[interview] Jacques: Jacques Charbit

Here's FXDB's interview with Jacques Charbit of Jacques:

How did Jacques start?

I started at the age of 13, when my mother bought me a soldering iron. For me this was only a way of spending less money on gear. I even made my own electric guitar and amp.

Art Thompson's 1995 Guitar Player article on the comeback of stompboxes really started the business idea of what had always been a hobby for me.

Where does the name come from?

Well it's quite obvious: it's my name.

But to me the idea came from a table reservation at Serendipity in NYC, where the attendant could spell my name correctly. So I thought my name was not a problem for the US market.

What sets Jacques apart from other builders?

When you put your own name on your pedals, it has to be something you really believe in, and somehow it shows your taste sound-wise, which, in my case, is deeply rooted in the 70s.

All pedals are analog. I don't adventure in the digital field, because I am so old school.

How do you start on a new pedal?

I own practically ALL vintage pedals and vintage amps -- I also run a vintage guitar shop in Marseille, 1001 Guitares -- so it's only when I can make a better tone that I start working on a project.

For example, the Meistersinger has been conceived A/Bing all vintage chorus I could find, and it could make it into production only when I really heard mine was better sounding.

How do you name your pedals?

The Prisoner was inspired by the TV show with Patrick Mac Goohan, my all time favorite. But the name also means delay gives a closed room tone and also that I am prisoner of its chip, the original matsushita MN3005, which gives it its perfect tone. Once I will run out of these chips I'll have to stop the pedal.

The Mercer Box comes from Philip K. Dick's 'Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?'.

The Meistersinger from the Glenn Gould movie.

The Black Mamba from the shape and color of its transistors.

Is parts selection important?

Of course. Analog pedals really follow the Chaos Theory. If you change a component, you can be sure tone will change somehow.

There is a 20mF cap in one of my pedal that is 'brand' sensitive, i.e. I can use only one brand as all the others will alter the overall tone of the pedal.

Which of your pedals makes you most proud?

The Black Mamba is really my personal masterpiece, using uncanny transistors, the VALVO OC141, and a unique circuit that takes all the power out of these electronic rarities, while its 9v battery could last 2 years of intense use.
I am so jealous of this circuit that I cannot let anyone look at it.

Which of your pedals was your toughest build?

All germanium pedals are quite demanding: I have to hand-tune them to get the perfect tone. Even the Katapult germanium booster needs this tuning.

Which of your pedals is the most popular?

The Meistersinger chorus without a doubt. It's a real achievement for me and I also think its name has a role here, as it really impersonates what this pedal is in its spirit.

Who uses your pedals and for which genres?

I have worked with Chris Whitley for the Fuseblower to make it 'Narcotic prayer'-in-a-box, for me this song features the best electric guitar tone ever recorded.

The last touch on the Mercer Box was experimented with Steve Morse. He kept the prototype.

Lately, I waited for Henri Kaiser's approval to start the Black Mamba.

But, more often, artists I met rely on my taste to choose a pedal. I bring my pedals to the pre-show balance and test them with the artist in real gig condition. Recently I did that for Phoenix and Arcade Fire.

What does the future of Jacques look like?

I am currently changing the design of my factory line, and fit them with my new SIRET switch (SIlent RElay True bypass) which is both 100% silent and true bypass.

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