It was the summer of 1998 and what would turn out to be a life long obsession hadn’t yet begun. I had one acoustic guitar on which I would play all the songs I knew – a repetitive cascade of about ten pop wonders with one pink floyd song thrown in for good measure. The guitar wasn’t even a very good one but it held up to a lot of abuse. Anyway so there was this guy I knew who was selling his gear – a Fender Squier Strat, a little black box he stepped on mysteriously and a really boxy 10 watt amp called ‘Playmate’. Well long story short I ended up buying everything. Fast forward to the scene of me and that little black box. I remember thinking how magical it was the first time I stepped on it – press the big grey footswitch and instant destruction! I played the only power chord riff I knew – ‘Smoke on the water’ – and killed it till I had a loud ringing noise in my ears. To this day it is the only rock riff my father recognizes and I think it is because of that fateful day.
The pedal in question was the Korg DST-3 Hard Dist. One knob for gain, one for tone and a footswitch. Simple. Deadly. For an 18 year old with unlimited ambition on the instrument and very little actual skill it was a panacea – hammer on a few strings, strike a pose and you were a rocker! So influential was this pedal that I thought it was the only way for anyone to get distortion and reading worn out copies of foreign guitar magazines I was baffled when players mentioned amp distortion. Everything was always up – all the knobs in reach turned as far as they would go, the pickup selector on the bridge humbucker, always the bridge humbucker – and that was tonal bliss. Who needed amp distortion?
A lot of time has passed since that day. The Squier Strat is long sold, the sexy little amp dismembered, but I still have the pedal and I pulled it out the other day to see how it sounded after all this time. And given for how cheap the pedal is I’d have to say not bad. My musical tastes are different now and the number of pedals I have is more than I would like to admit, but for a hard rock or metal tone the pedal is not half bad. When I’m old and grey maybe I’ll still pull this pedal out, seat it next to a nice cup of tea and think back to how this humble pedal started it all.