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The three pedals Steve Vai would rescue in the event of a zombie apocalypse

Pedalpocalpyse Steve Vai
(Image credit: Pedalpocalpyse)

Pedalpocalypse is a new show from Guitar World, MusicRadar (opens in new tab) and Guitar Player (opens in new tab). Produced in LA by British guitarist Robin Davey and Growvision (opens in new tab), it's best described as “Desert-Island-Discs-but-for-pedals”. 

Inspired by the bad-old-days of lockdown, in each episode we ask guitarists: “If you could only take three pedals with you into a future lockdown and/or zombie apocalypse, which ones would they be?”

We kick off a new round of episodes with Steve Vai. Recorded at his home studio in LA, Vai talks us through three key pedals, demonstrating their various tones and how he uses them to get the Steve Vai sound. He also gives us a peak into his pedal closet – the home of his extensive collection of effects pedals.

"You ever see guys who build Harleys and personalise with all these little things? That's what we do with our sound with pedals," he says. 

Steve's choices include the Ibanez Jemini Distortion pedal, a signature pedal. "I love tube screamers and I love the DS-1 but they need a bit of tweaking to my ear. So we kinda tweaked them a bit and made two pedals," explains Vai. 

Then there's the Boss DD-7 digital delay. "A beautiful workhorse for delay, with stereo ins and outs which give you a real stereo delay." 

And finally, the Jim Dunlop Cry Baby Wah. "I like wah-whas. Delay, distortion and wah-wah. I just like it!"

One of the many tantalising pedals he produces from his pedal collection is the Mu-Tron Bi-Phase. Why? "It completely molests your notes," he says.

This episode is supported by our friends at Universal Audio (opens in new tab) and their UAFX Guitar Pedals: "Built upon powerful dual‑processor engines and UA's proven analog modeling expertise, UAFX Guitar Pedals give you sonic authenticity far beyond other stompboxes."

Some of Steve's favorite pedals are no longer available to buy new, but you will find plenty of second hand options at sites like Reverb (opens in new tab) and eBay (opens in new tab)

Previously on Pedalpocalypse:

Episode 1: Blues-country-jazzmaster and all-round tone wizard Josh Smith

Episode 2: British blues guitarist Scott McKeon

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Scott Rowley
Scott Rowley

Scott is the Content Director of Music at Future plc, which means he’s responsible for the editorial strategy on online and print brands like Guitar Player, Guitar World, Total Guitar, Louder, Classic Rock, Metal Hammer, Prog, Guitarist and more. He was Editor in Chief of Classic Rock for 10 years and Editor of Total Guitar for 4 years. Scott regularly appears on Classic Rock’s podcast, The 20 Million Club, and was the writer/researcher on 2017’s Mick Ronson documentary Beside Bowie. Over the years Scott has interviewed players like  Jimmy Page, Slash, Brian May, Poison ivy (the Cramps), Lemmy, Johnny Depp (Hollywood Vampires), Mark Knopfler, Robin Guthrie (Cocteau Twins), Will Sergeant (Echo & The Bunnymen), Robert Smith (The Cure), Robbie Robertson (The Band), Jonny Greenwood (Radiohead), Joe Bonamassa, Scotty Moore (Elvis Presley), J Mascis (Dinosaur Jr), Mick Jones and Paul Simonon (The Clash), Billy Bragg, Jake Burns (Stiff Little Fingers), Billie Joe Armstrong (Green Day), Pete Shelley (Buzzcocks) and more.