Eskimo Joe’s new album, Ghosts of The Past, finds the band returning the more stripped back feel of four-times-platinum Black Fingernails, Red Wine (2006), after the more elaborate orchestration and experimentation of 2009′s Inshalla. Produced by Matt Lovell, who produced Black Fingernails, the first single is “When We Were Kids.” I spoke with bass player/vocalist Kav Temperley a few days after the band returned from what was, by all accounts, a pretty kickass set that the Splendour In The Grass festival.
You just played Splendour. That must have been cool.
It was amazing. We were really lucky to play from about six to seven, so we played just as the sun set. You play to this amphitheatre and you can see it filling up with people… Kanye West got helicoptered in, Kate Moss was hanging backstage…
You’ve travelled such a long distance since I first saw you guys at the bar at the University of Canberra in the late 90s.
Yeah. We’ll probably be back at the uni bar one day.
The press release for the new album says this album is a return to your rock roots.
It’s definitely a rock and roll record. We had an idea of going into the studio with two people on guitar, bass, upright piano and drums, and to just have that treatment. If you listen to The Pixies’ Doolittle, they can make everything work on those instruments. They can make everything work, and they don’t need anything else. It’s all there. And that was our intent. And when you start doing that, you end up having a much more rock and roll-sounding record. That’s just the nature of it. The last record had all these moments which were kind of almost like Toto’s “Africa” or something like that, whereas this is much more down to The Police and The Pixies again.
Or at least Toto’s later, post-Africa stuff!
Yeah! There ya go!
So it was a conscious decision to do something different to the previous one?
Yeah. For us it’s always about kicking against whatever we did before, and the last record was eclectic. You had Led Zeppelin rock things but there was also Peter Gabriel kind of moments on it. It was going all over the place, and we just really wanted to make a very uniform-sounding record, where if you press play you know exactly what record you’re listening to. That’s kind of what happened with Black Fingernails, Red Wine. There was nothing premeditated about it. The album before it, Songs Of The City, was kind of eclectic and we just wanted a very uniform-sounding record, and that’s what we’ve done again, and this is what it sounds like. All of my favourite records, like Harvest by Neil Young, it doesn’t matter what’s on the record, it sounds like the same session. The same musicians in the same room, performing a different song. That, to me, is what always works best. But then, the ‘white’ album by The Beatles has always been one of my favourite records, and even though that sounds like the same band playing a bunch of different styles, it’s still a very eclectic album, and at the end of the day it still sounds like the white album.
The envelope filter is a crucial element for Bringing The Funk (a task so important it must always be capitalised). Loosely defined as “kinda like a wah wah but not quite, and also it’s automatic,” a typical envelope filter might consist of two controls: one to select the range of the effect and one to set the point at which your picking will trigger it. Aguilar knows bass players, and they know bass effects – just witness the incredible Octamizer octave divider some time to see what I mean – so when they turn their attention to the envelope filter with special emphasis on bass players, you’d better listen.
Structurally, the Filter Twin shares a few traits in common with the Octamizer (as well as the Agro Bass Overdrive and the TLC Compressor). All four pedals are housed in a heavy, solid rectangular case with a handy slide-out battery door accessible via the bottom, four rubberised knobs at the top, a bright blue status LED (which can light up a dark room) and a heartily stompable footswitch. The input, output and 9 volt adaptor jacks are at the top of each unit, making them very pedalboard-friendly. The Filter Twin’s finish is surf green with a solid black outline, giving it an almost ’1950s appliance’ kind of vibe. I love stuff like that.
As hinted by its name, the Filter Twin actually includes two envelope filters. One cycles up and the other cycles down, triggered by the dynamics of your playing. Semiotics buffs will nod knowingly at the layout and labelling of the controls. These controls are Blend (flanked by an up arrow on the left of the knob and a down arrow on the right), Threshold, Velocity Down (actually just labelled Velocity, followed by a down arrow) and Velocity Up (ditto). The knobs feel ‘set-and-forget,’ meaning you need to expend a decent amount of finger energy to get them to turn. I really like this because it means you can be confident that your settings will remain in place even if a crowd surfer crashes onto your pedalboard. That’s very important with a pedal like this where the circuitry is dependent on the output of the signal sent to it by your instrument. Once you nail the sweet spot on the Threshold control, it’s best that you stick to it.
The Filter Twin’s sounds have a real depth and life to them – a rubbery slinkiness which works perfectly with slap and pop techniques and is also good for other picking options. Use the Threshold control to dial in the point at which the effect engages, then twiddle the Velocity pots to select how quickly each filter moves. Blend varies the ratio between each, from 100% of one and zero of the other to a nice 50:50 balance and any point in between. I’m a sucker for really bassy, backwards envelope filter sounds, and unfortunately my main envelope filter – a DOD FX25 – doesn’t have this feature (though it is included in a multi effects unit I use sometimes), so I relished the opportunity to set up a nice 75:25 blend of down and up filters with long down velocity and quick up velocity for a big, syrupy, bassy sound with just the right amount of top end too. The ability to tweak the length of the effect means you can get some pretty interesting sounds as the two filters move against each other, from a snappy quack to a slow, sonorous roar.
By the way, the Filter Twin also sounds great through distortion and on guitar. I ran my bass into the Filter Twin then a fuzz unit and was blown away by the wah-like harmonic richness of the down filter, while it tracked great when I introduced it to my 7-string Ibanez Universe.
The Filter Twin is a killer addition to the arsenal of any funk player but it also sounds great for a variety of other styles, from rock to dance (and could also be a very ear-catching effect for metal bass players in a similar way to how Cliff Burton used wah wah in For Whom The Bell Tolls). It’s also extremely roadworthy and feels like it will give you decades of unwavering service.
This is an alternate version of a review I originally wrote for Mixdown magazine.
I’m a bit of an octave pedal geek. One octave down, two octaves down, one octave up. Analog, digital… my pedalboard always has at least some manner of octave-tweaking gadget. Sometimes it’s been a Whammy Pedal, sometimes a Boss OC-2, sometimes a Dunlop Jimi Hendrix Octave Fuzz, sometimes a Boss HS-2 Harmonist, sometimes a Boss GT-8… point being, I loves me some octave action. So I was psyched when the Aguilar Octamizer drifted across my desk. Aguilar best known for their bass amplification, but they produce a pedal range consisting of three models: the Tone Hammer preamp/direct box; the TLC Compressor, and the Octamizer Analog Octave.
Housed in a distinctive metal oblong case (a little longer than you’d expect such a narrow pedal to be), the Octamizer features include a clever sliding battery door which pops out at the bottom of the pedal; the standard ins, outs and power adapter jack; and controls for Clean Level, Clean Tone, Octave Level and Octave Filter. The latter is a multipole low-pass filter, and it’s one of two key features that set the Octamizer aside from other octave pedals. The other is the Clean Tone control.
I started with with the Clean and Octave levels both on 10, then reeling one or the other back to find just the right ratio. The Clean Tone control is a full spectrum tilt EQ, which boosts treble while cutting bass, or boosts bass while cutting treble. You can get a great idea of what this control does by turning the octave all the way down for a minute and experimenting, and it’s tempting to use the pedal just as a preamp for this feature alone. Turn up the Octave Level again though and you’ll remember what it’s all about. The Octave Filter gives you control over how smooth or furry the octave sound is. By the way, turn the clean level all the way down and you’ll hear just the pure octave tone, which is great for weird synth sounds and Muse-like fuzzy drones.
Using my Fernandes Jazz Bass copy with DiMarzio Area J pickups, I really dug the range of detail afforded by the Clean Tone control. It allows the original note to either rise above the octave signal, or to step back and let the synthy octave sound take the lead. You can also increase the bass frequencies, very handy on my Jazz Bass which is voiced more towards the midrange. The Octave Filter control usually works best when you set it to roughly the mirror image of whatever the Clean Tone is doing. This way you can increase the fuzziness of the octave while taming the clean tone’s treble, or boost the deepness of the octave while cutting through on the top end. Of course you can also max out both controls for wild electronic textures, or turn them both down for a molar-rattling rumble.
I also couldn’t help trying it out with guitar, plugging in my Ibanez Jem and having at it with the main riff to Vai’s ‘Blowfish.’ The tone was huge, and the added control provided by the Octave Filter and Clean Tone pots allowed me to dial in the perfect overweight yet defined octave voicing. If guitarists discover this little monster they’re probably going to be fighting bass players over who gets dibs on it. Next I plugged in my Ibanez UV777BK Universe 7-string and laid on some fat octave madness on top of a low B string riff. I was pretty freaking amazed not only by how good the pedal sounded, but also how well it tracked, even when using the bridge pickup. That’s a rarity for octave pedals, in my experience. Usually, whether they’re octave-up or octave-down, they prefer to receive a neck pickup signal, sometimes even with the tone control rolled back, before they’ll track accurately. Not so with the Octamizer. In fact, I dare say that it’ll be as popular with guitarists as with bass players once people hear it.
This is a great pedal for funk and jazz players who want to explore higher ranges on the neck while still holding down the low end, as well as for rock and metal players who want to add a subsonic rumble to their tone – be they bassis or guitarist. It’s super tough, super quiet, and sounds incredible.