KHDK products

The Birth of Ghoul Screamer, Kirk Hammett's Signature Overdrive (by Antonin Salva)

Antonin Salva, KHDK's engineer, tells the story of building Kirk Hammett's signature overdrive: the Ghoul Screamer.


Hard at work

It started with "THE" TS-808

Back in 2015, Kirk, David Karon and I were discussing ideas for a new pedal. Kirk has been thinking about creating a clone of his slightly modified TS-808, the exact pedal he has used throughout his whole career.

Our initial plan was to re-create the same tone of Kirk's original TS-808 from 1979.

We all love this pedal, but none of us were excited by the idea of doing a straight-up clone; we wanted to shake shit up!

Breaking it down

My approach was to break the tone of the TS-808 into components to get to the bottom of what it's made of, and what could be tweaked. So I went ahead and added five mini toggle switches for Bass, Highs, and Body, plus two variations of Compression.

The idea was to play around with them and change the character of the tubescreamer circuit. The way I designed it, if all switches are in the "UP" setting, their functions are bypassed. In this setting, the tone is exactly the same as the pedal that Kirk used.

With a little help from my friends

Ghoul Screamer signed by Kirk for Milos "Dodo" Dolezal

I asked my buddy, the fantastic Czech guitarist Milos "Dodo" Dolezal to let me use his kickass studio. Dodo helped me fine-tune each switch and set it so that each function is effective and plays a role in the overall sound.

I remember we spent hours and hours testing the prototype with different guitars and amps, tweaking and fine-tuning it. 

When we were finally done, we had something pretty crazy in our hands; a pedal so hugely versatile, it was like nothing I had ever used.

Next step: let's show Kirk!

I was ready to take this multiswitch prototype to Kirk and let him find his favorite switch setting so I could hardwire it and make it Kirk's own tube screamer. I was even prepared for him to say he wants all the switches up, just like the original TS-808 setting; at least I'd feel like I had done everything for his perfect pedal.

Kirk's settings on the original Ghoul Screamer prototype

Kirk's reaction was not what I expected

But his response shocked me: after playing around with the pedal and freaking out over the switches, he told me he wants me to change nothing. His exact words were, "I dig having this...it's like creating my own Screamer."

He decided that every guitarist should have the same priviledge as him: to feel like a mad tone scientist blending their tone. He felt that the switches are so rad when used with different guitars and amps.

Kirk with his Ghoul Screamer

Even though I hadn't thought about keeping the multiswitch prototype and turning it into a pedal, what Kirk said made perfect sense to me. When Kirk coined the name "Ghoul Screamer", we instantly knew people were going to freak out over it, just like we did.

Guitarists should know that with the Ghoul Screamer, they have something special in their hands that is normally only available for top artists on in very expensive custom / mod shops.