Josh Homme’s “core tone with the minimum of fuss”: this UK-made pedal sounds like Queens of the Stone Age and looks like it, too – thanks to exclusive Boneface artwork

Funny Little Boxes Skeleton Key pedal
(Image credit: Let's Play All / YouTube)

YouTube channel Let’s Play All and UK pedal builder Funny Little Boxes have announced a new Queens of the Stone Age-inspired distortion pedal, the Skeleton Key, which aims to bottle the essence of Josh Homme’s guitar tone in a single box.

Now, admittedly, the secrets of Homme’s guitar tone remain closely guarded and much debated. 

Indeed, when it does eventually see the light of day, we suspect the information will be drip fed to the public over many years, in the manner of a UFO cover-up, lest we lose our collective minds. 

Fortunately, the minds behind the Skeleton Key (namely YouTuber Matt Webster and pedal builder Andy Ilgunas) are a little less fussed about replicating the exact circuits and are more focused on creating the sound itself, in a simple, highly-usable one-box format. 

“Let us be clear, this is not a clone of [the Peavey Decade],” writes Ilgunas in a Funny Little Boxes blog (in the process, distinguishing it from the likes of Acorn Amplifier’s Solid State preamp). 

“Whereas it is verified that the Decade has been used throughout the making of several QOTSA records, the fact is it is only a single part of the sound as a whole and I remain unconvinced that the Decade alone can truly capture the QOTSA sound.”

Instead, what we have is an op-amp distortion circuit that is designed to pair with humbuckers and down-tunings and specifically voiced to nail the QOTSA tone of tracks like No One Knows and Go With The Flow.

There’s no frippery here: controls are limited to Gain, Tone and Volume and it runs only on 9V DC negative PSU (no battery option). However, sometimes simple is best and listening to the Let’s Play All demo, the result is a thoroughly convincing take on the Homme rhythm sound.

Perhaps equally impressively, Ilgunas and Webster also tracked down and commissioned Queens of the Stone Age’s go-to artist, Boneface, to contribute artwork and control labels for the unit. All of which means the Skeleton Key doesn’t just sound like the band’s output, it looks like it, too.

This velvety distortion goodness comes in at a nice price, too, with the Skeleton Key costing £99 (approx. $125). 

The ’Key is actually the second collaboration from Ilgunas and Webster. Let’s hope the duo can repeat the trick after the acclaimed Funny Little Boxes 1991 pedal – a Pearl Jam-inspired unit designed to nail the tones from the Seattle band’s iconic debut album, Ten

For more information and to pre-order the Skeleton Key, head to Funny Little Boxes

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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.