Category Archives: In The Spotlight

“In The Spotlight” posts feature two main perspectives of guitar pedal culture: those using them….and those building them! A series of questions are asked and answered by select guitarists and pedal builders from around the world. Enjoy!

In The Spotlight: Antonio Paone of Verona, IT

Ciao a tutti! This round of In The Spotlight takes us all the way to Verona, Italy, where we find musician, session guitarist, and instructor, Antonio Paone! One aspect of being a session player is having the ability to draw up a huge variety of tones and playing approaches. Having a diverse set of effects to draw on is an essential tool of the session player. Today, you’ll get a peak into Antonio’s approach to how he utilizes his pedalboard in ways that render it useful to his session-based profession.

[Mimmo]: Introduce yourself! What’s your story?

[Paone]: Hi! I’m Antonio Paone, a musician from Verona, Italy. In the last few years I’ve been playing a lot of Pop/Rock music, so I began a sound research that could guarantee me a range of sounds that could satisfy (almost) every sound request. My main guitar is a Fender Stratocaster American Special with some mods (a DiMarzio Fast Track 2 on the bridge, a Wilkinson bridge and Sperzel tuning pegs).

[Mimmo]: Give us 2-3 songs that allow you to utilize your pedalboard in a unique way.

[Paone]: There is a composition called “La Prova del Fuoco” (a different way to see Mozart’s masterpiece “Die Zauberflote”) by the composer Igor Bianchini (we recorded it recently in a recording studio, but unfortunately the master isn’t ready yet) that demands me a huge variety of sounds: from a crystalline clean tone, passing by a susceptible crunch, to the most aggressive heavy metal distortion that I can provide; using also some modulation effects (chorus, delay, reverb, etc.) and mixing the use of the volume pedal and the volume pot of the guitar (I use my Music Man Luke II for this particular tune).

Also a song that makes me use my pedalboard in a very creative way is “Rewind” (a song by Vasco Rossi). I made an arrangement of this tune with the band “I Folli”: with a crunchy sound, delay, reverb and chorus I recreated the characteristic sound of the keyboards that you can hear in the intro of the song, but leaving a guitar identity to the sound (also the rest of the guitar part for this arrangement is a mixture of the guitar sound and this “keyboard-like sound”, accentuating the predominant sound in the moment when it’s necessary).

[Mimmo]: What are some songs, artists, or guitarists that have influenced the way you utilize your pedalboard?

[Paone]: Oh let’s see… There are so many incredible musicians who inspire me every time I see them using their pedalboards. Steve Lukather always impresses me with his distorted sound; Mateus Asato, Mark Lettieri and Lari Basilio have a very tasty clean/crunch sound.

A guitarist that blows my mind for his sound variety is Tim Pierce. Luca Colombo also is a great inspiration for me for guitar sounds in pop culture. Recently I’m pretty much into the Vocoder because of the amazing Jacob Collier: I find his way of using it outstanding.

[Mimmo]: Are there any sounds you would like to emulate that you haven’t quite found out how to do yet?

[Paone]: I don’t have a pedal that allows my guitar to sound like a synth, so I’m pretty curious about the synth sound of Pat Metheny (the one that he used in “Are You Going With Me?”, to be clear).

After researching it, I saw that you can get a sound very close to Metheny’s with the use of the Roland GR-55, but I haven’t tried that yet.

[Mimmo]: A little off topic here, out of curiosity what is the best venue you’ve played?

[Paone]: I have a strong emotional connection to the “Teatro Bibiena” in Mantua; that’s because many years ago I saw Mike Stern (with Tom Kennedy and Steve Smith) in there and I thought “Man, what a beautiful venue to play in.” Last May I played in there with a jazz Big Band: it was really gratifying.


Quick-Fire Favorites:

Favorite Overdrive, Distortion, or Fuzz?

Suhr Eclipse

Favorite Chorus, Phase Shifter, or Flanger?

Strymon Mobius

Favorite Wah or Expression Pedal?

Xotic XW-1

Favorite Compressor?

TC Electronic Hyper Gravity Compressor

Favorite Boost?

Suhr Koko Boost Reloaded

Antonio Paone's main pedalboard

Antonio Paone’s main pedalboard

Pedalboard: (total current consumption: 431mA)

TC Electronic Polytune 2 -> Custom Audio Electronics MC 404 -> Mooer Envelope -> Xotic BB Preamp -> Suhr Eclipse -> Suhr Riot Replaced -> TC Electronic Corona Chorus

FX Loop:

TC Electronic Flashback Delay -> TC Electronic Hall of Fame Reverb -> Mooer E-lady -> Suhr Koko Boost Reloaded

Extras:

  1. TC Electronic Flashback X4 Delay – “I use this when I need many different delay type and settings. I put it as the last pedal in the FX Loop.”
  2. DigiTech The Drop – “I use this when I need to tune the guitar half /whole step down, I put it as the very first pedal in my chain.
  3. Also, for the wireless connection, I use the Line 6 Relay G30.


You can find Antonio Paone on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn. Paone has played in many musical groups and provides guitar instruction at Laboratorio Superiore Musicale in Cerea, Verona province, Veneto, Italy.

In The Spotlight: Nathan Heck of Rougarou Pedals

Beware of Banshees, Sasquatches and Draugr-naughts: This month we’re turning our attention towards America’s Bayou State with Hammond, Louisiana native Nathan Heck of Rougarou Pedals! Read on to learn about Heck’s transition from the world of harmonica gear and into the realm of guitar effects pedal design.

[Mimmo]: How would you tell the story of Rougarou Pedals?

[Rougarou]: The story of Rougarou Pedals is a long one. During my senior year of high school I began working for Lone Wolf Blues Co., which produces harmonica effect pedals (this has since expanded to include amplifiers, power supplies, microphones, etc.). They were kind enough to work around my university schedule when I began my studies there, and, after I graduated, I transitioned to being the general manager. Sometime in 2015, a coworker and I got the idea to build bass specific pedals. We released the Rougarou Bass Tube Overdrive (acting as a subsidiary of Lone Wolf Blues Co.), but the project kind of fizzled out. Towards the end of 2016, my wife, Kara, and I were looking an outlet to help us cope with a personal tragedy. We took over operations, revived the brand, expanded the line and ended up where we are today.

The very first Rougarou Bass Tube Overdrive

Feast your eyes on the very first Rougarou Bass Tube Overdrive

[Mimmo]: I’ve read up a bit and I did notice Rougarou is a husband & wife operation. How does that dynamic play out?

[Rougarou]: At its most basic level, Kara (a professional graphic designer) handles all of our artwork, branding, and social media; I design the circuits. We both build the pedals, and, while my design process is largely independent, I definitely bounce sound ideas off of her all the time. She’s an avid fan of guitar driven music, and I trust her ear more than my own sometimes. People always assume there’s some sort of tension when a husband and wife work together, but it’s more like hanging out with my best friend. We listen to music and conspiracy theory podcasts (mockingly) while building pedals; it’s a good time. I’d also like to add that we have another friend, Ryan Church, that helps us by building pedals and play-testing all of our pedals.

[Mimmo]: Give us a brief overview of Rougarou Pedals’ product line.

[Rougarou]: We currently have five pedals out, but I’ll quickly run through four of them here since The Draugr gets its own question.

The Rougarou Bass Tube Overdrive is a low gain overdrive that was designed to mimic the front end overdrive of mid-power bass heads like the Portaflex. Like all of our pedals, it’s very simply laid out with just a Bite (drive) and Volume control. Overdrive is achieved by way of sub-miniature triode tube. For guitar, it works well as “thickener” at the end of a drive chain.

The Boosthulhu is a crystal clear boost that puts just a hair of brightness on top. I’m always amazed at the variety of tones people can achieve with it based on guitar/pedal/amp pairings. So far, this is our most popular pedal. I suspect the awesome Cthulhu artwork has something to do with it.

I have used clean boost pedals for several years and never found exactly what I was hoping for until I tried the Boostlhulhu. It gives me exactly the tonal enhancement I had been looking for forever. Most boost pedals add an artificial hi and low end that I don’t care for but the Boostlhulhu adds very slight, smooth mid-range that truly makes my sound full and beautiful whether clean or with a distortion pedal. It immediately became an essential part of my sound.

– Duke Robillard (The Duke Robillard Band, Roomful of Blues, The Fabulous Thunderbirds, Bob Dylan, Tom Waits, etc.)

The Banshee Reverb is a simple, two knob spring-esque reverb. It uses the Belton reverb module that I’m sure a lot of DIY guys are familiar with. [Belton has since evolved into a merger with Accutronics, forming Accu-Bell Sound Inc.] It has a Blend control to adjust the level of reverb and a Tone control to go from dark to bright. There’s a bit of modulation when get the blend cranked. That’s my favorite part.

The Sasquash is (you guessed it!) a simple, two knob compressor. I, personally, don’t like a ton of options in a compressor because I think it makes achieving a “bad” sound way too easy. The compression stays in a reasonable range all the way up to max. This has been our second most popular pedal.

[Mimmo]: Congrats on your recent release of The Draugr Distortion! Give us a brief overview on The Draugr.

[Rougarou]: Thanks! We’re super excited about this one; she’s my baby. The Draugr is a germanium diode-based distortion that can cover a lot of ground in that grey area between overdrive and fuzz. For bass, I’ve found I like to leave it on a lower setting nearly all the time. On guitar, it does a lot of the classic big amp sounds. The Tone control is super interactive with the Drive control, and it makes this deceptively simple pedal extremely versatile. The most frequent comment we’ve gotten about it so far is that it stays super clear all the way through the drive control. If that’s your thing, you’ll probably dig it.

 

 

[Mimmo]: When you start thinking of building a new product where do you start? What is your design process like?

[Rougarou]: The ideas for new products are usually selfish in nature. With the Draugr, for example, I really wanted a distortion that played well with my board and Rickenbacker. With the idea in my head, I hand draw a schematic with the simplest possible circuit to achieve what I want to do. After that, I’ll breadboard it, see how close my brain’s understanding was to my ear’s expectations and make adjustments and additions (like clipping diodes in the Draugr; I probably tested 30 or so in the circuit.) I’ll usually build a prototype after that and gig with it for a bit to see what I like and don’t like in practical applications. Usually, that’ll result in another breadboarding phase, more fine tuning and play-testing on gigs; wash rinse, repeat. It’s a long process, but I think the results are worth it.

[Mimmo]: Are there any particular sounds you wish to capture but haven’t quite hit?

[Rougarou]: I have a very dark, bass heavy fuzz sound that is still present in the mix in my head. I stumbled across the basic idea while testing out different ideas in The Draugr development process, but I was scared of getting sidetracked in the middle of a project. I haven’t even started working on it yet, but it’s been bugging for a couple of months now. I probably should figure that out.

Artwork by Kara of Rougarou Pedals

[Mimmo]: Are there any other pedal builders for which you have a definitive amount of respect? Any builders that you simply cannot get enough of?

[Rougarou]: I feel like I’m in a kind of weird situation here. I’ve been building pedals for myself since I was just a wee young lad, so I really don’t own too many pedals by other builders. I have a few mass market things I picked up a decade ago, a Fuzzrocious Grey Stache and a Mantic ATDI-limited run reverb, but that’s about it. I also was immersed exclusively in the harmonica gear culture for a long time, so the scene is still pretty new to me. I definitely respect the Fuzzrocious duo, though. Not going to lie, we look up to them for what a successful husband and wife team can do, and I really like that they push limits. Ryan has two of Mr. Black’s reverbs, and they’re incredible. Retroactive Pedals out of New Orleans (we love locals!) has a pedal called the Designated Driver, which sounds absolutely fantastic to me in all of the clips I’ve seen, and he’s a very knowledgeable guy.

[Mimmo]: Choose a genre and build a pedalboard for a guitarist in your chosen genre. Which Rougarou pedals would you select? Which products would you select outside of Rougarou?

[Rougarou]: Hmm, I’ll go for doomy, riffy psych a la Super Snake, and I’ll limit this to six pedals.

From us, I’d have the Draugr for the big, amp-like sounds, the Banshee as a nearly always on reverb and the Boostlhulhu to punch through for solos. From other companies, I’d pick the Mr. Black Eterna because I’m in love with the octave thing it does and everyone needs at least two reverbs, the Black Arts Toneworks Pharaoh because it’s the best sounding muff I’ve ever heard and an EHX Deluxe Memory Boy because it covers so many bases as far as delay is concerned.

[Mimmo]: Popular advice for learning how to design and build effects units usually bounces between purchasing kits and performing mods on existing pedals. Is this how you started? What advice might you have for “young players”?

[Rougarou]: I learned on the job from my friend and mentor, Randy Landry. Looking back, it’s incredible how lucky I was to stumble into that situation, and I think more builders should take young techs under their wing. For anyone starting out, I recommend reading as much information as you possibly can, but also take the time to verify what you read. There’s so much misinformation out there, and there can be a substantial disconnect from theoretical certainties and practical applications. Besides that, find someone who knows more than you and learn absolutely everything you can from them.

[Mimmo]: Where can we find/contact Rougarou Pedals?

[Rougarou]: You can find us at rougaroupedals.com, on Facebook, and on Instagram @rougaroupedals. Kara is most active on Instagram, and she always has some fun stuff up there. You can find our pedals in Boogieland Music in Hammond, LA (our hometown!), Guitar Center in New Orleans, Guitar Center in Baton Rouge and Guitar Pedal Shoppe in Plymouth, MA.

Thanks so much for talking with me! It’s been a blast.

 

In The Spotlight: Daniel Kastner (aka Preamp)

In The Spotlight turns back onto artists this week, with Daniel Kastner! Daniel produces interesting ambient noise-scapes with his pedalboard set-up under the name ‘Preamp.’ Read on to discover the muscles powering Preamp’s tone!


[Mimmo]: What’s your story? What bands or projects are you currently involved in?

[Preamp]: Hi, I’m Daniel Kastner and I’ve recently moved to Seattle, WA. Three years ago I started recording dark ambient music under the Preamp moniker. The sounds I’m playing have shifted dramatically and I’m taking my cloudy music to the light. Shoegazing cassette tape loops and clean singing are going to be more prominent in future releases.

[Mimmo]: Give us 2-3 (original or cover) songs that allow you to utilize your pedalboard in a unique way.

[Preamp]: My early recordings were all created on an iPhone, believe it or not. The track Lunar Limb features dirty, layered looping on the Strymon Timeline. I ran a microphone through my pedalboard as well.

I spent some time with Adam Tucker at Signaturetone Recording before leaving Minneapolis. This improvised track [Better Ohms and Gardens] shows what my simple pedalboard can do.

[Mimmo]: What are some songs, artists, or guitarists that have influenced the way you utilize your pedalboard?

[Preamp]: Boris initially influenced my board for guitar and bass. I’ve swapped out quite a few pedals along the way. Kevin Shields used some seriously cool rack gear on those infamous albums. I liked the idea of having a studio/live rack and I’m glad I went that route to supplement my pedals and overall sound.

[Mimmo]: Are there any sounds you’d like to emulate that you haven’t quite found out how to do yet?

[Preamp]: I would love to have access to the 10 Alesis Midiverb II reverse reverb sounds right on my pedalboard. The Keeley Loomer and similar effects exist, but it’s just not quite there for digital, time-traveling bliss. Luckily, I have immediate access to the Alesis Midiverb II and the Yamaha FX500.

[Mimmo]: Multi effects units, are you a fan?

[Preamp]: I personally use multi effects units quite a bit. They are great tools in making music. Vintage power supplies for my favorites are questionable though.


Quick-Fire Favorites:

Favorite Overdrive, Distortion, or Fuzz?

Proco R2DU – It’s hard to beat two 1980’s Rats in a single rack unit.

Favorite Chorus, Phase Shifter, or Flanger?

Earthquaker Devices Rainbow Machine

Favorite Tremolo or Vibrato?

ZVEX Tremorama

Favorite Boost?

J Rockett Archer

Favorite Octaver or Harmonizer?

DOD Meatbox


Pedalboard:

BOSS TU-2 > Proco Turbo Rat > JHS Muffuletta > EQD Rainbow Machine > Strymon Timeline > Strymon BlueSky

Vocal Effects:

J Rockett Archer > EQD Transmisser

Rack:

Proco R2DU > Alesis Midiverb > Yamaha FX500

 

Check out Preamp on Facebook and Instagram!

In The Spotlight: Alex Millar of Zander Circuitry

Fuzzes, distortions, trems ..oh my! On this round of In The Spotlight we shine across the pond to the UK, where Alex Millar of Zander Circuitry is cooking up all sorts of killer effects. Read more on the Pedal Wizard Extraordinaire below!


[Mimmo]: How would you tell the story of Zander Circuitry?

[Zander]: I guess if we want to go back to the very beginning, long before I officially became Zander, it started with me selling some basic feedback looper pedals through some Facebook groups. I bought in enough enclosures/parts to make 20 and they all sold within 2 or 3 days. I was amazed at the interest they received and was so happy that it was something I had built from scratch that people wanted.

From there I started building some basic fuzz pedals loosely based on some existing circuits/ideas. In fact, the SiClone Fuzz actually kind of existed before Zander did, granted the sound of it has vastly changed as has much of the circuit. It started off as a slightly modified fuzz factory but it has now changed into something very different to the point that it’s relation to its original source isn’t that much at all anymore.

The Pre-Zander SiClone Fuzz

I realized that it was neither practical or overly ethical to keep selling this stuff on the Facebook groups that were predominantly meant for second hand gear, so I decided to turn it into a proper business and start selling through the bigger online outlets like eBay, Reverb, and my Website.

[Mimmo]: When you start thinking of building a new product where do you start? What is your design process like?

[Zander]: I’m my own worst enemy when it comes to thinking up new ideas because there are so many different ones floating around in my head it’s sometimes hard for me to sit and actually work on one thing because I sometimes worry I’ll forget the ideas I’m having. The good thing is it means that I’m always busy and always thinking about the next thing I can bring out. I don’t want to just release a line of pedals and then kick back, never releasing anything new; I want Zander to be a constantly evolving project and so far it has been just that. I’m not going to claim I know everything because that would be a lie, but I’m always striving to learn more and to bring better products to the table.

I’m one of those guys that learns “by-doing,” i.e. knowing that replacing a certain resistor or capacitor in a circuit will change the sound in a certain way, etc., etc. For me that is the most entertaining way to learn because my brain will just shut off if I spend too long looking at numbers and equations. Some of my best discoveries have come from just messing around with a circuit and stumbling upon a great sound.

If we take the American Geek as a basic example, I’ve always loved the muff sound; ever since hearing the Smashing Pumpkins album “Siamese Dream,” that is still, for me, one of the best guitar tones of all time. I’d tried A LOT of muff pedals before. Even an IC Muff clone someone had built (which was supposedly the model used on the album) and none of them really gave me “that sound.” So that right there was my mission: to build the sound of that album in a single box, and I think I managed to get pretty close, at least with my set up at home which is either a Roost SR20 (similar to Hiwatt) or Sound City 100 head into a 2×12″ cab loaded with an eminence tanker & swamp thang.

The design process can vary from something simpler like that, where I’m working into a pre-existing idea; or it can be very complex and sometimes frustrating when I’m trying to build a circuit from scratch. No single pedal has been designed in a consistent way/process so I guess it is a little chaotic in that respect, but I enjoy it that way.

Zander Circuitry’s Amp Set-up

[Mimmo]: Are there any particular sounds you wish to capture but haven’t quite hit?

[Zander]: Many, for every released pedal in my line-up you can guarantee there are at least a dozen failed ideas/iterations gathering dust in a cupboard behind it. I’ve eventually managed to release most of the sounds I’ve wanted to recreate but an ongoing project for me is to create some kind of lo-fi chorus/vibrato pedal. I don’t get much free time to work on it but every time I do I get a little closer to a product I would be happy to release. If you can imagine like a broken record that’s all twisted and crackly, that’s the sound I’m going for. Maybe one day it’ll be out for sale, but not for a while at least.

[Mimmo]: Choose a genre and build a pedalboard for a guitarist in your chosen genre. Which Zander Circuitry pedals would you select? Which products would you select outside of Zander Circuitry?

[Zander]: Well I’m not really sure what genre you’d put Dinosaur Jr. into (maybe alternative rock?) but it would definitely be for the mighty J Mascis. He is without doubt my favorite guitarist. I actually know what most of his pedalboard has on it but for the sake of this question I’ll pretend I don’t and choose other pedals. . .I’ll keep it to 6 for the sake of this interview:

Zander Circuitry Avalanche – This is my triple dirt pedal, the crunch channel would be perfect for lighter songs like “Crumble.” With the Drive & Fuzz channels being great for the heavier sounds such as “I Walk For Miles” from the newer album. It has that chewy mid-range sound that is just so awesome.

Zander Circuitry Shake & Tremble – Although he doesn’t use much tremolo on their recorded sounds I know live he uses this really fast and choppy tremolo for these trips rhythmic effects, the shake & tremble would be great for that as it can get super fast.

Stomp Under Foot Amherst – It is the big muff, it is such an awesome sounding pedal.

Raygun FX Superfuzzbender MKII – I know for a fact this pedal nails his lead tone because I own it, turn the volume all the way up, the fuzz all the way down and use it after an already distorted sound and that thing seriously rips.

Alexander Pedals F.13 Flanger – I know he uses a vintage EHX Electric Mistress but the F.13 is one of the best Flanger pedals I have ever heard. Alexander makes amazing, innovative pedals and they donate a portion of each sale to a great charity; I can only hope to one day know half as much as Matthew Farrow does.

DOD Rubberneck Delay – He uses delay sparingly but it is worth including. For me this pedal has been a standout release of late. It just sounds so unbelievably good.

Yeah, I’m pretty happy with those choices, I think you could do a great Dino set with those.

[Mimmo]: Are there any other pedal makers for which you have a definitive amount of respect? Any companies that you simply cannot get enough of?

[Zander]: Oh, this one is easy – Raygun FX.

I have an entire board of their pedals, including some custom ones I had made for me. I first got into their pedal before I started Zander and have had a few great lengthy discussions with owner/founder Steve. They’re based in the same country as me and it was cool to be supporting a local business. I’ve visited the workshop a few times and I guess that was partly the inspiration for me starting what I did; seeing someone so local to me make a living making these awesome pedals gave me the kick I needed to turn my hobby into a business.

Raygun FX Pedalboard

[Mimmo]: Popular advice for learning how to design and build effects units usually bounces between purchasing kits and performing mods on existing pedals. Is this how you started? What advice might you have for “young players”?

[Zander]: I started with both, if I remember correctly my first kit was an LPB-1 booster that took me hours to build and even then it only worked intermittently. Getting good at soldering is the main thing, once you’ve nailed that putting together a kit is easy.

As for modding pedals: the first I did was change the footswitch on a Behringer vintage phaser (Small Stone clone). They use these little spring actuation switches that aren’t very good so I swapped it out for a proper mechanical switch, a silly little mod but at the time for me it was amazing to actually make an improvement to a commercial product.

I guess my advice would be to anyone interested in learning about effects pedals is just to buy as many kits as you can; build them, socket parts and experiment with changing the values of things, find out what that specific part does to a circuit and why. Fuzz pedals are usually pretty basic and fairly easy to understand so I’d may suggest starting with one of those.

[Mimmo]: The Internet, especially social media, is an incredible resource. How has it helped you in building Zander Circuitry?

[Zander]: Instagram has been the big one for me; I use Facebook and Twitter still but Instagram seems to be where it’s at for small pedal builders like myself. It’s allowed me to hit every corner of the globe in seconds, within the first few months of starting Zander I’d already posted to countries like Italy, Australia and the US; there is absolutely no way I could’ve done that without social media. It has given pedal builders a great platform to show their work off to their target audience very effectively.

[Mimmo]: Is Zander Circuitry considered a part-time hobby or do you do this full-time?

[Zander]: I wouldn’t say it is a hobby anymore, because hobbies generally don’t generate any revenue, but I do work a “real” full-time job on top of Zander as a graphic/web designer for an agency. It does mean long days of getting up at 5am and doing 2-3 hours of Zander stuff before heading to work, and then a few more hours when I get back, plus weekends are often non-existent for me but I like to be busy. I get incredibly bored if I am left with nothing to do and I think weirdly I thrive somewhere in that mix of being exhausted/busy/stressed, as odd as that may sound.


 

In The Spotlight: Tim Crowe of crowe.effects

We’re going local on this In The Spotlight with Tim Crowe of crowe.effects! I met up with Tim at the Western New York Guitar Show back in Spring, 2017. The experience of meeting up with a local pedal-maker and the idea of starting this interview series left me with no choice but to ask for Tim’s participation. He was more than happy to answer a few questions, here’s what he had to share:


[Mimmo]: How would you tell the story of crowe.effects?

[Crowe]: About 10 years ago, I bought a mod kit for a BOSS Blues Driver. It took me forever to get the thing working, but I had a great time figuring it out. It was a definite learning experience. After my band, Well Worn Boot, decided to call it quits a couple years ago, I decided to delve a little deeper into pedal building, modding, etc. A few months after I started building under the name crowe.effects, I found out a friend of mine, Nik, was also building some stuff. We decided to work together on builds, and here we are!

Stinger (Artist: Jen Crowe)

[Mimmo]: When you start thinking of building a new product where do you start? What is your design process like?

[Crowe]: The majority of my customers reach out to me looking for custom clones or variants on existing circuits. Someone might shoot me an email saying they want a Univibe type of pedal with more low-end control, they want a Tone Bender Fuzz that can run on a regular power supply, or they want a different voicing on an already existing OD. . .that type of thing. From there, I work with the customer to find just what they’re looking for in terms of the tone, art, design, etc. Essentially, the customer has a say in every little detail, so they get exactly what they want – a pedal tailored to their specific needs. Sometimes I like the pedals enough to build a few and release them, and other times I never think about them again. We also have some great original designs and pedal builds of our own. Ultimately, we’ll pull ideas together from all over the place to create something new.

In terms of the art on the pedals, I’m lucky to have some very talented and kind friends. All the artwork on my pedals is done by local artists. They’ve been kind enough to allow me to use their work. In most cases, they send me illustrations they’ve already completed, and when I feel something fits a pedal, I’ll use it. The artist names always appear on the side of the pedal, and they also receive 15% of the profits from any sales bearing their work. I’ve also had customers design their own art, and my wife, Jen, does most of the illustrations for custom work. I’m always on the lookout for new artists, too, so if any of your readers happen to illustrate and want to see their work on a pedal, I’d love to hear from them!

Victorian Vibe (Artist: Mickey Harmon)

[Mimmo]: Are there any particular sounds you wish to capture but haven’t quite hit?

[Crowe]: In terms of sounds I’d like capture but never quite hit, I have to admit that I have trouble with super high gain, metal-type distortions. I’ve built a bunch of them, modded a bunch of them, combined various portions of various high gain distrotion circuits, but for whatever reason, none of them ever seem to be exactly what I would want, hence not having one in my lineup. Don’t get me wrong, many have sounded good, but to me, there just isn’t a really high gain distortion that can cut it like a nice high gain amp can. My favorite high gain distortion is the Wampler Triple Wreck, but even that is missing something that only a Mesa Triple Rectifier can provide.

[Mimmo]: Choose a genre and build a pedalboard for a guitarist in your chosen genre. Which crowe.effects pedals would you select? Which products would you select outside of crowe.effects?

[Crowe]: This is a tough one! I think what I’ll do, if it’s ok with you, is just tell you about my board. I’m into indie rock type of stuff, but also like to get weird and shoegazey sometimes. My board’s a little complex, but nothing too crazy.

So I have two “lines.” Each one goes into a loop on the crowe.effects Two Spot which gives me the option to have the setup be Line 1 -> Line 2 or the reverse, Line 2 -> Line 1. That makes things very versatile. If you’ve never put a really wet reverb in front of a fuzz, do it! I have a crowe.effects buffer and a TC Polytune Mini before the Two Spot.

Line 1: Dunlop Mini-Volume/Expression pedal -> Dunlop Mini Wah -> crowe.effects Compressor -> crowe.effects Plexotron -> EHX POG 2 -> Strymon Mobius -> crowe.effects Bulb Deluxe -> crowe.effects Duel Drive -> crowe.effects Total Harmonic Corruption -> crowe.effects Skull Fuzz

Line 2: Strymon Mobius -> Strymon TimeLine -> crowe.effects Deluxe Timepiece Delay -> crowe.effects EchoVerb -> Strymon Big Sky -> crowe.effects Mega Trem Bot -> Strymon Flint -> crowe.effects Bulb Deluxe

A couple other side notes, after the two loops everything runs through an EHX Freeze, then an EHX 22500 Looper and out into my amp. The Volume/Exp pedal is on a crowe.effects true bypass looper. When the loop is off it’s just for EXP, and when it’s on, it does both EXP and volume. The EXP out runs through a Mission Expressionator, which lets you control expression settings on any combination of 3 separate pedals with one expression pedal, in my case, the Mobius, TimeLine, and BigSky.

Antiquus Fuzz (Artist: Jen Crowe)

[Mimmo]: Are there any other boutique pedal manufacturers for which you have a definitive amount of respect? Any companies that you simply cannot get enough of?

[Crowe]: I’m a huge fan of Strymon‘s modulation, delay, and reverb stuff. I suppose they’re the company I can’t get enough of at the moment. Their Mobius, TimeLine, and BigSky pedals are all absolutely amazing. They’re all digital, which turns some people off, but I love them. I’m also a huge fan of EarthQuaker Devices. They have an excellent lineup with some really unique pedals.

[Mimmo]: Popular advice for learning how to design and build effects units usually bounces between purchasing kits and performing mods on existing pedals. Is this how you started? What advice might you have for “young players”?

[Crowe]: That’s absolutely where I started. No full pedal kits, but modding for sure. In terms of advice, I would recommend getting your hands on Brian Wampler’s DIY Books. They’re available free online, and it’s my understanding that Wampler is cool with people sharing them, just not selling them. They’re an excellent resource. I learned a ton from them. In addition to owning an awesome pedal company, Wampler has done a lot for DIY folks, which I personally think is pretty awesome of him to do.

Anchor Point (Artwork: Tim Crowe)

[Mimmo]: The Internet, especially social media, is an incredible resource. How has it helped you in building crowe.effects?

[Crowe]: I primarily use Instagram and Facebook for social media, and it’s been huge. Most of my customers outside of Western New York contact me through one of the two, and I’ve had some success in working things out for custom pedals that way. I’ve also built some friendships, too, which is always nice. Even if people don’t buy anything from me, I enjoy just talking about gear, so it’s always good to hear from people, even if they don’t turn into customers.

[Mimmo]: Is crowe.effects considered a part-time hobby or do you do this full time?

[Crowe]: Currently, crowe.effects is not my full-time gig – I also teach high school English. Between the teaching and the pedals, I’m happy to say I have two jobs that I really enjoy!


Look out for crowe.effects on Facebook, Instagram and website (currently under construction)!

 

In The Spotlight: Matthew Fantini of Space Junk

Welcome to the first In The Spotlight session! This new category of posts will highlight individuals in the effects pedal community, mostly encompassing guitar players and effects pedal builders. Today we’ll be taking a look at Matthew Fantini’s board and how he utilizes it with the Buffalo-based band Space Junk

Matt Fantini of Space Junk

In The Spotlight Interview:

[Mimmo] Q: What’s your story? How did you end up playing with Space Junk?

[Fantini] A: Space Junk began as a 3 piece live EDM/Jam band that I formed in college with Kevin Rogers (drums/keys/DJ) and Will Thompson (Bass) in 2004 at SUNY Fredonia. In 2015 we added keyboardist Cary Meehan to complete our current lineup. We are all huge fans of experimental, electronic, and jam music but we also incorporate elements of blues, jazz, and funk.

[Mimmo] Q: Give us two Space Junk songs that allow you to utilize your pedalboard in a unique way.

[Fantini] A: Two Space Junk songs that allow me to use pedals in a unique way are: “Gas Pump” and “L Way.” In “Gas Pump” I use a combination of a Strymon Timeline set to an Ice Delay paired with a Strymon Blue Sky set to a shimmer reverb. This combo = ambient space for days. In “L Way,” I use an EHX POG2 and an EHX Micro Synth to recreate the sounds of an analog keyboard during the verses and outro.

[Mimmo] Q: What are some songs, artists, or guitarists that have influenced the way you utilize your pedalboard?

[Fantini] A: (a) Nels Cline – Wilco/Solo, (b) Robben Ford, (c) Bill Frissel, (d) Adrian Belew (King Crimson), (e) Vernon Reid (Living Colour) …can I name a million more??!!

[Mimmo] Q: What amp do you use live? In the studio?

[Fantini] A: Amp live = John Nau Engineering Crown Victoria (2×12 Combo). In studio, same as above and also an ENGL Fireball with my side project: Free Man

[Mimmo] Q: Are there any sounds you’d like to emulate that you haven’t quite found out how to do yet?

[Fantini] A: I am always working on getting analog keyboard sounds to cut through my mix better. I have an original EHX micro synth in addition to the reissue. When I push them a little hard with a boost, I sometimes have clipping issues. Pairing with a compressor does help, so maybe I need to put them on a loop together. Is there a pedal that will make me sound like Jimmy Herring?!

Q: Time for Quick-Fire Favorites! Favorite Overdrive/Distortion/Fuzz?

A: Hermida Audio Zendrive

Q: Favorite Chorus, Phase Shifter, or Flanger?

A: EHX Small Stone

Q: Favorite Tremolo or Vibrato?

A: JHS Honeycomb

Q: Favorite Wah or Expression Pedal?

A: RMC Picture Wah

Q: Favorite Compressor?

A: CMATMODS Deluxe Compressor

Q: Favorite Boost?

A: Xotic Effects EP Booster

Q: Favorite Octaver or Harmonizer?

A: EHX POG2

 

Pedalboard Order:

TC Electronics Polytune –> RMC Picture Wah –> EHX POG2 –> EHX Small Stone –> EHX Micro Synth –> CMATMODS Deluxe Compressor –> J Rocket Archer Ikon –> Hermida Audio Zendrive –> Vox Volume Pedal –> Strymon Blue Sky –> Strymon Timeline –> BOSS RC-20XL Loop Station

___________________________________________________________________________________________________

A huge thank you to Matt Fantini for participating on In The Spotlight! Catch Space Junk at their next show by following them on Archive.org and Facebook. Their sound emulates a wall of pure psychedelic energy that toys on experimentalism, yet manages to firmly keep itself together by way of masterful musicianship.