My First Distortion Pedal: Metal Producers Talk About Their First | DISTORTION WEEK

Mark Lewis (Unearth, Black Dahlia Murder, Trivium producer)

Wow, that’s going back in time. I started playing guitar around late 94/early 95. Back then, the DOD fad was in full effect… as well as the Crate GX series amps, which in itself had some pretty sick solid state distortion, and I never was quite sold on the DOD stuff… but my stupid little Crate didn’t have near enough power to piss anyone off…so… A couple years in I ended up with a marshall VS100R combo, the 100 watt 3 channel Valvestate combo, and soon procured myself a 4×12. Well, back then I was unaware that if you really wanted to sound better, you should probably practice. So in thinking that the distortion on the Valvestate didn’t sound enough like Metallica/megadeth/Slayer (probably because my playing was shot) I went on a distortion pedal search, as any aspiring local guitarist would do.


So… I went to the local guitar shop and proceeded to play shitty versions of Metallica and Slayer riffs and probably a really horrible attempt at the “One” solo through every distortion pedal they had. Of course I gravitated toward the Metal Zone but the salesman showed me this new pedal he said was way heavier and better sounding than the Metal Zone… The Danelectro Fab Tone. To my ear at the time, he was right. The pedal was insane. Far more gain than the Metal Zone and I wasn’t the same as every other kid on the block. I used it for quite a few years before figuring out the Marshall’s distortion was way better once my playing improved. Around that time I sold it all and got a Johnson Millennium head – the head that REALLY taught me how to waste time tweaking my tone and forego practicing. I guess it all worked out, all that tweaking. Wish I still had all those amps and the Fab Tone to be honest.

(Mark may not still have his old Fab Tone and Millenium head, but he has a new EZMix Tone pack out with Toontrack this week and you can check it out right now!)

Joey Sturgis (Asking Alexandria, The Devil Wears Prada, Miss May I producer)

The first distortion pedal I ever owned was the METALZONE distortion pedal. I remember hooking it up to my portable four track tape recorder, smashing down the little pins on my old ACE OF BASE tapes that I didn’t listen to anymore *cough* I mean, never listened to at all… and recording over it with my guitar just straight RIPPING through that pedal. I would EQ the shit out of it until it sounded like it had been ran through a cab. Go figure this became a skill I turned into money when I hit my 20’s haha.

Joel Wanasek (Machine Head producer)

My first distortion pedal was the BOSS Metal Zone. My drummer’s older brother said it was awesome so I bought it to be cool. I plugged it into my crappy Marshall half stack with my crappy Samick guitar and then proceeded to have the worst tone in southeastern Wisconsin. I thought it was awesome because I was in 8th grade pumping out crappy riffs that probably made my parents cry. I still have that pedal. Even though I stopped using it 3 years later because Joe Satriani had the DS-1 distortion so I switched to that. My tone continued to suck until I bought a real amp and learned to pick correctly.

Eyal Levi (Job For A Cowboy, Whitechapel, The Black Dahlia Murder, Arsis producer)

My first distortion pedal ever was the very unfortunate Metal Zone. Try to imagine a 13 year old plugging a Fender Squire into a Metal Zone, turning everything all the way up, and then straight into a Crate practice amp. Yep. That was me.

Zeuss (Hatebreed, Shadows Fall, Revocation producer)

The first distortion pedal I ever used was this chrome box that had no name on it. It must have been custom made. My uncle Rick gave it to me. I can remember using it with my old Roland Spirit 10A amp. The pedal itself sounded nasty but it gave the amp the gain I needed since the amp had practically no gain. I don’t have the pedal anymore. I actually wish I did because I love using weird pedals for unique sounds.

Kevin Antreassian (Dillinger Escape Plan, Backroom Studios)

My first distortion pedal was a Boss OD-3 for Bass. Everyone had the DS-1, but i loved the way the OD-3 was able to hype the top and bottom end of the guitar in a way it wasn’t meant to. In retrospect, the DS-1 would have been a better choice for a guitar voicing, but I was like 14 and had no clue.

Will Putney (Northlane, Thy Art Is Murder, The Acacia Strain producer)

My first distortion pedal was (surprise) a boss metal zone MT-2. It’s the best worst pedal there ever was. I was probably 14 and had a SICK crate half stack and just wanted the over the top super scooped sound on a $50 budget for my metal band, so I picked this bad boy up. It just turned the rig into a noise machine, but it did teach me about things like gain staging, noise gates, and feedback. I still have the pedal, and I’ll ironically use it at the studio when we want something purposely bad. How guys like Kurt from Crowbar can pull killer tones out of it still blows my mind, I guess it’s all in the hands.

Lasse Lammert (Gloryhammer, Alestorm, Halcyon Way producer)

I think my first distortion pedals were pretty much “the standards”, the first one I ever owned was the old ProCo Rat, that must have been the early nineties…To be honest I didn’t even really appreciate it back then, I just needed something to make my guitar go “kssshhhhrrrrrr”, and the Rat kinda did the job ;), now those old originals seem to be quite sought after, ProCo even reissued them as “vintage rat” in the nineties…shouldn’t have sold mine for like 15 bucks ;). That Rat was soon replaced by a Boss MT2 Metal Zone, a pedal that I still like A LOT, although it’s receiving heavy flak on the forums…undeserved IMO.

Ryan Forsyth (Decrepit Birth producer)

I begged my parents for a DOD Death Metal (FX86) in 1994 because my Fender practice amp lacked everything I was looking for in terms of metal tones. At the time, I’m pretty sure I nailed Slayer and Deicide’s guitar tones. Looking back, I’m certain it just sounded like a mess of terrible distortion and feedback.

I kept that pedal until I got a Boss MT-2 (Metal Zone), which was definitely an improvement since you could actually increase or decrease the gain. It came with its own issues like properly dialing in a decent midrange, and let’s never forget the terrible high frequency tone.

Joel Grind (Toxic Holocaust, Poison Idea, Sunn 0))))

My first distortion was the Metal Zone pedal, at the time that was the “cool” pedal to have.

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As Editor-in-Chief of Gear Gods, I've been feeding your sick instrument fetishism and trying unsuccessfully to hide my own since 2013. I studied music on both coasts (Berklee and SSU) and now I'm just trying to put my degree to some use. That's a music degree, not an English one. I'm sure you noticed.