything close to distortion was when I turned the amp up all the way – certainly not gig volume, but louder than could be permitted in a crowded house despite the amp’s paltry three watts.
I’d seen effects pedals here and there, but somehow I’d got it into my head that amps needed to have special circuitry in order to ‘take’ effect pedals. I saw a Dean Markley amp in a music store catalogue and it had a lot of jacks on the front that I couldn’t quite read since the picture was so tiny, but I’d convinced myself that they said ‘Chorus,’ ‘Digital Delay,’ ‘Reverb’ and ‘Distortion.’ (Now thanks to Google I know it was a Dean Markley K-50 and the jacks were actually ‘Phones,’ ‘Footswitch,’ ‘Line In’ and ‘Line Out’). However, I remember reading Denny Laine’s Guitar Book when I was about 10, and in it he mentioned something about fuzz and wah wah pedals that could be connected between a guitar and an amp. I filed that away for later use (not realising of course that this is how every effect pedal hooks up, not just wah and fuzz. Oops).
So anyway, somewhere near the end of that first Guitar World magazine there was a little black and white ad for the Jim Dunlop ‘Jimi Hendrix System’ Octave Fuzz. “Fuzz, you say?” was my immediate reaction. “You mean that effect you can hook up without needing a special jack for that effect? Hot damn!” I remember taking the magazine to my dad and being all like, “Hey dad, can you buy me this?” I thought if it was good enough for Jimi Hendrix, it was good enough for me. Little did I realise it was actually never used by Hendrix in his lifetime, but was inspired by Roger Mayer’s Octavia octave fuzz. Dad said no, but through a little more Guitar World reading I figured out that you could use any pedal with any amp, and for my birthday that July he took me to a few local guitar stores to find my very first distortion pedal (an Arion Metal Plus – damn I loved that thing! CLICK HERE to see Arion pedals on eBay.). The Jim Dunlop Jimi Hendrix Octave Fuzz slipped to the back of my mind as I spent subsequent birthdays cluttering my bedroom floor with a wah wah, flanger, phaser, digital delay, another distortion when my Arion finally packed it in… and it wasn’t until 2008 that it finally dawned upon me that I should track down that first pedal I ever got really, really excited about.
I was ensnared in a bit of an eBay bidding war for one and I missed out. It was in used condition but still went for somewhere around 70 bucks, if I recall correctly. A few weeks later another one popped up, complete with the box. It was used but appeared to be completely blemish-free. I placed a bid and ended up getting it for a mere $40 USD plus about ten bucks postage, at a time when the Australian dollar was up around 98c US. Score! CLICK HERE to see the Jimi Hendrix Octave Fuzz on eBay.
So what’s the pedal sound like? Gloriously ratty. It takes a bit of trial and error to get the octave overtone effect happening like in Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Purple Haze’ solo. The trick is to pick lightly, kinda squeeze the note with your fretting hand as soon as you pick it, and to use the neck pickup. It also helps to wind back the guitar volume a little bit. Switch to the bridge pickup and this toothy, sharp fuzz sound all but obliterates any hint of the octave overtone. Pile it on top of an already distorted amp tone and you get this great dirty edge to the notes, and lots of great-sounding sustain. It’s not a pedal that I would use in every song, but it’s earned a permanent place on my ever-fickle pedalboard, and whenever I stomp on it I kind of feel like I’m engaging a covert secret weapon.
Today the Jim Dunlop Jimi Hendrix Octave Fuzz is no more, at least in that incarnation. Instead you can buy the Jimi Hendrix Octavio, an exact clone of the pedal Jimi actually used on ‘Purple Haze.’ Roger Mayer also still makes the Octavia as well as the Vision Octavia, both of which are further evolutions of the original design, rather than straight reproductions like the exactly-what-Jimi-used Dunlop.
Wow, I almost fell off my chair right now after seeing that today I Heart Guitar is ranked #1 on the news.guitarworld.com/blogs site. Awesome! I’d like to give a big shout-out to my fellow bloggers because the charts are compiled to reflect how many links a blog has pointing to it from other blogs.
Here are the links to the other blogs in the top 10.
Future US, the company behind Guitar World, has launched Guitar Aficionado, a new magazine aimed at, let’s just say it, rich folk who can afford mega-gazillion-dollar guitars as well as luxury booty like fine handcrafted watches, solid gold toilets and a real working Millennium Falcon. The magazine will feature collections of prestigious guitars and articles about fine boutique-quality instruments and amplifiers. It will also include articles about non-guitar-related stuff like luxury holidays and executive trinkets like snazzy automobiles and the like. Essentially it’s Colbert Platinum for guitarists.
Is this magazine for me? Technically, nope! I can already imagine Guitar Aficionado being full of advertisements for $20,000 guitar picks carved from velociraptor talon, and strings hewn from the beard-hair of Neptune himself. But am I going to read it? You betchya. Just because I’m never going to afford a ’59 Les Paul (actually I’d prefer a ’62 Strat) doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy reading about this stuff. On the other hand, I’m not particularly interested in the luxury holiday articles. At least, not until I can actually afford to go on a luxury holiday, so if you want to go ahead and buy a bunch of guitars through my site’s affiliate links maybe I can earn enough in commissions to at least take a day off to have my nails done or something.
Issue #1 of Guitar Aficionado is on sale now with a cover price of $7.99.
Steve Vai Featured In Latest Guitar World Magazine
The May 2009 issue of Guitar World (on newstands March 10) features Steve on the cover and an in-depth article celebrating the 25th anniversary of Steve’s first solo album, Flex-Able. Steve recounts the production of the album, and the article includes many rare photographs of Steve’s self-built studio – Stucco Blue Studios – as well as photos from the sessions.
The issue also includes a Steve Vai Master Class lesson, along with transcriptions of “The Attitude Song” and “Yankee Rose.”
Eddie Van Halen and journalist Chris Gill discuss the new Fender-made EVH Wolfgang guitar on the CD-ROM included with the February issue of Guitar World.
In the interview, Eddie describes the Wolfgang as “a culmination of my 35 years of experimenting with guitars. Everything that I’ve destroyed, stumbled onto, learned and experienced in my journey to get to where we are now is in this guitar. And there is a lot more to come.”
He adds, “A guitar is a very personal extension of the person playing it. You have to be emotionally and spiritually connected to your instrument. I’m very brutal on my instruments, but not all the time. I’m not to the point where I’m like Pete Townshend and smashing the shit out of it after a gig. I wouldn’t do that to an instrument that is a part of me. I don’t need to do this for financial reasons. I could have just stayed at home and built this guitar for myself. I do this because a lot of people ask if they can get what I use. Well, yes you can and what you get is identical to what I use.”
The issue comes out on December 16, and there is a preview of the CD-ROM at Guitar World’s YouTube channel.
The new incarnation of the Wolfgang (which was previously built by Peavey) isn’t the only new gear Eddie’s releasing at the moment. The new Dunlop EVH Wah has just hit the streets too, and if you’re like me and you went nutso over Eddie’s wah sound on the For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge album, you’ll dig this pedal. Aside from replicating the mods done to Eddie’s own Crybaby, it has a specially designed pot which mimics the wear and tear of the one in his original pedal.
In the February issue of Guitar World (which comes out on December 16, go figure), Eddie Van Halen talks about his new Wolfgang guitar, due out early in 2009 under his own EVH brand, which is built and distributed by Fender.
Here’s Guitar World’s press release:
In a new, exclusive interview with Eddie Van Halen, Guitar World magazine talks to the Van Halen legend about the making of his new EVH Wolfgang guitar from Fender (due in stores in early 2009). In the interview, appearing in the February issue of the magazine, the guitarist explains how the Wolfgang is “a culmination of my 35 years of experimenting with guitars. Everything that I’ve destroyed, stumbled onto, learned and experienced in my journey to get to where we are now is in this guitar. And there is a lot more to come.
“A guitar is a very personal extension of the person playing it. You have to be emotionally and spiritually connected to your instrument. I’m very brutal on my instruments, but not all the time. I’m not to the point where I’m like Pete Townshend and smashing the shit out of it after a gig. I wouldn’t do that to an instrument that is a part of me. I don’t need to do this for financial reasons. I could have just stayed at home and built this guitar for myself. I do this because a lot of people ask if they can get what I use. Well, yes you can and what you get is identical to what I use.”
Throughout the in-person interview with Guitar World writer Chris Gill, which took place in a workshop at the EVH/FMIC (Fender Musical Instrument Corporation) factory, Van Halen details the painstaking process of designing and constructing the EVH Wolfgang.
“The tolerance of things on this guitar is like NASA standards. It had to be tight, and it had to be quality. Le Mans is probably the most important race on the planet. It’s 24 hours—a grueling, brutal race. There’s a reason why an Audi R8 won that race three years in a row [2000–2002]. Those guys did what we did with this guitar. They paid attention to every damn detail. You can’t say, ‘Oh, that will do.’ No, it won’t do.”
Regarding the slim profile of the Wolfgang neck, Van Halen commented, “It was a matter of closing my eyes and feeling it. We went back to some of my earlier guitars, like the striped guitar I had back in 1984. That’s the way I like it to feel. It’s nice. It’s like a sexy woman.”
When asked if we could expect any new music from him soon, the guitarist had this to say:
“I’ll be making music ’til the day I die. I’ve done all kinds of stuff, and more is coming. I can’t tell you exactly when right now. Wolfgang is in the 12th grade and he needs to graduate first. Then I’m getting married in June. We’ll pick it up after that.”
The complete interview appears in the February issue of Guitar World, on sale December 16, 2008. An exclusive video documentary featuring Eddie Van Halen on the making of the EVH Wolfgang guitar will appear on the CD-ROM that accompanies each issue of the February issue. Collectors will be able to choose from four different Eddie Van Halen covers of the February issue.
Eddie’s gear company has its own website but it’s not updated very often: www.evhgear.com