[interview] Pedalman: Romain Bidaut

Here's FXDB's interview with Romain Bidaut of Pedalman:

How did Pedalman start?

I originally started as a 'in the know' vintage effects dealer in New York City in 1994, supplying countless famous touring musicians (NIN, U2, Smashing Pumpkins, ZZtop, Sheryl Crow, etc. etc.) and later on catering to passionate pedal dudes around the planet. This soon led to carrying new brands (Moog, 3Ms, Roger Mayer, etc.) and then I decided to reissue some vintage effects which led to a Pedalman Superfuzz (made by Fred Bonte of Black Cat), a few experiments with Frantone in their Brooklyn labs which did not yield any new pedal, and eventually my own take on the fable TS-808 the Pedalman 818 Overdrive Pro, my own vision of the ultimate most perfect TS808 which actually became much more than just that :). These were built by John Landgraff for Pedalman, and were individually tweaked by me, one by one, before shipping. 59 were made and shipped, I still have number #1.

Where do the name and logo come from?

PEDAL - MAN, man raised by pedals, like Batman raised by Bats, WonderWoman raised by Wonder bread, not like IronMan because I don't think that dude was raised by Irons.

no special logo, the brand did not pride itself on looks, just sound.

What sets Pedalman apart from other builders?

The main thing I had going at the time was an incredible knowledge and experience with thousands of vintage effects, which at the time were a completely forgotten section of tone. The 90s were pretty much a transition between racks and back to Boss pedals. I helped passionate players and high profile players get reacquainted with the great pedals of the 60s and 70s and get better tone at a time where this was much needed and hard to find.

How do you start on a new pedal?

Demand from my customers.

Can you tell us something about the production process?

Pedalman Superfuzz: build contracted to Fred Bonte of Black Cat.

Pedalman 818 Overdrive Pro: build contracted to John Landgraff.

The Superfuzz pedals were in a Hammond style box, I don't remember the insides. The 818 was hand wired, point to point silver solder, Bud box style enclosure painted in TS green by Arlon Prince.

How important is the look of your pedals?

Not important.

How important is parts selection?

absolutely everything was important, for the 818 it came down to weeks of AB-ing hundreds of components values then AB-ing manufacturers of said value. in the end, John would send me batches of assembled but unfinished 818s, and I would sit for hours on end swapping chips and components till every single one sounded great... That's perfection man!

Which of your pedals makes you most proud?

The 818.

Which of your pedals was your toughest build?

the 818, LOL, John Landgraff and I at times butted heads but it was for the common good in the end :)

Which of your pedals is the most popular?

the 818 :) It was GOOD.

Who uses your pedals and for which genres?

I tried to fill in the gap in the market at the time for the Superfuzz reissue. then wanted to come up with the ultimate overdrive with the 818, which only reference at the time for excellence was the original TS-808. The 818 had more maximum gain, more bass (less honky), true bypass, more dynamics (less boxy). it successfully sounded like a better TS808, but actually became much more, several artists replaced entire Soldano Preamps with that box!!

8-9 out of 59 818s went to famous artists.

I also sold countless vintage effects to countless famous artists. I supplied Gilmour of Pink Floyd with a Triangle Big Muff, NIN with a Fender Blender to replace their iconic Foxx Tone Machine, Eric Johnson with some great fuzzes, Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top with the fabled Power Driver, Pearl Jam, Anthrax, Lauren Hill, Crystal Method,...

What does the future of Pedalman look like?

Difficulties with supply delays to meet demand stopped the 818 production, but ultimately the "Coup de Grace" happened in 2002 when I suffered extremely serious health issues which led to closing Pedalman altogether.

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