Way back in March of 2021 I was lucky enough to meet the lovely Matt Webster when he purchased a fuzz pedal from me. Seeing as he only lives 15 minutes away from the shop I took the liberty of delivering the pedal to him in person and ended up chatting on his doorstep for the best part of an hour, during which time I discovered he has a very successful channel on YouTube (Let's Play All) which focuses on guitar lessons for grunge songs; and also plays guitar in a very successful Pearl Jam tribute band. We've been mates ever since.
A few weeks later, fueled up on wine; Matt messages me with a challenge. Namely, to sort out a pedal for the 30th anniversary of the Ten album which could nail the PJ guitar tone of that album in one pedal.
I was fueled up on beer and so it goes without saying that I accepted the challenge!
Having been fully immersed in the murky depths of the pedal world for several years now; it's probably no surprise that I had been thinking about having a crack at designing and building my own pedal for a long time and where I was able, would spend my time educating myself on how to put a circuit together.
This pedal idea really motivated me. To the point where I decided that rather than get in touch with one of the many builders I know to knock me up a clone, I was going to design and build it myself.
So the work began.
After endless trawling through the sludge of guitar geekery available on the internet I finally happened across an obscure amplifier circuit from the early 90's which seemed like it would fit the bill due to having 2 individual gain stages; with one driving the other, therefore acting in the same way as a pedal driving an amp and began the work of adapting it.
Then I got in touch with the amazing Simon Andrews of JSA Effects; he looked it over and told me
"No, it won't work. You've got the right idea but it needs work."
I can't underestimate how much Simon's help here mattered in terms of bringing this pedal together. His willingness to help allowed me to fast track a whole pile of knowledge that would have taken months for me to work out on my own.
With a schematic for a working circuit finally down on paper, I began the laborious process of breadboarding, which basically ended up being an endless and messy job of troubleshooting without much to show for it.
Around this time, Marc Dunn of Soundlad Liverpool fame got in touch and started giving me sneak peeks of the Scran; as a trade off it seemed only fair I let him see what I was working on. He was ridiculously enthusiastic and offered to help me out with prototyping as I confessed I was getting angsty about time running out. Again, not too proud to accept help, I took him up on his offer and
was soon round Matt's house to test and tweak the circuit.
And so, with a lot of help, a huge amount of luck and, to quote Placebo "a lot of guts, a little vision" the 1991 came into being. The stunning looks of this pedal are all down to the incredible skills of my good friend John Stewart at Stompslaps and the final piece of the puzzle comes in the form of the custom knobs, designed by the awesome Ritch Tompkins of Stompkins pedals.
The overarching aim when making the 1991 was to be able to nail the intro tone to "Alive" but with the intention of having a whole load of other good tones on offer. It seems only right to give the verdict on whether we achieved this or not over to Rob Laing who reviewed the pedal for Music Radar
"So does he pull it off? With Gain 1's pedal stage full and Gain 2's amp-style gain and the EQ at noon: that's the Alive tone alright!.. The Porch and Even Flow riffs come tumbling out with satisfying results too. But what's just as interesting for fans is how well the 1991 works for appropriating Pearl Jam's post-Ten material... Beyond any grunge nostalgia, this is an excellent drive pedal from a UK builder and its mid-focussed character provides a huge appeal for us."
Since releasing it in September of 2021 there are now over 500 1991 pedals out there bringing noisy joy to players; whilst another thousand people are on a closed waitlist for the pedal. The 1991 was awarded 4.5 out of 5 stars in Music Radar's review.
Proud doesn't even cover it.