[interview] Verellen Amplifiers: Ben Verellen

Here's FXDB's interview with Ben Verellen of Verellen Amplifiers:

How did Verellen Amplifiers start?

I always knew what sounds I liked in pedals, and I had an idea for a pedal that I hadn't found out there. Amplifiers are also such a big investment for customers, I thought it would be cool to offer something more affordable that people interested in what we were doing sonically, but didn't want to spend a lot on, could get into.

Seattle has lots of innovative small audio companies around to look up to. In my neighborhood alone, we have THD and Soldano. Both Andy Marshall and Mike Soldano have been friendly and helpful which is completely inspiring.

Where does the logo come from?

We just thought it fit the aesthetic of the amps to fire brand the logo into. It's also fun to do. The silk screened logo that appears on the pedals is much less exciting, but gets the job done.

What sets Verellen Amplifiers apart from other builders?

I don't think there is another company out there that builds custom amplifiers to the customers specs. I also think our aesthetic is different than what's out there, which is sometimes polarizing. We don't cater to any specific genres, but we did kind of design the company around the underground music community, and that's who seems to respond most to our aesthetic and our way of doing things.

How do you start on a new pedal?

So far, we've only done the Big Spider pedal, we spent a couple months getting ready for production of that.

How do you name your pedals?

The amplifiers are all named after people I know or who have been important to me in one way or another.

Can you tell us something about the production process?

We build them here in our shop. The pedals are built between myself and one worker.

The amps are handwired, but the pedal circuits are on a PCB with wires to chassis mounted pots, jacks etc...

We have the enclosures manufactured from 16 gauge cold rolled steel and powdercoated at a local metal shop. We then screenprint them here at our shop.

How important is the look of your pedals?

We're going for a hyper sturdy classic look. I love the look of those old synths and boards with the wooden side panels, so we went for that, although it's obviously not the first pedal to do it, we just think it looks really stark against the other pedals out there. The printing is very simple and no frills, which we like as well.

Is parts selection important?

We've done a lot of experimenting to figure out what works best and what's going to last from transistors, to tubes, to resistors, etc...

Which of your pedals makes you most proud?

We love the Big Spider, but the tube preamp pedal project we're working on now is really exciting.

Which of your pedals was your toughest build?

We've definitely made tweaks along the way with the Big Spider. Some projects just never seem to be completely finished.

Which of your pedals is the most popular?

Surprisingly our most expensive, heavy, and high powered amplifier, the Meat Smoke, is the most popular. I think it's the only thing of it's kind out there.

Who uses your pedals and for which genres?

The Big Spider is something that I wanted for myself for thick heavy music but I've seen it applied in lots of ways to different genres that I never thought of, which I think is awesome.

A few customers that come to mind: Nate Newton of Converge, Andrew Seward of Against Me!, Amadeo Pace of Blonde Redhead, Pete Koller of Sick of It All, Nate Mendel of Foo Fighters/Sunny Day Real Estate, Dave Knudson and Cory Murchy of Minus the Bear, Brian Cook and Mike Sullivan of Russian Circles, Bryan Richie of The Sword, Ryan Patterson of Coliseum, Evan Patterson of Young Widows, Michael Hranica of Devil Wears Prada, Leif Anderson of Vendetta Red, etc...

We've sold amps and pedals to over 400 customers and most of them are in touring bands.

What does the future of Verellen Amplifiers look like?

We've managed to grow over the last few years still dealing mostly directly with end users on custom projects, with the occasional dealer. We aim to keep that model, and to add more production models in addition to the custom work.

As for pedals, we've got a prototype in the works for a series of new all tube pedal preamps that should see completion within the next couple months. Sort of a brute force hand wired, all tubes and transformers answer to the digital modeling stuff.

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