Find out what happened when Dagan, Meg, and the PMTVUK crew landed in the USA and headed for Dunlop HQ, with a behind-the-scenes look at MXR, Way Huge, and more
Words by Dagan Wilkin
When we first got to Dunlop we were greeted by the man, the myth, the legend, that is Jimi Dunlop - Son of the company founder, Jim Dunlop!
Upon arrival we quickly noticed some secret pedals on the table that we’d never seen before - or at least, ‘versions’ of pedals that we’d never seen before.
We started by asking what these pedals were, and Jimi explained that he was just “messing around with a couple of ideas”. After a little more conversation, we soon came to discover that Jimi, the CEO of the company, is not only extremely passionate, but very much hands-on with what happens at Dunlop. This is something you’ll rarely find with the CEO of a company as big or as prevalent as Dunlop, so we quickly realised we were somewhere very special.
Jimi took us on a secret ‘behind-the-scenes’ tour of their San Francisco HQ, a place where cameras and the general public aren’t allowed. We checked out the string-making process, where Jimi told us his Dad started out with only one machine that was gifted to him - and now they’re one of the leading manufacturers in string-making! There’s now definitely more than one machine in the building, but it’s still a small operation. Jimi likes to keep it small and be aware of every inch of the manufacturing process to make sure it’s perfect, and it’s a massive testament to the close knit workforce that Jimi has.
Just next door, we were shown where the iconic Jim Dunlop plectrums are made. First off, I have to point out that some of the pick-making machines in there are the same ones that were used brand-new in the 70’s - so there’s a high chance that the Jim Dunlop picks you hold in your hands, are made from the same machines that printed the guitar picks of our idols back in the day! How crazy is that!
It’s amazing how much time, energy and detail goes into the new ‘Flow’ pics, too. From the sculpt and the grip to the material itself, it’s really something special when you get the final product in your hands!
Moving over to the metalwork room you see how intimate this team is. One or two guys making the legendary Cry Baby Wah enclosures, Dunlop straplocks made on the machine next to it, slides, fret-polishing equipment, the frets themselves, all done in-house by a team giving so much love and attention to their work! It’s really made me appreciate, in a totally different way, stepping on my Cry Baby Wah!
Now for the videos! We got to the Dunlop ‘JAILHOUSE’ (which is a building converted from an old Western? Maybe... It’s an actual old-school Jailhouse) and onto a top-of-the-line recording facility to demo and showcase new MXR, Dunlop & Way Huge pedals. We were greeted by guitarist & product demonstrator extraordinaire, Bryan Kehoe (and his mighty beard!), Guitar Pedal design-wizard Jeorge Tripps, bass player, producer, singer & songwriter Darryl Anders, and a table FULL of MXR, Dunlop, and Way Huge Pedals for us to do whatever we wanted with.
First off, we looked at how MXR has modernised old-school analog pedals. Analog pedals are great, but when you can bring them into the 21st Century with features and party tricks you’ve never seen before - why wouldn’t you! The original tones are there (and captured beautifully), but now you can change and alter parameters like you’ve never been able to do before, breathing new life into these pedals that were already amazing and iconic, allowing for more genres and players of different styles to get the most and really experiment sonically.
Meg then pulled the acoustic out and we discovered just what you can do with your sound when you add pedals into the mix! MXR, Dunlop & Way Huge make some beautiful pedals for acoustic guitar. From familiar swirling chorus and luscious reverb, to precisely EQ’ing your tone so it’s perfect to yours and your audience's ears. All the way through to using pedals such as the MXR Bass Preamp, a pedal unsurprisingly used mostly for bass, to really bring the characteristics of your acoustic to the forefront without altering the natural tone of your instrument!
Dagan then proceeded to hairspray his hair, roll up his sleeves, and start talking 80’s tones! So we gathered some pedals together to NAIL that iconic 80’s guitar tone we all know so well - but through a clean amp! We had the MXR ‘FOD’ for that classic modded British 80’s bite, an MXR Carbon Copy Delay to solo like you’re playing in a sold-out arena, an MXR Phase 90 (because, you know.. Eddie), and some more pedals and tones that had everyone grinning ear-to-ear by the end of the shoot!
Darryl Anders then took to the stage - this guy is a legend, playing with some of the biggest names in Funk, R&B, Soul, and the rest, as well as having a successful solo career. There was no-one better to show us all the stunning pedals that Dunlop, Way Huge & MXR have to offer for the bass players out there!
We spoke about how compression is key, the way the pedalboard-friendly MXR Thump Bass Pre-Amp pedal is a MUST for bass players on the move, how bass octavers can not only shake the room but also be super-musical and a secret weapon for some, and how to get that classic 70’s funk tone with the MXR Envelope Filter - you don’t have to use a Wah pedal!
Dagan brought everything back to his usual 80’s craziness by checking out a pedalboard of his idol Eddie Van Halen’s signature pedals! These pedals are a MUST for any Van Halen fan - the MXR Phase 90 EVH model has 2 distinct different Phasing sounds so you can toggle between new and vintage sounding Phasers, and of course the MXR EVH Flanger (with the ‘Unchained’ EVH switch) which instantly transports you to the front of the stage of a sold-out, screaming arena when you play the riff to ‘Unchained’ or ‘And The Cradle Will Rock’!
Ed worked extremely closely with the guys from MXR on these pedals, and was a very picky guy! There were a fair few prototypes until the final editions hit the shelves.
The same goes for his signature 5150 Overdrive and the 5150 Chorus. For example, the ‘Unchained’ setting on the Flanger isn’t someone at MXR’s adaption of what that tone is… It’s actually Eddie's setting, that he set meticulously with the Flanger! He was very hands-on.
We then ended with a sneak-peek of the Limited Edition colours of the Cry Baby Junior Wah Pedals (which are out now!). These pedals were made in collaboration with Pedaltrain to perfectly fit on a pedalboard, and they’re a nice in-between of the regular sized Crybaby Wah and the super compact Crybaby Mini. Jimi got the idea for these new designs from sneakers! The more subdued tan rubber and black housing on one, and the bright red rubber and contrasting white housing on the other!