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Yesterday was an interesting day! The internet, as it does, erupted into a total storm of indignation and fury because of Gibson (probably the 10th time this year alone) over the news of bankruptcy. It’s the story we’ve all been waiting for, for months and months, and it had finally arrived. Even though we knew it was coming, it seems that even I could be surprised at the amount of acid reflux on display from almost everywhere.
Let’s put it this way, no matter what you might have read, Gibson ain’t going anywhere right now. Let’s look at the facts, they haven’t filed for a s7, they filed for a s11. So, they are restructuring to manage the debt to keep the company strong going forward. In the words of the release “Gibson will emerge from Chapter 11 with working capital financing, materially less debt, and a leaner and stronger musical instruments-focused platform that will allow the Company and all of its employees, vendors, customers and other critical stakeholders to succeed”. This means, in a nutshell, Gibson will liquidate the consumer electronics business it acquired from Philips in 2014, and concentrate resources on its instrument business, that being Gibson and Epiphone guitars, KRK and Stanton Audio. So, once again, Gibson guitars (at the moment) ain’t going anywhere.
So, now that the main talking point is out of the way, what do we think is the reason behind this? Well – I for one have always been a massive fan of the brand, it’s iconic history and the products it produces. From a tone chaser perspective, which is all I can talk about, what’s not to love? I’m guessing that a lot of people (including myself) just feel disassociated with the company and its mission of constantly innovating, which for many, seems to be done ‘just because it can’. A company like Gibson doesn’t really fit into the category of a ‘Lifestyle’ brand. They can never be a company like Nike. When Juszkiewicz et al bought Gibson back in 1986 for $5M, the company was in tatters and they turned it around to the brand that we recognize from latter years. A modern company with a sharp eye for the future. This direction, for me, was the rebirth and possibly the start of the death throws for Gibson as we know it today. Thus, Gibson Brands was born and they diversified - they took up other brands with the vision of a truly global lifestyle entity going forward.
This is where they went wrong I think… Guitars and associated products at this level are not classic consumable products. Most players simply do not replace their main guitar every two years like they do their phone because of new features, they just want a solid dependable instrument to last them until the GAS leads them to a new one. You can’t invoke GAS in the customers by radically changing a classic product for the sake of it, you create GAS by making it better from that strangely inert position we have as players, of looking at something like a LP and just desiring it. We do this because of finishes, woods, quality. Not because of the implementation of auto tuners. Well, it doesn’t for me, and I don’t think it does for other people much as well.
The internet in recent years has seemed to revel in hating Gibson and in particular Juszkiewicz because they didn’t feel like the company was empathizing with them. The advent of new technologies, new shapes, new features just isn’t what people want from Gibson – they look to other brands for this - they want a solid guitar that (other than the G string slipping its tuning now and then) just won’t let you down. I don’t think they want a Flying V that looks like the StarFleet Ensignia, or an olive green J-45, or a new style LP that no one can relate too... But hang on… this isn’t really what they did when you look properly. With those insanely coloured J-45, they made a handful but did not stop making the sunburst, the guitar that everyone wants. It was just a limited edition run. The LP Traditional was made to be the classic Gibson we all know and love and it was the LP Standard that has all the new features… maybe something as simple as keeping the classic called “Standard” and the new featured one “Contemporary” may have made people not think so dismissively about them. Who knows? We are a funny bunch us guitar players, we love it when new products are genuinely innovative, but we also love to be able to lean back on the technology and style we are already comfortable with. This is why guitars should not be treated like mobile phones.
One of the things that has interested me over the years is the constant internet chatter about QC at Gibson being shocking and/or them being overpriced. I am certain that this has caused massive reputational damage to the brand and I’m a little confused by it.
Pricing. So many people talk about them being too expensive, isn’t the US made LP Tribute about $1K? Is that expensive? No it isn’t. Is it a good guitar for that money. Yes it is. They do the models at the top for silly money, but who doesn’t? You get for what you pay for, and if you want a showpiece instrument made by hand completely in the US, you spend a LOT of money. If you want a great brand name on your guitar but not the detailed handmade feel, you have the more budget friendly option. Gibson caters for all of these situations. I’m guessing that in this day and age people just look at cost and nothing else. Guitars run the line of ever diminishing returns, the higher you go, the more you pay for a smaller difference in quality.
QC. I saw a post a couple of days ago that said “I went into a guitar store owned by my friend yesterday and they had 10 Gibson’s on the wall, and they were all crap”. My first question to that person was “Who is letting them go up on the wall if they are that bad?” and he couldn’t answer, in fact, he couldn’t really answer anything so it may well have been a case of seeing a hate bandwagon and jumping on it.
Every company has QC hiccups now and then, but I still just can’t believe it is that bad – we’ve all seen the pictures, read the stories, and heard the talk but what’s the actual reality of it? I wanted to hear from someone who lives with issues such as these everyday so I jumped on the phone and talked to an old friend of the company, Lee Anderton, about his experiences with Gibson (as a prelude, you should know that Anderton’s sell Gibson’s by the truckload). He said this “We’ve had thousands of Gibson guitars come through the store over the years, and as each one goes through our own stringent internal QC procedure before being entered into stock, and I’m baffled by this. I would say that around 1% of the guitars we get are failed by our own QC technicians, which isn’t out of line with many of guitar brands we deal with. In the whole of last year we had 7 Gibson guitars come through here with a broken headstock – the way the forums read, you’d think every other Gibson Les Paul had a busted headstock. Last year I shot a video where I compared the build quality of a used 80s Les Paul Standard to a new 2018 Les Paul Standard. The build quality on the new one was significantly better than the old one. In the end I decided not to post the video as I just felt that people would accuse me of having a vested interest in selling the new ones, which of course I have! The phrase Haters Gonna Hate comes to mind.” That paints quite a different picture than what we read, doesn’t it?
And finally… As always, the internet had an absolute field day with this story, and this leads me nicely to the best thing about the whole thing. I’m a member of a Facebook group called “Petalberdz of Derm” – it’s one of those groups that exists for the sake of fun (never harmful) and just talking about gear – mostly pedals. It’s one of the only places that gives me a genuine LOL almost every time I go in and the thing I’m most thankful for, it’s a completely safe haven from the people who sometimes frequent FB groups just to be smug and overtly opinionated - although we do talk about gear a lot in there, most of the time it’s just a group of people having a really good laugh. Yesterday, one of the more prolific agitators of silliness mocked up an article that appeared to be from The Financial Times about Joe Bonamassa buying Gibson… and someone took it outside the group and it went viral. I must admit, I saw it elsewhere and posted it on the Wampler IG page and it wasn’t until much later I found out that it was just a silly joke that went a little crazy. And boy, did it go crazy. So, Dermers, well played - you had us all.
Thinking about the JB angle, just imagine what would happen if someone like him did raise the capital and bought Gibson. What would Gibson look like, would it be the classic Gibson we all know and love, or would it be the most silly thing that’s ever been thought of? It’s questions like this that distract me way too much at dinner and gets me in trouble with the family. It’s been such a long time since we’ve been able to have banter about an ACTUAL guitar player ACTUALLY owning a gear company I hope it happens for that alone.
None of us know what the future holds for Gibson guitars, I’m pretty certain that like me you want them to continue and carry on making guitars and for them to be fundamentally great instruments - but I personally think that a period of ‘eye opening’ is needed by them to understand what is really happening out there. The stories that are spread about Gibson have an element of truth about them, but in no such way that Social Media will have you believe, and I think it’s come from people genuinely fed up with the lack of connection to one of their favourite brands. There is a fine line between love and hate.
The ball is in their court, let’s hope the pick it up and start throwing it in the right direction.
We had a great year here at Wampler and for that, I'd like to thank you all for your part in it.
Throughout this year we've launched ourselves back into the release schedule (after an extremely quiet year before) and seen some instant classics being put into boards all over the world!
First up was the Dracarys, a brutal high gain pedal that not only brings the brootalz but also more classic rock tones.
Ethereal - finally! Yeah we know, we first showed it 18 months ago and many people felt like we kept delaying it, we didn't, we just wanted to make sure it was right. And safe to say, Brian made it perfect!
Next up came The Doctor... inspired by a conversation that Brian had with Brad Paisley that led to some prototypes (SkyLine and WheelHouse) a few years back, finally released into the main line in 2017.
Speaking of Brad Paisley... The Paisley Drive Deluxe was up next. Having used the Paisley Drive now for 7 years Brad, Brad wanted us to incorportate his other favorite Wampler pedal into a unit, the Underdog. The Underdog has not been available for years and years now, so this was a welcome release for Brad fans everywhere!
And finally, the big one. Our most requested pedal EVER. When we bought out the Tumnus 2 years ago it was so well received it kinda blew us away, but we couldn't help but notice people wanted a full-size version and, well, they wanted it to be Wamplerized. Mainly with a three band EQ. We had a few hairy moments upon release as there was an issue with it, but we did everything we can to put it right for our dealers and most importantly, for you.
So, that was our year in pedals. We are extremely excited to bring you new stuff next year, I'm telling you now, it's already shaping up to be an amazing set of releases! Watch this space!
As always, it's not just about the pedals, we get up to all sorts of nonsense online as well, we host THE best gear group on Facebook, we have our regular FB page that we post stuff ranging from useful right down to extremely silly, we have a lively Instagram page, we tell stupid jokes on Twitter and Brian is always bringing it on our You Tube channel. What it is, I'm not sure, but he brings it. As you are reading this, you probably know about our blog, but it's worth checking out should you stumble across it. Finally, as tone chasers ourselves, we bring you the Chasing Tone podcast... We sometimes even talk about gear on there!
Unfortunately, an issue has been found with a select number of the new Tumnus Deluxe pedals that have been sent out. We have identified the problem and have already taken steps to rectify it. Unfortunately, a small number of units were sent out before this was completely identified so it may be that the unit you have in your hands is affected.
In a nutshell, the Tumnus Deluxe circuit is immensely complex compared to the mini and other pedals of its kind, and in order to maintain the core tone and response of the circuit, the signal is routed through so much ‘stuff’; the balance of response and tone has been intense, to say the least. The nutshell within a nutshell is that a few of them have issues with the PCB. Although all units shipped will still sound great, they just aren’t working absolutely perfectly.
Obviously, we want to make sure that every unit that goes out fits in with the vision that Brian had in his head, specifically his ears, so we are recalling the units that may be affected for a free mod. There is no easy way to do this, so we are offering you to return the unit to us, on our dime, to be rectified. We will send you a prepaid return label, and as soon as we receive notification (for this, we will require you to email us the tracking details) we will send you a replacement unit that is up to the standards that we, and you, demand from a Wampler product. They will cross in the post, and you will have a perfect unit as soon as humanly possible.
There is a quick way to tell if your pedal has the mod: Any Tumnus Deluxe pedal that have a serial number starting with "M" are ones that have already been fixed and will not require sending it to us. However, there have been a few retailers that have had their tech do the fix so make sure you ask them as well (at least for the batch affected... it may be a different method if you're reading this in 2018 or later).
Brian and all of us at team Wampler are extremely sorry that this has happened, but assure you our attention to the detail that drew you to us originally, is the reason behind this recall and our determination that every single unit out there is exactly right is driving this.
Please email us from here if you are a proud owner of the Tumnus Deluxe and you want the universe of awesome tone to be perfect with this free mod!
*Please note. Free shipping back to Wamp HQ only applies to USA customers, international customers should return the pedal back to the dealer it was bought from!
Paisley Drive Deluxe - Release date.
Due to unforeseen circumstances stemming from availability and Brian's constant demand for perfection, the release date for the Wampler Paisley Drive Deluxe has been amended to October 31st. Not only will this allow the global dealer base to ensure that they have the product in store for the release date, but it allows us to know that every product shipped meets his exacting standards and people all around the world can get it in their rigs, on release date, no matter where they live.
The thirst for perfection, it's what drives us.
Believe me, no one is more glad than we are that the Ethereal has finally been released! We first previewed it at NAMM 2016 - yes, 18 months ago - and we were telling people that it would be a few months. Well, that was the plan. Unfortunately, stuff happens which means that other stuff doesn't happen and things get delayed, so I'd like to thank you all for your patience, I hope it will be worth the wait for you!
I first played the Ethereal at NAMM '16, and to be honest, it was a 'meh' moment for me - but I'm not an ambient type player, I like notes more than I like the space between them (and yes, that means I'm a shredder, either dirty with rock or clean with country) so it didn't hit met at all... fast forward to NAMM '17 and I played the next version of it (also, I was in post spinal surgery hell in '16, so not sure I would have liked anything to be honest) and I liked it much more, the reverb was lush and the delay patterns were really interesting. So, my hopes came up a little... As we approached release day one landed at home and I got to spend some real quality time with it, time to truly appreciated it for what it is.
So, what is it? In a nutshell it's a dual delay and reverb pedal. The reverb is a big deep plate style, it's truly gorgeous. The dual delay has a consistent 1/4 note repeat and on top you can lay triplets, dotted 8ths and a self oscillating ambient thing that makes it sound really lush, I must admit, the first day I played it at home the 20 minute limit I put on myself to explore it turned into 3 hours, which ended up in a Pink Floyd heaven type jam with Mrs Wilding on Piano and two kids that ended up yelling at us to please be quiet as it's now bedtime :D
Here's what I love about it, there is something extremely special about the reverb, it's so lush without being overbearing, it sits within the dry tone so well (even at higher levels) and just makes you feel like you are within it, I've never quite heard a reverb like it. Well, I have, but really expensive Lexicon's back in the day, but since then, nothing. They all seem to leave me cold. The you add the delays on top of it, this is where the fun really starts. I went into some classical heaven (I knew there was a reason I learned Cavatina back in the 90's), some interesting Satriani melodic tapping type thing, chords... Edge, Gilmour... yeah, it's fun. Really fun. I had a great time making the suggested settings with Alex, I could get everything from Floyd's Run Like Hell, to a big Spring style reverb with various reflections, U2's Bad and every ambient thing you can possibly imagine. I found myself playing chords and just enjoying how they fell together with all the repeats floating around behind them, makes you sound so musical.
Also, of course, it's so easy to use you won't believe. A massive ambient pedal that doesn't look like the flight bridge of the space shuttle. Ideal.
Received an email from Lee this morning that was a great thing to wake up to!
It's great that something so good can come of something so silly!
Wampler Pedals would like to thank: Lee, Avi, Chappers, Bea, Dan, Mick, Danish Pete, Mr Paul freakin' Gilbert and everyone who bought the pedal!
Follow up video:
My absolute favourite part of this job is the creative process and the sometime silly things that come of it. Over the years I've had the pleasure of working with Brian, Travis, Max, Jeff, Alex... so many people and with each one we've had moments of utter brilliance (even if I do say so myself) that have created some great products and moments.
One of the best parts of it all, for me, has been the concept of the silly pedal graphics. I did my first for Christmas in 2011 and we've been doing them regularly ever since, I have an extremely short attention span and when I have photoshop in front of me things tend to happen to relieve my boredom - I think we might have been the first to do an April Fool pedal graphic way back then, and then we upped the game in 2014 when we did the video for the HAIRstortion (that came from a drunken conversation between Brian and I over dinner at NAMM, we were crying with laughter in a very nice restaurant and receiving some extremely interesting looks from the staff and other customers, but you know.... meh).
Come the start of March I had realised we'd not even considered an April Fool thing, and had all but conceded to the other companies that have also started to do it, as we were going to miss out this year. Shame, but we've been really busy and the inspiration hadn't hit yet...
All this started on March 9th, a Thursday at about 17:50 or so, Lee Anderton posted a video on his page and I commented on his tone, which was lovely. He shot straight back with a typical Lee comment (I first met Lee in January 2012 at NAMM, over the years we've done dinner, we've done banter, they've become one of the biggest selling dealers we have, he's cut me some great deals on some gear... so, you know, this wasn't random, I've known him as an industry guy for years), and within 20 minutes the idea was born!
You can take a look at the conversation here (look for my "nice tone mate" comment and then read the thread that came from it), kudos to Lee for the initial idea, and then it went to email and we had the entire thing planned out in 30 minutes from my first comment to me making this in photoshop and sending it to Lee as a concept for April Fool...
When thinking about things like this, especially if you intend to make a couple for a video, you tend to use a casing etc that is already in production, that way there will be units already around and it's much easier for the guys in manufacturing to complete. As this was basic, I used the casing of the dB+. Font was a free one from one of the free font sites, happy days, and it was done. I sent it to Lee, he absolutely loved it... As you can imagine, in order to get this filmed and ready for April first, we had absolutely no time to mess around. Lee needed them ASAP so it was all systems go.
I emailed Brian, Avi and Steve (Avi is the boss of manufacturing and distribution so EVERYTHING goes through him eventually... Steve is the director of marketing for the company that Avi heads - Steve is in overall charge of transferring my pedal graphics on to the unit and their general appearance etc) with the outline, the graphic, the assets for the graphic and most importantly the timeline... I knew I didn't have to convince BW that this was a good idea as he gets 'it' and he did, the trouble I saw was convincing Avi that this would be something worth doing from a marketing perspective. Avi got it straight away, he saw what this was, who it was, and why we were doing it and just said "No need to keep me in the email chain, just do what you need" which was tremendous! Steve printed a couple of cases up, we put the dB+ circuit in and they overnighted it all the way from California to Andertons over here in sunny ol' England.
Lee had already said he was trying to get others involved, I asked Brian to shot the breadboard section (I love things like this, because I get to script and direct the worlds best analogue pedal designer at a breadboard and he just trusts me and does it and he always does it perfectly) and we sent it over, Lee told me about a week before the reveal they'd got Paul Gilbert in on it, Chappers, Bea and Danish Pete, and of course Dan and Mick from That Pedal Show... I was SO excited to see it as not only are all of those guys ace, but each are individually funny in their own right, I knew that Andertons were putting full production values into it, so this was going to be amazing... I hoped! Lee and I were spending a lot of time trying to convince the guys that we should make a run of these to sell for charity, and it didn't look like we have the capacity to do a small individual run like this, but once Antony (the sales sale rep for Europe) got involved it happened! More about that later!
March 31st... TC Electronics and JHS Pedals released their April Fool videos a day early, the cheeky monkeys! I thought Tore's was genius, the Vacuum Compact Kill Switch Pedal, hats off lads, excellent work - they do keep us on our toes ...
Here is the video!
As you can see, it turned out fantastic. Each person in the video played it perfectly, tremendous display of dead pan humour and the production is incredible. :)
The following day, Andertons released this...
18 hours after the launch of the first video and it's already been viewed over 47,000 times. The follow up over 6,000... Andertons put 25 pedals up for sale at 10am and within a matter of minutes they had all gone, so that's £1500 to the Teenage Cancer Trust for what was effectively a silly idea and some banter... Wonderful.
So, 2018... I'm already thinking about it. :)