006 | Pro Co Rat: A Closer Look at this Historic Distortion Pedal | Transcript

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Scott Schwertly:
Welcome to episode six of the Sonic Renegades podcast. We're so glad to have you here as we are exploring Renegade pedals that have changed the music landscape. Today, we're going to be talking about ProCo's RAT distortion pedal. It's a beauty of a pedal, and we're looking really forward to unpacking this wonderful device for you guys today.
Hey everybody, Scott Schwertly here with Siren Pedals.

Austin Bryan:
Hey guys, Austin Bryan here with Siren Pedals.

Scott Schwertly:
And today we've got a fun pedal to dissect. We're going to be talking about ProCo's RAT distortion.

Austin Bryan:
The RAT, a classic.

Scott Schwertly:
Yes.

Austin Bryan:
Classic rodent for all guitar players. It's a great pedal.

Scott Schwertly:
Oh yeah. It's fantastic. I think you've got the older model. I've got, I think, the most recent one.

Austin Bryan:
Yeah, I've got the vintage reissue Big Box model. So really cool. They made this one from 91 to 2005.

Scott Schwertly:
Okay. Yeah, I think I've got the one that maybe came out from 2004 till now, so I think that's the latest version.

Austin Bryan:
The RAT2.

Scott Schwertly:
Yeah.

Austin Bryan:
Yeah.

Scott Schwertly:
But yeah, definitely looking forward to unpacking what this pedal is all about. So yeah, let's go ahead and jump into it. We're going to talk about the RAT distortion. So it goes all the way back to 1978 that this pedal has been around.

Austin Bryan:
1978. It was born in Kalamazoo, Michigan. The inventors, Scott Burnham and Steve Corralie. So overall this pedal went from a single hand-built prototype to becoming one of the most versatile and legendary distortion pedals of all time. It's had several variations. It's been massively copied and respectfully reproduced. It's one of the most recorded guitar pedals of all time, and it was never originally meant to be mass produced. It just kind of came to be.

Scott Schwertly:
Yeah, now it hasn't always been mass produced. I know when they first did their first edition, I think they only made 12 pedals starting out. So I don't think they kind of anticipated the success that they've been able to win over here over the last several years.

Austin Bryan:
Boutique to another level.

Scott Schwertly:
Yeah, for sure. One thing that I really love about this pedal is, I guess we don't want to get too much into the details of the engineering behind this pedal, but essentially it's known for having really kind of four simple blocks of engineering. There's sort of the distortion stage, the tone control stage, the output stage and the power supply. So these four areas are really what make this pedal so simple, but yet also in its own way so profound.

Austin Bryan:
Absolutely. It being based around a single op-amp, having that clipping section where it's so distinctively hard, it's an awesome tone. One aspect of the RAT that this vintage Big Box RAT in front of me has, is the legendary Motorola LM308 in the chip. So for folks that might not be familiar with that, that's a big part of the RAT sound, is actually that op-amp chip, which helps generate that very distinctive grit and bite that this pedal can produce.

Scott Schwertly:
Yeah. So let's talk about that grit and bite. Obviously there are a lot of musicians out there that love the tone that the RAT produces, so no surprise here. You've got bands everywhere from Metallica to REM that are sort of connoisseurs of this sound that the RAT creates.

Austin Bryan:
I will say my favorite artist, front man and guitarist of all time, Dave Grohl, used one.

Scott Schwertly:
You love Dave.

Austin Bryan:
I love Dave. Dave, you are awesome. Dave Grohl used one on the early Foo Fighters records. If you go back and listen to the first self-titled record that Dave actually recorded all the instruments on, you can hear that guitar pedal firsthand, and it's huge. On some of the early records, they actually split a cleaner channel and then had the RAT in another channel just to kind of fill the sound on the record. But Peter Buck from REM, Buzz Osborne, Jeff Beck, Kevin Shields. Gosh. Yeah, we were talking about Metallica. James Hetfield had that sound on the Kill 'Em All record. Then Rivers Cuomo from Weezer is a huge fan of the RAT.

Scott Schwertly:
Well, it's interesting because you mentioned Metallica, Kill 'Em All. You can definitely hear the RAT sound there, but using REM kind of on the other end of that spectrum, you've got songs like What's the Frequency, Kenneth? Obviously used on tracks like that. Growing up in the eighties and nineties, I was a huge, extreme fan, so I was happy to see that Nuno Bettencourt is also a user of the RAT.

Austin Bryan:
For sure. Huge part of the sound.

Scott Schwertly:
Yeah. Joe Perry, Matt Bellamy, Joe Walsh. I mean, there are so many musicians that have touched this pedal at some point in time.

Austin Bryan:
Yeah. Graham Coxon, if you've heard Blur for the song Song 2, that's RAT all over. Johnny Bucklin from Coldplay. There's so many different artists all over the field that have utilized this into their rig.

Scott Schwertly:
Yeah, it's definitely popular that's for sure. So let's go and talk about some of the flaws. I know it's hard to really pinpoint flaws on a legacy pedal like this one, but really at its core, it has three knobs. You've got your distortion knob, your filter knob, your volume knob. I would say, given that it's got a filter knob, I think for people that are getting new or who are new into pedals, that may be a little confusing on exactly what that does, but there's really not a whole lot to pick on. Maybe a little bit on the aggressive side perhaps.

Austin Bryan:
One thing for the filter to kind of help explain it for folks, it cuts the high frequencies when turned clockwise. So as you start to crank that more clockwise, you're actually cutting higher frequencies. And when you actually roll it back, you're actually retaining those higher frequencies. It's a pretty bright pedal. Some folks might actually not like that very much, but it's a pretty bright and a pretty aggressive pedal. From some of the artists we've mentioned, you can dial it back a little bit, but it's a nasty little rodent.

Scott Schwertly:
Yeah.

Austin Bryan:
It's a nasty little rodent.

Scott Schwertly:
Definitely. It's a good one though. I mean, there's really not a whole lot to pick on about it. It's a fantastic pedal. It's a great one to have on your board if you don't have one already.

Austin Bryan:
Some folks might even say, with the whole op-amp, the LM308 chip versus the OP07, DP or the CPs that are now in the more newer iterations of them. Some people have tried to nitpick those, but across the board, they sound great either way. If you find one with an original chip or find one with a newer one, those qualities are there either way. It's distinctive enough of a sound that you're going to enjoy it either way.

Scott Schwertly:
Yeah. Well, that's a good jumping off point to maybe talk about some of the positives that we like about it. So I know for me personally I love that it's got sort of this really nice sturdy enclosure. Being that we are a pedal company and we work with pedals all day long, it's cool to look and feel its unique sturdy enclosure that comes with it.

Austin Bryan:
It's a tank.

Scott Schwertly:
Yeah, it really is. Yeah. One thing, too, that's great about the circuit is they've actually been able to create sort of a pop free circuit. So if you imagine when you hit that foot switch sometimes with certain pedals, you can get a little bit of that pop and you can tell that that foot switch has been hit. With the RAT, they've been able to sort of get rid of that, which is fantastic.

Austin Bryan:
Which is nice, not having to worry about that. Another thing about this pedal I love, it stacks really well with other pedals. So if you play doom, if you like to doom hard, stack the RAT. Stack it with other fuzz pedals. Stack it with like a Boss HM-2. Just crank. It's a great sound where you can really back off distortion and actually boost other pedals with it too. So it's really friendly with other effects. That's I think one reason why it's so universally applied into everyone's rig in some ways, because it plays well with other pedals.

Scott Schwertly:
Yeah, and I know you also really like the whole hard clipping distortion that comes with it as well.

Austin Bryan:
It cuts. If you're in a situation where you're playing and you need something, it kind of gives you at least the right amount of cut and fullness to really fill the mixes as a guitarist in the band, or maybe you're a bass player and you just want your notes to kind of clip a little harder. This is the pedal choice to have. It rips. I love it. Every time I think about another pedal, another distortion pedal, I seem to want to go back to RAT land because it's been the RAT for so long.

Scott Schwertly:
Yeah. Well, let's hear what it sounds like. For those that have never heard the RAT sound, or maybe those that are familiar with it, we're just going to play a few riffs here for you today. For this episode again, we've got our Les Paul with Gibson 57 Humbuckers on it. A nice combo here to work with the RAT. So we're going to connect that in and yeah. We're going to play for you.

Austin Bryan:
A few nasty riffs.

Scott Schwertly:
Yeah. All right, see you on the other side.

Austin Bryan:
ProCo's RAT, ladies and gentlemen. Nothing else to say. That's the sound of a ProCo RAT. With all the variations that are out there, this one that you just heard is the one.

Scott Schwertly:
Yeah. It's fantastic. I love it. I mean, how can you not love it?

Austin Bryan:
It's killer. If you want to rip, shred and cut through the mix or through your band or through the hearts and ears of your audience, get a RAT.

Scott Schwertly:
Yeah, definitely. It's worth it for sure. Well, today we talked about distortion. In our next episode, we're going to transition back into the world of fuzz where we're going to talk about the JHS Muffaletta pedal. If you're not familiar with this pedal, it basically has, I believe six different fuzz options.

Austin Bryan:
So many muffs into one glorious box.

Scott Schwertly:
Yes. I've got this pedal. I love it. Again, just so much diversity with it. So we will be unpacking that pedal in our next episode. And so until then, have a great day, have a great week and we'll see you next time.

Austin Bryan:
See ya.

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