“If you have a kickass amplifier, why put it through a $100 pedal?”: Walter Trout sees “no need” for guitar pedals

The blues ace says his entire tonal palette comes from his Mesa Boogie Mark IV and the volume knob on his guitar.

Walter Trout performing live

Credit: Per Ole Hagen/Redferns

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Like so many topics in the guitar sphere, whether to kit out your rig with a bunch of pedals remains a subject of great debate. As many stompbox enthusiasts will tell you, pedal collecting can become a sort of addiction, where once you start you never stop chasing that ever-elusive perfect tone.

But other guitarists – including blues ace Walter Trout – find it simpler to avoid pedals altogether and instead let their guitar and amp do the talking.

In a new interview with Guitar World (transcribed by Ultimate Guitar), the 73-year-old guitarist lifts the lid on his current pedalboard, which as he describes, “right now is this carpet and my shoes”.

“What I use for pedals is my vintage Mesa Boogie Mark IV that I bought many years ago. I just don’t see any need for pedals,” he says. The Mesa Boogie Mark IV is, of course, not a pedal, but rather a versatile tube amp, interestingly, commonly associated with metal music.

“I have this theory that if you get a kickass amplifier, why would you put it through a $100 pedal?” Trout goes on.

“When I started playing in bars in the middle to late ‘60s, pedals didn’t exist,” he explains of his amp-only philosophy. “Now, I was playing at the time through a Fender Super Reverb, which I still have out in my garage. I wanted to get a little more out of it.

“And, at that time, a pedal came out. It was by Electro-Harmonix. It was called an LPV-1. And it was just a gain boost, and it plugged right into the input on your amp; it stuck out from the front of the amp.

“It was very elemental and kind of primitive. But I would plug that into the Super, I would turn the volume down on the Super, and just run the LPV-1 cranked. And it was great for playing in clubs.”

But Trout explains that his discovery of Mesa Boogie amplifiers eliminated his need for pedals altogether.

“When I discovered Mesa Boogies while I was with John Mayall, I realised that, basically, it’s a Fender that’s been very souped up and modified, and the overdrive is built into the amp.”

In terms of how he adjusts his tone, Trout says he does so using just the volume pot on his guitar.

“I control it all with the volume button,” he says. “I have the amp set on channel three, which is the high-gain channel. I have the gain all the way up and I’m controlling the cleanliness and the whole thing with the volume on the guitar. And I play all the time with my pinky wrapped around the volume button.”

Walter Trout has a string of tour dates planned for the rest of 2024. For a full list of dates, head to his official website.

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