Declan McKenna on the Electro-Harmonix pedal he became “attached” to

Get the McKenna sound with this specific pedal…

Declan McKenna on stage. He is holding an acoustic guitar, and singing into a mic.

Image: Katja Ogrin / Getty

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Declan McKenna has revealed that he used an Electro-Harmonix stompbox on an early demo of his track Mezzanine which allowed him to “get sound that could be on a keyboard out of a pedal”. McKenna says he grew “attached” to the pedal when recording music back in late 2018, due to its quirky brass sound.

The musician, who recently featured in an episode of Guitar.com’s Guitar Shopping, used the MEL9 Tape Replay Machine across his new album, What Happened To The Beach? It emulates an old Mellotron, a keyboard instrument developed in the 1960s, which was famously used on The Beatles’ Strawberry Fields Forever.

In a new episode of the Tape Notes podcast, McKenna explains how the pedal shaped the track: “For anyone who isn’t familiar with them it’s basically the first sampler, or one of the first samplers, where instruments were recorded – strings, brass, whatever – and flutes. Strawberry Fields Forever is probably one of the most famous iconic usages of it where it’s playing back tapes of an instrument that’s already been played.”

He goes on to add, “The cool thing about the proper ones is that they wear over time and the tapes get more and more weird-sounding. But nowadays there’s all sorts [of recreations] and what we used was a pedal, I believe it was the Electro-Harmonix MEL9, where you can plug in a guitar and it basically has nine Mellotron sounds or something like that. You can either go full Mellotron sound or blend it with the guitar. It basically maps the notes you play on guitar and plays Mellotron sounds.”

The brass sound from the pedal can be heard through other tracks on his new album, with Sympathy namely being one of them. “It is just a sample in there so you just kind of get a sound that could be on a keyboard out of a pedal,” he says. “I’m pretty sure. Because no matter what you plugin you pretty much get the same sound.”

On the finished version of Mezzanine a digital Mellotron was eventually used, but it inspired McKenna to play guitar around it, which interestingly, he recorded simply using a laptop microphone.

Listen to the full episode below:

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