Kurt Cobain’s Boss DS-1 Distortion Pedal

The Boss DS-1 could arguably be considered one of the key elements of Kurt’s sound since he used it as his main distortion pedal basically throughout the Bleach and Nevermind era. At some point during the Nevermind tour, he did make a switch to a DS-2 model, but it’s hard to determine when exactly this happened due to the lack of photos.

Also worth mentioning is that most of what is known about this pedal, and Kurt’s preference in regards to pedals, mostly comes from other sources and not Kurt himself. If you happen to come across an interview where Kurt talks about pedals, and which ones he preferred, be sure to forward it.

Bleach, Nevermind

According to Jack Endino, who produced ‘Bleach’, during the studio sessions Kurt was playing through a Boss DS-1 pedal. Based on this, it is also likely that the pedal was used on the following tour between June 1989 and May 1990.

Kurt brought in a little closed-back 2×12 cabinet with two Celestions, most likely 70-watt models. He was using a little orange Boss DS-1 distortion pedal and these Univox guitars [Hi-Flyers] that looked like Mosrites.

The Definitive Kurt Cobain Gear Guide By Chris Gill

By the time the band started recording ‘Nevermind’ in April 1990, Kurt most likely continued using the pedal. However, Butch Vig, who produced the album, and was interviewed in a 2005 documentary ‘Classic Albums: Nirvana – Nevermind‘, does not mention which pedal Kurt used exactly.

Furthermore, every single article from a well-known magazine that lists the Boss DS-1 as the pedal used on Nevermind doesn’t list their source, and always seems to quote Butch indirectly. If you by any chance happen to come across an interview from Butch (or from Kurt for that matter), where there are specific pedals mentioned, be sure to forward it.

DS-1 on Tour

As noted in the opening paragraph, the pedal was used for the entirety of the Bleach tour, and for the first couple of months of Nevermind. To see the photos, check out our Pinterest board at Kurt Cobain’s DS-1 on Pinterest.


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fouie lerris
fouie lerris
1 year ago

kurt cobain used this pedal more than the ds-2 and i can see why.
i own the boss ds-1 and it is an amazing pedal for all genres not just grunge.
i would highly recommend.

10 months ago

kurt also used a mxr distortion plus during a show in 1989 and his tuner was the arion stage tuner