• For The Record: US@UO Pedal Pushers

    Introducing the UO Music Newsletter, For The Record. Our first issue is dedicated to the art of collecting and the collectors who put in the work. Read more below. For a full look at everything the newsletter has to offer, click here

    Some of UO's resident employee musicians discuss their pedal set-ups, including how to build them and who to collect from. 
    Words by Cynthia Schemmer, photos by Ryan Strand Greenberg, Carola Di Poi and Jesse Hudson


    When Chris isn’t working as Field Display Coordinator at Urban Outfitters in Philadelphia, he is building pedalboards for guitarists and bassists. Working under Sawyer Custom Pedalboards — named after his grandfather’s cabinet shop in Los Angeles — Chris’ designs are simple and sleek, custom-built for each musician's specific needs. He’s built pedalboards for everyone in his post-hardcore influenced rock band, Second Letter, in which he plays guitar, and also uses his own board in Old Arrows, a band in which he writes songs and sings. 

    How long have you been building pedalboards?
    Since I’ve been playing music, I’ve been making boards. I have a stack in the basement of rejects from over the years. [Laughs] A piece of plywood spray painted black with Velcro on it up to any iteration, and then up to the ones I make now, which I feel are pretty functional and cool looking. Just in the past year, I’ve gotten more serious about building them. It’s something I’m doing pretty regularly now and hopefully I can expand it into something that could sustain itself, in terms of customers and making money so that I can do cooler things with it. 

    Do you collect pedals as well?
    I went through a period where I had a lot, and you go through times when the band you’re in doesn’t really fit this pedal or that pedal, so you switch something out and you have a reserve of cool stuff. So I’ve sold stuff over the past few years and kind of tried to whittle it down. The stuff on my board now can do a lot of things. You know, pedals that have presets or double pedals. I’ve cycled through things like crazy, and the first pedal I got was about 20 years ago and there’s been a ton since then. 

    A pedalboard is like a musician’s curated collection of their personal sound. What’s on yours right now?
    I have about 10 pedals on there, from delay, reverb, drive stuff, modulation, and then I have a loop pedal and some other auxiliary things. And then I have what you could call “the B-team” on a little board that, you know, if I’m going back home to California to visit people, I can throw that in my suitcase and have a little bit of everything, stuff that I can replace if it got lost but will still do the job. 

    What’s been your greatest pedal find?
    I used to have a few more cool vintage things. My dad has been a musician his whole life, too. So I would dig through his stuff when I first started playing guitar. I don’t know what this even does, you know? But I’d grab it and put my guitar through it. There was this old DOD analog delay — they’re like the giant ones that have their own electrical cord attached to it. You can’t even use an adapter for it, it plugs in on its own. That thing was really rad. It’s not necessarily super valuable or hard to find, even today, but it had a great sound. You can do the thing where you turn the repeats up and it oscillates and gets kind of gross and crunchy. That was probably the coolest one I found, even though I found it in the garage. 

    What do you feel your board is lacking?
    At the moment, I’m pretty happy. Right now I have an Electro-Harmonix Memory Boy that I use for a shorter delay that you can almost have on all the time. But then this company Chase Bliss Audio just put out this pedal called the Tonal Recall that looks insane and I’m trying to figure out how to sell some of my stuff or make some more boards to get it, because it’s kind of pricey [laughs].


    Bryan Yazzie, Senior Design Coordinator for UO Los Angeles plays bass in the dark gothic punk band Readership Hostile who just finished recording and have recently toured through Europe. Bryan uses a variety of pedals to manipulate his sound to perfection and has a collection of over 30 that he rotates on his pedalboard.  

    Can you talk about your pedals and how you started collecting?
    I’ve been playing music since high school and eventually I wanted to learn to alter the sounds. I’ve never been one to appreciate the natural sound of the guitar. I’ve always played in more electronic-based bands that have more going on and have always been interested in making a guitar not sound like a guitar, or a bass not sound like a bass. I began trying out pedals and buying ones that sounded interesting and pairing them together. I have a large collection; I wouldn’t even be able to tell you. I have about 30, 35. But I don’t just collect them — they are used heavily. I have a lot of distortions, a lot of delays. On my pedalboard at any one time, I’ll use four or five delays. It’s an eclectic mix. Right now I probably have 12 to 15 on my pedalboard. 

    What has been your greatest find?
    The one with the best story, that I actually have used ever since I got it, is when I first moved to L.A. I lived in a tiny one-bedroom apartment that was kind of set up like Melrose Place with a pool in the center and two levels. It looked like a dirty, greasy old motel. My neighbors could see in my window, and I had this one neighbor who was an old crazy wild man. He was the complex pest, getting in everyone’s business. Nobody really paid much attention to him. One time I was playing guitar, and he knocked on my door and told me he used to play in all these old blues and jazz bands and had a bunch of gear. He gave me four or five pedals that he didn’t use anymore, and they’re really not very well known, but the one I’m referring to is the Expandora distortion pedal. It’s a little hockey puck, and I’d never heard of it or looked into it at all, but after I started using it I fell in love and have used it in every pedalboard in every band I’ve played in since. 

    What pedals are lacking from your collection?
    I’m looking at getting some of the Moog pedals. They have, for a long time, only specialized in analog synthesizers. Pretty recently, in the past couple of years, they’ve gotten into making analog pedals for guitar and bass. 

    Have you ever built your own pedal?
    Yeah, I have. I’ve made a clone of a Zvex Woolly Mammoth. You can buy kits that are basically clones, and you can change out a few things you would want to specialize, but the really nice thing about them is you can buy a custom case, knobs, LED lights. There’s definitely a community that likes to look at someone’s pedalboard. Like, if you want to sound like somebody who plays guitar, you can look at their pedalboard and steal their sound. With a clone or custom enclosures, you’re the only one who knows what’s going on in there and what it can do.


    UO Senior Display Coordinator Jared Luke has played in bands since high school, written songs since he was 14, and taken cues from his older cousin who played in punk bands. He most recently has played guitar in Sea and Land, an instrumental post-rock band, and sang and played both bass and guitar in Minor Suns, a melodic indie rock band. Lately, Jared has been devoting his time to his solo music, collecting pedals, and trying to carve out a music community in Las Vegas.  

    How did you first get interested in pedals?
    When I first started playing in the instrumental band, I had to create this atmosphere and space because there were no vocals. When we started that, I was really getting into reverb and delay pedals. From there, I was nerding out for a while. I had a lot more pedals than I do now. I’ve scaled back a bit, but my No. 1’s that I kept and use more often are the Electro-Harmonix Russian Big Muff, which is an overdrive pedal. Then I have a Tube Screamer, a Line 6 DL4, an Electro-Harmonix Holy Grail reverb pedal, and then an Electro-Harmonix Bad Stone that’s like a phaser/shifter pedal, and then I use an Ernie Ball volume pedal, and that’s pretty much it. 

    How many did you have at your most?
    Probably around 12 to 15 at one point. Then I realized with recording my own stuff, it’s not so heavy with effects, so I scaled down to the necessities of what I thought I needed. So now I use those pedals mainly for background parts. I don’t use them while I play live. I just use my Tube Screamer and the Bad Stone and my reverb pedal.

    What has been your greatest find?
    I would say the Russian Big Muff, because I’ve been able to use that in all of my bands. I really like atmosphere and going from low volume to high quickly. I still use that all the time. And then I would also say my Line 6 because writing by myself, I can loop everything on that pedal. So I can basically play all the parts that I want to and just loop and figure out how I want to set my song up, the structure. And then I can lay it down and record it. I would say that’s the biggest necessity that I’ve had. 

    What is the music scene like in Las Vegas?
    It used to be super tight-knit, and you’d go to a venue and run into people you know. In the last year it’s kind of died. It’s more DJs than bands now. It doesn’t seem like a community anymore; I never hear of shows and all the bands I love don’t come here. But there’s one of the best music shops in the country, because so many big bands come through the casinos and they need really good stuff. It’s called Cowtown Guitars. They have the most insane vintage gear you can find. I think at one point they had a Jimi Hendrix guitar that he recorded with for like $100,000. They rent out a lot of stuff to the Rolling Stones when they’re in town, and stuff like that. That’s probably the main spot I go to in town.


    Joel Wall, Store Manager at Space 15 Twenty in Los Angeles, is an avid music collector of guitars, pedals, recording gear and records. He started playing music in elementary school, influenced by his father who played bluegrass, his brother who shared punk records with him, and his mother’s love for The Beatles. When he isn’t working or spending time with his family — he and his wife have two sons — he plays guitar in the rock band Diamond Hands.

    How did you start playing music?
    I’ve been playing guitar for a long time. My dad started playing guitar in his late 30s, and I was in fifth grade, and me and my brother decided to start playing, too. My dad played bluegrass music, and there are lots of different kinds of instruments in bluegrass, so everyone picked up an instrument. My brother played mandolin, and then I played bass, actually. From there, I would play my dad’s guitar and taught myself a little bit. My dad would play me bluegrass, and my brother would play me punk records, and my mom would give me Beatles records. I still listen to all that stuff. Those are the three things that stuck with me the most. When I got older, I started buying my own guitars and it turned into an obsession. 

    How many guitars do you have right now?
    Stringed instruments, I probably have 15 — I have a banjo and a couple of different basses. As far back as I can remember, I wanted to make some kind of noise. And then my wife got me into the record thing. I had been collecting punk 7-inches when I was younger. When I started dating my wife, she had a pretty extensive LP collection and she showed me a lot of music I wasn’t exposed to. I think we maybe have 800 to 1,000 records combined. We bought a jukebox last year, which was really exciting. It plays all 45s, so we filled that up. It’s like a record playlist, essentially. I don’t have any inexpensive hobbies, which is a problem. 

    What’s your pedal collection like?
    I have a decent amount. I’m a little more of a purist. I have certain ones I use to emulate old effects, like delay and tremolo pedals. I have a sitar pedal, which is pretty cool. It doesn’t make your guitar sound exactly like a sitar, but it’s pretty close. That’s probably my weirdest pedal. I have pedals for stuff I just can’t do on an amp, like if I need more reverb or different fuzz pedals. Overall, I try to get the sound of the guitar through the amp down. And if I can’t get the sound I want, I’ll grab a pedal. For the most part, I try to go as old school as I can. 

    Out of all of your collections, what is one of your favorite finds?
    My wife got me an original copy of the first Seeds record, a garage band from the ’60s. That was really exciting, and it’s in perfect condition. Actually, the sleeve still had the shrink wrap on it. It was old and discolored, but the record plays perfectly. For guitars, it’s not very exciting, but my Telecaster I like a lot. I bought it brand new in 2000 and I’ve had a lot of guitars since, but it’s still my favorite. 

    Do you feel like there’s anything lacking from your collections?
    You can always have more [laughs]. For me, it would probably be more recording gear. I’d like to get more microphones and preamps and stuff like that, so I can build up my studio a little bit. That would probably be the first thing I spend money on. I think I’m squared away with guitars at the moment.