Empress Effects is steadily growing a serious fanbase professional guitarists and gearheads all around the world (and the internet). Many have heard of the Superdelay, and most have caught the buzz of their recent pedal release: the Multidrive.
So what is fueling this budding boutique effects company’s ship? It’s good ole’ fashioned ingenuity and a dedication to bringing new ideas to pedalboards around the world. Steve Bragg and team have created (and are still creating) some of the most versatile guitar effects on the market today. None of their effects are “set it and leave it” style pedals. They’re all focused on giving you the most options possible, in the smallest enclosure possible.
Let’s dive in and here it straight from the owner of Empress Effects, Steve Bragg.
Interview with Steve Bragg (Empress Effects)
SSS: During your tenure as an electrical engineering student at Queen’s University, did you think you’d end up starting a line of high-end guitar effects? How did you come to this decision?
Steve: In university I thought a lot about starting a business. Although I did mess around with electronics a lot, I don’t remember thinking about doing an effects company. After university, I started a web design company. It was a huge failure. I can’t tell what looks good, the walls are bare in my house, and I still have light blue carpets. So thinking I’d be any good at website design was stupid.
SSS: As you look back on the success of Empress Effects, what do you feel are the biggest impacts you’ve had on guitarists, and the guitar market in general?
Steve: That’s hard to say. I get a lot of positive emails thanking us for the pedals we make. Though, in the grand scheme of things, we’re still really small. Most guitarists haven’t heard of us, so I don’t get to see our pedals in action much.
SSS: Who are some of the popular artists using your effects, which do they use, and how are they using them?
Steve: Andy Summers (tremolo), Our Lady Peace (tremolo and Superdelay), Sam Roberts Band (Superdelay), Captain Kirk Douglas from The Roots (Tremolo) and DJ Champion (like 5 Superdelays) come to mind. Maybe one day the Black Keys and Blur will return my emails about whether or not they’re using our stuff!
SSS: Which is your preferred Empress effect? What setting do you covet most?
Steve: The Superdelay for sure. Reverse mode C with the feedback turned up is pretty awesome!
SSS: The Multidrive hit the market in a big way when it was released. What do you think the reason was, and what is unique about this pedal?
Steve: I don’t think it’s a secret that distortion type pedals outsell all other kinds of effects by quite a large margin. Guitarists are used to combining dirt pedals to get a bigger spectrum of sound. But even just putting two distortion pedals in series quickly turns into a mess. The big idea behind the Multidrive is the ability to mix three separate dirt circuits in parallel. This means you can get crazy sounds while still being able to hear what notes are being played.
SSS: The Superdelay is one the most feature-rich delay pedals on the market. What are some of the more interesting applications of this pedal that you’ve heard?
Steve: Another cool mode on the Superdelay is the Rhythm mode.
People seem to be pretty happy about the tape mode on the Vintage Modified Superdelay.
SSS: Talk to us about the possibilities with the ParaEQ.
Steve: When we first released the ParaEq, it didn’t sell that well. I don’t think people realized how much of an effect a parametric equalizer can have on your sound. Put it before or after a dirt pedal and it changes everything. If you have a problem with your tone, a lot of the time the controls on your guitar or amp aren’t versatile enough to fix it. This kind of stuff is perfect for the ParaEq. It’s been steadily increasing in sales since we released it, which is kind of rare. Pro Guitar Shop probably makes the best videos for explanations of our pedals:
SSS: The Tap Tremolo is also a very versatile pedal, offering tap tempo and two speed modes, various waveforms and more. What are some of the unique usages of this pedal that guitarists may not be aware of?
Steve: I think the syncopated rhythms feature is a bit misunderstood. People usually mistake them for waveforms. Here’s a good video where the guitarist goes through the various rhythms, and there’s Portishead riffs. Bonus!
SSS: The Phaser also offers a tap tempo feature, but what else makes this such a unique phaser pedal?
Steve: The Empress Phaser has 8 auto modes. It can do a ton of stuff, ranging from sample-and-hold…
…to an envelope follower…
…to being controlled by midi…
…I’d say it sounds really good too!
SSS: What’s on the horizon for Empress effects?
Steve: Short term we’re going to be releasing a compressor pretty soon. It’s a studio-grade compressor in an effects box. Long term we’ve been working with the Blackfin processor. It’s a super powerful chip that will let us do things that we could have never done with the Superdelay. Not sure when pedals based on that are going to be out, but it’s definitely something to look forward to.