Inspired by the sound of a vintage Kay Fuzz Tone, SNL guitarist, solo artist and producer Jared Scharff set out to recreate the classic fuzz pedal with a modern twist; the addition of a sweepable resonant filter. In collaboration with Colt Westbrook and the crew at Walrus Audio, Jared’s dream has been realized as the Kangra Filter Fuzz.
We met up with Jared to learn more about how the Kangra came to be and to get a demo of the two sides of this two-sided pedal.
The Kay Fuzz Tone inspired the Kangra. Tell us about how you discovered that pedal.
My brother-in-law, Joe Carnes, bass player for Fitz and the Tantrums, had this orange Kay Fuzz Tone pedal from the '60s. I'd never seen one until I met him. I borrowed it, and it was amazing. I started using it all the time, bringing it to every session. It always sounded incredible; crunchy, organic and chewy. I even wrote the song "Robert Paulson" for my Pearl Lion project based around that pedal, so yeah, the impact was huge.
What was it about the Kay Fuzz that made it stand out?
I find so many times that fuzz pedals can be smooth, and I never liked that type of thing. I always loved it when it felt like the sound was being ripped apart or a speaker was exploding. The Kay had that kind of edginess. So, I set out on a mission to rework this pedal into a modern-day version.
Where did you start with a pedal idea?
I talked to many different people, different builders about it and tried to get prototypes made, and nothing really quite panned out. But, over that time, I also got very interested in wanting a guitar pedal or effect that was like a hi-fi high-cut filter, like a DJ would use on a mix. I remember talking to James Valentine of Maroon 5, and he used a similar effect on "Animals, I think that was the song. The intro was like this rhythm guitar part that comes alive with a low to high filter sweep. So, the pedal idea expanded out to be this two-headed beast; a gnarly fuzz and a hi-fi filter.
How did Walrus Audio come into the picture?
The first Walrus pedal I got was the Jupiter Fuzz, and that started it all. Soon after, I added a Julia Chorus, 385 Overdrive and the Fathom Reverb. When I would sit down to record and write, their pedals were always in the mix, and the sounds always inspired me.
After meeting the crew at NAMM, I developed a good relationship with Colt [Westbrook, President of Walrus Audio]. I had seen the Fathom and Arp designs, with dual-switches packed in "single-size" enclosures. That immediately started my gears turning. I thought 'Everyone who works here is cool, I trust their ears, and they have the two-in-one form factor nailed, this is literally a perfect fit.' So, I called up Colt and pitched the idea, and here we are today with the Kangra.
Tell us about the name 'Kangra' and the art on the pedal.
We wanted to find a name that fit the duality of the pedal. The clean filter side can be peaceful and gorgeous, and then there's this epic nasty fuzz side. I thought back to a trip I took to India, being at the foot of the Himalaya mountains and feeling how immense they were. I mentioned to Colt, "What about Himalaya?" That was too on-the-nose for a fuzz; he asked me to dig deeper. So, I shifted my focus to the Kangra Valley, where I stayed just below the mountains. Beautiful, tranquil, but always in the shadow of the massive mountains. 'Kangra' embodied the two sides of the pedal perfectly.
I shared some of my photos from that trip, and they sparked the artwork, the person on the bridge looking up at the mountains. We also wanted to use the color orange as a nod to the Kay, so we ended up going with this 'peach ice cream' color that fit into Walrus' pallet. Colt told me he wanted to add a salmon/peach pedal for so many years, so everyone got something they wanted.
Cool. Thanks for your time, Jared!
Learn more about the Walrus Audio Kangra Filter Fuzz.
Check out Jared's solo artist project, Pearl Lion: