I have recently bought myself a new distortion pedal for my guitar.
The pedal I have chosen is the TC Electronics “Eyemaster”, which has just two knobs – and really, you’re not supposed to move them from any position other than maximum. That’s because it is modelled on the Boss HM-2 pedal, which is notorious in extreme music as the sound of Swedish death metal, because one particular producer who did a lot of Swedish metal bands’ early albums had one and used it extensively. The HM-2 was an awful pedal, with only one setting that was usable: everything on full.
So TC Electronics set the tone knobs to maximum and then didn’t give you the option of changing it – those knobs don’t exist on the box.
The Eyemaster is a pedal that does one thing extremely well, and that thing is, well…
(I used my down-tuned Epiphone hollow-body to emphasise the grind!)
It’s the sound known as the Swedish chainsaw, and I, for one, love it. I mean, that’s why I would buy a pedal like the Eyemaster in the first place, duh!
You have got a volume and gain knob to play with, but if you’re buying this pedal, you’re not expecting subtlety and you’re not going to get it. So why muck about with anything less than extreme? (Don’t forget to add a noise gate into your signal chain though.)
It’s a great pedal, if this is the sound you’re after.
But what got me thinking was that ethos, “Do one thing extremely well”. The HM-2 did not do the thing it was supposed to do well, but guitarists found a way to get something great from it. The Eyemaster set out to do that one great thing to the best degree it could on a reasonable budget.
So many things these days are designed to do lots of things, and that is regarded as a Good Thing. Your phone is also a web browser, a camera, a dictaphone, a games console, a diary and whatever else they cram into them nowadays.
I also lack that focus: I am a writer, a musician, a game designer, and so on, for example. Except, when in a day job doing admin or whatever, that’s when I really want to be given the chance to focus on just one thing and do it excellently.
But I admire the approach that sets out to excel in one thing. It’s like athletes who focus on a single event and hone their skills and physique to be the best they can be at the specific challenge. I admire it best when it comes to making things. Making the very best thing at what it does, and saying, “This, and only this, is what we do.”
(Of course, TC Electronics make many different pedals for all sorts of different sounds, and many of them are designed to be exceptionally versatile. But the approach on designing the Eyemaster is what I’m thinking about here).
The world would probably not function if everyone just focussed on their one thing: we need people whose approach is to learn as many different things as they can (as noted, when it comes to creativity, that’s me). I admire those who can take the time to learn a new skill and then use it and retain that skill, just as much as I admire those who focus on one thing.
So this post is to celebrate my new death metal sound, and the single-mindedness that created it.
For more thoughts inspired by new musical gear, why not check out New gear, Self-doubt, Mid-life “crisis”, and Depression – or if you’d like more on doing things really well, related to music: 2 years’ work in 2 days: what talent shows hide