Get Yer Pedals Out: Starring Kip Berman (The Pains of Being Pure at Heart)
I couldn't quite tell you why, but for the longest time I've been somewhat moderately obsessed with pedals. Since I'm no guitarist I don't really have a valid reason for this, other than the fact that they both make pretty noises and are rather nice to look at. Much, really, like the folks who use them. I've decided to turn my inexplicable pedal fancy into Fuzzy Logic fodder, and I do hope you'll enjoy my foray into the ins and outs of pedal worship.
If you've been here before, you know I have a major soft spot for darling tweegazers The Pains of Being Pure at Heart. If you're not yet in smit with them (to which I say shame on you), please be advised that fans of both adorable indiepop and noisy shoegaze alike can enjoy this charming band. They're so darned cute! And they can get so darned loud! Singer-guitarist Kip Berman is probably cringing at that shoegaze thing, to which I can only cutely wrinkle my nose and hold up my hands. Read on, dear friends, and see what chords get Kip's motor running, what exactly a Painbow is, and which pedals every guitarist should own (but should not expect to instantly equate to guitar god status).
Fuzzy Logic: Which pedal is your very favorite and why?
Kip Berman: Based on my limited knowledge, The Big Muff seems to enable the most epic blast of fuzz. They are pretty cheap too. My friend Danny from Zaza made me a custom one for my birthday a few years ago ("The Painbow") that looks and sound extra cool. Unfortunately, I further modified it with this "broken" mod, as I equated the force with which I stepped on it every night with the amount of hearing loss it produced. So right now I just have a normal one that was $50. It still sounds cool, but it isn't made out of distilled rainbow particles.
FL: Favorite chord?
KB: POWER chords! I don't use too many of them or else there won't be any left for the next band. It's just a courtesy thing, really.
FL: Who's your guitarist icon?
KB: Maybe my favorite is Chris Gunn from The Hunches. I know we sound nothing like them, but he has such an agressive and unpredictable way of playing. I also like Mark Ronson, but again it's a style that is so removed from how I play. I appreciate good songs more than good musicians, and the sort of talent that gets you a spread in "Guitar Shred Lord" magazine usually can often be a hinderance to writing a good song. Dan Moss from Evans The Death has a really good balance of playing well and still sounding weird and a bit off in a good way.
FL: With all the pedals out there, how do you decide which ones to procure?
KB: A pedal isn't going to make you Bob Dylan, Jim Reid, Lawrence, or Kevin Shields. The greatness of music isn't something you can buy from a store - whether it's a pedal, a guitar or an amplifier. You can't commodify genius. I totally concede that there are people out there who make beautiful and demanding art through sound-on-sound manipulation, and I don't mean to equate embrace of gear or technology with a sense that "that isn't art because he isn't sweating and gyrating with an electric guitar." I just mean, if you think you can go into a music shop and buy something that makes you a magical unicorn, you can't. Just get a distortion pedal and maybe a delay pedal. Unless you really know what you're talking about, just buy the one that you think looks coolest. When we were making our last record, the producer, Flood, said my pedal was an abomination - and that was a good thing. We nicknamed it the "A.P." (Abominable Pedal) and used it as much as possible. There are so many ways to be "a good indie band" -- and most of them are pretty boring. There's no right way to do things, just have fun.
FL: What's your dream pedal?
KB: A pedal that does everything, but not one of those pedals that does everything. Also, it would be painted like a rainbow, with each effect having its own color. Maybe it could make sandwiches too? In all seriousness, there are lots of great bands with "bad" gear -- and lots of terrible bands with "great" gear. I'm not saying you can't be both, but always err on the side of The Fabulous Stains, not The MetalCorpses.