How long have you been a musician? How did you get into it in the first place?
I’ve been a musician since I got my first drum set around 5. I didn’t pick up playing guitar until I was about 12. I’ve always been into music as long as I can remember. A couple of my uncles were musicians and taught me some basics and I just took it from there.
Who have been some of your major musical influences, past or present?
What led to the start of EarthQuaker Devices? How long have you been in business? How big is your operation/how many employees do you have?
I had a broken DOD 250 overdrive that I wanted to fix. I looked up the schematic and found a whole world of DIY electronics, like GEOfex and General Guitar Gadgets and got obsessed. I started building things for myself and a few friends, and that eventually led to building a few pedals and throwing them up on eBay around 2004-2005. Things started to spread via word of mouth on forums and it sort of just slowly built up from there. I had no plans to start a business but I’ve always been a little entrepreneurial so it seemed natural. 12 years later and we now employ over 50 people.
Did you have formal schooling, or are you self-taught? Take us through that story:
No, I have no formal training. Everything I know I learned from the internet, Electronics Projects for Musicians by Craig Anderton, and trial and error. A lot of this stuff comes naturally to me and I can’t explain my design processes. I understand the basics and I generally know what it’ll take to get me to the sound I’m looking for. The rest is all data sheets, bread boards and black magic.
What drives you as far as new pedal creation is concerned? How long does it typically take for an idea to come full circle and become a demo pedal? What’s the process behind new gear, and the eventual release of it to the public?
I usually start working on something because I’m either curious how it’s made, have an idea for something I want to use but can’t find it or I think something can be improved on. There are some things, the fuzz face for example, that there are plenty of options available but I just find it fun to work on because every part counts and makes a difference.
Every project is different, somethings come together quickly and will be turned around into a product in a matter of weeks. Then there are some things I’m perpetually working on and can spend years on the breadboard before I decide to release it. I also still look to refine past products every time I have a thought on how to make it better. It’s a constant cycle/obsession.
What are some of the biggest concerns facing your profession today?
For me, it’s finding the time to work on everything I think of.
Where do you see pedal building going in the future?
To be honest, I don’t think too hard about it. Right now, it seems like everyone is in a race to build the most high-tech pedals available. It’s like the conversion to rack effects in the 80’s/90’s but in pedal form. I’m playing that game too but I’m not that concerned about it. It’s cool that so much technology has become available and is relatively easy to understand. I’ll use whatever it takes to get the sound I’m going for be it digital or analog. I still like what I like and that’s what I’m going to work on. There will always be a market of some sort for effects pedals and if sales are an indication of that market’s strength, the pedal market is growing bigger and bigger every day.
Who are some of your favorite builders in the industry right now?
I have a lot of friends in the industry and I like them all. I’m a huge fan of Death by Audio, we have a similar background and aesthetic. I think Brian at Subdecay is a genius who doesn’t get enough praise. JHS, Chase Bliss, Zvex, Keeley, Catalinbread, Mr. Black and Old Blood Noise are all doing great things. I don’t know, there are tons of awesome pedal makers out there right now and it’s hard to pick.
Name the last 5 records you listened to:
The Klon hype: Love it or Hate it?
I have both an original and the reissue as well quite a few clones. I own all of those because I’m both curious about the differences between the them and I’m also a huge gear collector/hoarder. The original looks amazing and it’s a very interesting circuit but I don’t think it’s a pedal for me. I did just recently discover that I really like it with the neck pickup on my Les Paul through by ’68 Bassman, but that’s a very specific situation that rarely comes up.
Any last comments, or anything you’d like to talk about?
Thanks for having me!
Thanks so much to Jamie for taking the time to answer some questions! Make sure to go check out www.earthquakerdevices.com to peruse all of their gear – Cheers!