[interview] Baddy One Shoe Pedals: Jim McConnell

Here's FXDB's interview with Jim McConnell of Baddy One Shoe Pedals.

Baddy One Shoe Pedals is run by Jim McConnell, who is building these pedals as a hobby. Jim moved from the Bull City (Durham, NC) to Ayden, a little town in Eastern NC.

Baddy One Shoe Pedals HoneycombHow did Baddy One Shoe Pedals start?

My wife was in the hospital for a few months in and I started building pedals as a way to deal with the stress of all that. I wasn't sleeping well, and so I figured I would do something with all that time I was awake. I started building clones of other pedals just to hear what they sounded like and over time I developed an ear for subtle nuances between designs and started looking for ways to tweak the sound in different ways.
At some point, I built a few for family and friends, and they liked them enough that they encouraged me to open up shop so to speak. I sold my first pedals in 2010, but I still see it as a hobby, because I have no illusions that I will ever be doing this full time, but I do appreciate the opportunity to share some of my work (and my passion for good tone) with others.

In 2012 I moved from the Bull City (Durham, NC) to a little town in Eastern NC named Ayden where I wear a clerical collar by day and ride my bike to work at a local church where I am a pastor. By night I like to rock out with my friends and hang out with my wife and baby daughter.

Most of my learning came from trial and error, but I have maintained a close relationship with Ryan at Fuzzrocious pedals. In fact, for a little while when his Grey Stache was taking off I helped him fill orders by building a few of them (my name is on the inside of those very few GS that I built). We've traded ideas and things we've learned in development over the years, and in fact we have one design that remains pretty similar except in a few key components.

I admire his sense of adventure in design. He's always pushing an envelope. That's not my gig, but I admire it.

Baddy One Shoe PedalsWhere does the name come from?

My wife suggested it as a philosophical alternative to "goodie two-shoes".

(Really, it came from the very first pedal I made that was an A/B switch for two guitars into one amp.)

What sets Baddy One Shoe Pedals apart from other builders?

I guess you could call this a philosophy, but in building pedals, all of my pedals are an answer to a question or a need that I've had in my own gigging. I don't produce or market anything because I believe it will sell. I do it because it has proven to be an asset or tool in my own experience.

I think that artwork is also an asset to my pedal design. I believe in making beautiful things - things that evoke an emotional or artistic response - things that can (hopefully) be an expression of the musicians who use them.

How do you start on a new pedal?Baddy One Shoe Pedals Junk Puncher

I ask the question "what is missing?" And then I ask the question "what tool do I need to answer that need?"

I've built delays, modulation, etc, but I tend to deal mainly in different flavors of overdrives and let's face it, there are only so many ways to clip a signal. For me there are always two design goals - sound and simplicity.

I start by looking for a design that approximates the sound I'm looking for and I experiment with different types of components (transistors, diodes, etc...). When I've dialed in the level of drive I'm looking for, I'l examine the "fingerprint" of the tone asking questions like "Is there enough bass coming through?" "Is there too much?" "Where are the mids?" etc..

My other goal is simplicity. When you open a mass produced pedal you see all sorts of components that are not essential to the design. I'm not knocking them, because they're designing for every possible situation and there are good reasons why most of that stuff might be included, but that's not my style. I look at what I've got (or sometimes at a mass produced design) and think about how to simplify the design to its most efficient.

The concept is sort of a mix between Occam's razor and my conviction that more does not always equal better.

I build tube amps which is (by all engineering standards) a ridiculous and obsolete practice. I build them because this simple and obsolete technology produces a rich sonic palette that inspires me to play differently - to play better. Tube amps are the perfect balance between sound and simplicity because they allow me to express myself as a musician. That's what I strive for with my pedals.

Baddy One Shoe Pedals Punch & GrindHow do you name your pedals?

The JunkPuncher and its close cousin the Punch and Grind were both inspired by my wife who threatened to punch me in an uncomfortable place if I didn't quit making "those awful sounds" while I was testing the original designs at high volumes.

Can you tell us something about the production process?

All in house, and all built by me. I've got an 8 month old, but she's no good at soldering yet. :)

All of my pedals are hand-wired by me. I've recently moved to using PCBs from vero-board, and all new designs will follow this approach.

The enclosures are sourced from my parts supplier (already painted) and the designs are added via water-slide decal before a final clear coat. I take pride in my graphics and find them almost as fun to design as the pedal itself.

How important is the look of your pedals?

I want the look to reflect the soul of the pedal, so it's important that it does that. I want you to be able to look at the pedals and know what they sound like.

Is parts selection important?

Hmmm, the Mojo vs. Science question.

I choose parts for tolerance and reliability. I choose rugged enclosures / jacks / switches / etc. because I believe you should be able to stomp on this thing for as long as you can still stomp and it oughta work. I choose good quality parts for the inside from reputable suppliers but I don't drink the NOS kool-aid.

I've found that tolerance is the most important consideration for consistency. I go for overkill when it comes to voltage ratings etc. to protect against voltage spikes or other unintentional user error (Oh, wait this is an 18v adapter not 9v... my bad...).

I use "mojo" components in amps from time to time for kicks (and looks), but with pedals, efficient circuit design and reliable components with good tolerance ratings always carry the day.

Which of your pedals makes you most proud?Baddy One Shoe Pedals Heartbreaker

Personally the "Heartbreaker" (formerly the Honeycomb) is the pedal that never leaves my chain and is almost always on, but I've had the most success with the "Wayfarer" and that is also always on my board.

As two different flavors of overdrive that have a character that I've not been able to find in other production pedals, they represent exactly what I try to do with every pedal.

Which of your pedals was your toughest build?

I made an Ampeg Scrambler clone that was tough to source parts for, but sounded pretty awesome. I intended to re-work that design a little and release it, but it has been hard to consistently find the parts I need to make it a production pedal.

I also struggled with a RAT clone that I was working on because of some dodgy parts.

Which of your pedals is the most popular?

The Wayfarer has been the most popular. Maybe it's the artwork, maybe it's because it's equally at home on guitar and bass, or maybe it's because it's easy to dial in and it sounds great. It's the picture of simplicity, and it simply works.

Who uses your pedals and for which genres?

I don't design with a special group in mind because I'm a multi-instrumentalist so my interests cover a lot of ground. I play bass as well as guitar so I began by trying to solve some bass-specific design problems, but I'm generally not happy with creating a "niche" pedal.

There are no famous users of my pedals yet.

Baddy One Shoe Pedals WayfarerWhat does the future of Baddy One Shoe Pedals look like?

I'd love to move all designs to PCB and get a stable line-up of about 3 "production" pedals.

I've been on hiatus for a while with moving / baby / new job so I'm looking to get settled and back up to speed.

Are you working on any new products?

I'm moving my Wayfarer design to PCB (and probably tweaking it in the process) and I've been messing around with tone-benders, so if you see anything it's probably going to be another fuzz.

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