Hello Effect Pedal listener, this is your host Wright Seneres. Thanks so much for your kind words and support for this podcast. If you’re an Apple Podcasts user and enjoy the show, please leave a 5-star rating, or even a review. Ratings and reviews go a long way in helping new people find and enjoy Effect Pedal too. You hear this from a lot of podcasts, but it’s really true. And if you’re not an Apple Podcasts user, you’re still just as awesome. You can tell your friends about Effect Pedal with the share button in your podcast app. So thanks again. And now, on with the show.

“Black guys playing heavy metal” was how Living Colour was first described to me in 1988. Until that point, I had only seen white people playing heavy metal. “Black guys playing heavy metal? Really?” I had to find out what this was all about. So I turned on MTV, and there they were. The video to their big single “Cult of Personality” got a lot of airplay around then. If you’ve ever seen the cover to their debut album Vivid, which leads off with “Cult of Personality”, then you’ve seen the image of bright red beams of light exploding out of a person’s head.   

("Cult of Personality" intro riff)

Videos of young people reacting to old people’s music were all the rage in 2020. If there was a reaction video of me in 1988, a 13-year old kid that loved music but had a lot to learn, listening to that Vivid album for the first time, you would have seen red beams of light exploding out of my head. That was by design. That description of Living Colour – Black guys playing heavy metal – is not really accurate, and missing the point. What I heard that exploded my head was their singular combination of metal, rock, soul, R&B, jazz, punk, and hip hop. And it was heavy, courtesy of a classic distortion pedal, the ProCo RAT.    

My name is Wright Seneres and this is Effect Pedal. This is a podcast and art project dedicated to guitar effect pedals. In the universe, there are countless numbers of these pedals, creating an infinite number of sounds, and opening up worlds of possibilities for guitar players.  

Of all of the guitarists I’ve talked about during this podcast, Living Colour’s Vernon Reid is the one who really showed me what those worlds of possibilities were for guitar players. A mad scientist’s mad scientist, constantly experimenting with guitar tones, textures, gadgets, and pedals. A never-ending quest for new sounds, new colors to use on his palette. Premier Guitar has two Rig Rundown videos on YouTube of the extensive gear of Vernon Reid. These videos, they’re like textbooks for me. I learned from him that the envelope exists to be pushed, in guitar playing, in guitar sounds, in music, and in life.  

Part of what also exploded my head with that first album was their socially conscious lyrics. I had heard some of this from white punk bands, but Living Colour was on another level. Subject matter ranging from cults of personality, urban gentrification, inequality in America, superficiality, materialism, racism and more – this was heady stuff for a 13-year old with a lot to learn, but I got an education with that Vivid album. 

The education has continued for nearly 30-plus years, as Living Colour is still as powerful, socially-conscious and sonically interesting as ever. It’s some of the best kind of lifelong learning. Unfortunately, their music is still relevant because social conditions have not changed enough for the better for Black people and other people of color. Pardon my French, but plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. The more things change, the more they stay the same. So the work continues.   

After the break, from a basement in Kalamazoo to all around the world. 

For t-shirts or art prints featuring the pedals of Season 1, visit the Effect Pedal website:

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