RAT RACE: Ten Guitarists who love the ProCo RAT!
The RAT was developed in the basement of the ProCo factory in Michigan, USA in 1978. “Yes, there were literally rats down there” says creator Scott Burnham. He stumbled upon the unique sound when he attached the wrong resistor to an in-progress distortion machine. From there, during the 1980s, the RAT took over the guitar world with its screeching distortion sounds. Here is a list of our Top Ten Guitarists who used the famous RAT pedal.
- Dave Grohl
When Grohl swapped his sticks for picks and started Foo Fighters, he needed a sound that would bring his hard rock vision to life. Rumour has it that the debut Foos album was loaded with RAT sounds. Speaking in 1999 about the release of the Foo’s album ‘There’s Nothing Left To Lose’, Grohl said, “Sometimes we’d double a track using an old ProCo Rat, and then hard-pan the parts so that a super-distorted guitar was in the left channel and a grindy guitar was in the right. Then we’d sprinkle in lots of clean guitar overdubs.”
- Kurt Cobain
The Nirvana man’s main sound was achieved using Boss DS-1 and DS-2 pedals, but during the ‘Nevermind’ sessions, one song needed something more wild! Producer Butch Vig said, “For ‘Territorial Pissings’, Cobain wanted to plug his electric guitar directly into the producer’s mixing board. “Kurt wanted to plug straight into the desk for a trashy punk sound,” Vig recalls. “But I didn’t think the guitar had any balls. So we actually split the signal between an amplifier and plugged Kurt’s Pro Co Rat distortion pedal directly into the Neve control board and blended both into the final mix.”
- James Hetfield
Metallica’s debut album ‘Kill ‘Em All’ was loaded with RAT noise from start to finish. Hetfield used it in combination with his Marshall 1959SLP amplifier. This mix produced the famous tones of early Thrash metal. The amp was reportedly stolen in 1984, partially inspiring the song “Fade To Black”.
- Jonny Buckland
When you think ProCo RAT, it’s unlikely that Coldplay would come to mind. But guitarist Jonny Buckland has used the RAT on a number of songs, most notably ‘Violet Hill’. When asked about his settings for the song, Buckland’s guitar tech said, “We used a vintage RAT pedal, then put in some delay on the choruses. At gigs we just turned the RAT up really loud and used an Electro Harmonix Micro Pog pedal for the solo.”
- Graham Coxon
Blur may be known mostly as pioneers of Britpop, but it was their 1997 self-titled album that broke them in the States. Hit single ‘Song 2’ is rumoured to feature two RAT pedals to get huge fuzzy sound, but the RAT pops up all over the whole record.
- Nuno Bettencourt
Always one of the more underrated guitarists – and criminally so – Bettencourt loves a gritty distortion sound and his go-to pedal his, you guessed it, the RAT! Speaking to Total Guitar, the Extreme man said, “I used to use the RAT pedal back in the day but I put what it did in my signature amp at the front end. If I use a Marshall amp, I still use the RAT.”
- Alex Turner
Arctic Monkeys burst onto the scene in the mid-2000s with their debut “Whatever People Say I Am That’s What I’m Not”. While the album was full of indie hits, there was plenty of raucous noise. Photographs from their live shows at the time confirm how frontman Alex Turner recreated that sound on stage, using two ProCo RATs one after the other for maximum fuzz!
- David Gilmour
Another entry which some may find surprising. Gilmour is well revered for his psychedelic, spacey guitar sounds of Pink Floyd, but he was not afraid of cranking up the gain when needed. Songs like ‘Money’ and ‘Comfortably Numb’ feature classic guitar solos with plenty of distortion. Photos surfaced from the Division Bell tour showing Gilmour’s pedalboard, and sitting in there was a ProCo RAT!
- Peter Buck
R.E.M brought the nose in the mid-1990s with their ‘Monster’ album after a string of international hit records. The RAT featured all over the album and can be heard on tracks like “What’s The Frequency, Kenneth?”.
- Jeff Beck
Yet another guitar God who loved the RAT. Beck is rumoured to have used the RAT since it has been around but was particularly famous for it in the 1980s. Inventor Scott Burnham has said, “The biggest thrill was in 1985, when I saw a picture of Jeff Beck using my pedal.”
So there we have it, 10 Guitar Gods who loved the gritty, noisy RAT. From 1978 up to the present day, the RAT is still going strong, melting faces and tearing up stages all over the world!