[interview] Plum Crazy FX: Kaare Festvog

Here's FXDB's interview with Kaare Festvog of Plum Crazy FX:

How did Plum Crazy FX start?

I originally wanted to build some pedals for myself after seeing some of the first Z. Vex pedals at Willie's American Guitar in the mid 90s. I got as far a researching schematics and put them away for about 8 years. I got around to actually doing some work with them when I began planning to leave the Army Reserve in 2004.

David Main from Differential Audio Manifestationz helped me with advice early on and helped me through his reviews of my work) to have the confidence to actually make pedals for others. The guys from Willie's were also some of the earliest supporters and the first to carry my pedals.

Where does the name come from?

I don't really know, I was trying to come up with a name and it clicked. Basically been calling my stuff that from the 2nd pedal I ever built.

What sets Plum Crazy FX apart from other builders?

I try to make pedals that perform like the great vintage pedals that I have in my own collection. I try to make them more useful to the working musician than the originals with a expanded range of features. I also don't want to make a pedal you have to sell when you leave one band to go to another.

How do you start on a new pedal?

I usually start developing a pedal when I feel like I get a lot of previous customers asking me, "why don't you make pedal X ?" I also look to areas where my current pedal lineup might be not covering a need.

It takes me too long to build a pedal from the ground up. Many get dropped and picked back up before I decide on something I want to add. I have a number of board designs that are finished that I never offered because I wasn't happy with transistors or something else with them. For instance, I went through dozens of transistor combos and weeks of listening before I was happy with the transistors in the Si Clops. On average, I'm adding a pedal a year (plus a couple limited pedals).

How do you name your pedals?

HMFIC just goes back to my Army training - if you were the Head Mother Fucker in Charge, nobody (regardless of rank) was to give you crap.

Can you tell us something about the production process?

Just me building, the others helping me are helping with website, graphics, packing and administrative duties.

The Plum Crazy lineup is mostly hand-wired PCBs with a few stripboard models. The Prune Works lineup is whatever type of building I feel like doing for that particular pedal (PCB, Stripboard, Turretboard).

The enclosures are bought, for their finish I'm slowly moving to having the enclosures powder coated and silk-screened by an outside company. So, about half are still paint and decals and the other half are powder coated and silkscreened.

How important is the look of your pedals?

It's important in the redesigned graphics for the pedals. The old graphics where pretty simple but I wanted to do more with the new stuff.

Is parts selection important?

All of my parts are selected for sound, and sound only. If a new part will sound better than a NOS part, I'm going with the new part, every time. I'm not going to only chase "mojo" parts - I've been disappointed to often in the past. That said I often use old parts in my pedals. I test, and test, and test before I decide on parts, all of the parts.

Which of your pedals makes you most proud?

The HMFIC was the most technically challenging and the most different from what else is out there. That combined with the all-germanium Fuzzy Lady (due to the clean stripboard build) is the pair I take the most pride in.

Which of your pedals is the most popular?

The standard Fuzzy Lady is the most popular and still right up there with my favorites as I can't believe I was able to come up with that combo of parts to sound so good so early in my progress (amazing what tons of sound testing and changing components will do). It can get those classic rock sounds and has a wide variety of other sounds. I tried to get as much out of it as I could but not be too gimicky - I wanted it to be useful for most songs in a set, not just something used once or twice in a night. I also wanted it to sound great both in a live and recording setting.

Who uses your pedals and for which genres?

I usually build stuff I like, if others do - I add it to the lineup, if not - it falls from the lineup.

I don't keep track of famous users, if there are any.

What does the future of Plum Crazy FX look like?

The short term goal is to continue to add pedals to the lineup and expand the Prune Works line I have of limited edition pedals - to show what I can do with other building styles.

Are you working on any new products?

I'm working on about a half-dozen pedal, right now. Who knows when I'll be happy enough with them to offer them.

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