[interview] Noisemaker Effects: Matt

Here's FXDB's interview with Matt of Noisemaker Effects:

How did Noisemaker Effects start?

I got into building pedals when I was in my teens. Buying pedals with birthday and Christmas money was ok, but as many know, that doesn't get you far in the world of effects - especially not in terms of hand made or boutique pedals. Because of that, I decided to try my hand at building effects for myself, as it was intriguing to me and I could get more for my money.

After learning quite a bit about the process, as well as how to work with pedals, I designed very early versions of the Li'l Bastard amp, the Soviet Overdrive, and the Bad Mother Fuzzer. I built some for friends, as well as ones for myself. I also sold some through online forums as I got interest. That was in 2008/2009.

From there I did small batches of pedals, moving on to designs like early versions of the A-OK Boost and Sludgemaker. I continued selling through online forums, as well as orders through a very basic website. I wanted to keep building pedals, and most of all, I wanted to keep them affordable for people who were in the same boat I had been in a few years before. I viewed the term "boutique" as something that shouldn't automatically be labeled with a $200+ price tag, and I decided that I wanted to change that.

In 2010 I opened the Noisemaker Effects as you see it today, with the full featured site, demos, and the ability to order right through the site.

When I first started I scoured the internet to learn about pedal circuits, what makes a fuzz sound like this, or what adds more volume to a boost, or countless other things. I spent a lot of time on DIY forums, as well as just experimenting with circuits. The resources that are out there for pedal building are incredible - from sites that compile classic schematics, to places dedicated to DIY pedal building.

Where do the name and logo come from?

The name came from a nickname for my early pedals. Someone referred to my early prototypes as "noisemakers", so I decided on "Noisemaker Effects" as a name for my pedals.

The Noisemaker Effects logo comes from the styling I chose for my site, as well as the style that influences the artwork of all Noisemaker Effects pedals.

The font, colors, and design were all chosen to match the overall theme of the site, as well as the pedals themselves.

What sets Noisemaker Effects apart from other builders?

The company: with Noisemaker Effects I'm determined to keep hand wired, high quality pedals affordable, and in many cases even more affordable than the usual mass produced pedals that you see.

The pedals: every Noisemaker Effects pedal is wired by hand with high quality parts. The build quality is strict, and every pedal is finished with a custom made label with artwork to match the pedal. A lot of planning and care goes into the design of each pedal.

How do you start on a new pedal?

A new design is usually thought up from a sound. I'll hear something that inspires a new tone, and set out to design a pedal to get that sound.

From there, I'll work out a schematic to get me close to the sound, and tweak from there. It will often take a few prototypes, and a good bit of testing, but the end result becomes the pedal that goes into production.

A new pedal usually takes around a month to design, test, and create artwork for. It can be a long process, but it means a great pedal going out as the finished product.

How do you name your pedals?

Most of the names of my pedals come from inside jokes, references, or experiences. Some good examples are the 3.14, the Lucky 13, and the Dead Hipster.

The 3.14 is named in reference to Pi. The 3.14 was inspired by the Big Muff Pi, and was named to reference that. The circuit is original, but it was a vintage Big Muff that inspired the tone.

The Lucky 13 was the 13th pedal I released and coincidentally had 13 main components that shaped its sound. I also designed the first prototype on the 13th of that month, so it seemed to be a trend in the pedal's design, and it was named in reference to that.

The Dead Hipster has a story. I had designed it to create a low gain overdrive for some jangly tones, and to get the sort of sound you'd get from an old amp when you crank it - the sound a lot of indie bands go for. I had the circuit done, and had the pedal ready to go aside from the name. I ended up being at a coffee shop, and overheard a very obvious "hipster" talking about how he had discovered a "new" band named "Arcadia Fire". I had thought of how much I wanted the whole "hipster" trend to just die off, and the phrase "Dead Hipster" came to mind. I went home and designed the artwork around hipster stereotypes like plaid and "vintage" style font. I then added the skull - a symbol of high gain death metal "ironically".

Every pedal has some sort of story behind it, and if someone wants to know, I encourage them to send an email via the site. I'd be happy to tell them how their pedal got its name!

Can you tell us something about the production process?

All pedals are built in-house by myself.

  • Circuits: Point to point and hand-wired on perfboard with original circuit designs.
  • Enclosures: Bought, heavy-duty aluminum.
  • Labels: Heavy duty labels with high quality, custom designed artwork.
  • Painting: Paint finishes by order.

How important is the look of your pedals?

While sound comes first, the look is an important part of a Noisemaker Effects pedal. Each pedal gets its own artwork that matches its styling and sound. The pedal is designed first, and then artwork is created to match the pedal's sound and idea.

A good example is the Noise Invaders. It was designed to give a lo-fi fuzz sound for things like 8-Bit tones and a bit crushed effect. After the pedal was designed, I decided to use bright colors like you'd see at an '80s arcade, and Space Invaders descending down the pedal like they would on a screen. So while the pedal's intent was to get some 8-bit tones, its design overall is based in that idea of classic 8-bit games.

Is parts selection important?

I absolutely choose parts carefully, and make exclusive use of Neutrik Jacks, Alpha potentiometers and high quality resistors, capacitors, and transistors. I only use 3PDT switches for true bypass on every pedal, and I source all germanium diodes as NOS.

Which of your pedals makes you most proud?

I'm very proud of all of my pedals, but my personal favorite is the 3.14. It's one of my favorite fuzz tones, and the original prototype is my go-to pedal on my board.

Which of your pedals was your toughest build?

My toughest build was a custom looper. The buyer wanted eleven loops and a tuner out in a fairly small enclosure, and it was fairly challenging because of the precision needed on such a small enclosure. It came out perfectly, but it took some time!

Which of your pedals is the most popular?

The Donner Party and A-OK Boost are two of my best sellers, as they come in at such a low price - only $50. There's not much out there to compare with them at twice the price, let alone at just $50. Aside from that, they're both fantastic pedals that really provide great sounds.

Who uses your pedals and for which genres?

I try to cover a broad range of designs so that many genres and tastes are suited. I see effects as something to expand on your own style with, so I try to keep the product line broad. The goal is to have anyone be able to find a Noisemaker Effects pedal that will help them get the sounds they're looking for.

What does the future of Noisemaker Effects look like?

I plan on expanding Noisemaker Effects to more dealers around the world so that high quality and affordable pedals are available to more people.

The focus is to continue making pedals to the highest quality standards, and keep them affordable.

There are new designs planned for the future, and with the Noisemaker Effects Custom Shop being open, there will be plenty of one of a kind pedals showcased.

Are you working on any new products?

I've just launched two brand new pedals - the 3.14 and the Four Horsemen - for 2012. They're both shipping now.

The 3.14 is the Noisemaker Effects take on the classic Big Muff Pi. I took the classic, thick, wooly sound of the Big Muff, and re-imagined it into a new circuit that gets the classic Muff sounds, but many new ones as well. The Big Muff Pi was my very first fuzz pedal years ago, and I wanted to expand on the sound that it created as such an influential pedal. I'll leave it up to my customers to tell me if I've succeeded in that goal.

The Four Horsemen is a Multi-Fuzz. It features four modes to give, in essence, four different fuzzes in one box. It's an incredibly versatile fuzz, and really gives a lot of bang for the buck. And, while it gives multiple fuzzes, it's still entirely analog and point to point wired.

As for the future, I'll be releasing more pedals throughout the year, including a dirty boost, a new, more full featured overdrive, and I'm currently working on an octave fuzz. There's no set date for any of the pedals, but the dirty boost and octave fuzz should be released before summer!

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