[interview] Cave Passive Pedals: Heath Cave

Here's FXDB's interview with Heath Cave of Cave Passive Pedals:

How did Cave Passive Pedals start?

I'm an electronics guy from way back, in the past restoring vintage guitars and equipment, creating effects pedals and odd circuits, which would soon become the passive effects Cave are now known for. The vintage guitars had a lot to play in the development of our designs as some makers would add a few quirky circuits to their on-board tone switching systems. Hagstrom, Gibson and Hofner are some that spring to mind.

We are inspired by the antique and vintage gear we have owned in the past, this includes Art Deco/Nouveau, early science fiction paintings and electronic equipment.

Nikola Tesla, Henry Ford and Thomas Edison are probably the geniuses that have left their mark on us as "engineers" and "forward thinkers".

We also have a small team of guys who are very important in the development and upkeep of the business. Firstly, Mark Deayton, who is our mentor and test pilot. Mark is largely responsible for the success of the Grunt series of bass driver pedals, our best seller to date. Without Mark, there would be no Cave Passive Pedals!

Secondly, we have Paul Singh, who is our photographer/film maker and website designer. Paul always knows what is required, and also being a passionate musician and custom guitar designer/builder, his flare for art is unchallenged.

Chris Nobbs is our latest addition to the team. Chris has decided to take on the guitar side of things with our recent project of powered pedals. Chris will be the test pilot and enthusiastic voice behind our "boutique pedals at Chinese prices"! 

Let us not forget Josh Bentley, the MDF box manufacturer and sometimes "quality control" guy. Also, Zac Bentley the "runner" for tools and parts. AND all the endorsers that help guide us in the right direction.

Where do the name and logo come from?

Cave is our family name and we make passive (non-powered) pedals. However, we are better known as just "Cave" which is suiting us better as we are just about to embark on manufacturing powered pedals.

The new logo is a vintage V and the other letters c,a and e are around it to make the word CAVE. The V is synonymous with classic designs.

What sets Cave Passive Pedals apart from other builders?

We are the worlds first passive pedal manufacturer. None of the guys that work here think inside the box. It's not a case of "it can't be done", it's only "it can't be done, yet!"

How do you start on a new pedal?

Some designs will take years to develop, a sort of slow melting pot of this circuit and that circuit. Usually, the successful designs are a continuous development that will probably never cease.

How do you name your pedals?

We had a guitar wah called the "Don't Wah-ry". No batteries, no worries mate!

Can you tell us something about the production process?

All of the processes that our pedals go through are done in our workshop/studio, from the initial concept to the final design. (Except where we need a professional musicians point of view, then we will send off a prototype to one of our test pilots or have a "tour of duty" where other players are allowed to test the product and have their say.)

All Cave pedals are hand wired and use a combination of Hammond aluminium and custom designed cases.

We try not to pin down a typical look as we like to experiment with different artistic styles and on occasion a customer will want something out of the ordinary.

How important is the look of your pedals?

The look is super important. We try to design cool looking pedals that no one else can copy or even conceive. Every fool can copy a circuit but you have to have the special skills to copy the look!

Is parts selection important?

We try to use the highest quality parts available. When it comes to passive components, there are increased costs and limited supply, compared to powered parts. This does limit the products we can produce at a sensible price.

The more popular our pedals get, the more we have the resources to develop specialized machinery to create what we need and will continue to do so until perfection has been reached.

Which of your pedals makes you most proud?

The pedal that never gets heard! We have designed so many effects pedals that never make the light of day.

Which of your pedals was your toughest build?

Not "pedal" but "part of pedal"... the mechanical indicator.

Mark Deayton pushed for a mechanical indicator to replace the standard LED on most pedals. This thing was a nightmare! Think we had several breakdowns over this one, but then finally a few designs started to emerge and Mark's dream came true.

Mark was right, with the mechanical indicator in place, the passive pedal was complete and could start to dig a footing in the effects pedal world.

Which of your pedals is the most popular?

The Grunt series are the most popular product we have, due to the tone it produces.

Who uses your pedals and for which genres?

We generally sell to professional bass players. It would seem that there was a gap in the market for a quality made pedal that creates a warm, valve-like tone in a small package... with no battery required!

We have famous users, for example Craig Young:

Ohh man...... only ONE PEDAL????? Well if i had to narrow it down to just one, its a toss up between Steelguitar-eliminator or my Cave Passive Super Grunt.

Ok... hands down I'm going with the Super Grunt. To my ears it sounds like an Ampeg in a more musical way than the VT Bass (which I used for a very long time), and doesn't need batteries but still has an on/off l.e.d. (I love this thing!).

What does the future of Cave Passive Pedals look like?

We have a great following of professional bass players who are very much more open minded than guitarists when it comes to passive electronics, so we will continue to develop the Grunt range of passive bass drivers.

However, we are now in the process of creating a powered range to suit the battery loving guitar players. These will be sold under the heading "Boutique pedals at Chinese prices", as our market research has discovered that these guys want extremely high quality units at ridiculously low prices, which we can do!

Are you working on any new products?

We're working on a triple channel, totally programmable, passive bass driver. This is an on going concern that will eventually make it to the music shop shelves... eventually!

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