Having recently won the Hyundai Mercury Music Prize, Wolf Alice are a band on the rise. Fusing dreamy pop-hooks with a cacophonous wall of sound isn’t easy to pull off, yet they seem to have a knack for it.
One quarter of the band, Joff Oddie, wears many hats including: lead guitarist, keys player and songwriter. With influences ranging from Aphex Twin to The Velvet Underground, Oddie has deep appreciation of a wide range of musical styles. The Plymouth native avoids writing verbose solos, electing instead to craft melodic phrases that complement each song beautifully.
Joff Oddie’s pedalboard would put most others to shame, yet his rig is far from bloated – everything has its place and its purpose.
In our previous blog “Mercury Prize Winners: Wolf Alice Gear” we explored the guitars, amps, and some of the guitar effects that Oddie uses when performing live. Alongside stompboxes, Empress Effects units and TheGigRig G2 switching system take pride of place. But we’re not expecting you to drop several grand to recreate Oddie’s pedalboard in its entirety. Where applicable we’ll take a look at accessible and affordable options to help you achieve epic sonic flexibility.
Establishing order out of chaos
The BOSS ES-5 Pedal Looper and Effects Switching System affords absolute command over your setup. Multiple switches and advanced programming yield an astonishingly versatile range of routing capabilities. You can create signal paths within the ES-5, saving you from tap-dancing your way around the pedalboard. Advanced features include tuner and expression pedal inputs, looper functions, and MIDI connectivity to streamline your setup. At this price the ES-5 is a gigging musician’s dream come true and critical in maintaining order over the pedals we’re about to run through.
The Trio: Tremolo/Phaser/Compressor
The fluttering of tremolo rings across Oddie’s many-splendoured soundscapes, and the TC Electronics Pipeline Tap Tremolo is perfect for lacing your licks with shimmering brilliance.
Nothing quite does the job of infusing twisted wah sounds into your signal path like the Electro Harmonix Bad Stone – OK, fair enough an actual Wah pedal does but we’ll get to that later. The Bad Stone has the advantage over your average Wah pedal of doing all the hard work. Dial in your setting, step on the footswitch and let it do the sweeping for you.
To preserve tonal integrity during clean passages in tracks like the spellbinding song “Bros”, a compressor such as the Fender “The Bends” Compressor is an absolute must. By lifting quieter notes and tempering heavy pick-strokes, the nuances of the wave-like riffs flow in all their wondrous glory.
Soaring to the Skies
As noted in our Wolf Alice article, Oddie is a fan of Strymon’s Big Sky and Timeline pedals when performing live. Creating a luxurious expanse, which is punctuated by the shimmer of glassy notes is key to this partnership.
In the studio Oddie fell for the award-winning EHX HOG (Harmonic Octave Generator). Unfortunately, its dimensions are a bit too substantial for his pedalboard. Instead he’s adopted the scaled-down Electro-Harmonix Nano POG to generate righteous octaval power.
Coupled with the MXR’s Analog Chorus pedal, densely textured tones spill forth on tracks like “SadBoy”.
We’ve gone through the melodious quarter, now it’s time to look at the aural destroyers. First up is the legendary Way Huge Red Llama overdrive pedal, which can do everything from bristling overdrive to snarling crunch – think about that punchy yet saturated drive during “Formidable Cool”.
When you want something a little grizzly, like the tasty fuzzy overdrive in “Yuk Foo”, then you can’t go wrong with the Orange Fur Coat Fuzz. Not only does it act as a beefy overdrive, but the addition of the Octave control gives you even greater tone shaping potential. For when you really want to set the stage on fire – think when it kicks off in “You’re a Germ” -, then there is nothing quite like the explosive EHX Little Big Muff.
The dynamic dexterity displayed by Oddie is impressive, leaping from hushed to howling at the drop of a hat. However, such changes can come at the cost of signal integrity, resulting in a flat response or signal dropout. Boost clean tones without increasing gain by using the Fender Level Set Buffer to keep everything on an even keel. A fine example of clean tone with saturated warmth minus overdrive is present on the pristine “Heavenly Creatures”.
Such is the subtlety of Oddie’s approach when layering tonal textures, he utilises both a wah and a volume pedal and you can’t even tell. Rather than opting for that characteristic ‘wacka-wacka’ sound one would expect from a wah, he prefers to stick it behind other effects. This way he can make slight attenuation for a softly, softly approach for precision phase sweeping control. Get the Jim Dunlop Cry Baby Classic Wah and the BOSS FV-30H Volume pedals involved in your setup for nimble control over phase sweeps.
Though he may have a lot going on gear-wise, Joff Oddie is so much more than an experimental knob-twiddler. By honing his skills on the acoustic, Oddie has developed a solid understanding of harmony and melody. His technical prowess shines with an articulate mastery over his instrument and gear. Frankly, his ability to conjure and control such imaginative phrases with the gear at his disposal is nothing short of astonishing.
Hopefully, we’ve given you some inspiration with regard to getting started or adding to your pedalboard/live rig. For even more ideas check out the Guitar Effects section on the Dawsons Website.
As ever, if you need any help or advice then our Customer Service Team are more than happy to help over the phone on 01925 582420. Our in-store specialists will guide you through the wonderful world of guitar effects, just pop into your nearest Dawsons store.
Quick recap of the products highlighted in the article:
BOSS ES-5 Pedal Looper and Effects Switching System
TC Electronics Pipeline Tap Tremolo
Electro Harmonix Bad Stone
Fender “The Bends” Compressor
Strymon Big Sky
Strymon Timeline Delay
Electro-Harmonix Nano POG
MXR’s Analog Chorus
Way Huge Red Llama
Orange Fur Coat Fuzz
EHX Little Big Muff
Fender Level Set Buffer
Jim Dunlop Cry Baby Classic Wah
BOSS FV-30H Volume
Jon is a multi-instrumentalist with a passion for inspiring others to get involved in making music. After spending many years playing venues here, there and – pretty much – everywhere, he joined the Dawsons’ Music Web Team before progressing into his current role managing the Dawsons Blog.