Pedals Of The Underground: An Inside Look at the Pedalboards of 6 Burgeoning UK Bands

When it comes to the future of guitar tone, pedals will always play a vital role in sculpting the sound of guitars. Whether it's cherry-picking the right stompbox for that sweet, sweet crunch or the ambient washover of reverb that sends your brain into a spiralling space odyssey, pedals sit on the frontline of sonic discovery.

The rock underground in Britain has had a long history of pushing such boundaries. As we stride further into the 21st century, more guitarists are focussing on fine-tuning their boards to help define a unique sound that puts their tone above the competition. We've picked six UK guitarists spearheading the new generation of rock music and the pedals that help them do so.

Laurent Barnard / Gold Key

Gold Key have their HQ in Watford, to the north-west of London. They're an underground progressive force, throwing Queens Of The Stone Age and Muse in a blender and rippling the waters of the British rock scene. Debut album Hello, Phantom is out now through Venn Records. More info can be found on the band's website here.

Gold Key - "Mess" (Live, 2016)

Laurent: "Right now, I have a Boss MS-3 Multi Effects Switcher, Boss RV-500 Reverb, Boss DD-500 Digital Delay, Electro-Harmonix Pog 2 Polyphonic Octave Generator, Boss TU-3 Tuner, Seymour Duncan 805 overdrive, Ammoon Looper, and Bright Onion Pedals Dual Momentary Footswitch—and I just have enough space to add a DOD Mini Expression pedal in the future."

"By far the most important pedal on my board is the Boss MS-3. I consider it the brains of my guitar setup. Not only does it have a ton of amazing built-in effects, it also switches the patches on my DD-500 and RV-500 pedals through MIDI, as well as switching the channels of my amp. If you were to take it away from me, I would have to grow an extra pair of feet to tap all the changes.

Laurent Barnard's Pedalboard

"For me, I think tone is far more important than effects. That should be the starting point for any guitarist. Effects can never disguise bad tone, unless you just overlay it until the original guitar sound becomes unrecognisable. It's not about getting pedals that make the craziest sounds. For ages the most important pedals on my board were the Boss TU-2 and the NS-2 Noise Suppressor. A guitar player has to stay in tune!"

Tim Malkin / Fizzy Blood

Fizzy Blood are a Leeds-based five-piece who twist the usual rock formula by adding a dash of alt-pop to the mix. Formed in 2014, their debut EP Summer Of Luv stirred fans and critics alike, who eagerly anticipate the band's follow-up EP, Pink Magic, set for a September release. More info here.

Fizzy Blood - "Black Sheep" (St Saviour Sessions)

Tim: "I guess effects should enhance your tone—but then again, they can offer something completely different to give you some creative freedom. I think the thing that matters the most is just the overall sound. The way you get there is up to you!

"The pedal I couldn't live without is the Strymon blueSky Reverberator, for sure. From a really boring and practical perspective, my amp doesn't have a reverb spring, so I kind of need it for that reason. Aside from that, I use its Favorite switch a lot. I have it set to a kind of ridiculously big room, because I do a lot of high floaty stuff and this really helps to fill out the sound. I could go on for days about this pedal, but one last thing: The modulation setting is also really great. It gives a subtle movement to both chords and lead lines.

Tim Malkin's Pedalboard

"The weirdest pedal I own? There's only one guy who can take this prize, really, and that's Mr. Zvex. I was on the hunt for a fuzz that was a bit out there, and after watching endless YouTube demos, when the Zvex Fuzz Probe came up I was like, 'I have to have one of those.' I just love that it's a thing. Whoever thought of putting a Theremin on a fuzz pedal is OK in my book. Well, it's not technically a Theremin, but it goes 'wuddlywuddlyohhhhh' when you move stuff close to it—so it's a Theremin. But if I had my own custom pedal, it would play three Owen Wilson 'wows' after every slip-up someone made on stage. I can't think of a name for it. Maybe it would be a Wilsonator."

Sam Bell / Mask of Judas

Mask Of Judas have a technical mind and soulful heart, and they bring a melodic R&B edge to the innovative world of tech-metal. Their self-released debut album The Mesmerist is out now. More info here.

Mask of Judas - "Axis"

Sam: "I like to keep things as simple as possible. I'm not usually the one to go crazy with loads of modulation or delay. So, I guess I prefer aiming for a nice tone and feel from the pedals. I'm currently using a Line 6 Helix LT guitar processor, which encompasses more pedals than I could shake a stick at! I love it. I do own an analogue board as well, which features a Wampler Tape Echo, Wampler Pinnacle Deluxe Drive, and a Wampler Mini Ego Compressor. I also have a Providence Chorus, Dunlop Mini Wah, Boss TU-2 tuner, and sometimes I have fun with an old Boss DS-1 Distortion.

"The Pinnacle Drive is amazing. It can transform most amps into a lean mean drive machine, and it's got a really lovely tone to it. The Line 6 Helix LT is my main workhorse for session work, however, and it's become my most used bit of equipment.

Sam Bell's Pedalboard

"These days it's not that hard to find the right pedal. There're tons of great musicians demoing on YouTube now, so you can hear things and you can get down to a local music store to try things out. There are tons of great pedal manufacturers doing all kinds of great things. If I could make a pedal, it would be a really smooth yet high-gain overdrive—kind of like the JHS Angry Charlie or the Wampler Dual Fusion—and it would be called The Bellinator. I'm not so sure any company would go with that name, though [laughs]."

Dave Jackson / InTechnicolour

InTechnicolour are fuzzed up and ready to rumble, a stoner/doom five-piece who bring the noise and the riffs to make your bones rattle. A big sound with big personalities to boot. More info here.

InTechnicolour - "Hey, Who Really Cares?" (Small Pond Session)

Dave: "My board consists of a Boss TU-2 tuner, Boss RE-20 Space Echo, Boss CH-1 Super Chorus, and custom-made Fuzz Sustain, Tremolo, and Treble Boost. I tend to buy my pedals secondhand on eBay because I'm a cheapskate and I'm busy/lazy. I usually go on YouTube and check out a couple of video reviews.

"I couldn't live without my Roland Space Echo. It masks pretty much any mistake I make. I'm mostly just trying to not fall on my face every time I play, and so my technique is pretty much out the window. So, if you come to an InTechnicolour show and the guitars sound off, don't be alarmed—it's probably just because my Space Echo has broken.

Dave Jackson's Pedalboard

"For me, tone comes first, then effects. Always. Otherwise you're just masking a potentially crap-sounding amp with a decent pedal. My main effect is a good overdrive, which I prefer to get from the amplifier by cranking the shit out of a 50-watt. That way you get a natural gain from the valves. Then I'll use a boost pedal for any lead business and a meaty fuzz sustain for the real doom/slow parts."

Sammy Urwin / Employed To Serve

Employed To Serve are Woking's heaviest cultural export. Their voice has become an important staple within the underground community as they lead the hardcore charge further into the future. More at their website here.

Employed To Serve - "Good For Nothing" (Live at the Lab)

Sammy: "Starting with the usual suspects, I have a Boss TU-3 tuner and NS-2 Noise Suppressor, then a Mooer Pure Octave. I love that little thing—it does one thing and one thing really well. Then I have a Boss RC-30 Loop Station—this actually belongs to Rich [Jacobs, Employed To Serve guitarist] but I use it all the time, so thanks Rich. I use it to bridge songs together and keep the set flowing, because no one likes constant filler chat in between songs. After this is a Boss RV-6 for all my reverb needs. Works really nice on trem lead lines, I find. My latest addition is the TC Electronic Flashback delay, a really cool and versatile pedal.

"If you want a decent pedalboard, spend the money and get something durable like a Pedaltrain—something that's going to last. Those plastic briefcase-styled ones fall apart so easily and become a right state in no time. Get a solid power supply, too, like a T-Rex Fuel Tank, so you have a reliable power source. Then after that it's just down to what you want. Grab 10 Boss Metal Zones and put them on there if you want!

Sammy Urwin's Pedalboard

"Funnily enough, I also have a custom Ron Burgundy tube screamer that Justine [Jones, Employed To Serve vocalist] got me for my birthday some years back. It's not actually in my setup at the moment, but it does sound sick and looks incredible. What I would like is a custom loop pedal which just loops the words "circle pit" over and over again. So, Boss, let's hook it up!"

Glen Hodgson / Delta Sleep

Delta Sleep are indie-math rockers from Brighton who have taken pioneering progressive songwriting to a tranquil, jazz-infused place. Thinking has never been so peaceful—just don't get too cosy. New album Ghost City was released in August 10 on Big Scary Monsters. More info here.

Delta Sleep - "Strongthany" (Live)

Glen: "The secret to having and maintaining a great pedalboard is to keep it simple. Personally, I always go for pedals that don't overly modulate the sound of the guitar, like tremolos, delays, or overdrives. They basically just cut the volume repeatedly, play back the same sound, or drive the amp, so none of them are really making the guitar sound like a spaceship or anything like that. My setup includes a Boss TU-2 tuner, Boss TR-2 Tremolo, Boss DD-6 Digital Delay, Boss GE-7 Graphic Equalizer, Pigtronix Echolution PHI, Electro-Harmonix Memory Man with Hazarai, and a Maxon OD-9 Overdrive.

"The weirdest of them all is my Pigtronix Echolution. It has all of these little switches that are dialled into numbers from the Fibonacci sequence, and they alter the delay patterns when switched on. You can also attach an expression pedal to control the delay times, and you can split the signal through multiple amps. It's absolutely mad and I still haven't worked out what sounds best.

Glen Hodgson's Pedalboard

"The greatest guitarist that expressively uses pedals is Nick Reinhart of Tera Melos. Although live it can be somewhat chaotic—I've seen him having technical issues a couple of times and not knowing where the issue comes from due to having so many pedals—but he just uses pedals in a way that no one else can mimic. Love it or hate it, he pushes the boundaries of what a guitar can sound like."

About the Author: Hywel Davies is a music journalist based in Cardiff, Wales. He writes for a number of publications, including Metal Hammer, Classic Rock, and Bass Guitar Magazine, and is a radio DJ for Hard Rock Hell Radio. Hywel was a multi-instrumentalist from a relatively early age, and his passion for guitars, which started at age 14, has grown into his life's work.

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