Juan Alderete | Stompbox Collectors

As StompboxBook discovered during an exhaustive hang this past spring, Juan Alderete has a signature warning to visitors to his pedal sanctuary nestled on the eastern edge of Los Angeles. “So, there’s no order to this shit,” he explains wearily. “It’s just a mess.” 

One person’s mess is clearly another’s treasure. To stompbox connoisseurs, to whom Alderete should need no introduction, clutter is not a worry – they’d be happy to Marie Kondo his shit.  After all, if Alderete has it in his collection, it’s probably cool. After all, he’s the founder of perhaps the most influential, authoritative pedal-centric website/blog, PedalsandEffects, and has remained one of the most innovative, in-demand bass players for over three decades – spanning genres from his innovative shred beginnings in Racer X and sonically unpredictable virtuosity in The Mars Volta to touring and recording with everyone from Dr. Octagon and Deltron 3030 to Marilyn Manson, Lil Peep, and Frank Ocean. Therefore, it’s no surprise the longtime gearhead has his pedals crammed into every nook of his recording studio and haven where almost all of PedalsandEffects’ deeply opinionated review videos are shot. As a visionary iconoclast, however, it becomes clear there’s a personal organizing method to what initially looks like madness. 

“I get something new and inevitably think, it’s not radical enough for me to actually use”

“We put Earthquaker here, who’s a big sponsor, and then MXR, who’ve been with me forever, over here, and then this is Boss’ section,” Alderete explains with crackling East Coast energy – despite the fact that he’s an eternal California native – as he leads a tour of his creative workspace. “I should put Death By Audio over here, and then there’s Dwarfcraft, of course. All these dudes are our buddies – they’ve always been really supportive – so I tend to organize what I have by company.” 

Meanwhile, with such a heavy workload reviewing for the site, playing, and recording, Alderete maintains a battery of multiple pedal boards that are always being revised and altered. “A lot of what I have is in pedalboards,” he notes. “I have shit in storage with Manson’s gear, that’s still in road cases here, stuff I used with Mars Volta… At this point, I build a new board for each gig. The pedal board that’s here currently started as the one I used in Halo Orbit, which is my band with Sugar from Buffalo Daughter; now I’ve morphed it into my Dr. Octagon one.”

 

 

In his dominion, Alderete is indeed surrounded by the tools of his trade that he’s become known for, like the Warwick bass he had custom made to his specs that leans on a hard drive tower next to his recording computer. “It’s 32”, and has vintage ‘66 P-Bass pickups – it’s the only one like it,” he explains – quickly clarifying that he got into pedals in the first place not because he’s a collector, but a working musician who needs to come up with a variety of tones on the reg, STAT. “I use these pedals for their unique sounds that I need to create,” Alderete continues. “Also, I’m not a guitar player, either, so I have a different relationship to what I make pedals do.” 

 

 

Alderete in fact credits his former bandmate Manny Nieto in the noise-rock band Distortion Felix to expanding his interest in the stomp domain. “Manny was the reason I got into the weirder, heavier shit,” Alderete explains. “I was into pedals, but he got me deep into, like, Electro-Harmonix. Manny used to deal pedals to people like The Edge, Bowie, and all the metal shredders. He would drive fucking two-thousand miles to buy a pedal. He would hear about a Tycobrahe Octavia in Yuma, Arizona, go buy it, and pick up twenty other pedals on the way back; then he’d live off that for a whole year.”

Alderete remains democratically catholic in his tastes, however. “Boss – nobody fucks with them,” he says, eagerly comparing his vintage Boss treasure trove to their new Waza Craft recreations. “The colors always kind of correlate with the sound, and the boxes still look so tight.” He’s as quick to sing the praises of his rare Boss Vibrato units and unsung Ibanez multi-effects pedals of bygone eras as much as he is a cork-sniffer’s grail like an original A/DA Flanger, or the Digitech 2020s and Electro-Harmonix Micro-Synths he claims can be heard on “a lot of Mars Volta bootlegs,” or the Maestro Ring Modulator, his favorite ring mod ever, which he claims powered much of Mars Volta’s masterpiece Bedlam in Goliath.  

Whether it’s the Maestro Ring Modulator, his all original, much loved Mu-Tron Envelope Filter, the rare DeArmond Square Wave, or a random Soviet era objet trouvé fuzz box, when taken together they paint a picture of Alderete’s maverick musical impulses. It’s those idiosyncratic, legendary oddballs that Alderete uses to compare against the newfangled pedals that come through the transom each day in his world. “I get something new and inevitably think, it’s not radical enough for me to actually use,” he explains. “They always think they’re going to blow me away with how extreme some pedal is, and I’m always like, ‘Double that, and then maybe I’ll think that’s cool.’ Most people don’t want ‘times ten’; that’s where I begin with every single pedal. Most people want ‘just enough’ – but if something isn’t already times ten, I’m not interested.”

 

StompBoxBook_4536
StompBoxBook_4536

One of Alderete’s many beloved Ibanez multi-effects units. “These get slept on,” he notes, “but people forgot they put, like, excellent analog chorus and Tube Screamer chips in them. This is so much less expensive than the cheese a vintage Tube Screamer commands. I’m so gangster, I think I got three for $75!”

One of Alderete’s many beloved Ibanez multi-effects units. “These get slept on,” he notes, “but people forgot they put, like, excellent analog chorus and Tube Screamer chips in them. This is so much less expensive than the cheese a vintage Tube Screamer commands. I’m so gangster, I think I got three for $75!”

StompBoxBook_4538
StompBoxBook_4538

“The A/DA Flanger is the best flanger ever made,” Alderete claims. “I used this the entire time I was in Mars Volta. The first time Paul Gilbert and I discovered them when we were in Racer X, we bought three.”

“The A/DA Flanger is the best flanger ever made,” Alderete claims. “I used this the entire time I was in Mars Volta. The first time Paul Gilbert and I discovered them when we were in Racer X, we bought three.”

StompBoxBook_4544
StompBoxBook_4544

“These DigiTech 2020s influenced a lot of pedal makers working right now,” Alderete explains. “Basically, it allows you to sample yourself and then throw that into delay and mess it up through regeneration even more.”

“These DigiTech 2020s influenced a lot of pedal makers working right now,” Alderete explains. “Basically, it allows you to sample yourself and then throw that into delay and mess it up through regeneration even more.”

StompBoxBook_4552
StompBoxBook_4552

This is an ‘80s bass Electro-Harmonix Micro-Synth,” Alderete says. “It was modded by someone who worked on EMS synthesizers. Whatever he did was gangster! I clearly don't take it out often, because most of the sliders aren't broken.

This is an ‘80s bass Electro-Harmonix Micro-Synth,” Alderete says. “It was modded by someone who worked on EMS synthesizers. Whatever he did was gangster! I clearly don't take it out often, because most of the sliders aren't broken.

StompBoxBook_4559
StompBoxBook_4559

Alderete’s growing collection of EHX Micro-Synths.

Alderete’s growing collection of EHX Micro-Synths.

StompBoxBook_4564
StompBoxBook_4564

“I have two Boss Vibratos,” Alderete says. “They're super expensive, super rare, but I use them in Mars Volta on probably half of the records.”

“I have two Boss Vibratos,” Alderete says. “They're super expensive, super rare, but I use them in Mars Volta on probably half of the records.”

StompBoxBook_4571
StompBoxBook_4571

Alderete is attuned to the nuances in different versions of pedals he owns, like these two Boss OC-2 models from different factories. “Look at the difference in the brown color,” he says. “I don't think that was by accident, as one was made in Japan, the other in Taiwan.”

Alderete is attuned to the nuances in different versions of pedals he owns, like these two Boss OC-2 models from different factories. “Look at the difference in the brown color,” he says. “I don't think that was by accident, as one was made in Japan, the other in Taiwan.”

StompBoxBook_4578
StompBoxBook_4578

70’s Memory Man

70’s Memory Man

StompBoxBook_4583
StompBoxBook_4583

Alderete’s beloved Maestro Ring Modulator, which he purchased in Canada. “It’s busted because of the TSA,” Alderete groans. “It was pristine, but then TSA took off the bubble wrap and just threw it back in my luggage. It just gets all weird sounding, but that’s what makes it dope – pure psychedelic magic.”

Alderete’s beloved Maestro Ring Modulator, which he purchased in Canada. “It’s busted because of the TSA,” Alderete groans. “It was pristine, but then TSA took off the bubble wrap and just threw it back in my luggage. It just gets all weird sounding, but that’s what makes it dope – pure psychedelic magic.”

StompBoxBook_4594
StompBoxBook_4594

“My three Mu-Trons,” Alderete says. “It’s the most famous envelope filter. Everyone loves the Bi-Phase, but this is what I dig. I love how it grits out the envelope. The Micro 5 is just a Mu-Tron in a smaller enclosure.”

“My three Mu-Trons,” Alderete says. “It’s the most famous envelope filter. Everyone loves the Bi-Phase, but this is what I dig. I love how it grits out the envelope. The Micro 5 is just a Mu-Tron in a smaller enclosure.”

StompBoxBook_4601
StompBoxBook_4601

Alderete’s rare, cherished DeArmond Square Wave Distortion Generator. “Plug this in, and it’s fucking brutal,” he says. “I gave one to Josh Klinghoffer.

Alderete’s rare, cherished DeArmond Square Wave Distortion Generator. “Plug this in, and it’s fucking brutal,” he says. “I gave one to Josh Klinghoffer.

StompBoxBook_4605
StompBoxBook_4605

“This one is Russian, from the ‘90s,” Alderete says. “I don’t know what it is, but it is the harshest distortion ever.”

“This one is Russian, from the ‘90s,” Alderete says. “I don’t know what it is, but it is the harshest distortion ever.”

StompBoxBook_4613
StompBoxBook_4613

“I was never a Zvex fan,” Alderete admits frankly, “but I love the Super Ringtone. I heard it and I was, like, ‘Huh? Wow.’”

“I was never a Zvex fan,” Alderete admits frankly, “but I love the Super Ringtone. I heard it and I was, like, ‘Huh? Wow.’”

StompBoxBook_4620
StompBoxBook_4620

Another vintage oddity, with a wah-type rocker to engage the variety of trademark “extreme” tones the bass maverick gravitates towards. “I don’t like stuff that sounds like ‘bass,’” he explains. “It has to sound like something you’ve never heard before.”

Another vintage oddity, with a wah-type rocker to engage the variety of trademark “extreme” tones the bass maverick gravitates towards. “I don’t like stuff that sounds like ‘bass,’” he explains. “It has to sound like something you’ve never heard before.”

StompBoxBook_4615
StompBoxBook_4615

“Some fuzz boxes come with just Russian writing to identify them,” Alderete notes. “This thing's pretty insane.”

“Some fuzz boxes come with just Russian writing to identify them,” Alderete notes. “This thing's pretty insane.”

StompBoxBook_4629
StompBoxBook_4629

“Akai is the company that famously made the MPC sampler, but they also made badass effects like the Deep Impact,” Alderete says. “These two are now worth around six hundred bucks.”

“Akai is the company that famously made the MPC sampler, but they also made badass effects like the Deep Impact,” Alderete says. “These two are now worth around six hundred bucks.”

StompBoxBook_4632
StompBoxBook_4632

Alderete’s personal grail, the Korg Guitar Synthesizer. “Look at how good shape that fucker is in!” Alderete exclaims. “It's Jamie from EarthQuaker’s favorite. He thinks it’s the best guitar synth. It's pretty fucking good.”

Alderete’s personal grail, the Korg Guitar Synthesizer. “Look at how good shape that fucker is in!” Alderete exclaims. “It's Jamie from EarthQuaker’s favorite. He thinks it’s the best guitar synth. It's pretty fucking good.”

StompBoxBook_4638
StompBoxBook_4638

Alderete’s sculpturally modernist vintage Electro Harmonix Pulse Modulator. “Another cool one from the company that started my interest in pedals,” he says.

Alderete’s sculpturally modernist vintage Electro Harmonix Pulse Modulator. “Another cool one from the company that started my interest in pedals,” he says.

StompBoxBook_4643
StompBoxBook_4643

Vox vintage Synthesizer.

Vox vintage Synthesizer.

StompBoxBook_4647
StompBoxBook_4647

“How about some fucking prototypes of Red Pandas?"

“How about some fucking prototypes of Red Pandas?"

StompBoxBook_4649
StompBoxBook_4649

Earthquaker doesn’t have any bass specific pedals – except this one made specially for Alderete. “Here's an Earthquaker overdrive pedal for bass that Jamie made me,” he explains. “He was thinking about putting it into production, but never did, so this is one of a kind.”

Earthquaker doesn’t have any bass specific pedals – except this one made specially for Alderete. “Here's an Earthquaker overdrive pedal for bass that Jamie made me,” he explains. “He was thinking about putting it into production, but never did, so this is one of a kind.”

StompBoxBook_4658
StompBoxBook_4658

“Pittsburgh Modular is one of the famous Eurorack module synth creators, and they created these prototypes to go into the pedal format.”

“Pittsburgh Modular is one of the famous Eurorack module synth creators, and they created these prototypes to go into the pedal format.”

StompBoxBook_4660
StompBoxBook_4660

“I bought this insane Namaste X-Phaser at a vintage music store in Berlin,” Alderete says. “It’s not vintage, though, but new – basically a recreation of the same phaser that David Gilmour used.”

“I bought this insane Namaste X-Phaser at a vintage music store in Berlin,” Alderete says. “It’s not vintage, though, but new – basically a recreation of the same phaser that David Gilmour used.”

StompBoxBook_4666
StompBoxBook_4666

StompBoxBook_4668
StompBoxBook_4668

“This is a prototype – making it one of the first Fulltone Octafuzz units ever made,” Alderete says. “Mike [the president of Fulltone] signed the back like he used to.”

“This is a prototype – making it one of the first Fulltone Octafuzz units ever made,” Alderete says. “Mike [the president of Fulltone] signed the back like he used to.”

StompBoxBook_4671
StompBoxBook_4671

“This is a prototype – making it one of the first Fulltone Octafuzz units ever made,” Alderete says. “Mike [the president of Fulltone] signed the back like he used to.”

“This is a prototype – making it one of the first Fulltone Octafuzz units ever made,” Alderete says. “Mike [the president of Fulltone] signed the back like he used to.”

StompBoxBook_4673
StompBoxBook_4673

“This is dope,” Alderete says. “Recovery Effects made it to get that telephone sound on vocals, but you can also use it as a gain. Yes, it is fucking weird.”

“This is dope,” Alderete says. “Recovery Effects made it to get that telephone sound on vocals, but you can also use it as a gain. Yes, it is fucking weird.”

StompBoxBook_4675
StompBoxBook_4675

A rare Ibanez Pod1 Delay from Alderete’s stash.

A rare Ibanez Pod1 Delay from Alderete’s stash.

StompBoxBook_4688
StompBoxBook_4688

“This is a fuzz from Last Gasp Laboratories, which is a Japanese dude who lives in Australia and he makes gnarly noise pedals,” Alderete says.

“This is a fuzz from Last Gasp Laboratories, which is a Japanese dude who lives in Australia and he makes gnarly noise pedals,” Alderete says.

StompBoxBook_4678
StompBoxBook_4678

“I keep looking for these Korg 40X boxes - they were only sold in Japan,” Alderete says. “The guitarist in Band of Bees uses this. This one has all the modules; the chorus is insane.”

“I keep looking for these Korg 40X boxes - they were only sold in Japan,” Alderete says. “The guitarist in Band of Bees uses this. This one has all the modules; the chorus is insane.”

StompBoxBook_4683
StompBoxBook_4683

“I’m personally responsible for driving the price up from $40 on Craigslist to $400 for the DOD Meatbox,” Alderete says. “It's got subharmonic synthesizer power. Mine’s original, and I leave it dimed.”

“I’m personally responsible for driving the price up from $40 on Craigslist to $400 for the DOD Meatbox,” Alderete says. “It's got subharmonic synthesizer power. Mine’s original, and I leave it dimed.”

StompBoxBook_4681
StompBoxBook_4681

According to Alderete, the Fernandes FR-3F “is a pretty gnarly filter product. No power supply, only battery."

According to Alderete, the Fernandes FR-3F “is a pretty gnarly filter product. No power supply, only battery."

StompBoxBook_4692
StompBoxBook_4692

A group portrait of some of Alderete’s most prized pedal possessions.

A group portrait of some of Alderete’s most prized pedal possessions.

(Slideshow: hover or click for captions)


Full interview and photo of Juan’s chosen pedal will be featured in the Stompbox Book, coming summer 2020.

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