The 1991 has received a ridiculous amount of positive feedback since I announced it a couple of weeks ago... Sadly due to continued global shipping delays I haven't taken receipt of the knobs yet so can't even show you the finished article yet; let alone release the thing! So I thought I'd knock up a little article regarding the tones on offer to keep you excited about it!
Ok, ok, ok let’s embrace the hyperbole a bit before we get into the nitty gritty…
1991 is the year that saw the burgeoning “Grunge” movement, that had been gathering pace since the early 1980’s burst its banks and come spilling out of Seattle in the form of monstrous, hairy, flannel wearing ear worms like Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and Pearl Jam’s “Alive”. As much a spirit as a sound, the incredible music released in 1991 has stood the test of time and this pedal stands as a celebration of that incredible landmark in music history.
So, putting the hype aside; what actually is the sound of 1991?...
Photo by Chris Cuffaro
The underlying principle of the 1991 is to behave like a cranked, high gain amplifier being pushed by a mid-forward drive pedal. This set up was the fundamental building blocks of many hard rock guitarist’s sound in 1991 and throughout the “Grunge” era.
It features the following controls:
Gain 1; Gain 2; Volume; Bass; Mids; Treble
Working according to the principle explained above, you might find it helpful to view Gain 1 as the drive pedal smashing into the cranked amp; being Gain 2. The gain stages can be operated together or independently of each other, which provides you with a lot of versatility. Gain 1 is the higher gain of the two stages and drives Gain 2 when the two are used together.
As well as the two gain stages you get a three band eq with Bass, Mids and Treble control. This has been purpose designed to be reflective of the ’91 sound and as such is mid forward, top heavy and easy on the low end.
The key tone we wanted to nail with the 1991 was that of Stone Gossard’s guitar on “Alive” by Pearl Jam. This guitar tone is an absolute cornerstone of the ’91 sound and the perfect blueprint for a pedal seeking to emulate the sounds of the time. In order to achieve this sound; set the controls on the pedal as detailed below, use a bridge humbucker and rock out!
Gain1: Hard Right
Ok, cool. But what if Pearl Jam and in fact "Grunge" as a whole isn't really your thing? Well, worry not as I've got you covered...
So the title of this blog comes from the song "One Way" by the Levellers; who released their seminal "Levelling The Land" album 30 years ago in 1991, with "One Way" as the lead single. The chorus of the song goes "There's only one way of life and that's your own" and I think that's a principle you should apply to your guitar playing too.
As a guitar player, it's ridiculously easy to get bogged down in a mire of endless gear acquisitions in the eternal quest for tone. I'm a gear nut and I make my living out of people's quest for tone so you're not going to hear me complaining about this attitude, but I do take some exception to the notion that there's a right and wrong way of going about things and that you're not a proper player if you don't use certain gear. I get especially fucked off by the attitude of "At £99, how do I know it's not shit?" which has been peddled (pun intended) by certain big players in the industry as a means of helping to justify exorbitant prices.
It's part of FLB's mission statement to cut through insidious bullshit like this and the 1991 pedal is perhaps the most honest distillation of that desire. Yes, it's designed to nail a specific tone; but there's way more to it than just the PJ sound and what excites me most about getting this pedal out there is the thought of what people are going to do with it after they've dialled in the PJ tone; gone "Yeah that fucking rocks" and then start twiddling to see what else is in there.
I have obviously spent hours on end finding out what tones are in there and can confirm there's absolutely loads! As well as the grunge phenomenon; 1991 saw the release of a ridiculously diverse range of incredible music and it makes me really proud to confirm that the 1991 pedal has an incredibly diverse range of tones in there and they're really easy to access! No deep dive required guys. Intuition is one of the most valuable things a musician can possess so the tools you're using need to be equally intuitive.
Now I could go ahead and list a whole range of sounds and the exact settings for how to get them; but that would kind of defeat the whole point of what I have just been saying. I've designed this pedal to be intuitive and inspirational; there's no easier way to rob someone of their inspiration than by telling them what to do and how to do it.
Rather than do that; I'm going to give one hint to get you started and then you guys can take it from there...
Start with a blank slate. Clean amp; both gain stages turned off on the 1991. Take a bit of time to enjoy the glorious, sparkly clean boost and have a twiddle with the EQ knobs to get things where you want them to be. Then start bringing in some gain and work it from there....
And that's it, I'm saying no more. Your tone is yours; and only you can say if it's good or not.
For a bit of fun and nothing more I built a wee board inspired by that of Mark Chadwick's; frontman of the Levellers. It's a very simple setup and the 1991 slots in beautifully taking the place of the OCD; a pedal I never got on with due to it having way too much bottom end; so much so it made my telecaster sound muddy.
Mark Chadwick's Board
Mine doesn't include an octave pedal; purely because I don't have one in stock or own one personally so I went for my little chorus pedal instead. However, if the T Rex 8 Ball Octave was still in stock I would have it on this board for sure as it is an absolutely fantastic and unfairly overlooked octave pedal.
My "Chadwick Inspired" board
Also, the 1991 is the blurred out pedal. Sorry if you thought you were going to see it pre-knob fitting but I'm afraid she doesn't do nude shots!