[interview] Dutch Kazoo: Patrick Devlin

Here's FXDB's interview with Patrick Devlin of Dutch Kazoo.

Dutch Kazoo is run by Corinne Mandell and Patrick Devlin. They're located west of Philadelphia in Pottstown, PA, USA.

How did Dutch Kazoo start?

I had modified my own gear for a long time, and I had built some one-off guitar amplifiers for friends. We have never done anything other than the Dutch Kazoo -- it is our first product.

From the very beginning, we wanted to ensure that the Dutch Kazoo would be designed successfully, so we hired J.C. Morrison, a very talented electronics designer/engineer, to work out the circuit from our rough concept. For the unique housing, we worked with Ika Peraic, who is a young and talented sculptor and industrial designer. I personally like every effect I use to look different, so I like things like Roger Mayer's rocket shaped effects and the old things from Ludwig and Mu-Tron. I think it makes owning or collecting those effects more enjoyable.

Dutch KazooWhere do the name and graphics come from?

In an indirect way, the name Dutch Kazoo was inspired by listening to Uli Jon Roth on an early Scorpions record while driving to work. Uli Roth's tone sounded very kazoo-like, and the name hit me. The concept was to design a fuzz from the point of view of attempting simulate a kazoo with analog electronics. I was also interested in making a pedal out of wood. The Dutch are stereotypically known for wooden shoes, so I put the two concepts together and got Dutch Kazoo. Dutch Kazoo also sounds like it could be slang for a lot of things, so that made the name funny as well.

We often use the fox from our Dutch Kazoo with fox artwork. Our housing and graphics were designed by an artist named Ika Peraic. We wanted artwork that was whimsical and depicted animals.

What sets Dutch Kazoo apart from other builders?

What sets us apart from other builders is our artistic vision. We are not interested in copying what has already been done many times--or even designing something that is easy to make and therefore very profitable. The Dutch Kazoo was approached like an art project, so we took a lot of risk putting something out that may not be appealing to everyone. Future pedals will be approached in the same way.

How do you start on a new pedal?

I will usually think of a concept for a pedal or other musical instrument idea during the course of a regular day. I could be driving somewhere or working or eating dinner. Once I get the idea, I try not to forget it long enough to write it down in my sketch book, usually as a crude block diagram of conceptual blocks or circuit elements. The Dutch Kazoo took about a year and a half to get ready for production, but I think other pedals could be done quicker.

Can you tell us something about the production process?Dutch Kazoo Fuzz

The pedals are hand-built in house. There are 3 of us that do the building.

Circuits:

PCBs with very thick copper layers. There are two main PCBs in a Dutch Kazoo, each with its own ground plane. Every component is a high quality through-hole component, such as metal film resistors and poly film capacitors. The circuit uses a combination of metal can JFETs, BJTs, and Operational amplifiers. The switching is true bypass, and all pots and jacks are wired off board using military grade teflon wire. Every component is soldered by hand by us using the latest lead-free solder (so that we can legally sell them).

Enclosures:

Our own enclosure is made of USA domestic hardwood, usually ash, solid hard maple, or hard maple butcher block. When you order you never know which one you're going to get! No two look alike. The wood is hand-finished. The insides are coated with conductive metallic paint to shield against radio interference.

The metal portions of the Dutch Kazoo box are powder coated with the design printed right into the powdercoat. It will not scratch off. There are currently 5 artwork designs to choose from with more coming in the future.

Dutch Kazoo FuzzHow important is the look of your pedals?

The look is integral to the whole package. I think the look and feel of the pedal might inspire a player in his or her use of it. A Dutch Kazoo in a regular metal box would not exactly be a Dutch Kazoo. These things should be fun.

Since a while the designs of the Dutch Kazoo are also available in red.

Is parts selection important?

All housing parts and circuit boards are sourced domestically (USA). We attempt to use the most reliable, low noise parts that we can. This means modern production parts purchased from reliable suppliers. Transistors are screened to ensure they operate where we want them to. After construction, every circuit is hand-adjusted (tuned).

Which of your pedals makes you most proud?

We now only have the Dutch Kazoo, but we are proud of how it turned out. We recently added an optional expression pedal input. From concept to reality, it came out exactly how we wanted it to.

Which of your pedals was your toughest build?

The Dutch Kazoo is not quick to build. What makes it tough is there is a lot of stuff crammed into the box. 6 JFETS, 2 BJTs, 6 dual op amps, 3 charge pump ICs, many resistors, capacitors and wiring. Each one takes many man-hours. The housing takes a few coats of shellac with hand-scraping and sanding in between the coats.

Which of your pedals is the most popular?Dutch Kazoo Fuzz

We only have the Dutch Kazoo, and all of the 5 graphic designs are equally popular. I thought the bats design would be most popular, but we have sold equal amounts of the Cyclops, bats, flowers, fox, and kazoos!

Who uses your pedals and for which genres?

The Dutch Kazoo is a very versatile fuzz, however, I think it appeals most to those playing guitar-oriented music such as classic rock, stoner rock/metal, punk, and experimental music. I would like jazz players to start using our fuzz, too. It can get great sounds for jazz fusion. Our goal was to put something out that was different but still useful for making music without sounding like a special effect.

Some notable artists using the Dutch Kazoo include Mark Arm (of Mudhoney), Mike Polizze (of Purling Hiss), Paul Waaktaar-Savoy (formerly of A-ha) and lowbrow artist Anthony Ausgang (Cat Museum). Reine Fiske (of the Amazing and Dungen), Paul "Top Dollar" Major (of Endless Boogie) and Ichirou Agata (of Melt-banana) also own one, but I don't know if they are using them regularly. We'd love to get one in the hands of Shinji Wajima (from Ningen Isu), Jochen Arbeit and Randy Hansen.

What does the future of Dutch Kazoo look like?

We are focusing on the Dutch Kazoo, but we also have ideas for other very different pedals in mind. We plan to always combine unique, original circuits with artistic housings.

Are you working on any new products?

I have concepts for a real analog reverb and delay that is done like no other has been done before it. I really don't even know if the concept will work, it is so out there. I'd say that's a couple of years out.

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