It’s a question that has troubled us since the dawn of time-based effects. A this point the options outweigh the imagination, and it seems like everyone and their grandmother has at least fantasized about owning the perfect pedalboard.
But after we teamed up with trilingual math blog En Tres Lenguas to start asking around, the community was quick to respond – passionately. From using delay to spear schools of elusive trigger fish, to channeling reverb to create a seismic graviton, a host of extremes played out in this scenario. Extremes that, to be honest, we’ve never seen before in any mainstream articles. But that is why we love you.
What we’re trying to say is, you made us immensely proud to be a part of such a creative and foreword thinking community. From the bottom of our hearts, thanks for making music.
Joe Andreoli – Giraffes? Giraffes!
PICK: Strymon El Capistan
“This was super tough, but my all time favorite stuck-on-a-deserted-island you only get one pedal forever is… the Strymon El Capistan. Why? Let me break it down. My personal favorite delay sound is called “tape delay” or “tape echo”. If you don’t know, tape delay/echo came about in the analog tape recording days. They would route the original signal through an additional tape recorder to echo/delay the sound. There were different playback heads you could select for different echo/delay patterns. The sound was warm and the quirks of the machines (and the fidelity of the tape inside) would add to the character of the effect.
The El Capistan is a digital pedal, but does an amazing job recreating these old tape units. You have fixed head/multi head/single head patterns, you can mess with the tape age (older is darker/warmer), adjust wow and flutter (warbling/imperfections), add tape crinkle… it even has adjustable spring reverb! ‘But Joe, no looper?!’ No way! Remember those old tape machines? Well, you can send the signal back into each other to continue repeating the sound. People like Robert Fripp, Brian Eno, Steve Reich, Terry Riley (and others) blazed the trail on this technique in the early 70s. The El Cap replicates that in its sound on sound mode: you tap the splice in and splice out points to create a tape loop, and you can add additional overdubs or just play over the loop without overdubbing. On top of that, you still have access to the controls, so you can get pretty far out messing with speed, flutter, and rate of disintegration. I think I bought mine in 2013? I’ve used it on every GIRAFFES? GIRAFFES! recording and tour since – and don’t plan on stopping anytime soon, rescued from this deserted island or not ;) Make noise and have fun!”
Spencer Bartholemew – SEIMS
PICKS: Montreal Assembly CT5 / Walrus Audio Jupiter
“My question whenever it gets to the deserted island is, where exactly is it? Everyone assumes it’s tropical, but what if it were off the coast of Greenland in minus 40 degrees? If we were on the atypical tropical desert island, then it would be the Montreal Assembly Count to Five. It provides so much versatility on the bass (especially with an expression pedal) that you’d feel constantly light and breezy with that endless spattering decay.
If we’re talking frostbitten tundra deserted island, then it’s the Walrus Audio Jupiter, keeping warm with the warmest fuzz I’ve ever used, that still has an insane bite when you need it. This has been a permanent on board for almost seven years, and I won’t dare part with it. Bonus points for the artwork of the dead astronaut on the deserted planet – feels quite fitting.”
Marcos Mena – standards
PICK: Any Tuner
“If I could only bring one guitar pedal to a desert island, I’d probably pick a tuner pedal. There’s so much that’s possible with just a guitar and an amp, not to mention all the possible alternative tunings with a guitar. I’d prefer having a tuner pedal with me so I could navigate through alternative tunings without much difficulty. Bringing any other effect pedal would really not satisfy me. If I have any effect, I’ll want the others, so I’d rather just not have any at all if I could only pick one. Without an effect pedal, I could work within the confines of amp and guitar and push myself creatively to make lots of cool music :)”
Tyler Perkins – Champagne Colored Cars
PICK: Earthquaker Devices Avalanche Run
“I would have to choose my Avalanche Run from EQD. Delay in general is just my favorite effect, and this pedal has so many possibilities… I regularly use the classic dotted 8th setting, the reverse setting, and the momentary oscillation in recordings and shows. Adds so much atmosphere to a song, it would take me years to get bored of it even on a desert island.”
Diego Manatrizio – Hungría
PICK: Digitech Jamman
“The pedal I’d take to a desert island would be a looper, hands down, is the Digitech Jamman Stereo Looper. It’s a structural and fundamental element of my songwriting. It’s a tool that might come across as frustrating and limited at first, but I’ve found and continue to find new possibilities and ways to use it that go beyond what’s obvious to it as I keep on exploring it.
I like working with the idea that repetition can bring musical sense to any sound or noise, no matter how abstract or inharmonic it may be. I also find it really interesting to overlap layers in different bars and subdivisions that go in and out of phase after a certain amount of repetitions. This allows me to create some sort of rhythmic framework that may sound chaotic, but that is nevertheless a cycle with an identifiable beginning and end to it. Two examples of the way I loop could be ‘Algunos animales son tan difíciles de ver que parecen espíritus’ by Hungría and ‘Lo Implacable de los sueños’ from my solo project Flaaryr.”
Gabriel Molina – Tortuganónina
PICK: Boss DD-6
“I was thinking about my Line 6 M9, but since it’s a multi effects unit I feel it’s kinda like cheating, so I guess a Boss DD6 would be a good candidate. I like its versatility: due to its transparent sound, it’s usable on any instrument you can plug in it; I’ve even used it on vocals, keys and percussion from the desk mix while working as a sound engineer for other bands.
And if we’re talking about being stranded, I could kill time by using the Hold mode for hours, improvising short loops with infinite layers until everything becomes an incoherent body of sound. Thumbs up for durability as well; I’ve kicked the hell out of that pedal while playing live and it’s still as good as new. I could easily use it as a hammer or survival weapon in this hypothetical desert island and it would keep on working just fine.”
Tim Jim Smith -Gazelle(s)
PICKS: Boss DD-6 / Meris Ottobit Jr.
“When I think of a desert island pedal, I first think about a power supply. But, I’m going to assume I have a massive solar array that can power my Fender Bassman 100. For me, it came down to two things: variety (so as never to get bored), and necessity (something I could play forever and thus, never get bored). So I chose two pedals. Kill me. For necessity, I’d take my Boss DD6, one of my favorite and most reliable delay pedals. I’ll often set it to the “warp” function to help me create swells of ambient noise and eventually calm my anxieties after peeling my 7,436th coconut and millionth failed attempt at spearing a trigger fish in the shallows.
For variety, I’d bring my Meris Ottobit Jr. You can never get bored of this thing, mostly because you’ll never learn how to use it. It’s so spontaneous and exciting, every time I randomly twist its knobs and create new settings I’m given a true gift of exciting playability. So musical, and so unmusical at the same time. That’ll keep me occupied as I watch the rocks which I’ve arranged to say “TACO TUES” wash away with the high tide.”
Agustín García Guerra – Leña
PICK: Line 6 DL-4
“If I had to pick just one pedal, I wouldn’t doubt taking the Line 6 DL-4 with me. Being alone, the only thing that could save me from going crazy would be to listen to an on-repeat track on top of which I could keep on harmonizing, and to which I could add delay and even modulation, or a bit of chorus to make up for the total lack of human voices. I wouldn’t need a reverb because the desert island would provide for it. I’d just spend my time blasting any speakers I had by looping the sounds that my guitar and nature offered me.
In a few words, the DL-4 would be like my Wilson from Castaway. Without it, we wouldn’t have written so many Leña songs, even though we don’t use the pedal to actually play them; the possibility of recording melodic lines opened some doors for us, and our latest record is a great reflection of that.”
Anabel Gorbatt – YON
PICK: Digitech Whammy
“A pedal that it would be rather nice to have on a desert island is the Whammy. In YON I use the Digitech XP-100, a rather old model that’s nevertheless much more versatile for experimentation. What I like the most about this pedal is its capacity to create diverse soundscapes and turn the guitar into much more than a six-string box.
It’s in songs like ‘Ciudad de Brujas’, ‘Polvo’ and ‘Paraíso Perdido’ where I believe one can appreciate the variety of possibilities it offers the most. Another time I took advantage of it was a home recording album that I released in 2010, combining it with a Line 6 DL-4, a Moogerfooger Ring Modulator, a Danelectro chorus and an E-Bow as A Canyon.
Bri Childs – Childspeak
PICK: Digitech Whammy
“Every time, without fail. A simple toe tap, a click, a throttle, and I find myself hopping onto the back of a jetski cruising at a cool 300 MPH and shitting rainbows. This glorious craft that is the Digitech Whammy takes me away to wherever I go to not give a shit about anything but what I am doing at that exact moment in time. This feeling of complete and total focus is why myself and many others love to play music.
If playing guitar is a warm cup of coffee, playing guitar with a DIGI WHAM is a piping hot shot of espresso into an overflowing cup. What warms my soul most is the range of emotions that you can squeeze out of this machine. Squirrels that dance Argentine Tango live in every Whammy, but so do black holes and those creatures that live in the depth of the ocean where we can’t go, and they all come out to play. It’s always wild, it’s freezing, it’s blistering, and always makes me very, very content.”
Felipe Leòn – Montaña
PICK: Collision Devices Black Hole Symmetry
“I’ve been working with the Black Hole Symmetry by Collision Devices for some time now, so I think it would be that same pedal I’d take with me to an island in the middle of nowhere. It’s not really complex regarding its functions: it’s a really robust fuzz that is paired with an equally solid reverb and delay. Besides how dramatic this pedal might or not be, I feel that it gives me the chance of having a really big sound thanks to the mix of fuzz and reverb, which produces an immense sensation of spatiality. I can also imagine that the music that would come out of my guitar could be heard in the nearest land to the island.”
Nico Mulletgnarly – Sloth and Turtle, Hoarders
PICK: Boss PS-6
“It’s probably my harmonist pedal, the Boss PS6… is that too basic math rock? At first I thought it was gonna be a one-trick-pony kinda pedal; it has this pitch shifter mode that wrenches up whatever note you’re playing and makes it sound all warbly, slightly piercing, and kind of like high-pitched demonic steel drums (also kinda fitting for a desert island). However, after messing with it for a while I was able to incorporate some of its awesome bending features into songs as well. The “S-bend” feature is now my go-to function on the pedal. If you turn the “shift” knobs, you can send whatever note you’re playing to super sub-lows (making like a wompy dubstep/tape-stop effect), or take it the opposite way in a series of higher octaves, all with a cool warping sound getting you from high to low or vice versa. The varying speeds of the warp effect are controlled by the “rise time/fall time” knobs.
I’m finding that I love using the pedal on the end of a riff and quickly warping the last couple notes up to a super high octave… pepper on some delay and it adds an ethereal quality that just echoes your riff a bit and then decays into the rest of the layers. It’s also fun just to add an entirely warped higher octave of a riff and layer it over the original.”
Personally, because I have no idea what kind of amp I’d be left with, I’d choose the Earthquaker Devices Plumes, so that I could rest assured my tone would never be overtaken by it’s hostile environment. I worry about this frequently. Well, I did, until I started playing in the living room. Maybe isolation isn’t all bad?
Got someone in mind that we should ask for future volumes? Let us know!
We hope you enjoyed this first salvo, and be sure to head over to the Tres Lenguas site for Spanish translations! Massive thanks to Julieta Heredia of Fin Del Mundo for the artwork as well. Big thanks to all the bands who participated in this! We have a lot of big updates coming your way soon, as well as some catch up content with Town Portal, Delta Sleep, and TTNG. Stay safe!