We recently got the opportunity to sit down with Greg Lounsberry, founder, and owner of Lounsberry Pedals. As you listen to Greg it is apparent the voice of his pedals is truly his voice. Greg’s passion for technology and music is poured into every pedal that crosses a bench at Lounsberry Pedals as a musician and an engineer.
Here is a bit of our conversation with Greg as he walked us through this line of fantastic pedals designed for guitar, bass, keyboards, and organ.
BGO -I was looking at the Nigel, number one to ask the name of the pedal. Does that have anything to do with Nigel Tufnel from Spinal Tap?
GL – That’s the question everybody asks it actually, wasn’t why. The real reason is even funnier. I recorded several bands. One is October Tree; another is Canvas. The guitar player with Canvas is a friend of mine.
His daughter at the time was 10. And I would call all the time as Lounsberry. It reminded her of The Wild Thornberry’s. So she called me Nigel Thornberry.
BGO – Looking at the pedal, It looks incredibly cool. One of my first questions is the gain staging. I’m guessing that there are multiple FET preamps within the pedal? How many are in there?
GL – Everything I make uses three gain stages. If you look at a tube amplifier, You’re going to largely see three stages.
You’ve got an input stage, there’s another stage for boost, and then after that, you have a phase splitter, which isn’t a stage, right? And then you have the power tube section, which is a stage. The phase splitter doesn’t perform as a stage. What it does, is it picks up the top half of the waveform. It sends it to one pair of tubes, and the bottom half to the other pair of tubes. And so the phase splitter doesn’t really count as a stage, but the power section does.
FETs, have a very similar harmonic content to a vacuum tube, but one difference is, they tend to have more harmonics than a tube.
So, you get a similar sound to vacuum tubes and those extra harmonics in the FET tend to be of the second order, which adds sweetness.
With the gain staging, I just went by my ear. In the case of the Nigel, I wanted to clip some Germanium diodes without using any IC technology because I just liked the sound of the FET circuits better.
When it came to the last stage, I deliberately turned the gain down. It’s not there to provide gain. It’s just there to basically fatten everything that hits it.
So that one to me, was in my mind, the power tubes. The last stage. So, the last stage I wanted to be a little bit on the cool side, kind of the way your power tubes would be at that point. All of your gain staging is is leading up to that point, right? The purpose of the power tubes is to make it big, right? So that’s kind of, you know, the mental process I went through coming up with the circuit.
BGO – As the gains increased on the pedal, is the character of the tone changing?
GL -If you push the Nigel all out, there is a certain sound to that. I’ll give you an example. For myself. If I’m using the Nigel in a performance, I’m going to set the gain knob somewhere in the middle. Maybe a little more if I’m on a lot of distortion, but if I do that and, if I play light I can get a semi clean sound.
If I back up the volume, a couple of clicks, I can get clean. If I’m not playing light, let’s say that I’m doing chunky chords or power chords, I can get plenty of drive for power chords at that same setting. And when it’s time to do my solo, I could dig in and play my solo and have a nice saturated lead.
And I have all of those sounds available at my fingertips without touching the knob or changing it, which is one of the things about the Nigel that makes it special.
BGO – So, it is very touch sensitive?
GL – It’s extremely touch-sensitive. I would say that it’s a slight exaggeration of what you would think of as touch-sensitive.
If you think about a great amp, think of the Nigel as a slight exaggeration of that great amp.
BGO – How far into the realm of hard rock can I take the Nigel?
GL – You can do hard rock, but you can’t do heavy metal. The Nigel just doesn’t do that sound. If you like things like Budgie and AC/DC and KISS and if you like Joe Walsh or Kansas, you can get all those sounds.
I don’t make a pedal for metal and I haven’t really tried to dive into that.
BGO – With the Nigel the character changes, does the pedal get a little thinner or does he get a little fatter as you play with the knob, but what’s happening?
GL – Well, it definitely fattens up as you push it because of the gain staging. The only major tone change happens when you, you get almost all the way up. It does it squashes a little bit at the, at the very, at the very end. Perfectly usable. In fact, even with the gain all the way on 10, you can still back off on how hard you play and it will start to clean up, not all the way to clean, but you can use your playing dynamics to clean it up.
BGO – So when you say it squishes, do you mean, so as you hit the top of the gain, it compresses a little bit?
GL – Yeah, the pedal has natural compression. Like I said, you get quite a bit of it at 10, but when you drop it off to eight, That effect is not, you know, it’s not really there. I don’t consider that to mean there is really anything wrong with the pedal.
BGO – I think it sounds great. When you’re pushing that much gain, you don’t want it to be wild and fizzy.
GL – You can put the Nigel on 10 and put it into a delay and get some ethereal sounds with it.
That extra cando some things for you, like kind on a Stratocaster, kick it back to the neck pickup. You get some real, almost thick, creamy kind of tones. So, there are some cool things you can do with that.
BGO – The level of control, is that just a linear type of control or is the character,
GL – You get a little bit of character change with the level because there’s a gain stage circuit, but the purpose of the level of control is just to control your output.
You can do a little bit of change. It might clean up a little bit with it, with the level control down, but, but not significantly. It’s all analog and all interactive and you know, where you set your guitar or how hard you play, you know, all of those kinds of things affect the tone.
Everything affects everything, and it all affects the tone. You’re in total control of your music with this thing. Which is nice.
It’s not like these digital amps, you can emulate the sound of an amplifier of any given amplifier digitally, but you’re in a snapshot of that dynamic level. It’s not really responding dynamically to your playing. Like it would be if you had that same amp set up the same way. So, when I play digital amps, I realize that I’m not going to get the dynamic response from that digital amp that you get from the real thing.
But that’s one of the things that my pedals can do for you if you play the modern amps.
BGO – The other pedal I was interested in is the Amp Rescue. Is that marketed for solid-state amps?
GL – That was the original idea. The Amp Rescue sounds great with whatever you put it in front of. One of my guys took it into a music store in Atlanta and the guy pulls out this Marshall and says let’s try it out.
And my friend ‘said “No man, give me your crappiest amp”. They brought out some solid-state something or other, and he put on the amp and the guy said, “Man, this rescues a bad amp”. So, I thought that was cool name for the pedal.
I think that I haven’t done a very good job of communicating what the pedal does. What you get with the Amp Rescue, it’s cleaner than a Nigel. It’s not going to be as fat and compressed as the Nigel. The Nigel to me, sounds like a, more of a Plexi kind of tone and, and that kind of playability, that kind of response. With the Amp Rescue it is almost more like a Bassman.
You get chime. You get, semi-clean to, to a decent crunch out of, out of Amp Rescue. You can get a good saturated lead tone. I mean, you’re not going to get a wooly sound like you can get with the Nigel. It’s not going to go that far, but what you can get is you could get some really nice chimey semi-cleans, the kinds of sounds you really would need tubes to achieve otherwise.
BGO – Talk to me about your Smiling Jack
GL – Smiling Jack is my take on the Fuzz Face and it’s got about three times as many components in it because I’ve got all kinds of filtering and different things in there. It’s a really good sounding fuzz. Smiling Jack is not a simple circuit, like a regular Fuzz Face.
BGO – Does Smiling Jack have the three-stage gain staging in it also?
GL – It has the main stage, unlike a Fuzz Face. What a Fuzz Face does, is it uses one transistor to drive the other one into an avalanche. That’s what a Fuzz Face does. I’ve got some filters in that part of the circuit to get rid of some of the harshness and smooth out the edges. Then I gain staged that into one of my FET circuits. So, there is some gain staging in there. To me, the output of other standard silicon Fuzz Face just sounded a little too harsh. It just wasn’t smooth enough for my ear. So, I put some filters in there and smoothed it out some.
BGO – I noticed the organ grinder is for bass, guitar, and keyboard. It mentions Greg Rollie in the notes, which I was lucky enough to see Greg only during the Departure tour.
GL – When I say Greg Rollie, I’m, you know, thinking about tones that are kind of in the middle of the organ grinder range. I want to get those Santana sounds. With the Oregon grinder, you can do this like nuclear burn kind of thing. You can do, like John Lord stuff with all the complex chording with no smearing and you get a lot of transparency. It is so hard it will rip your face off, but you can still hear all the notes shine through. It’s a great-sounding, organ distortion.
BGO – So I don’t know how true this is, but I’ve heard the legend that Jimmy Page, when we did the solo for “Good Times, Bad Times” he did it through a Leslie without the speaker spinning. He just used the Leslie amp. I think it’s the 122. That’s how we got that really cool overdrive.
GL – So that’s actually, what has been said of the Organ Grinder, that it sounds like a Leslie 122 amp without the rotor.
BGO – Which is undoubtedly a really cool sound for guitar.
GL – It’s great for guitar. I did an interesting thing on this album that I’m working on. It’s kind of in the background, I did a song where I recorded every track through the Organ Grinder. It had a guitar and it was recorded, direct the board through the Organ Grinder, I got some great sounding stuff. I always record bass guitar with the Organ Grinder. It’s my go-to for bass guitar.
BGO – With a bass does it give a tubey, SVT kind of vibe?
GL – That is what happens with a little bit of crunch if you want. Then once again, you know, the dynamics where you’re laying into it, it gets a little crunchier.
BGO – The Tall and Fat has a very cool look to it
GL – I also make a stereo version of Tall and Fat. I did a T-shirt design and the slogan is “I am Tall and Fat”. It gets funny because, because you get short, tall and skinny people wearing this and they all, think it’s just hilarious, you know. I met Joey DeFrancesco at NAMM one of these big, you know, Grammy-nominated jazz artists and he’s a big guy. He came up to me and he said, “Oh, you’re Tall and Fat”. I said, “I beg your pardon no one has ever called me tall”.
BGO – What is next?
GL – So what’s coming soon is the Gear Grinder, the Gear Grinder is a harder version of the Organ Grinder and it’s stereo. So, if, if the Organ Grinder is like a cranked up, Leslie 122 the Gear Grinder is like a Mesa Boogie in stereo. It’s got a harder, Boogie like distortion.
BGO – Greg I appreciate your time and the insight into these amazing pedals. Where can people find your products?