Ok, so I know this probably seems a bit weird; announcing another pedal release when I have already taken pre-orders for a pedal that hasn’t been properly released yet, but bear with me a minute as there is method to my madness.
Firstly, I genuinely thought the Skeleton Key would have been on general release by now and I am gutted that it’s not; it is a very frustrating thing to have done all the hard work and built up the excitement for something only to have a drawn out wait to get it out there because of manufacturing issues beyond your control.
Secondly, this new pedal has been planned for longer than the Skeleton Key as a strictly limited release specifically for Brighton Guitar Show.
Brighton is an important place to me. I have spent many wonderful days there and it is the scene of many happy memories at various stages throughout my life. My wife Anna, who some of you may have met at the Bristol Guitar Show a couple of months ago, has a similar place in her heart for Brighton and we have shared some wonderful times there together. Brighton’s significance to us is so great that we had our honeymoon there back in 2015.
Considering my emotional attachment to the town, it was a given that upon finding out that the lovely Phil Steere from Pedal Patch was organizing a guitar show in Brighton I was going to get my name down for it.
It also got me thinking that I could do something a bit special for the occasion as Brighton just happens to be the home of one of my favourite bands…
Back when I was about ten years old, I had a life changing experience at the hands of a cassette tape I swiped off my older sister. She had been given this tape by a friend of hers who I was completely in awe of. I took my chance and pinched the tape from under my sister’s nose, smuggling it into my room and examining it. The handwritten message on the sleeve of the tape read “Levellers: A Weapon Called The Word + Other Bits”. It meant nothing to me, but it didn’t matter. I wanted to hear what was on that tape because it was put together by the coolest person I had ever met at the time; it wasn’t about the music; it was about gaining this person’s approval.
That is until I listened to it.
As the combination of guitars and swirling violins that announce the opening to “World Freak Show” crashed out of the speaker, I experienced something of an epiphany. I had never really connected with anything musically prior to this but from those first notes I was hooked, and the Levellers and I have been together all the way ever since.
I listened to that whole album in rapture; my state of wonder reaching its absolute peak upon hearing a live version of “One Hundred Years of Solitude” (from their 1993 self-titled effort) recorded onto side 2 of the cassette, the power of that track just about blew my tiny, ten-year-old brain out of my skull!
Since that first listen, the Levellers have been a constant in my life. When my now wife and I first met eleven years ago, a shared love of the Levellers was one of the common threads between us that drew us together. We have seen them together many times; attended their festival in 2013; conducted our own Levellers themed pub crawl around Brighton and when we got married had their hit “Beautiful Day” playing as Anna walked down the aisle.
With all this in mind Brighton Guitar Show seemed a fitting place for me to pay tribute to the Levellers in pedal form.
Levellers’ Fiddle player Jon Sevink defined the band’s sound as melodic violin backed by hard driven guitars. I can’t make a violin simulator pedal, so I have gone for something that gives you the hard, driving guitar sound.
My original plan had been to make a pedal tailored to a specific album as 2023 marks 30 years since the release of Levellers self – titled 3rd album. However, considering their guitar sound has remained pretty consistent over their 35 year career, tying the theme of the pedal to a particular album felt pretty redundant and as such I looked to represent the sound and spirit of the band more widely.
In the excellent documentary ‘A Curious Life’, Levellers bassist Jeremy Cunningham says of the band:
“The music is very definitely folk, but the spirit is very definitely punk”
Being a band that has always sought to do things on their own terms regardless of trends and popular opinion; rising to a level of popularity the mainstream music press of the 90’s could not fathom; I can’t think of a more perfect encapsulation of the Levellers than “Punk Spirit”. As such I have named the pedal thus and embraced that theme fully with every aspect of the pedal’s production.
The Punk Spirit is a one knob overdrive pedal, purpose designed from scratch to give you Levellers’ hard, driven guitar sound and a lot more to boot. Although it only has a volume knob, with gain and e-q being fixed, I have tested the Punk Spirit with a number of different guitars, and it holds a surprising amount of versatility dependent on what pickups you’re using and how you use the volume and tone controls on your guitar.
In tribute to the DIY punk ethos of the Levellers, the Punk Spirit is built on vero board and encased in a hand stencilled (by Anna and I) enclosure bearing the Levellers iconic rolling anarchy logo.
Big thankyou’s need to be said at this point to Simon Andrews of JSA effects for taking my schematic and creating the vero board layout from it; to Jeremy Cunningham, bass player and artist for the Levellers who kindly gave his permission for me to use the rolling anarchy logo and to Ryan Hillier from Noisy Hammer for creating a stencil of the logo for me.
Although an extremely niche and limited release, the Punk Spirit is the most personal FLB pedal I have created to date and hopefully serves as a fitting tribute to a band that has always been a willing thorn in the side of the mainstream musical establishment. I hold them in the highest esteem, their music having given me untold amounts of joy throughout my life. The Punk Spirit lets me pass a bit of that joy on to you.
The Punk Spirit is priced at £75.00 and will initially be available exclusively at the Brighton Guitar Show; Saturday 15th July 2023. Please come say hello and try one out.
All the best,