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. :)
A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of dropping by That Pedal Shed to drop off a Bravado demo amp... that we are hopefully will be featured in lots of videos of That Pedal Show in the future! ;)
After a horrendous drive up (I had to leave at silly o'clock not only to be there on time but to also miss the traffic bottlenecks at rush hour), I rolled into the Tone Shed just as the guys were setting up.
Dan and Mick had swung by the booth at NAMM this year and were interested in the Bravado amp and what it actually meant for guitar players, so once we had all got back Dan and I liaised and we set a date for me to go visit. Now, that Pedal Shed is in a gloriously normal Wilshire spot, tucked away in a completely uneventful business park, that is blissfully unaware of the magic that happens within, it always makes me smile when I go up just how unassuming the place is! The first time I visited Dan at the GigRig was about 3 or 4 years ago, back when it was just GigRig HQ and within it was a typically chaotic work space with pedals, amps, PCB's, switches, components and the general chaos of a productive workspace. Since then I've been back a few times, and each time it's been slowly transformed to the place we know today, GigRig is now run from an adjoining unit with the original location now the studio out back and general rig based workstation in front.
The best thing about walking into that place is the lovely welcome you get when you walk in, both Dan and Mick are genuinely lovely people so it's always a delight to walk in and start chatting (Mick and I had a lot of blushes to cover up, we'd last seen each other at a Joey Landreth gig crying like babies at the beauty of the music), so after that, I grabbed the Bravado, as well as my home made cab, and in we went.
These days, it's kinda strange to walk into that same room, the original workshop, as you know it so well as the Pedal Shed. Strangely enough, the only thing I can compare it too is when we took the kids to see the Harry Potter studio tour earlier this year, you just kinda knew the place before walking in!
I was lucky enough to be invited to stay for the filming of a couple of episodes, the Pedal Platform special and the Binson EchoRec (in fact, it's my crappy brown Adidas you can see in the top left of the screen when the EchoRec is shown) and was treated to a behind the scenes view of the entire thing. Dan and Mick work so well together, they intentionally don't really discuss the products that are on the show that much, preferring to see how they react to each others thoughts and comments. Dan is generally the nerd, what he doesn't know about pedals you can write on the back of a postage stamp with a paint roller, and Mick's practical experience of gear journalism makes a great blend. Plus, they've been mates for years so the jokes you see are unrehearsed, just two mates trying to make each other laugh as often as possible.
Before filming, we had a really long chat about the concept of pedal platforms, what they are, what people think they are, what other companies think they are, how much is marketing faff, how much of it is reality and what is what. They had a quick play through it to make sure levels were correct and then the filming started. So, what you see on screen is them discovering it properly, we didn't specifically select the effects, Dan just took the ones he wanted to try and played them. I was a little nervous when I noticed that we were up against a Mesa Lonestar head, which retails at around £1000 more than the Bravado and has a stellar reputation, so it really was a trail by fire, and a trail that was likely to be viewed by almost 50K people in the first 7 days.
In the room, the Bravado sounded phenomenal - hopefully you can hear on the video about how much more articulate it was than the mesa when using pedals!
Here is the other video filmed that day, Bravado is all over it! Can't wait to see what they do next with it!