1. Favourite knob/fader/switch on a piece of gear and why?
I tend to lean towards the Feedback areas of pedals that can perform that function, so Feedback knobs, on Delays especially, and Gain knobs on dirt pedals would probably be tops. If you can mix the two and get an overdriven or distorted signal to feedback into self-oscillation, with the possibility to get completely out of control, that’s my happy place.
2. Do you have an ‘almost’ perfect bit of kit? What would you change?
For years now, all of the demos I record have run through a Universal Audio Apollo Twin Duo, and I recently upgraded to the Twin X Duo. The preamps are so nice, and the plugins you can get replicate so much vintage gear right at your fingertips…it’s pretty incredible. The functionality / ease of use is perfect, it’s almost a plug-and-play type of situation, with as big or small of a learning curve as you want.
3. What setup do you bring on holiday/tour/commute etc.?
Well, we haven’t really left or gone out or done anything over the last year, but usually when I travel for a vacation, I just bring along an acoustic guitar. I’m surrounded by electronics and hardware and pedals the majority of the day, and vacation is a time to get away and take a break from all of that. The acoustic lets me get back to why I started playing guitar in the first place, lets me focus on the raw energy that those instruments bring, and opens up or reinvigorates a passion for stripped-down music that can sometimes get lost in the world of effects. Been using an Alvarez AD60SC for about 16 years now, and still love it, but really want a nice Martin or Taylor or something along those lines at some point.
4. What software do you wish was hardware and vice versa?
I use some plugins with my UA Apollo Twin X Duo to clean up and finalize the audio for Pedal of the Day’s demos, but there’s something about having an actual rack of gear right in front of you that just can’t be replaced by a computer screen. Having a Teletronix LA-2A, Studer A800 and an actual vintage Tape Echo unit here in the studio would be rad. As for the opposite, they’re making pretty much everything you can think of into some form of plugin or patch these days, and there are many devices which let you run your analog effects straight into your recording, so the sky’s the limit there.
5. Is there anything you regret selling… or regret buying?
TONS of gear. I wish I could keep every single pedal or guitar or keyboard that I have ever owned, but I don’t have the space, and I wouldn’t make any money!
During the last Covid-infused year, I have had to get rid of some long-time favorites, but I think the ones that really hurt were my Moogerfooger Delay, Phaser,
Low-Pass Filter and MuRF. I’d like to say I’ll have them all back again someday, but even since I sold them last year, the prices have skyrocketed, so those might just be gone for good.
6. What gear has inspired you to produce the most music?
I think all gear can be inspiring, even a piece that you may find boring or dull at first. With pedals especially, you need to sit down and really get to know them, how they act/react, what their key functions are, any hidden features or treasures they hide, waiting to be discovered, etc… Part of the fun of this line of work is the constant exploration and uncertainty about each effect, and since we all use them differently, there’s really no wrong way to go about that.
I think the demo community provides a lot of different perspectives on how each pedal can be utilized and exploited – the companies themselves seem to enjoy how different all the demos sound, as we each are giving an individualized interpretation of the effects, and come up with sounds the original designers might not have even thought of.
7. If you had to start over, what would you get first?
A vintage Fender Blackface Deluxe Reverb, a cheap-ish guitar (maybe a Strat or Tele) that I could mod and customize, and a Delay pedal. I have enjoyed swapping pickups and wiring out of guitars over the years, but haven’t had the time or focus to do so recently, and think that would be fun to jump back into.
The Deluxe Reverb is a perfect pedal platform, plus you already have the Reverb and Vibrato built in. Delays are by far my favorite effects, so it wouldn’t even really matter how wild or crazy it was, just something simple to get started, like a Boss DM-3 or a Way Huge Supa-Puss, something along those lines.
8. What’s the most annoying piece of gear you have, that you just can’t live without?
Years ago I bought a couple of old Ibanez rack delays from the ’80s, a DM1100 and a DM2000. They each have this Hold function that can be controlled by and external switch, and the DM2000 has one for its Modulation settings as well. The DM1100, when it’s set the way I have it and you play a note or chord and hit that Hold, it takes the audio and continually ramps it up and down, with a thick, seemingly uncontrollable modulation sound that is different every time. It can get super annoying, but also adds a certain layer of chaos into the mix that is just lovely to experience.
9. Most surprising tip/trick/technique that you’ve discovered about a bit of kit?
There isn’t one specifically, but I love to dive into the more complex pedals (Microcosm, H9, ZOIA, etc) and see what hidden treasures await. The designing and execution of musical ideas over the last couple of years has been astounding, and I’m glad to be a part of bringing these sounds to people everywhere.
Artist or Band name?
I haven’t released anything new in a number of years, unfortunately. I had a number of little side jam projects starting to happen right before Covid hit, so those are all obviously on the back burner for right now. Years ago, I was in a bar band called Alcoholocaust, and we just played bars around Boone, North Carolina, where I was living at the time. I also released some tracks under the name DJ Big Berndt a couple years ago, mostly chill, ambient kind of background music, and that was a lot of fun.
I love ALL genres of music, except for pop country. REAL country I can listen to all day, but the pop garbage I can’t do. Classical, metal, rap, jam bands, disco, yacht rock, classic rock, techno, you name it….I love it all.
Where are you from?
Born in Madison, Wisconsin, raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, currently reside in Weaverville, North Carolina (USA)
How did you get into music?
My dad bought a drum set when I was 8, and he taught me a little bit about it before my folks split up. The drum set stayed, though, and I learned to play down in the basement with headphones, playing along to Zeppelin and Guns n Roses and the like. I got a cheap neon yellow guitar and a little Gorilla amp when I was 12, but didn’t stick with it for whatever reason. I finally got an acoustic when I was 19 or 20, started taking some lessons from a friend of mine, who ended up selling me his Epiphone Sheraton, and it was all over from there.
What still drives you to make music?
Music is everything! Constantly looking for inspiration in not only the music I create but from all kinds of outside sources is just the greatest. The way that different tracks, genres, artists and sound can influence you at any given time of day, or with anything that’s going on in your life, at any moment, is a pretty spectacular thing to be a witness to. The fact that music has and continues to evolve constantly, around the world, on a daily basis, is just a spectacular phenomenon, one I hope that never goes away.
How do you most often start a new track?
As a drummer, the rhythm parts are the keys, so getting a simple beat and maybe a little bass line down is always a great place to start. However, sitting around jamming on your acoustic can open up a can of musical worms as well, and when inspiration strikes, you gotta capture it. I have a lot of handwritten notes scattered around the office that have been building over the years, as well as a bunch of quick ideas I’ve recorded into Amplitube on my phone. Whether any of them will ever turn into something more or get recorded remains to be seen, hopefully I can revisit them soon and start working more on finishing some of them up.
How do you know when a track is finished?
You don’t. You can sit and overthink and tweak over and over and over, and still never truly be satisfied with the result. The first mix that sounds the best, stick with that. It’s kinda like recording a number of different guitar solos and then trying to decide which is the best – chances are, the first one was the best, because you were just playing, rather than comparing it and second-guessing yourself, you know?
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Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?
My grandpa used to say, “As you go through life, let this be your goal: keep your eye on the donut, and not the donut hole.” I think that you need to focus on all aspects of whatever you do, not just on one particular thing, whether it’s how you approach a new recording session, or how you cook a meal, or how you interact with your family and other humans in general on a daily basis. Focusing on the little things can be key, of course, but seeing the bigger picture, breathing and taking it all in is how I try to live and create.
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Pedal of the Day – https://www.pedal-of-the-day.com/
Pedal of the Day on YouTube – https://youtube.com/c/pedaloftheday208
DJ Big Berndt on YouTube – https://www.youtube.com/c/DJBigBerndt