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Joe Gore

Joe Gore is obsessed with stompboxes whose tones change according to touch, technique, and guitar settings. Some players prefer effects that compress and smooth their sound for more consistent and predictable results. That's cool, but Joe would rather expand the guitar's dynamic range.

Circuits from the 1960s and '70s are often his jumping-off points, but he usually jumps pretty far. No clones here.

Example: As a single-germanium-transistor overdrive, Cult Germanium Overdrive has roots in the geranium boosters of the 1960s, though the apple has rolled far from the tree. The tone curve suits everything from a sizzling Tele bridge pickup to a woolly neck humbucker. The gain control operates in a novel way, so that every knob position yields usable sounds. And while you expect germanium overdrives to clean up when you roll off guitar volume, Cult takes the phenomenon to extremes: The rolled-back tone is nearly identical to bypass. You can literally leave Cult on all night and go from crystal to sludge by touch and guitar settings alone.

Or take Duh: Its schematic ancestors are the "brand x" fuzzes of the '60s and early '70s, but it doesn't quite sound like any of them. It's not terribly "gainy"—note attack stays crisp even when it's floored. It's freakishly dynamic for a full-bore fuzz. (His sonic goal was "Pixies," so imagine his delight when the band started using it.)

Other products aren't so minimal. Filth Fuzz and Gross Distortion are wide-ranging "tone factories" for studio sound sculpting, but they still provide crackling presence and hair-trigger dynamic response.

Joe Gore Pedals aren't for everybody. Guitarists who focus on dynamic variation and touch sensitivity will probably dig them most. They're designed in San Francisco and manufactured in Michigan by skilled craftspeople earning a fair wage.



An insanely dynamic booster

"The most dynamic overdrive we've heard." —Guitar Player magazine

When Joe Gore delved into the germanium booster designs of the 1960s, he was astonished. How the hell did these electrifying, supremely dynamic circuits fall into disuse? Joe studied every schematic and made dozens of clones. He felt like he'd been indoctrinated into some weird germanium cult. So when he developed his own take on those circuits, Joe named it Cult.

But Cult is no '60s clone: It departs dramatically from the original '60s circuits, providing fatter lows, fewer piercing highs, and more responsive dynamics. It just seems to "gush" more.

You probably know that 90% of today's overdrives are related to a pedal whose name rhymes with Lube Reamer. These pedals employ an IC chip rather a discrete transistor. They compress your signal, making note attacks less prominent and limiting your dynamic range. The results are smooth and consistent—nothing wrong with that!

But Cult goes in the opposite direction, dramatically expanding your dynamic range. Note attacks crack like knuckles. Your phrases have an electrifying presence that seems to lunge from the speakers. When you hit the input hard, the bold, harmonically rich distortion maintains its edge, even in crowded musical contexts. Cult doesn't go "squish." It barks.

The dynamic response is simply astounding—you can go from crystalline to meltdown by touch and guitar knob settings alone. With your guitar volume rolled back, the tone is nearly indistinguishable from bypass, so you can literally leave Cult on all night and conjure a huge range of overdrive/distortion tones directly from your guitar.

Cult isn't for everyone. If you're looking for an overdrive to smooth out your sound for consistent, predictable results, run away! But if you're the sort of player who likes sculpting sounds via touch and dynamics, or if you enjoy tones that walk the tightrope between clean and distorted, Cult can be a revelation.

"Every once in awhile I come across a pedal that just blows me away. The Cult pedal by Joe Gore is indeed one of those. This is the first overdrive I've heard in a long while that has its own voice, yet is rooted in familiarity. It pushes your amp in the perfect way. It's more expressive than anything else I've encountered. It responds like a great amp. Clean to nasty just by how much attack you use. So I don't even need to go to my volume knob. Incredibly expressive, and it's voiced beautifully. Definitely the type of thing you can leave on all night and simply make a good amp great. Is this the perfect overdrive? No, that doesn't exist, but it's the closest thing I've found. I can see this being one of my "must bring" pedals for all scenarios for many years to come. It's instantly become an essential part of my tone. Well done!"
Richard Fortus (Guns N' Roses, Crystal Method, Pink, BT, Dead Daisies)

"I'm always searching for interesting sounds, and I hit the bullseye. I love Cult, which I used on 'Earthquake Driver' and 'Elvis Goes to Hollywood' from the latest Counting Crows album, Somewhere Under Wonderland.. I love Joe's ethos of simplicity. That's the way I like it too."
Dan Vickrey (Counting Crows)

"Damn,this thing packs a wallop! Once you turn it on, you basically want to keep it on. I you turn it off and after having it on for a while, you'll hear how starved and shriveled your original tone is. It's extra responsive to volume adjustments too."
Avi Bortnik (John Scofield band, solo artist)

"I don't think I could describe Cult in one word (other than, you know,
bitchin'), but if I had two words, I'd pick 'huge' and 'musical.' It doesn't alter the sonic personalities of my guitars. My Strat still sounds like a Strat. My PRS still sounds like God. Cult provides what so many of us are looking for: the ability to go from full-toned clean sounds to harmonically rich distortion with a simple nudge of the guitar's volume knob. My first reaction: Why would you turn it off?"
Tom Wheeler (longtime Editor-in-Chief of Guitar Player magazine and author of The Soul of Tone: Celebrating 60 Years of Fender Amps and American Guitars: An Illustrated Histor)y

"Joe Gore has made a pedal that is exactly like he is: unassuming, self-effacing, and quietly virtuosic. You plug this thing in and the qualities you look for in a stompbox—uniqueness of tone, responsiveness to your own playing, robustness of build—are immediately felt. There is nuance to its breadth of tone, and you will be seduced."
Tony Berg, producer and session guitarist (Peter Gabriel, Weezer, Aimee Mann, Michael Penn, X, Squeeze, P.I.L., Wendy & Lisa, Lisa Loeb, Cracker)

"This pedal has changed my life and given me a whole new tone that I have been looking for. I can get a nice fat tone with plenty of bite and no mud. I can't even think of plugging in my guitar without the Cult pedal."
Greg Ingraham, Avengers guitarist and O.G. punk-rock god (Joe's description, not Greg's. He's way too modest to talk like that.)

"The Cult pedal is an incredible addition to my tonal arsenal. I have a vintage Ampeg Jet, and this pedal turned my rig into a screamer. It also has a great tonal roll-off that changes character in a very musical way. Level boost and tone madness—love it!"
Dave LeBolt, composer and session musician (David Bowie, Billy Joel, Foreigner, Julian Lennon), and former general manager of Avid/Digidesign


One knob. Many tones.

"Remarkable ... responsive dynamics and simultaneously fierce and expressive tones. This is a pedal that doesn't give up even one less-than-spectacular sound. It reminds me of '60s records where the fuzz sound jumped right out of the grooves and changed my world."
–Guitar Player magazine
(Editors Pick Award)

Duh isn't as stupid as it looks.

You know those fuzzes that sound bitchin' in your bedroom, but vanish in the mix or onstage? The Joe Gore Duh Remedial Fuzz isn't one of them.

Duh is an aggressive one-knob fuzz that doesn't merely bludgeon your amp with gain, but adds a distinctive, harmonically rich character. There's high-end sizzle and low-end mass, but both are carefully sculpted—think "fat but fit." Unlike most ultra-high-gain fuzzes, it boasts extraordinary dynamic sensitivity, providing high-contrast tones in response to guitar-knob adjustments. Result: far more colors than you'd expect from a one-knob box.

This fuzz is voiced for great results with anything from a sizzling Strat bridge pickup to a fat-ass neck humbucker. Its tones are less scooped than on most retro fuzzes, though the low-mids are manicured to emphasize airy, sparkling highs. Single-note lines and solos sing with rich sustain. Chords sound massive, yet they retain definition, even with complex voicings that would dissolve into mush with most fuzzes.

Duh is a distant descendant of the two-transistor "Brand X" fuzz pedals of the '60s, though it doesn't sound like any of them. Its gain is actually lower than on most fuzzes, which paradoxically makes it sound bigger in the mix by preserving playing dynamics and crisp note attack.

"The best, most musical, most dynamic fuzz ever."
David Baerwald, producer/guitarist (Sheryl Crow, Joni Mitchell, David & David)

"I love it. Charles [aka Frank Black] loves it!"
Joey Santiago (Pixies)

"I just finished a fairly in-depth test of the Joe Gore Duh Remedial Fuzz, and wow! This is an amazing fuzz/distortion/overdrive box! It's deceivingly simple, but with infinite variations. Depending on the amp used, you'll get tons of great fuzz, overdrive, and distortion tones. At first I thought it would work best in live settings, since it seems to be EQed with more highs and mids than a standard Big Muff-type pedal. But I now realize it's great in the studio too. I found many great tone variations just by using the guitar volume to increase or decrease the input gain level. I am super impressed."
Corky James, session guitarist (Katy Perry, Demi Lovato, Glen Campbell, Meat Loaf, LeAnn Rimes, Liz Phair, Avril Lavigne, Kelly Clarkson, Nick Lachey)

"As you might expect with a former Guitar Player editor, current Premier Guitar editor, and guitarist with Tom Waits, PJ Harvey, and Tracy Chapman, Gore has an educated ear when it comes to tone. Duh's gain is on the lower end of the fuzz range, but it still offers plenty of sustain and gorgeous harmonic overtones. Even at full guitar volume Duh is more articulate than its name might suggest. Manipulation of the instrument's volume and tone controls, and/or switching the pickup selector brought out a surprising variety of sounds. It is always a good sign when you don't want to stop playing when exploring a new piece of gear, and I found the Duh hard to shut off—the term 'inspiring' kept coming to mind."
Michael Ross, Guitar Moderne magazine

"It gets one extra-meaty sound, with a large volume control so you can work it with your foot. It's got a lot of low-end thump and articulation, which matches very well with bridge and single-coil pickups."
Avi Bortnik (John Scofield Band, solo artist)

A deceivingly simple overdrive/heavy fuzz box with tons of variation. You turn the knob to make it louder (yes, "duh") but the art is in the nuance. Slight adjustments will delight you as you move through the dynamic range. Fat, chunky lows, an airy midsection, and sparkling highs make this retro fuzz really special. Plus, it just looks cool. Check it out.
Truth in Shredding (truthinshredding.com)


Far-ranging fuzz with interactive sliders

"Amazing sustain, sweetly aggro tones, and just enough sonic weirdness to turn peoples' heads. Bravo!"
–Guitar Player magazine

Joe Gore
loves those mad scientist fuzzes with too many knobs! He has collected them for decades and used them on a zillion sessions. It got to the point were people were hiring him specifically to make those sort of farting, fried-circuit tones.

But the downside of those complex fuzzes is that they're a little too wide-ranging, with many settings you'll probably never use. It's easy to spend 20 minutes dicking around without nailing the perfect tone. I've always wished for a wild, highly variable fuzz that was a bit more "curated," with easier access to the tones you're likeliest to use.

That's what inspired the Filth Fuzz. It's only got four controls, but it's a cornucopia of cool, quirky, and usable fuzz flavors.

The drive and level controls do what you'd expect. But unlike many fuzz drive controls, this one sounds great throughout its range. Extreme settings are molten-lava thick. Lower settings are like…slightly cooled lava, maybe?

But the real action is in the two sliders. They're tone controls of a sort, but not in the usual way. Most fuzz tone controls are tone-sucking passive circuits situated downstream from the fuzz effect. But here, the sliders alter the voltages at the transistors, radically changing not only the tone, but also the timbre and response. They profoundly alter the fuzz's core character.

"Filth is amazing—I love it. So many, many sounds. I dig the way they feel, and how changeable that feel is."
David Torn (solo artist, David Bowie, k.d. lang, John Legend, Madonna, Tori Amos, Jeff Beck)

"Filth is pretty f'in great!"
Joe Barresi, producer (Queens of the Stone Age, Soundgarden, Slipknot, Melvins, Bad Religion)

"I've been looking for six months to find a sound I heard in my head, and I've been trying every pedal I can. Filth is it—within three minutes of missing around, I realized it had everything I've ben looking for. It can do every sound from the Stones' 'Satisfaction' to Tom Waits' 'Cold Water' to synth-sounding stuff. It scratches me right where I itch!"
Dan Vickrey (Counting Crows)

"Filth is exceptional AND sonically flexible. Joe works in a number of different musical situations and has developed an extraordinarily flexible and musical fuzz. Last year my friend David Torn went on a fuzz bender. i joined in on the pedals that he strongly recommended i check out. But nothing comes close to this in terms of timbral diversity, response, and joy."
Matte Henderson (John Medeski, Natalie Merchant, Screaming Headless Torsos, Mick Karn, solo artist)

"This is an absurdly versatile fuzz pedal despite its simple layout. You can easily dial in classic fuzz tones and get some newer tweaky-type sounds. The X and Y controls are very interactive, allowing you to obtain endless amounts of filthy fuzz. Tight or loose, stable or sputter, whippet-thin or morbidly obese—it's in there! This is a great fuzz for those looking for some Kevin Shields My Bloody Valentine-type tones and some good old Big Muff type tones. I LOVE IT!!!"
Fuzz Box Girl (bitchin' guitar effects blogger)


Switchable diodes for 156 shades of distortion

There's never been a distortion pedal quite like Gross. So it requires some explanation!

At its heart, Gross is a simple, one-transistor distortion from the same family tree as the Electra circuit. This simple yet powerful effect was built into Electra guitars in the late '70s, and was later adopted by many boutique stompbox builders. And with good reason: It's a lively, dynamically responsive circuit with less compression than most modern IC-based distortion pedals. The transistor boosts the level, and then the signal hits a pair of clipping diodes, which provide the signature distortion.

Every diode combination sounds slightly different. In fact, several boutique pedal companies have based their businesses on creating endless Electra derivatives with slightly varied diode choices. (Just Google "Electra distortion clone.")

Gross isn't an Electra clone. He has changed parts and values for a fatter sound and even greater dynamic response. Joe also added an active 2-band tone control. (He spent a long time dialing in the right ranges and tapers for cool and usable sounds throughout the range of the controls.) The distortion isn't too "gainy." It's more about nuance than sheer power, which is one reason it pairs well with other gain pedals. The character of your guitar—and fingers—always comes through.

But the star feature is the diode section. Instead of a fixed diode pair, Gross has a 12-position rotary switch for each diode position, with each position activating a different diode. That's 78 combinations! Plus there's a switch to add a third diode for asymmetric distortion for 156 possible shades. (My target number was 144—hence the name "Gross.")

Some combinations are as different as night and day. Others are only as different as noon and 12:05. But with its jumbo collection of germanium, silicon, and LED diodes, Gross provides a vast collection of distortion colors.

Thanks to the labeled and detented diode-selector knobs, it's easy to call up favorite settings onstage. But for me, Gross's true forte is as a studio tool. Joe finds it indispensable when tracking guitar overdubs—just spin the dual dials till you find a tone that sits perfectly in the track. It's especially useful when layering guitars.

Gross is popular among rock producers. Users include Joe Barresi (Soundgarden, Slipknot, Queens of the Stone Age, Melvins, Bad Religion), Matt Wallace (Maroon 5, Faith No More, Replacements, O.A.R., Blues Traveller),

and Michael Beinhorn (Ozzy Osbourne, Soundgarden, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Aerosmith, Korn, Marilyn Manson, Black Label Society).