This week on Pedals with the Pros, we got the chance to catch up with new-classic rocker Des Rocs. The singer-songwriter talks with us about FX, songwriting, and the creative process.
Your sound features classic tape-echo vocals and fuzzy guitars. When did you first become interested in FX?
Growing up I would spend so much time in Guitar Center playing everything I could get my hands on. My friends and I would journey over there and spend hours driving the sales reps wild because we didn’t have enough money to buy a single thing but used the joint as our personal lab.
What were some of your first pedals?
The Big Muff and the Whammy were really the first ones to blow my mind and usher in an era of pedal discovery and obsession.
What does your pedalboard look like now?
There’s a lot and only a little going on at the same time (which might be some kind of a strange metaphor for my music). I’m always toggling between blown out muff sounds, a lead tone for solos, and something more down to earth (but still with a lot of grit). An Altoid canister labeled “pics” is essential.
When did you get an H9 and what did it replace on your pedalboard?
I bought one a few years ago because I didn’t use many time-based effects. I wanted to pull up some timed insanity without having a million different pedals. It knocked out all of the delays and verbs I had been using before then.
Do you have any favorite H9 algorithms?
I’m a tremendous fan of all the choruses, they make it into so many of my records. I’m constantly spinning the knobs and faders all over the place and I’m never working with the exact same sound twice or saving anything. I hate having “go-to” anything. I always want the exact right sound and feeling for a very specific moment, and I only get there by ear.
In the studio, what kinds of plugins and effects do you go for the most?
I only use a few plugins, but the ones I’m calling on the most these days include a lot of Eventide, especially the compressors and Harmonizers.
Do you prefer to track with pedals when recording, or track dry and add plugins?
I loveeeee tracking with pedals, I love to commit on the spot. I hate having the ability to tinker endlessly with a sound (cause I will). If it feels right in the moment, then it is what it is. I guess you can call it the GUT plugin.
You’re a very dynamic performer with seemingly endless energy. How does your songwriting process differ from your live performance?
They are linked like soul mates. The songwriting process is very manic and physical, I’m writing a song as if I’m on a stage – constantly thinking about how it feels live. They all come from the same part of my brain.
As a classically trained violinist, what do you bring from that world to the world of rock performance and songwriting?
A sense of drama and emotion that’s fueled by a relentless love for melody and grandeur.
PC: Rory Barnes
What does your current songwriting setup look like?
A simple desk, in a simple room. A laptop, and a shitty 10 year-old two-channel interface I got for $35 on Craig’s List. I’m surrounded by some fun pictures and guitars, and that’s really it. It all sits in Brooklyn surrounded by a giant graveyard. It couldn’t be less fancy if you tried.
How do you know when you’ve hit songwriting gold?
If I’m jumping around the room like a mad man, if I can’t stop thinking about the song day and night and want to hear the rough demo over and over… it’s a kind of whirlwind romance where I’ll become totally infatuated with the idea.
What are you most excited about for 2021? What’s next?
All the next level game-changing rattlesnake records I’m getting ready to release. Hitting the road and doing what I was put on this earth to do.