Here's FXDB's interview with Craig Vasily of Awenda Music.
Awenda Music is a non-registered boutique pedal building project. They are located in LaSalle, Ontario, Canada.
How did Awenda Music start?
I began building and experimenting with electronics and sound when I was in elementary school. It developed even more when I was in high school, although quite primitive the first sound boosters were designed and built to get more volume out of our small tube amps so we wouldn't be drowned out by the drummer at band practice. It was put together out of a necessity so to speak.
I registered for an electronics course in high school and I was allowed to build a couple of effects for projects. All of this took place in the early 70's. The era and the sound of bands at that time were a huge inspiration to continue with my hobby and it also expanded into restoring guitars as well as customizing to achieve the same type of sound as our heroes. Basically the designs were clones of early pedals like the Jen fuzz pedal and projects from the effect bible by Craig Anderton in 1974-1975. Not literally called the effect bible, it was the only book available to "do-it-yourself builders then as far as I knew. Craig Anderton was the main inspiration to continue and advance my effect building. I remember looking forward to his column in Guitar Player magazine for the next electronic effect project I could build. I learned a lot about effects from Craig through his book. Although the 18 volt circuits were a bit annoying. Expensive to keep the effects going having to purchase two 9 volt batteries for each effect.
I purchased all parts from an electronics shop that was always cheaper than Radio Shack and the quality of the parts were much better. For example Sprague capacitors and ECG Semi-Conductors which is now called NTE were used in all my projects. I did allot of recycling of parts from old radios and electronics gear I'd find at the roadside on garbage day. It also helped quite a bit when my father let his co-workers know that I was very interested in electronics. His guys would bring in broken radios, tape recorders, and record players that they would give to my father to give to me. I was very fortunate and I'm eternally grateful for all the support I had as a young lad interested in electronics.
When I joined the military my effect/electronics hobby was put on hold for a few years. When I left the military I focused on getting work in the music industry and eventually got back into my electronics hobby.
Where does the name come from?
Named after a provincial park in Ontario, Canada, Awenda Music was started with an idea while we were on holidays camping in Awenda Provincial Park in Northern Ontario in 2001. It was one of those very unique trips where the weather was perfect everyday, where there were cool star lit skies every night with a campfire. The smell of firewood wafted through the park in the evening and we were sitting around our fire, sipping on a hot coffee talking about music when I had a flash experience that zapped me with a positive feeling and our conversation turned to developing a small business based around my electronic and music experience. The name Awenda Music also came about at the end of a great evening of bouncing ideas around in Awenda Provincial Park. So it was a given to name the new small business Awendamusic or Awenda Music. I use both ways to name the project.
I'm not one to be competitive, but I believe in a well built pedal with a decent warranty, and good solid electronic components that will last to give the client years of good use.
We also pride ourselves on individual artwork without sacrificing the electronic workings of the pedal.
How do you start on a new pedal?
The pedal is discussed via email, or by phone occasionally with the client to get a feel for what they are looking for in a pedal. We then sketch out a design on a workpad and begin the process of building the pedal. For some clients who like to be a part of the process, we will send photographs by email to let them see their pedal going through the build process.
Due to the fact that I do other work in the business as well it can vary on how long it takes to complete the build. We always keep the client "in the know" so to speak, if I have to go out on the road for a couple of weeks or I get a priority project to work on for example.Can you tell us something about the production process?
All pedals are built in my shop which is a part of my home. My son may be coming on staff to train and build soon, but as of now I am the only one building the pedals. There also is a possibility that I will be opening a brick and mortar retail outlet with a shop at the back to build pedals, restore vintage amps and guitars, as well as have a general hardware store available to the public that sells vintage electronics, parts, tools, antiques, and restored items. However, this is tentative depending on the economic environment. If we go ahead with the project it will be open in the spring of 2013.
All pedals are built by hand. There are no automated assembly line products. PCB's (printed circuit boards) are all done by hand and etched slowly in a tank with air pump. The parts used to populate the circuit board are NOS (new old stock) parts.
The enclosures are mainly cast aluminum unless other type of enclosure is requested. We can paint the cases any color that you prefer and we also do graphic design to your specifications. For example, you can send us a picture of what you would like to see on your case/enclosure and we will paint it by hand, sign and date it. Every pedal is unique to the individual due to the little nuances that are achieved by building every pedal by hand.
We have no plan to "go big" or to develop an assembly line. Our built by hand boutique style is our passion and every pedal is tested thoroughly through a variety of amplifiers to insure sound consistency and compatibility. You can see a few of our pedals built custom for our clients at our website.
The look is very important and it is decided by the client when they choose artwork.
Is parts selection important?
Most definitely. For example the AC128 germanium transistors I use are the exact "can shaped, red dot" series to give the best quality fuzz tone. There are a plethora of AC128's out there, however the specifications they are built to are not high quality and they produce very undesirable effects.
Which of your pedals makes you most proud?
I am proud of all the pedals built.
Which of your pedals was your toughest build?
The most difficult pedal is a delay pedal I've been working on. It's still in progress, and it needs to be troubleshooted thoroughly that will take time due to the expensive parts, that may be faulty, and the amount of parts on the board that need to be tested and to insure the circuit design is not holding me back.
Which of your pedals is the most popular?
The most popular pedals are the FabFuzz and the The Valve due to the fact that they are built to 1960's specifications with slight modifications to keep the excess noise (ie. hum, static, pops, etc. that the old pedals were known to have) eliminated.
Who uses your pedals and for which genres?
The pedals are made to each individual's musical requirements that include all genres of music.
We have famous clients, but I don't like to broadcast who they are to protect their privacy, and to allow them to keep their tone as individual as possible.
What does the future of Awenda Music look like?
Awenda Music will always be in existence to honor warranties, build custom order effects for clients, repair and restore of old effects, guitars, basses, amplifiers, microphones, cables made with quality wire and jacks, pedal boards designed and built. Plus adding our research and recording department and the other jobs we can do related to live functions and events.
We also have experience in professional theater and sound design. Music production and recording sound effects, voiceovers and commercials is also on the table for 2012. As well as doing research for music projects. You can hire us to do research on anything musical. We can design your set for music festivals, tours, theater shows and smaller venues. Sound design for any type of show or festival. But keep in mind effect pedal design and building is our main function. We are not an assembly line of any type. Each effect pedal is built by hand, finished and wired by hand. Which makes each pedal unique. Not a cookie cutter outfit at all. We love to design special effects however we stay within the parameter of 60's and 70's effects using new old stock transistors, especially germanium transistors. We can also supply parts for vintage gear and pedals.
Are you working on any new products?
There are a couple in prototype design right now. Should be available by late summer.