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Slice of Sneaker

Tech Nerd

Yeah Yeah Yeah's Nick Zinner lists his favorite musical tech gadgets.
NZ
Κείμενο Nick Zinner

Nick photo by Aliya Naumoff; pedals photographed by Nick.

ZOOM RHYTHMTRAK RT-123
This is my favorite cheap drum machine. You can program in your own patterns with not only the many different drum sounds, but also the bass and keyboard sounds. Lots of Yeah Yeah Yeahs songs feature a keyboard sound from this, like “Rich” and “Maps.” I like running the RT-123 through either a distortion pedal or a cheap amp for a more fucked-up sound. Everyone thinks it’s a guitar. Ha ha.

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ROLAND SPACE ECHO RE-201
This is actually someone else’s model—a chorus version 301—but this is an analog tape-delay unit. I prefer to use the RE-201, without the chorus, as a pre-amp/compressor with a slight amount of spring reverb. The Space Echo works by having a reel of tape which is continually fed through three heads that play back while recording, making an echo, or delay. By alternating the path of the playback within the heads, you can control the timing and pattern of the echo. All the old dub records were originally made using only these units. I had a grounding switch put on the back of mine, as voltage differences in non-U.S. countries can interfere with the output and make it sound like shit.

HONDA SOUND WORKS OCTAVE FUZZ PEDAL

This is a prototype made for me by a small company in Tokyo that hand-makes pedals with a little TLC. True to its name, it produces a thick overdriven sound that can mold a guitar tone from “Lay Down Sally” into “Whole Lotta Rosie.”

BOSS LOOP STATION RC-20

This pedal is advertised as a means to basically “play with yourself,” but I don’t like to use it that way. You can record a sound and have it play back as a loop (repeating indefinitely) and record on top of that, then record on top of that, and so on forever and ever. To me, it’s a sampler. I like to record and store sounds and parts of music I can’t reproduce live on it. The RC-20 is able to sample a sound that’s five minutes long. For example, I could sample the entire instrumental version of “Fight the Power,” push a button with my foot, and shred sick guitar solos over that bitch.

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DIGITECH HYPER PHASE

Phaser pedals are usually for shoe-gazers and goths. With its brother, the Flanger, phasers made most of the 80s unlistenable after being resurrected from 60s and 70s psychedelia. Phase is produced by splitting a signal and shifting one of the sounds ever so slightly. The more you shift the signal, the more “whooooeeeeesh” effect you get. The pedal works by doing this through different frequency and sound-wave variations, recombining the effect with the original source sound at different speeds, with harmonic and non-harmonic relationships. Or something like that. Everything sounds “cool” through it, especially feedback, but please, use it sparingly. It can get very irritating.

ELECTRO-HARMONIX P.O.G.

My favorite new pedal. This is a Polyphonic Octave Generator, meaning you can make multiple real-time re-creations of the input sound in different registers, or octaves. I can play one note, and it sounds like a goddamned orchestra. Unlike most octave pedals, which have a slight delay in the output sound, this one is very fast and works with chords. This is all over the new YYY record. Even though this pedal only came out like last year, Jack White already beat me by using one on the first single from the last White Stripes record. Feedback sounds really fucked-up through the POG as well, in a fantastic way.

LINE 6 DL4 DELAY MODULATOR

Hands down, the greatest delay pedal. If you don’t know, delay is another word for echo. Play a note and it keeps repeating and repeating and repeating… triiiippy. The DL4, commonly referred to as “the green pedal,” digitally reproduces every type of delay effect and pedal, from analog tape echo to programmable backward digital delay. It also has a sample loop function, but unlike the RC-20, it’s not able to store the sound after it’s been turned off. I use this in the beginning of the YYY song “Maps” to keep that one note ringing through the whole damn song. Live, the green pedal usually gets the highest nod approval rating from the guitar players in the front row who stare at my hands and feet FOR THE WHOLE FUCKING SHOW.