[interview] Wright Sounds: Matt Wright

Here's FXDB's interview with Matt Wright of Wright Sounds:

How did Wright Sounds start?

I have a lot of electronics/wiring experience from my time working at Peekamoose Custom Guitars in New York City. I started my apprenticeship in 2001 under Paul Schwartz, the owner. Paul got his start with Charlie Lobue who owned and operated the Guitar Lab in NYC where people like Carl Thompson, Larry DiMarzio, Ralph Novak, Woody Phifer, etc, all were a part of at one point. My love is for electric guitars and that's what I mainly worked on while at Peekamoose.

As I learned more about pickups and wiring options I wanted to learn about pedals. So I bought the classic Craig Anderton book, Electronic Projects for Musicians, but didn't do anything but glance at it because I was too busy with guitar repair. I first got into building pedals after I left Peekamoose and opened my own shop. It seemed like more and more of my clients were asking me to fix or mod one of their pedals so eventually I caved in and started to take on the jobs. My first job was the Keely mod on a BOSS DS-1. It worked. It DID sound better. I was hooked. Then I dug out the Anderton book and started building.

I didn't think of myself as anything but a guitar tech until I decided to make a repro of the Sam Ash Fuzz-Stainer. That's when the ball really started rolling.

Lucky for me, Portland, OR is full of DIYers, builders, and shops, so I contacted Jack DeVille about an amp repair for one of my clients (I don't repair amps... not yet at least). After two seconds I realized Jack knew what he was talking about so I grilled him with questions. Some about the building aspects but mostly about marketing. He was very enthusiastic and helpful. I also got a lot of help from my friend Tanner who runs Noystoise (Noise Toys). He makes and mods the SICKEST stuff. I really wish he'd quit his day job and blow the FX universe up!

My main source of inspiration is Mark Keppinger, master Theremin maker, who works at the local Science Museum. He is my guru.

Where does the name come from?

While thinking about a company name I knew I wanted to use my last name as some sort of pun and "Wright Sounds" is what I came up with.

Can you tell us something about the production process?

Almost 100% is done by myself. I've hired two people to help in the past for a couple marathon-days. They were a great help.

Most of my pedals are hand-wired to perfboard. The Fuzz-Stang MK II is my first PCB. I buy the enclosures and drill them out myself. I can't stand painting or anything that needs a perfect environment, ventilation, lots of space, drying time, etc so I chose to design an aluminum nameplate instead. They have adhesive on the back which means I can put 50 of them on in less than a half hour. And I can grab them and stack them and not deal with a mess. I wasn't sure what people would think but I've gotten a lot of compliments.

How important is the look of your pedals?

I think the look of Wright Sounds pedals is very important. To quote El Guapo, there are a "plethora" of pedals out there. And honestly, when you got to the guitar shop, "looking" at the pedals is the first thing you do. What it "does" is secondary. An important secondary but never the less, second.

Who uses your pedals and for which genres?

I've made pedals for Lou Reed, Rich Robinson, Marc Ribot, Bill Frisell, Jon Spencer and many more amazing musicians. I feel really lucky that I've had the opportunity to meet and talk with so many of my favorite musicians, and to actually play a role in their guitar playing. Bill Frisell heard about the Fuzz-Stang from Timothy Young who was playing with Wayne Horvitz in Seattle. Frisell sat in with them for a couple tunes and loved Tim's tone. The next night night they played in Portland (minus Frisell) and Tim told me Bill loved my pedal. I said, "right". A few days later I get an email from Bill Frisell. Couple days after that he's in my shop and playing my guitar and a Fuzz-Stang for 40 minutes. Nicest guy in the world. A couple weeks later he sent me an email: “Man, this thing is great. I did a solo gig in Boulder a couple days ago and used it for the first time. Got some cool tuba like sounds out of it. Sort of like that scene in “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”… looking forward to see what else might come out of this thing."

The Fuzz-Stang MK II kind of came to because of an email I got from Marc Ribot. He mentioned loving the pedal in the studio but he'd like more volume for when he used it lived. He said, "I'd like to have the opportunity to blow my speakers. Can you make it do that?" I added the ATTACK control and more gain and now, if not careful, he can blow his speakers.

What does the future of Wright Sounds look like?

Since I'm a guitar tech/repairman by trade, that's the main focus for Wright Sounds. But that being said, I do want to make a nice tremolo pedal. I'll then have three pedals to offer... fuzz, boost, and tremolo.

The next large project is going to be a custom guitar model inspired by Reverend and Silvertone/Danelectro guitars. I hope to have one built up by the end of the year.

And guitar repair, repair, repair. Portland is a big city with a lot of musicians. I've also started doing guitar repair for Pro Guitar Shop which recently opened up a brick and mortar store in downtown Portland.

Are you working on any new products?

I've built a couple repros of the Kay Fuzztone that I might turn into a semi-standard item. I'm looking into enclosures. I really don't want to hunt down a bunch of Crybaby wah pedals!

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