Frantone’s Fran Blanche reckons she knows the real secret to Josh Homme’s tone – and it’s not the Peavey Decade

Fran Blanche on Josh Homme's guitar tone secret
(Image credit: Kevin Winter / Getty / Fran Blanche / YouTube)

Fran Blanche – the unique brain behind pedal maker Frantone Electronics – always has interesting insights into tone, and she’s recently posited a theory that questions the secret of Josh Homme’s velvet-y sound.

Last year, in Apple’s TV’s documentary series Watch That Sound with Mark Ronson, Homme indicated that the Peavy Decade – a tiny ’80s solid-state combo – was the surprise ‘secret’ to some of his most iconic Queens Of The Stone Age tones, including the stomping No One Knows.

At the time, Ronson joked the revelation was the “hard rock equivalent of, ‘Who shot JFK?’” and resale prices of the amp have since shot up, with used combos now regularly fetching prices far north of $500.

However, Blanche – whose ears and expertise are both well-established – says she has two issues with this turn of events. First, she notes the same preamp tone can be found in a number of much cheaper amps, notably her favored Peavey Bandit 65 and also the brand’s smaller Back Stage combo.

Second, Blanche reveals that she suspects Homme’s professed love of the Decade is not the whole story, and alleges it may even be a bit of cunning misdirection from the QOTSA man. 

Instead, the tone guru references an old Liam Lynch video interview with Homme (the original has since been deleted) in which she alleges Homme referenced “a little box on the floor” with a built-in speaker and top-mounted handle.

The unit, Blanche reckons, is likely an old mag recorder – a sort of auxiliary amp designed to add the ability to play back magnetic tape audio recordings on old 16mm film editing desks.

Fran Blanche says this is Homme’s mystery amp

The mystery box Blanche says is Homme’s real secret weapon (Image credit: Liam Lynch / YouTube)

“These things were made in small lots and I’ve found examples of them from throughout the ’60s and ’70s, but I’ve not found anything that has the form factor of that ‘secret weapon’ that Josh Homme has,” says Blanche. 

“It’s clear that at some point in the ’80s and ’90s that these little mag recorder amps were making their way to surplus stores. And, sure enough, when they found that they really loved that sound, these guys in the high desert were snarfing up these little mag recorders.”

“I think that is the real secret weapon,” Blanche says later in her post. “I think that saying the Peavey Decade was the real secret weapon was a very convenient way of [throwing people off]. I’m sure he used them, but it was not the original secret weapon, at least not from 15 years ago in the video that I recall.”

Guitar World has also found part of the original Homme interview clip re-posted on YouTube [embedded below, while it lasts], which features the box. Homme says in the footage that the mysterious unit is the “shittiest out of the like 10 of these I have... [because] it was left sitting out in the rain”, and that it is “meant to get blown-out”. He also plays a guitar made out of an old crucifix through the amp, so it’s worth watching just for that.

So there you have it: a new dimension to the ongoing Homme tone debate. Blanche is calling for anyone with a similar unit to get in touch so she can identify the make and model, which could be one of a high number of small producers from the era.

In the meantime, Blanche leaves Homme tone hounds with a word of warning: “Don’t buy a Peavey Decade for $500. If you want that sound, go with the Bandit 65 – you won’t regret it…”

For further updates, keep an eye on Fran Blanche’s YouTube channel.

Thank you for reading 5 articles this month**

Join now for unlimited access

US pricing $3.99 per month or $39.00 per year

UK pricing £2.99 per month or £29.00 per year 

Europe pricing €3.49 per month or €34.00 per year

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

Join now for unlimited access

Prices from £2.99/$3.99/€3.49

Matt Parker

Matt is a staff writer for GuitarWorld.com. Before that he spent 10 years as a freelance music journalist, interviewing artists for the likes of Total Guitar, Guitarist, Guitar World, MusicRadar, NME.com, DJ Mag and Electronic Sound. In 2020, he launched CreativeMoney.co.uk, which aims to share the ideas that make creative lifestyles more sustainable. He plays guitar, but should not be allowed near your delay pedals.