[interview] Demeter: James Demeter

Here's FXDB's interview with James Demeter of Demeter:

How did Demeter start?

The company was founded in my garage with $25 dollars worth of resistors and caps in 1980. The Tube Direct was my first break though product in 1982, inspired by a 1961 RCA tube Handbook, in it I discovered the Cathode follower circuit that I would modify and use in many other designs. In 1984 I came up with idea of a Tube OP-Amp that I would use as the heart of my revolutionary Tube Mic Pre-amp and compressor. In 1985 I introduced the TGA-3 a Class A 75 watt 3 channel all tube guitar amp.

In 1990 I moved out of the garage to our first industrial space in Santa Monica with three employees. In 1998 we move to a larger space in the San Fernando valley with 6 employees. It took years to figure out how to run an optical compressor with a 9 volt power supply that would sound the same as my all tube one. In 2002 the Compulator compressor pedal is introduced. In 2005 the Fuzzulator is introduced and production begins on the FOD Fat Overdriveulator pedal and the DD Double Overdive pedal. In 2007 we move to our own factory in Templeton, CA. The Reverbulator pedal is introduced in 2008, a compact real spring reverb. In 2011 we introduced our Fuzzy Octavulator, an innovative stable octave fuzz pedal.

I did all the design work myself and most of the pedals are based on the concept that this is the pedal I would use if I was still a playing professional. Kind of my own do it yourself wish list.

Where do the name and logo come from?

The company name is my Last name. The company was called Innovative Audio but the customers called it Demeter so we changed it to Demeter Amplification in 1989 to end any confusion.

I needed a logo for the NAMM show. It's just a New York or Palantino font with an oval around the Demeter. About as good as you could do with a computer in 1990.

What sets Demeter apart from other builders?

Each pedal is made to be low noise, great sounding, versatile, stable and the best of its class.

I was trained in Hi-Fi and pro audio design. That obsession with high quality carries over to pedals, none of our pedals are a copy or knock-off of anyone else's design, each one is an original in design and sound. Our pedals are for anyone wanting the best sound at a reasonable price.

How do you start on a new pedal?

The design sometimes waits for inspiration as we do not copy other peoples products. We do sometimes try to copy our own pro equipment and build it in a pedal form.

Pedals usually take a year to go from idea to product but some take much longer.

How do you name your pedals?

The "ulator" after almost all our pedals came as a joke from Steve Carnelli, a session guitar player who suggested we call the Tremolo pedal the Tremulator.

Can you tell us something about the production process?

We build every thing in house except the chassis on some pedals. We have 4 builders on staff.

The pedals are all hand wired with PCB all made in the USA. We Have both custom pedal enclosures as well as hand drilled cast pedal enclosures. Every pedal is powder coated except NAMM special pedals which are Hand painted. Silk screen art work in house, printed in Simi valley, CA.

How important is the look of your pedals?

Not as important as what's inside. With us it's all about sound.

Is parts selection important?

We always choose parts that are not rare and will be available for a long time. This insures the customer that his pedal will never be obsolete.

Which of your pedals makes you most proud?

The Tremulator was my first pedal and the most popular, the first people to get them were Ry Cooder, John Hiatt, Jackson Browne, David Lindly, Pop Staples and Duane Eddy, all within the first year. The Compulator took the longest to build and is used by all my guitar heroes: Eric Clapton, Jeff beck, Pete Townshend, Ry Cooder and David Gilmour. The Fuzzulator and the Fuzzy Octavulator are favorites as they are pedals I wish I had to use when I was playing.

Which of your pedals was your toughest build?

The Compulator as it took so many years to figure out how to put an optical compressor in a pedal that would work at 9 volts.

Which of your pedals is the most popular?

The Compulator and the Tremulator are my most popular pedals and sell almost equal amounts. I think they are the most popular because of their sound and flexibility. I does not hurt that so many famous guitar players think they sound great too.

Who uses your pedals and for which genres?

We try to fill some gaps. All pedals are made to our taste and hopefully the pubic will like them.

After thirty years the Tremulator and later the Compulator have been used by literally a who's who of guitar players. Pete Townshend, Ben Harper, David Lindley, Ry Cooder, David Gilmour, Steven Stills, David Crosby, Pete Amderson, John Forgerty, Duane Eddy, Walter Becker and thousands of others.

What does the future of Demeter look like?

We plan to re introduce our TGA-3 series of three channel guitar amps and our Classic Tube Microphone Pre-amp and Compressor as well as our TGP-3 Dean De Leo model guitar pre-amp. We will be showing our new Fat Control 2 and Presence Control 2 pedals at the 2012 NAMM show. We are working on a Phaser pedal and maybe a super low noise pedal power supply.

Are you working on any new products?

Our new Presence Control 2 and our new Fat Control 2. A treble booster and Mid boost Buffers with switchable frequency points. A phase shifter is also in the works.

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