Like many musicians, I geek out about gear. I spend time at shops, online and my good buddy Neil (one time member of original backing band The Wolffman) and I seemingly don't go much more than a couple weeks without sending texts about this gear or that gizmo. Everyone loves and wants stuff from the 50's and 60's because it's awesome but I also have a lot of stuff that I've collected for the last fifteen years or so that end up making it on to records, regardless of vintage or price tag. Odd things, cheap things, expensive things, things passed to me by people who don't want them; they all have a home in my collection. My space is the island of misfit gear in a lot of ways. Enter my Boss Phase Shifter. Likely described by no one as coveted, this thing has somehow made it on to most records that I have recorded on in some shape or form. So many times I have thought to myself that I should get rid of it, but the thing is the resale value of these is so low that I just end up keeping it anyway.
To be totally honest, it's a pretty average at best piece of gear, some might even describe it as poor. It boosts or cuts, depending on the stage setting, it really can add some very ugly color to your tone if you let it, and it's just not a cool looking pedal. All that said, I have not really come across a phase shifting pedal that does really sound great in all situations or that you don't have to really try and manipulate to work in a mix, and so I keep toying and making it work for me.
On Ilsa, I wanted some swirling sounds at different points and I wanted to add some movement to some guitar parts that had long sustain. I also had been using a lot of fuzz on the record and I wanted to distinguish different moods in different songs. What I really wanted was the Crowther Audio Prunes and Custard pedal but I didn't have one and I couldn't find one that was suitable to my budget so I just tried to make my own. You only hear the phase coupled with the fuzz on Ilsa but you hear it in varying degrees and you hear it a lot. It's most prominent on 'Lake of Fire' where the slow guitar swell and move and then end in full on noise. If I may boast, I think it's my finest use of phase.
Like many works, this effect pedal gets overlooked, put down, critiqued and maybe even forgotten. Sometimes it feels like it has no real value at all. In some ways, it feels a bit like putting Ilsa out is the Boss Phase Shifter pedal amongst all the other beautiful, well made, more colorful effect pedals available out there. The truth is that like anything that anyone is passionate about, there is value, if used properly, just more to some people than others. There have been a lot of phases in my journey, this seems to be the truest so far. I hope you enjoy it.