[interview] Wounded Paw Effects: Preston Sims

Here's FXDB's interview with Preston Sims of Wounded Paw Effects:

How did Wounded Paw start?

I started building pedals in early 2007 kind of as an experiment but mostly to see if I could build a better bass fuzz for myself. I have a background in music electronics from running a recording studio as well degrees in astrophysics and computer science which included a lot of electronic theory.

I didn't get any direct help. I started by searching out schematics, building them, altering them and figuring out what did what. But sites like GEOfex, AMZ, DIY Stompboxes, General Guitar Gadgets and Tonepad were all invaluable. The DIY Stompboxes forum was particularly good for asking questions and getting answers from the experts.

Where do the name and logo come from?

I'm a bass player and about 15 years ago my wrist would swell up really badly after playing a show. I would always have an icepack on it and took to wearing a tensor bandage around my wrist every time I play. My guitar player from the band Spazmz at the time made an offhand comment like "old wounded paw over there" and the name stuck. I still wear the bandages to play to this day.

The logo comes directly from the name. The singer from Spazmz drew the logo by looking at her dog's paw and drawing a bandage around it.

What sets Wounded Paw apart from other builders?

I think what sets Wounded Paw apart is that I build things for myself first. I have an idea of what I want a pedal to do and then figure out how to do it. Things like the Battering Ram, it's not a standard approach to a pedal. The parallel channels seem to confuse some people but the end result is very effective.

How do you start on a new pedal?

It all depends on the pedal, some come together quickly, some can take up to a year to perfect. I've been using versions of the Black Sheep for over a year and it's only now going into production. Some idea for a sound hits me and I look at various ways to realize it. No pedal has been released without going through many revisions and used live by me for a while.

How do you name your pedals?

The whole goat thing came from a trip to Cuba where we were walking along a deserted road beside the ocean and a herd of goats were coming towards us with a big billy goat at the head. He made some threatening moves towards us, protecting his herd and we got well out of the way.

From Attack Goat it seemed natural to go to Battering Ram and then to Black Sheep but I think I may have exhausted that avenue of names.

Can you tell us something about the production process?

I do most of the work myself but I do have one contractor that does some soldering of PCBs for me.

For the first few years I was screen printing all my circuit boards by hand, using the same screens that we previously used for T-shirt production. For the higher volume pedals we now order in double sided printed circuit boards and do all the populating and wiring by hand.

The enclosures are all Hammond with the factory black powder coating. They are printed by a friend in the professional screen printing business and drilled here.

How important is the look of your pedals?

For a while I had different colors of screen printing for the various different models but I settled on silver ink on the slightly rough black powder coat to give the line a unified look. It sort of fits with my aesthetic coming from a punk, crust, grindcore, metallish background.

Is parts selection important?

Yes, somewhat.

  • Alpha potentiometers
  • Panasonic film capacitors and FC series electrolytics
  • metal film resistors

All for sound quality and consistency. I would rather use known components so I can concentrate on the effect different part values have on the sound.

Which of your pedals makes you most proud?

The Attack Goat made me proud because it was my first completely new design (not a clone of anything) and people really seemed to like it.
The Battering Ram was a bigger technical challenge so it was a big hurdle to overcome and it turned out to be quite popular.

Which of your pedals was your toughest build?

The Black Sheep was the longest struggle just to find the best sounding way to realize my vision. It was a year in the making and I'm now planning to expand on the idea.

Which of your pedals is the most popular?

The Battering Ram is the biggest seller. I think because it combines really good tones and a lot of versatility. With the parallel and switchable overdrive and fuzz sections there are a lot of possibilities.

Who uses your pedals and for which genres?

I tend to focus on bass pedals because I tend to make things I would use myself. I don't think beyond that I focus on any particular genre.

I have some famous users too, but I've been really bad at keeping track of these things so can't recall right now.

What does the future of Wounded Paw look like?

My major short term goal is to take the Black Sheep idea of overdriving different frequency bands separately to the next level and build a full bass pre-amp with many more bands. Think of it as an eq on drugs. Each channel will have an overdrive as well as a level. There will also be options for a series or parallel effects loop, clean blend, etc.

We still spend a lot of time improving current models as well. The Blender line is getting a revamp with more bells and whistles.

Are you working on any new products?

The Black Sheep pre-amp idea is occupying my time right now. It's still in the planning stage but the theory of splitting the signal into different bands and overdriving them separately has been proved in the released Black Sheep Bass Overdrive. It's going to work a little differently and with a lot more bands but the end goal is to have a rack mount pre-amp able to either input to an amp or drive a power amp directly. There will also be a DI out and series/parallel effects loop and clean blend. A smaller pedal version may come later.

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