018 | DigiTech Brian May Red Special: A Closer Look at this Signature Pedal | Transcript

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Scott Schwertly:
Hello and welcome to episode 18 of the Sonic Renegades Podcast. We're exploring renegade pedals that have changed the music landscape. For today's discussion, we have a fun one. This is the DigiTech Brian May Red Special Pedal. If you love Queen, specifically, if you love Brian May, you're going to love this discussion. We'll see you on the other side.
Hey, everyone. Scott Schwertly with Siren Pedals. So glad to have you joining this podcast episode today. I've got some exciting news. I've got a new cohost. I've got my friend and colleague here, Eric Wilson, joining the show today.

Eric Wilson:
Hello.

Scott Schwertly:
Eric, I know most of the folks haven't had a chance to meet you yet. If maybe you want to kickstart our conversation today and just maybe introduce yourself real quick.

Eric Wilson:
Yeah. I'm a guitar player and a producer. I live over in Nashville and moved here back in August. I have loved pedals for as long as I've been playing guitar. I think the first pedal I played was a Morning Glory, that wasn't a POD or something like that, and I've been hooked ever since. So, really glad to be here at Siren building pedals, Airavatas, Anvils, Midnight Trains, anything else we decide to come up with.

Scott Schwertly:
Yeah. Awesome. Well, it's glad to hear that you started with a JHS Morning Glory, because you really can't go wrong with that type of pedal, right?

Eric Wilson:
Absolutely, man.

Scott Schwertly:
That's a fun one. It's classic, for sure. Everybody seems to love it. I think even John Mayer has a Morning Glory, right? Or is it a Bonsai?

Eric Wilson:
I'm sure he has one somewhere.

Scott Schwertly:
Yeah. I think I might be getting that wrong, but nonetheless, a good choice. Can't go wrong with that pedal or JHS, in general. But super excited to have you on board. Glad to have you as part of the Sonic Renegades Podcast, as we continue to talk about all these pedals that we love.

Eric Wilson:
Yeah, it's great to be here.

Scott Schwertly:
Awesome. Well, today, as we talked about earlier, we're going to be talking about the DigiTech Brian May Red Special Pedal. Now, I know you have been playing with this the last couple of days. It seems like you've been having a lot of fun with it.

Eric Wilson:
Yeah. I got a chance to take it home, plug it into my AC30. Had all the Queen vibes going on at my house. My roommates weren't wild about it, but it doesn't matter.

Scott Schwertly:
Yeah. Yeah. Did you feel like Brian May when you were playing it?

Eric Wilson:
No, I can't play like Brian May. So, no.

Scott Schwertly:
Well, good deal. Well, on that topic, let's go ahead and actually talk about Brian May before we actually get into the specs and details of this pedal. Obviously, this is the Red Special pedal. It's the Brian May Artist Series or Signature Pedal put out by DigiTech. For those not familiar with the history behind Brian May and his famous Red Special guitar, it actually goes all the way back to the 1960s.

Brian and his father, Harold May, were looking to put together a guitar. So, what they did is, they gathered some spare parts. They didn't have enough funds to buy the latest and greatest Strat or the latest and greatest Les Paul. So, what they ended up doing is, they took everything that they could find and created his famous Red Special guitar, which is on all the famous songs that you know and love, everything from Bohemian Rhapsody to We Will Rock You to Crazy Little Thing Called Love. All those songs that you love and admire, all of them feature this Red Special guitar, which is the backbone and main inspiration behind the pedal that we have in front of us today. So, really great, rich history. For those that love Queen, you'll find ways... not find ways. You will love this pedal because it really captures that Queen magic.

Eric Wilson:
Oh, yeah.

Scott Schwertly:
I know, Eric, since you took the pedal home and we're playing with it, yeah, did you have a chance to try songs like Bohemian Rhapsody or We Will Rock You, any of those-

Eric Wilson:
Yeah. Yeah. I got a chance to try out a few of those. I will not lie, my Queen knowledge is not great. It kind of ends with Bohemian Rhapsody and We Will Rock You. I've always known who Brian May is, but I have not known this much about him until I looked into this pedal.

Scott Schwertly:
Well, I'm glad that you're honest. Yeah, I mean, I'm kind of the same way. I mean, obviously, listened to Queen growing up, junior high, high school. I've seen the movie. But beyond the big hits, my knowledge is probably a little bit limited as well. But definitely appreciate what the band has done just in the music landscape altogether.

Eric Wilson:
Yeah, of course.

Scott Schwertly:
So, we really can't complain about that. Now, this pedal, specifically, actually launched in 2005 by DigiTech. It is now discontinued. So, if you're trying to get your hands on one, it's a little bit more of a challenge. We were fortunate to find this one on Facebook Marketplace for, actually, a really, really good price. But right now they're running anywhere from 400, maybe $600, on Reverb.

Eric Wilson:
Yeah, it's 300 or 400 if it doesn't have the box or anything, but if you want it collector's condition, you're looking at $600, which is crazy.

Scott Schwertly:
Yeah. That's insane. And I think even if you're lucky to find one of those ones that are really intact, I think these originally shipped with a genuine silver sixpence, which I guess Brian used actually as a pick, which is crazy.

Eric Wilson:
Yeah. The whole box and everything came with a case and a big thank you card and stuff, and then the silver sixpence and stuff. When people bought these in 2005, it was an experience to buy one.

Scott Schwertly:
Yeah, for sure. And for those not familiar what sixpence is, it's basically a British coin. So, imagine if you're playing guitar with a dime or a nickel, it's in that same vein, and that was Brian May's preference there, instead of a guitar pick. Again, if you can get your hands on an original, mint condition one, you'll probably have that original silver sixpence included. The one that we have here in front of us, we weren't so fortunate, but nonetheless, we still have the pedal and all that. Eric, I know since you were actually able to use this quite extensively over the last couple of days, yeah, what did you like and not like about it?

Eric Wilson:
Yeah. I think the whole engineering of the pedal is really cool because they thought about, "Let's take the expression idea of a normal expression pedal," but they put it with the sweep of a wah. But yeah, it has seven modes, and technically, it's 14, if you count the fact that you have a heel and a toe setting at each. So, if you haven't looked at it, I'll explain what it looks like real quick. It's heavy. It's red. It looks a little bit simple, but-

Scott Schwertly:
It kind of looks like a red Cry Baby, sort of. I mean, it looks like a wah.

Eric Wilson:
Yeah. Yeah. It really has the wah look going on, and it's got a faux wood grain and all that kind of stuff going on to match Brian May's guitar. But at face value, it almost looks deceptively simple because it does look similar to a wah. But it has four knobs. Three of them are concentric knobs. So, you got gain, level, treble, bass, and then the Red Special knob, which has control and guitar. What the control knob will do on this, is it'll control the intensity or mix or whatever of whatever effect you have when the toe's down. And then, the guitar knob actually controls the, what I read in the manual, is the "Red Special" setting. That's supposed to mimic being able to change your guitar's output, just depending on what you're looking for from the pedal.

Scott Schwertly:
Awesome. Yeah. I love that it does have that single coil humbucker option for those that, yeah, that are maybe confined with either single coil guitars or humbucker guitars. So, yeah. It's great that it has that option where you won't have those confinements, which is great.

Eric Wilson:
Yeah, for sure. Yeah. But yeah, one of the big things I really liked about it, like I said, the whole engineering of the pedal's really cool. You can flip it to, let's say, number two, and heel down's going to be you're normal Bohemian Rhapsody tone, and then you put the toe down, and now it's a solo tone. So, it's programmed pretty much to just do Queen songs.

Scott Schwertly:
And-

Eric Wilson:
And so, when you're doing that-

Scott Schwertly:
Oh, yeah. Go ahead.

Eric Wilson:
... it sounds great.

Scott Schwertly:
Yeah. And speaking of, on the back of the pedal, it has all the different songs that you can pretty much tap into, right? So, we've got everything from, Keep Yourself Alive, Bohemian Rhapsody, Tie Your Mother Down, We Will Rock You, We are the Champions, Crazy Little Thing Called Love, Brighton Rock Solo, and A Winter's Tale. So, a lot of different options there, all packed in, in one pedal. Cool thing about this is, if you're going to be in a Queen cover band, it's kind of all you need, right?

Eric Wilson:
Yeah. Yeah. Throw this in your backpack. Throw it on the floor. You'll be fine. Actually, one of them, the Crazy Little Thing Called Love setting, is an acoustic simulator.

Scott Schwertly:
Oh, yeah. I forgot about that.

Eric Wilson:
And I still haven't really figured out what the toe down position's supposed to do, but there's an acoustic simulator on it.

Scott Schwertly:
Yeah, which is cool. Yeah. Just another thing to play with. Now, the fact that this covers, mainly, all Queen, I guess probably its biggest flaw would be that it is a one-trick pony, but I mean, you kind of have to-

Eric Wilson:
But then again, you're buying a Brian May have pedal, so-

Scott Schwertly:
What can you expect, right? Yeah. It's, yeah, definitely part of that whole Artist Series. But yeah, altogether, definitely a fun one to have. Again, if you love Brian May, if you love Queen, this is a nice one just to have in your collection. The fact that it is discontinued, it does have a collector's appeal to it as well. Definitely something to showcase on the shelf, if you want to, once you're done using it. So, if you're curious to hear what this thing actually sounds like, what we're going to do is, we're going to plug it in here to the Tele that we have at the shop, yeah, and take this thing for spin. All right. So, we'll see you guys on the other side.

Eric Wilson:
Well, there you have it. That is your key to the kingdom if you're in a Queen cover band.

Scott Schwertly:
Yeah. It sounds like Brian May was right here in the room with us.

Eric Wilson:
Yeah. If only I could play that good.

Scott Schwertly:
Well, awesome. Well, thanks for joining us on this episode. That's what we wanted to cover here with the DigiTech Brian May Red Special Pedal. Join us next week, where we've got another fun pedal, an iconic pedal that's used quite a bit, and that is the Walrus Julia pedal. So, if you like that chorus/vibrato type sound, you're going to love the Julia, if you don't have one already. Until then, we hope you guys have a great day, a great week, and we will see you later.

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