Tag Archives: effects pedals

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: 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)!