If anyone were to be into pedals it would be the modern guitarist. Granted there are a few who play only acoustic, and even fewer who exclusively play plugged straight into the amplifier, but the majority of modern guitarists are to some extent looking to find new sounds in the electric realm and pedals help them go there. The firmament of modern guitar heaven is filled with gods who use a plethora of stompboxes in their quest for sonic freshness. Adrian Belew, Nels Cline, Eivind Aarset, Stian Westerhus, David Torn, Nick Reinhardt, and others employ effect pedals as an essential part of their artistry.
For them, and guitarists of all stripes, this year has seen the release of, not one, but two books (actually three) devoted to these playable, collectable, fetish-encouraging devices.
Israeli photographer Eilon Paz’s 514-page Stompbox: 100 Pedals of the World’s Greatest Guitarists has gone the fetish route with glamor shots of pedals belonging to 100 players, from the ultra-famous to the relatively unknown. Modern guitarists Belew, Torn, Cline, and Frisell are all in there. Gorgeous photographs accurately evoke the appeal of these objects of desire, while the accompanying stories offer insights into why each guitarist was so taken with his or her pedal. (Full disclosure: I provided about a half dozen of the interviews but receive no royalties).
In traveling the world to put together this book, Paz discovered some amazing pedal collections and extremely rare pieces, so he and editor Dan Epstein decided to put together a separate book— Vintage & Rarities: 333 Cool, Crazy and Hard to Find Guitar Pedals—featuring some of those collections and pedals. Rarities also features profiles of 25 pedal collectors from around the world—including Adrian Belew, Henry Kaiser and David Torn, and pedal builders Oliver Ackermann (Death By Audio), Mike Piera (Analog Man), and Josh Scott (JHS)—all of whom share their personal tales of stompbox addiction, while offering additional insight into these fascinating devices. Also, the same sumptuous style of pedal pictures as Stompbox.
Both books combine beauty and information in a highly readable format. They are available separately or in a discounted boxed set directly from the website. At the time of this posting an additional 15% discount is available.
The 376-page Pedal Crush veers in a different direction. Written by Kim Bjørn and Scott Harper (the legendary YouTuber, Knobs) with additional content contributed by Andy Martin, Brian Wampler, and others, this tome takes a more textbook/encyclopedia approach visually and otherwise. Covering over 800 pedals from dozens of manufacturers and with over 50 interviews, it delves into pedal techniques, tips and tricks, pedalboards, software, and more.
All that info in a relatively small book doesn’t allow for the pedal porn pictures of the Stompbox book. Pedal Crush is more for the deep diving knowledge seeker, who doesn’t mind small print. Said seeker will find reams of knowledge here about a staggering proportion of the pedals currently on the market and the characters who make them.
Pedal Crush is available directly from BJBOOKS or you can go to the website and find a music store near you that sells it.
In short, if you want to revel in the mystique and mojo of pedal culture, Stompbox: 100 Pedals of the World’s Greatest Guitarists, along with its companion Vintage & Rarities: 333 Cool, Crazy and Hard to Find Guitar Pedals are for you, while Pedal Crush is a valuable reference book for anyone who uses these sound shapers. But let’s face it, if you love pedals, you need all three, and with lockdown looking to continue for a while you will have plenty of time to peruse them.