Reverb Soundcheck: Fuzz

Fuzz. It’s that fat, meaty effect that comes from pedals, blown up preamps, and saturated tube amplifiers. Not-so-coincidentally, it’s also the name a three-piece outfit that uses much of that sound to make their brand of psychedelic garage rock.

The power trio formula is as classic as any and serves as a no-frills, nowhere-to-hide rock 'n' roll lineup. But Fuzz isn’t carrying the torch of the Experience or Cream. Guitarist Charlie Moothart, bassist Chad Ubovich, and drummer Ty Segall instead offer bone-shaking anthems for longhairs akin to Black Sabbath and other doomy stoner rock groups. What better place to catch up with them than in Chicago’s booming Thalia Hall while on tour supporting II, their latest album?

Moothart’s guitar work is ripe with riffs, plucking heavy blues pentatonics and power chords with his 1965 Gibson Non-Reverse Firebird III. He recently set aside a walnut Partsmaster that he used on the last few tours with Ty Segall’s solo projects in favor of the Firebird. The three P90s absolutely scream through his amp setup. The makeshift full stack consists of a 1970s Music Man HD-130 4x10—one of our favorite Vintage Workhorse Amps—and a ‘70s Silverface Fender Twin Reverb through a Fender 4x12 cab. On the other side of the stage, there’s another Music Man 1x12 used as a monitor. Moothart subscribes to the less-is-more pedal strategy using a Boss TU-3, Behringer DD400 Vintage Delay, Live Wire ABY1, and a Death By Audio Fuzz War strewn messily on the ground and tied together with a daisy-chained Truetone 1Spot.

The Fuzz War makes another appearance in Ubovich’s bass rig. There’s a reason why you see this pedal on bassists’ boards as well as guitarists’: the character of the fuzz is as deep and sludgy as it is screaming and nasty. And what better bass to wield through a Fuzz War and an Ampeg SVT than with a ‘70s Gibson Ripper? In this case, it’s a real player, having swapped pickups, a kill-switch type of effect in place of the stock Varitone circuit—removed by the original owner—and duct tape fret markers on the back of the neck.

Ty Segall has carved out his place as one of the prolific poster children of modern psychedelic rock next to John Dwyer of Thee Oh Sees and perhaps the more mainstream Jack White. On his solo work, you’ll usually see him with a guitar around his neck, with Moothart on the opposite side of the stage providing support. But in Fuzz, he sits on the drum throne, an instrument he learned well before picking up a guitar.

The touring kit is a Keystone-badge Ludwig Downbeat Kit. As Segall puts it, "I really feel like you can tune any drumset to sound great, especially in a live setting." But he does bring his choice 1960s Ludwig Acrolite Snare. His favorite kit is a ‘50s Ludwig that he once toured with, but now leaves at home.

Segall is more of a recording gear geek than anything. Having recorded bands of his own and others since his early years, he brings a whole host of tricks to the table during the extensive demo process in his music and with Fuzz. Most demos for II were recorded by Ty on a Tascam 388, each tune hitting tape four or more times to finalize form, melody, and support.

Besides the ‘65 Firebird, this is not a stage full of collector pieces. These are guys shlepping the country who know what gear works for them night after night. This is gear that can sustain zigzagging highways crammed in the back of a van and the blisteringly loud stages that they find themselves on show after show, tour after tour.

Pick up a copy of the new Fuzz record via In The Red or at your local record shop.

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