It’s fascinating to see how guitar playing has been enhanced by different tools over the decades. From amplifiers to sound effects, the guitar’s sound has evolved over time while remaining as recognizably distinct as ever. One piece of equipment that guitarists have used to shape their sound is the pedal, sometimes referred to as the Stompbox. In fact, manufacturers like Fender experienced growth globally as new and returning musicians honed their craft during lockdowns. And just like Reverb’s “The Pedal Movie” explores, the pedal has significantly altered the course of music history as we know it. Here are four things you need to know about the film:
1. It showcases the pedal's early pioneers
The film introduces the pioneers of pedal effects as it follows a chronological sequence of its development over the years. It shows how bass player Grady Martin used a brand new mixing desk with faulty transformers for his guitar, resulting in what is now called a “fuzz tone.” This sparked exciting discussions with sound engineer George Snoddy, who sought to replicate it with a new innovation that would come to be known as the first distortion pedal. Together with engineer Revis Hobbs, he produced the Gibson Maestro FZ-1 Fuzz-Tone in 1962. Other engineers and artists like Nancy Sinatra quickly wanted the sound featured in their tracks, giving way to the popularization of this revolutionary discovery in modern music.
2. It's the first film to document the creation of guitar pedals
"The Pedal Movie" is Reverb’s first full-length film that follows the history of effects pedals. The documentary takes its audience back to the 1960s when the first pedals were created. It then goes on to feature pedals and their builders as they forever changed the sound of popular music. The movie chronicles the development of the most beloved guitar pedal brands. JHS, in particular, was a direct result of modified mass-market pedals. But founder Josh Scott had to go through modified mass-market pedals before creating favorites, such as the Unicorn photocell modulator and the Pulp n’ Peel compressor. JHS has since then become a household name for effects pedals in the industry. Significant but unpopular origin stories like these are featured and explored in the film.
3. The film features over 100 interviews and cameos
"The Pedal Movie" interviews an extensive number of individuals in the industry, from pedal creators to artists. Fans will especially appreciate the appearance of famous rock stars, including legendary guitarist, Steve Vai, and The Black Keys drummer, Patrick Carney. These acclaimed musicians discuss their preferences for pedals, how they achieve their sound, and how they started out with brands like Earthquaker Devices. These interviews and cameos provide more than just a wow factor to the documentary – they emphasize the significance of the pedal in an informative and powerful way.
4. It features over 50 pedal brands
The movie features an impressive lineup of builders and leaders from more than 50 pedal brands, including JHS Pedals, Meris, Chase Bliss Audio, Wampler Pedals, Way Huge Electronics, Fuzzrocious, Strymon, EarthQuaker Devices, and many more. "The Pedal Movie" shows how these brands grew from just a handful of companies that started a few decades ago. Today, a vibrant community of musicians uses these pedals to create new genres of music across all sorts of media. Some artists like Mdou Moctar combined Van Halen influences with the original fuzz pedal, while artists like Ed Sheeran popularized the loop pedal. With more pedal brands in the making, more innovative sounds are possible to push the boundaries of music and how it's made.
"The Pedal Movie" has shown a wider audience the significance of pedal effects. From its accidental beginnings to its use on international stages today by artists like Paul McCartney and Keith Urban, it’s an eye-opening feature that reminds us how serendipity can lead to better art for decades to come.