[interview] Copper Gear: Steve Goldsborough

Here's FXDB's interview with Steve Goldsborough of Copper Gear.

CopperGear is run by Steve Goldsborough, who is the "Mad Scientist with many hats" at the company. They're located in the small town of Granbury in the big state of Texas.

"All of our gear is pure analog goodness handmade from copper, wood, leather, and brass. Gear that not only sounds great, but should last for decades to come."

How did Copper Gear start?

I got into building gear because I was an out of work network admin and I needed to feed my family. Some years before I had tinkered with a couple pedal ideas while working at a club in Dallas, TX but never got around to really finishing them. So fast forward a bit and with a lack of job prospects I decided to change gears, finish my pedal designs, and test the waters. People were really receptive to what I had made, and here we are now.

When I worked at the clubs in Dallas I had the opportunity to talk to every guitarist that played. I would always ask, "What is it you wish someone would make for guitar, or what changes would you make to an existing piece of gear?", from those thousand or so guitarists I designed the original M.A.D. Box. Since then I still ask the same questions to whoever will listen. I also bounce a lot of ideas off my brother Bobcat, who is an audio engineer in Dallas and a part of CopperGear as well. We will banter back and forth mainly about what seems to be missing in most gear, and how to fix it. But mainly my inspiration comes from the average player and how they want to play.

Copper GearWhere do the name and logo come from?

The name CopperGear came from our original design decision to use copper on our pedals instead of the average screen printed metal boxes just about everyone else uses. I, personally, have always loved the look of copper. It just has a glow to it that you can't get from any other metal. Also its historical significance has always inspired me.

What sets Copper Gear apart from other builders?

We are always striving for the "abnormal". Not just in the way our stuff looks (which doesn't hurt), but in how it functions. A lot of time is spent going back over our circuits and opening them up as much as possible. Sometimes to the point of audio freakout. We love it when our pedals misbehave. We do it to give the player the option to play with it in that state because who knows what a player might like or not. So we don't lock our circuits down. We always want the player to experiment and grow as a musician. It's just who we are, and who we will always try to be.

How do you start on a new pedal?

I usually start by taking ideas and gripes from players and listeners alike, and tossing them around with Bobcat until something makes me stop and say, "That's cool". Then I sit down and see if I can design it. If it's beyond me then I research and learn until I can. After that I go back over it again figuring out its limits and trying to push it to those limits and sometimes beyond. Then I go back and do it 5 or 6 more times. Then I prototype it to see if my calculations actually work. Fiddle with it some more. And if I'm happy then I design the artwork for the acid etching, source the parts, build a production model, and let others play with it. If they like it then it becomes a true part of CopperGear.Copper Gear Brontide Device

How do you name your pedals?

All the names we use are a play on fairly standard names. We try to use older words and terms that generally aren't used any more in common vernacular. The Brontide Device is a perfect example. The word Brontide means, "The low sound of distant thunder, or a sound heard in parts of the world either created or followed by seismic activity". It's fun for me digging up the obscure.

Can you tell us something about the production process?

We build everything in-house. The number of builders on hand changes with demand as we don't build anything till someone orders it.

All of our products are handmade. Which includes:

  • Cutting, drilling, and staining the wood.
  • Cutting, acid etching, bending, drilling, and laqcuring the copper.
  • Cutting, stretching, and working the full grain leather.
  • Solder, wire, and install the circuits board and jacks.
  • Hand tighten every single screw and bolt.

How important is the look of your pedals?

The look of our gear is very important to me. I've just become so tired of the same little boxes everybody else uses. All anybody does is paint them and then give them a silk screen. Now granted there is nothing wrong with them they work perfectly for size and function, I just wanted something different.

I try to pull a lot of aesthetics from the Victorian era on up to the 1930's. Things made back then have a completely different feel to them. These days we have $600 phones that have life spans measured in months. Back in the day things were made to last decades or even generations. Something to be passed down and cherished not disposable landfill material. I want to make products the user would truly be proud of. I mean seriously, how many people are going to pick up one of their pedals and hand it to someone with a smile on their face and say, "Gorgeous isn't it? It's purple metallic flake and the image of the half screaming face is a real silk screen." They won't. They will play it for someone instead. I've had people who have had absolutely zero interest in music gear see our products, and as their mouth drops and their eyes widen they say, "My God these are beautiful. What do they do?" That right there tells me I'm doing a good job.

Copper Gear M.A.D. BoxIs parts selection important?

We don't touch SMT (surface mount) or digital components with a ten foot pole. Every thing we do is pure analog, so transistors, op-amps, and sometimes tubes. We always try to source our parts domestically.

Which of your pedals makes you most proud?

Well it's not a pedal, but the M.A.D.Box is what I'm most proud of. It was the first thing I ever really designed and at the time I didn't have a great understanding of what I was really doing. When I pulled it back out to start the business I was really surprised that I didn't have to do anything to it to get it fully functional. And everyone that owns one has told me they will never do a live show again without it.

Which of your pedals was your toughest build?

For me they're all tough builds. I'm self taught when it comes to circuit design. So when I don't know how to design something I have read everything I can on the subject. It's very time consuming. Also while learning I have to try very hard not to become addled down by the restraints and rules taught in circuit design. Because if you only work inside a set of rules like a box, then you will never be able to think beyond that.

Which of your pedals is the most popular?

The Brontide Machine and the Distorta Destructo seem to be the most popular. Everyone we've talked to about it says they both give an amazing amount of control and diversity. More than they're used to.

Who uses your pedals and for which genres?

We try to not make anything for a specific sound or crowd. I mean the average player is going to find the standard sound they expect with our gear, but those willing to experiment will have a new world available to them as well. It's fun to watch someone, who is expecting something normal, play with our gear, and then they fiddle with it a bit and get something new out of it that they didn't expect. The look on their face when that happens is priceless.

I honestly don't like talking about notable artists using our pedals. If the artist wants to talk about it then I'll leave that up to them. Throwing names around is just bragging to me, and that's not who I am. I prefer to let the gear do the talking, and that has worked out just fine so far.

What does the future of Copper Gear look like?

We are focusing on our core group of pedals, but constantly designing new and different.

Are you working on any new products?

Too many to list. And as for an ETA, well your guess is as good as mine.

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