JHS Pedals has taken the boutique effects pedal industry by storm in recent years. In this interview, Six String Soul sits down with its founder, Josh Scott, to discuss how JHS pedals got its start, some of their collaborations and a review of some of their popular pedals, including some very unique utility pedals.
Subscribe to the SSS guitar blog before 12/25/2015 to enter a random drawing for a chance to win a NEW JHS Twin Twelve. The Twin Twelve, from JHS Pedals, is modeled after the 1963 Silvertone 1484 guitar amplifier…a 60 watt cult-classic celebrated by artists such as Jeff Beck and Jack White. It’s the first of of its kind to model this legendary amplifier.
You say that you grew up being not really that interested in music, but one day you heard Pearl Jam with your brother and the light bulb went off in your head. All these years later, how important is that moment in relation to your pedal designs and experience as a boutique pedal builder?
It is responsible for helping me appreciate music and sounds. I remember feeling whatever it was in me that is now common, that joy in music, that pleasure from a melody or a sound. Yeah, I may have heard something later but I didn’t, I heard Ten and it made me fall in love with sounds.
With all those year spent fixing broken pedals and tinkering with circuitry in the 2000s, what has it taught you about guitar gear, using it for musical expression and what advice would you give to guitarists who are continuously experimenting with tones to achieve new inspiration?
First off, I still tinker. I just tinker with more knowledge. Designing a circuit is no different than writing a song, you reach for something and you can only reach out of what you know. There are accidental chords discovered and accidental elements of a design that you can stumble onto, but it has to come from fighting for it. I would tell guitarists out there who need inspiration to start looking in places that they never look. Don’t be afraid to use the “uncool” thing or learn the style you said that you hate so many times. It’s healthy.
Tell us about the foundation of JHS pedals, specifically the All American, Morning Glory and Pulp ‘n Peel. Starting off with overdrive/distortion and compressor designs is not uncommon, but what led you to target the Rat, Bluesbreaker and Orange Squeezer designs?
When I started back in the day, I was a guitar player, not an engineer. I knew what I knew and that was what I had used as a player. Those were three of my favorite pedals and I asked the question, “How can they be better?” I don’t think anyone on earth starts the profession they have knowing everything they need to know. Most don’t even know what they need to know. That was me.
I started with building blocks that I liked as a player and did it for myself. Over the years, I have learned more than I ever thought I would need to know. Now I can have an idea and sometimes see the circuits, fragments and tools I need to get there. The designs are more complex and the ideas seem to be bigger, but those easy building block designs are still fun, and they are what people usually want as well. Imagine the pedal world with no Tube Screamer!?
Break down some of your other favorite pedal designs that you’ve made, and what types of music or tones they would be good for as guitarists are investigating your line of effects and choosing which one(s) would be best for them.
I try to make effects that any player can use. I never design for the country player or the metal player. I design for the guitar player because we are not all that different. We want quality, consistency and things that help us love what we do. My favorite designs are the ColourBox, Pulp N Peel and the new Muffuletta. This will change, but for now that’s where I am.
Tell us about some of your lesser-known guitar pedals, such as (but not limited to) the Stutter Switch and Little Black Amp Box, for example.
Yeah. We have a lot of what we call utility pedals, and they do a lot of simple things in a simple and cost-effective way. The Stutter Switch is a manual tremolo of sorts that momentarily kills your signal when touched. The Little Black Amp Box goes in the FX Loop of loud amps and acts as a faux attenuator so you can play at low volumes with full tone. Some others are the Mute Switch, Triple Tap and Little Black Buffer. We have several cool utilities.
What about your mods? You seem to be putting out a wide array of mods, offering (what seems to be) a mod for any request that comes into your shop. Do you aim to fulfill every request? What are some of the most unique mods you’ve done for guitarists?
I started with mods. It’s how I learned what a circuit was and does. Basically we look at pedals on the market, and if we think “we could add this or that to it” we will try it. If it’s cool, we offer it. It’s really a simple process, and people appreciate it because in a lot of cases mods are a more affordable way to get a more boutique product.
There’s obviously a wealth of high quality guitar pedals on the market these days. Truly a golden era. But, exceptional pedal builders offer at least some unique advantages within their approach and designs. What are some of the advantages that JHS pedals bring to a guitarist’s pedalboard?
I think we have a few, but one of the main things we offer is new ideas. I love the old stuff and I use it, but I really strive to do things that haven’t been done in some way. We want to be unique and set apart in that way.
Tell us about your collaborations with artists and other gear builders. The Steak N Eggs pedal collaboration with Robert Keeley, for example, looked like a win-win-win for everyone (you, Robert and your customers).
The Steak N Eggs was amazing for me as Robert (Keeley) is why I got into this industry. He is one of the most awesome guys I’ve ever met–full of ideas, passion for what he does, and he is about as generous as you can get. The Steak N Eggs is now available to all our dealers and has done well. We’re both excited to have pulled it off!
Do you have any particularly interesting stories behind the naming or creation of your pedals?
So many. One thing is that I often name, brand and think through the marketing of a product before I have a circuit. I have been told this is odd. LOL!
You talk about the industry evolving quite frequently these days. How do you see it evolving in the future, and how does JHS plan to evolve its pedal designs with it?
I think you evolve with your industry by being in front and hopefully being one of the leaders who leads that evolution. That would be my hope!
In one word, how would you describe JHS effects? Please explain.
SIMPLE. A beginner or expert can enjoy them in less than 60 seconds without a manual.
Thanks for your time, Josh! Can you give your fans a hint toward your next pedal release?
You know I’m secretive, but it’s colorful.