Do you fancy your fuzz a little pickled? A question no one would have thought to ask before but when Egyptian musicians Youssef Abouzeid, Ismail Seleit and Farid El-Sehrawy decided to create and build their own brand of pedals, with the first off the conveyor belt a fuzz/oscillator number called the Distorshy (a pun on the Arabic word for pickles), the question became delightfully relevant.
The team behind NMR pedals have plans for further effects pedals, but their debut model, the Distorshy, is interesting not only for what it packs under the hood, but also because it is indicative of the trend towards the blurring of boundaries between music genres. And that is something that will thankfully bring to an end the distinction between guitar-based music and synth- based music, thus lending itself to many interesting possibilities.
The reason for this is that while there may be novelty to the first Egyptian-made pedal, a straight up fuzz pedal would simply not have cut it, for the pedal makers before anyone else. There had to be more, and we got more with a fuzz pedal that is also a noise/pitch generator.
Dandin could barely contain its joy when trying the Distorshy out, for it promises endless possibilities in how the parameters interact with each other and the instrument it’s plugged through, whether guitar or keyboard.
Dandinblog spoke to Youssef Abouzeid for a more in-depth look at the origins of NMR pedals and the Distorshy.
So three of you are musicians so an interest in pedals makes sense, but still it’s something else ending up actually making them, so how did it come about?
Well it was at (music festival) Oshtoora last year, Ismail already knew Farid through a friend and I’ve been making music with Ismail for about four years or so. We were sitting with friends and we were talking about music and effects when Farid told us he [had] already tried to make a fuzz pedal once. The three of us immediately figured out we should definitely try and build effects, we even came up with the name immediately and started thinking of funny names for the effects [parameters]. We were excited about it but never pursued it up until a few months later when Seif Abdel Salaam told me about this competition for music-related projects called Disrupt!Music! that we [ended up] winning. We had an okay amount of cash to start with, so we decided to make our first pedal and build around fifty with this money.
Talk to us about your first pedal, the Distorshy, a fuzz pedal with an oscillator, so there’s a “synth” element to it as well as straight up distortion. Tell us about this mix and what it can do.
As well as straight up fuzz you mean, but yeah this is basically what it is. The idea evolved as we worked on it, first it was just going to be a fuzz pedal but as we worked on it and did some research, we got inspired by lots of designs and at the end we decided to apply the fuzz+oscillator mix that we saw [in] some similar designs, [and] not to settle with something ordinary in terms of sound. You basically have an oscillator vs fuzz, the fuzz has a gain knob (torshy) while the oscillator features 3 knobs; nemr (oscillator blend), filtar (oscillator threshold), and sarsa3a (ocillator frequency). Those three controls allow you to mix the oscillator with the fuzz for a dirty electronic analog fuzz sound and you can [modify] its frequency range with the sarsa3a knob, or a fuzzy sound with a square wave of a pitch that you can change with the sarsa3a knob. You can also use the fuzz on its own, and it’s pretty crazy at maximum levels. The filtar knob (threshold) on the other hand lets you choose whether to have the oscillator running when playing or not. You can also use the pedal as an intense noise generator or pitch generator.
I want it to be different than most guitar pedals, special to some extent; I [also] want it to look and sound cool. Effects, and technology in general, represents all the truly special innovation you can achieve with music nowadays. People have been innovating in the technicalities [of instruments] for thousands of years, that it kind of became saturated, because it’s a limited perspective on what you can achieve with instruments. Effects added that other dimension to the music that you can manipulate, incorporating technology that is much more accessible these days; and the edgier the effect the weirder shit can get!
Tell us a bit about the process of making the pedal, and what turned out to be the most challenging thing about it which you didn’t anticipate?
As evident from the nature of your first pedal, there’s always going to be something interesting about the pedals you make, they won’t be ‘typical’ guitar pedals. What’s the reasoning behind that?
You may order your Distorshy here.