BEHIND THE BUILD:
The pedal market in 2016 is an extremely crowded space - lots of big-name players mixed with lots of startup companies making amazing, sometimes wildly creative, pedals. How did you guys end up designing and building pedals? What led you to start Coppersound Pedals?
Alex: This whole thing started as a pedal interest-turned-learning experience-turned-business. I never had the intention of starting a business, only learning how to build and understand these little devices. As you'll hear from most guys in the industry, it starts as building pedals for yourself and friends, then it snowballs into their friends wanting one, and eventually other acquaintances wanting to have one of your creations. Before you know it, you have orders. Being a small, hobbyist builder with a list of orders creates what I'll call "overwhelming encouragement"! All the great feedback was the starting point for me to want to brand my creations and enter into a business venture.
Tris: I wanted help finding the right sound mixed with ease of use and knew that our collaborations would turn things upside down. Alex has a visual appeal and approach that makes people want his designs no matter what it is or what it does.
Speaking of design, you guys have a great eye for design as evidenced simply by the look of your Strategy Boost, Daedalus Dual Reverb, and Telegraph Stutter. Beyond the cool visuals, your pedals offer beautiful tones and well thought out features that always remain easy to use. How did you arrive at the designs you're currently building? Was there a specific set of issues you were trying to address for players?
Tris: I run a function band in Boston and found that a lot of sounds I was looking for were, as you said, difficult to get quickly under pressure - always trying to ask the singer what song we're jumping to next, what tempo that song is, what sound do I need for the intro...all while soloing and trying to make sure my tone is on point in the moment!
Alex: The three aforementioned pedals are drastically different from one another, however, all of them are meticulously thought out from an engineer's point of view. The Strategy Boost was originally built as a gift for our friend Jordan as a thank you for all of his website work. I wanted to take the aesthetic of his Strat and design it into a pedal. The layout was intended to look as close to the guitar dimensionally as it could. The positioning of parts was very important in order to make it functional yet familiar. I also wanted the knobs to do what the descriptions read, as opposed to controlling fuzz and gate, for instance.
Daedalus started as a 1 knob reverb and eventually turned into the creature you see now. We were originally aiming for a shimmer reverb achieved by pitch shifting. We scrapped the idea and instead implemented a more unique FX loop. The loop allows the user to place any effect into the decay of the reverb - something very few reverb pedals on the market do. Ours design is also the only one, to my knowledge, to utilize both blend and pre-amp controls for the FX loop. This was implemented in order to give the player greater flexibility. We also wanted to use a tank for the reverb, as opposed to chips like a lot of other reverb pedals. The last piece of the puzzle was to add a footswitch in order to choose between two separate reverb levels. The culmination of these features created a reverb pedal that none of us had seen on the market.
The Telegraph Stutter was created out of an idea I had while at a local electronics store. As the telegraph key caught my eye, I thought, "Could I incorporate this into a pedal?" The prototype was built in March of 2015. I didn't think that anyone would like it as much as me, but I was wrong! The Telegraph primarily stayed the same from a layout perspective, but created a huge learning experience on the building side. Let's just say there were casualties and frustrations! (NOTE: The Telegraph Stutter was recently featured in a 2016 Summer NAMM report in Premier Guitar Magazine.)
"…just the right amount of uniqueness to support the player rather than be the player."
Being a two-man operation, how does the work get divided up between the two of you? Is one of you more of an engineer, the other an ideas person, or, do you both tackle the work equally?
Tris: We just expanded to a three-man team and the work flow generally breaks down as follows:
I'm the main builder of each pedal, do the real-world testing, and I also handle dealer and artist relations. Alex is our lead engineer, circuit designer, and he also takes care of custom orders. Jordan is our media and art guy, website manager, and he also contributes to each stage of a pedal build.
Some pedals become timeless staples in a guitar player's arsenal (Klon, Deluxe Memory Man, Rat, etc...). What makes a pedal exceptional in your opinion, and how do you try to create that in your own builds? What's essential in a great pedal design?
Alex: Form and function are what come to mind first. Usable, intuitive features are huge, no matter the player's skill level. With our builds, we try to blend ease of use with tweak-ability. From every knob sounding good at every point on the dial, to artwork that takes creative ideas and implements them in a simple and expressive way, to top-mounted jacks and dual footswitches on all standard production line pedals...we like to create versatility mixed with smart layouts.
Tris: All the pedals you just named, and any timeless staple I can think of, would be a pedal that is or was at some point a "must have" sound - not too over the top, but just the right amount of uniqueness to support the player rather than be the player. We try and create the perfect amount of effect so that players can take the skills that they have developed and get the sound they're looking for.
Who are some of your influences - people, companies, or ideas - and how does that influence find its way into your designs?
Alex: As for pedal builders, I'd have to go with Jamie from Earthquaker Devices and Philippe from Caroline Guitar Company. Both in terms of creativity, unique features, variety, and simply how great they look from a graphic design point of view.
As for non-pedal builders, I'd have to go Jack White. He manages to be creative in this "modern world" by implementing old-school ideas and using analog devices, all while avoiding most new technology. One of my favorite quotes of his is: "Technology is a big destroyer of emotion and truth. Auto-tuning doesn't do anything for creativity. Yeah, it makes it easier and you can get home sooner, but it doesn't make you a more creative person. That's the disease we have to fight in any creative field."
Tris: I, like so many guitarists, enjoy the sound and versatility of JHS pedals. If there was a company who's builds inspired me the most, it would be them.
What's on the horizon for Coppersound Pedals? What's next?
Tris: Well, we have about a dozen ideas to get done this year! I am personally super excited about Foxcatcher, our next release. Stay tuned, it's going to be a very exciting year in the gear world!
Alex: I think I'm most excited about Polaris, our analog chorus pedal. Hopefully it will be out by winter. In addition to that, we have pedals coming out in the future in all three of our production categories - Standard, Utility, and Pickguard Series.
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