Get Yer Pedals Out: Starring Don Potter (Outerloop)
Outerloop might be relatively new, but some of its members are no stranger to the DC scene. Guitarist Don Potter, for example, has been featured on Fuzzy Logic a time or two over the years, with his prior projects Loose Lips and Fire & The Wheel. These days, Potter's focus is on guitar duties with post-punk/art rock/free range rock collective Outerloop.
The foursome is having a big week, what with their scheduled appearance at famed summertime venue Fort Reno tomorrow (8/5) and the release of their split A-side single "Seeping Mirrors" and "El Control" on Friday (8/6 - Bandcamp Friday, coincidentally).
Read on to get to know what makes the mind behind the riffage tick, and be sure you keep Outerloop on your radar.
Which pedal is your very favorite and why?
This is hard so I will cheat and break it down by categories…
All-time-MVP-don’t-leave-home-without: Boss - BD-2 Blues Driver
Maybe some people find them boring but there’s a reason everyone still buys Boss pedals. The tone on this one is great, you can get a wide range of dirt, but it gets out of the way and doesn’t overpower the character of your playing. I alternately use a couple other distortion/fuzz pedals but this one gets the most action. It’s on both “Seeping Mirrors” and “El Control” as well as many other Outerloop tunes.
Most Versatile: JHS - Kodiak Tremolo
You can get some really lovely or jarring tremors out of this, and the built in tap-tempo is very nice - but it also has a great volume boost feature so I can turn down the modulation and just use it as a clean boost.
Most Demented: Death By Audio - Pinned
I use this crazy fuzz/distortion/octave pedal on only one Outerloop song right now, but I look forward to using it more. When we were recording at the Magpie Cage with J. Robbins, I clicked this thing on to get some levels and asked J., “How does it sound?” He said, “sounds good,” then he quickly clarified. “I mean... it sounds demented but I think that’s what you’re going for.” He was right.
What's your favorite chord?
My favorite chord is all the open strings at the same time in standard tuning. I think it’s called an Emin11. I use it as sort of an exclamation mark sometimes - a quick dissonant stab. It can help buy myself time when I have to move my left hand between different places on the fretboard. It’s like flipping over the card table in an old west saloon to surprise everyone and give you an extra second to draw your gun.
Who's your guitarist icon?
I don’t know that I have one in particular, but I can say that these days I’m into guitar players who push themselves to play something interesting and focal throughout the song, rather than just strumming or chugging away on power chords behind the vocal. Carrie and Corin really keep it interesting in that way on those Sleater-Kinney records. Jawbox, Jesus Lizard and Drive Like Jehu are other great examples. I also really admire Tom Morello, Mary Timony, Robert Fripp, Devin Ocampo, Fugazi, Annie Clark, Eddie Hazel, Protomartyr, and Savages.
With all the pedals out there, how do you decide which ones to procure?
Since I’m the only guitar player in this band I look for ways to add different textures to my lines in order to keep it interesting, and so it doesn’t sound so stark all the time. Delay can be good for that and I use both the EHX Canyon and the Boss Giga Delay. I also have a few pedals where you can blend in various synth tones with your guitar. The Matryoshka synth pedal by Bananana gets some good use. It's actually a bass pedal, but does great with chords, or at least has a fun glitchy quality.
Before I get a pedal I need to watch all the online demo videos, of course, to make sure the thing makes sounds I can work with. It’s cool that you can just do that now - back when I started playing, if you were interested in a pedal you had to hope that your local guitar store had it and would let you try it out and then it was stressful because you’re trying to remember Megadeth riffs or whatever and everyone in the store is listening and judging you.
What's your dream pedal?
I put a hold on buying new pedals a little while back because I have a full board now and want to make sure I’ve reasonably exhausted its potential. I’ve been having fun experimenting with different combinations lately like Ring Mod-Big Muff-Chorus which created this wild phasing effect that I used on one song in the studio. The thing is, I’m really bad at documenting the effects and parameters after I dial up an interesting sound - so when I try to recreate it later I'm never confident that something isn’t “off.”
Maybe if there was a pedal to help with that, like when you click it on it records all the knob positions of all the active pedals along with a video of you playing the riff or whatever - and then catalogs it all together. While we’re at it, it could be a multi-effects pedal that does all the things I’m too lazy to do.
[photo courtesy Don Potter]