[interview] Greene Pedals: John Greene

Here's FXDB's interview with John Greene of Greene Pedals:

How did Greene Pedals start?

I've wanted to experiment with guitar pedals ever since I was in high school (even though I was a drummer back then). I went to college for my EE degree but then got married, got a career, had kids, etc. All took priority.

Then one day I decided to start taking guitar lessons with the primary objective to design and build guitar effects. I joined the Ampage forum and had some great discussions on current and vintage pedals, built several 'clones', and then discovered this MOSFET as a diode thing in one of my electronic trade magazines. I thought "I can adapt that for use in a guitar pedal"...

I prototyped a few and gave them to some local guitar players who convinced me that I should manufacture sell this pedal. I did everything myself, enclosures, PCBs, assembly, etc. I started selling the pedal from my website after moving to Valley Center, CA in 2001. In 2011 the name was changed to Greene Engineering and Design.

R.G. Keen was a great help. All the guys at the old Ampage forum were a great source of people with a common interest.

Where do the name and logo come from?

I'm somewhat embarrassed by the name. I needed a domain name for my website/company so I asked "who am I and what do I do?" My last name is Greene and I make Pedals.

No logo, just the name in some retro font that came in Photoshop back then.

What sets Greene Pedals apart from other builders?

A unique design/sound.

How do you start on a new pedal?

The existing pedal started out with simulation in software. The majority of the 'bugs' are worked out until the circuit behaves as I intend. I then prototype, usually etching my own PCB, and make adjustments for real world circuitry as opposed to the ideal components used in simulation. After that, it is the standard process for larger scale production. Procure parts, PCBs, have enclosures drilled, painted, screened, the assembly.

How do you name your pedals?

I chose 'Glasspak' for a couple of different reasons. The reference to 'Glass' tied in a connection to vacuum tubes. The Glasspack muffler was a standard car modification when I was a kid and the throaty growl it produced gave me the same kind of feeling inside that the pedal did when you really dig into a power cord.

Can you tell us something about the production process?

The production is in-house.

I use PCBs with a combination of Surface mount and leaded parts, the enclosures were a standard cast aluminum box which I had a machinist/guitar player friend drill the holes. I then had the cases powder coated and silk-screened with artwork I designed. I hand solder all the PCBs and hand wire them into the enclosures.

How important is the look of your pedals?

It was important. I wanted it to stand out on someone's pedal board so I went with the bright florescent green. The color green because of my name. And the font was a retro style to tie it back to the days of my youth and the time of vacuum tubes and Glasspack mufflers.

Is parts selection important?

Yes. But I did not use NOS anything as that is self-limiting. The opamp was important for the sound, I tried several. I use quality components that (hopefully) do not color the tone so I have complete control over the sound of the pedal through its circuit design. The idea of needing a carbon composition resistor in a key location in order to get 'the' sound makes me shudder.

Which of your pedals makes you most proud?

The only pedal I made because it was the first to use the MOSFET as a diode clipper. A design used by many different pedal manufacturers today with some of them being quite popular.

Who uses your pedals and for which genres?

I didn't intentionally make them for a specific genre. I was mainly going for anything that was unique and not available and then see which genre of user finds it interesting. This particular pedal is extremely popular with Blues players.

Probably the most notable is Lee Ritenour who recorded his "Overtime" DVD with my pedal on the pedal board that was made for him by Andy Brauer.

What does the future of Greene Pedals look like?

I have no plans to take Greene Pedals any further. I have a full time Electrical Engineering Consulting company up and running now with clients in the guitar effect manufacturing industry. In order to avoid conflict of interest issues, I have ceased work on any future products and will only make the current pedal if someone is really interested in owning one. But who knows what the future holds.

Are you working on any new products?

I am currently consulting with a guitar pedal manufacturer.

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