If you were to tell me I could only have one guitar pedal, first I would say, “no way in hell”, but if pressed, I suspect I’d opt for my ProCo Rat 2. The specifics are lost to the mists of time but I think it’s a late ’80s model that I got it around 1995 or 1996, ordered used from Elderly Instruments in Lansing, Michigan. It’s chipped, scratched, rusted, but the logo still glows in the dark and it still sounds awesome.
Thick, angry, and scratchy, it’s been a fixture on my pedalboard since before I had a pedalboard. In the past I’ve replaced it with more esoteric dirt boxes or even more refined/boutique versions of the same circuit, but I always come back to that big, bulletproof, impossible-to-mount-to-a-board steel box. And I’m far from the only one: Yo La Tengo, Slowdive, Ride, Blur, Suede, and Radiohead all rock the Rat, to name but a few. ’90s much? Yes.
In 2012, The New York Times Magazine talked to Scott Burnham about inventing the Rat in a Kalamazoo, Michigan basement in the mid-’70s.
Reverb.com offers a buyers guide to the various models – vintage and current – available on the market:
Musicradar.com does the same and adds in some recommended settings (though it’s three knobs, guys. Not that hard):
And Andy Martin, king of online pedal demos, pays tribute to his own late-’80s Rat 2 which looks an awful lot like mine but somehow sounds a whole lot better.