Justin Everman, an enduring effects pedal designer, has provided guitarists with a collection of products that live up to his reputation. In this interview, Justin gives detailed descriptions of his products and their uses, a glimpse into the world of a pedal maker, and even where he has recently found Carmen Sandiego!
Get to Know the Everman Fuzz Drive G2
SSS: How did you get started building effects pedals?
J.Everman: I’d have to say “necessity is the mother of invention” here. I was in school at the time working on my Electronic Engineering degree which meant two things. 1) I had no cash to buy effects that I wanted, 2) I had a lot of parts and test gear in the labs to play with…. I could never find that tone that was stuck in my head and the only option, considering the finances at the time, was to build pedals for myself, it kind of took off from there.
SSS: What is the founding philosophy behind your pedal designs?
J.Everman: Quality in construction and tone, simple elegance of design.
SSS: Describe to us your line of effects pedals.
J.Everman: We have 4 standard products right now, but a lot of custom mods.
1) The Fuzz Drive G2 – My search to find a fuzz pedal that was NOT raspy and sustained the bottom end of my Stratocaster lead me to this design. The Fuzz Drive is just that, a fuzz and an overdrive in one. You can control both parameters independently of each other to dial in the best sound for the gear you have. Its designed to work with your amp and not against it….that is you will hear the sound of our amp and guitar still but better. Its dynamic and that’s what sets it apart, it responds to your amp and sounds like part of it, not just hacked on like most fuzz pedals do….but best of all, there are no mosquito fuzz tones in it at all, but instead full and warm fuzz, yea we got that instead.
2) The Octave-X – A unique Octave Fuzz circuit to say the least. Its based on a dual transformer driven germanium ring modulation matrix being pushed by a modified FDG2 circuit. This Octave unit can get tones that are very usable everywhere on the neck, not just past the 12th fret like some others….its also less raspy than most other octave fuzz units. One of the hi-fi features of this unit is that when you are not playing its almost silent almost like a quality noise gate. There is more octave here and less fuzz than with most units so it appeals to those who like to keep things pretty clean as well.
3) The Low Fi Filter – This is our newest creation, just released in mid March actually. This unit gives you TONS OF TONES. Its a combination of a Fuzz pedal, a Booster, an Octave, a Wah pedal, Noise source and a filter bank all in one. You can get some great AM or Telephone quality tones out of this thing. This is great from solos or portions of songs that break into a lo fi riff from time to time (lots of industrial tones can be had here). It also has a cool unique fuzz in it and you can do that static filtered wah pedal sound with it as well. To much to really cover here, check out our website or email me if you want a complete run down….
4) “The Pot” – Basically a volume pedal that you set and forget. Its an extension of your guitar’s volume control. Most people who buy these find themselves putting their foot rocker volume controls at the same spot over and over and in a live performance its hard to do the same each time, the pot solves this problem. Set the dial and just stomp on to go to that volume level each time, no guessing, problem solved….
SSS: What’s the concept behind and possible applications for your newest pedal, the Low Fi Filter?
J.Everman: For the experimentalists out there, the Low Fi Filter is for you. The idea here was to build an affordable filter (sub $200) that allowed you to really change up your amps sound in an instant. There are hundreds of different settings and combinations possible. Six internal switches are settable by the user, these switches reconfigure the tone of the pedal and activate additional filters, fuzz, and noise sources. You can get pretty clean and filtered or really fuzzed out and hissing if you so choose. This baby was build for my needs originally, but so many people liked the idea it became a production unit.
SSS: Describe your Big Muff mod in further detail.
J.Everman:In a nut shell,
- Convert the pedal to true bypass
- Replace the wires with Teflon insulated, silver wicked copper strand wire
- Replace the jacks with quality Switchcraft jacks (TM)
- Replace the LED with a water clear led (color is buyers choice)
- Replace the transistors, all of them with lower noise better tone ones
New Six Pack mod:
- This mod adds a 6 position switch to the back of the pedal. It reconfigures the pedals tone stack to give the user a wide varity of sounds from a single pedal. The values of the tone stack increase as the dial is turned giving you different ranges of tonal control, like 6 pedals in one!
SSS: Solidly built and functional pedal boards have often been a challenge for guitarists, if not an afterthought. Describe your “DIY” pedalboard for $20 or less” product, and how it can help to alleviate this problem.
J.Everman: This is a work in progress, for the DIY crowd out there. We we are working- on a CD ROM that give you lots of pics and instructions on how to build your own pedal board for cheap….All the stuff you need is available at most hardware stores. We built the test one, the one I use personally now, for well under $15 actually. We have been very busy with other projects right now so this one has been delayed….if I see more interest I will pick it back up and move forward again. I let the market drive the direction we go here.
SSS: How do you test your effects to make sure they meet your
standards? What gear do you use?
J.Everman: We used to throw them from moving vehicles 😉 to simulate abuse seen on the road….there are some of the test units on the market we sold for cheap, they had new guts after we beat them up but the cases were…well loved looking…. Based on that, we knew the parts and layouts we were using were sound, those same parts go into each unit. As for QC checking, we have a checklist for each pedal to make sure they are built to spec. I personally play though and test each one with both an Oscilloscope and though our Marshall amp test rig. Waveforms and math can only tell you so much, it still can’t tell you if the pedal has great tone though, that’s what the final amp test is for……
When we create new units we build A LOT of prototypes to test different concepts of the designs until we are happy with the results.
SSS: What genre of musician will your effects suit best?
J.Everman: I dont think I can narrow that down to just 1 genre. I’d say:
SSS: Is it difficult running a pedal business?
J.Everman: Its a labor of love, if you dont enjoy doing this sort of thing then I dont think you can put out a good product. You have to put a bit of soul into these things we call effects pedals or they are just life less, I think the players can tell, I know I can.
SSS: How long have you been building?
J.Everman: I have been at this for over 4 years now offically but was building many years before, just not selling units at that time….
SSS: How much help do you have?
J.Everman: Little to none, the elves take to many lunch breaks and are busy with building toys for children at Christmas most times, I get to build alot the pedals myself due to that…..but really, I stay totally involved with the builds and keep quality high. I learned early on the importance of both quality parts and constuction. Quality = Good products = Happy customers = No returns = Happy Business owner, not a hard equation to understand…….
SSS: Where do you envision J.Everman Effects headed in the future?
J.Everman: Where are effects headed in the future…..we are constantly working on new designs, who knows whats next….we have an R&D page on our website: www.jeverman.com Here we post information on what we are working on, what ideas we have for products and what concepts we are looking to get feedback on. Visitors contribute suggestions and ideas for pedals and improvements. This information helps us to grow and keep intouch with what people are really looking for in the world of pedals.
SSS: Every company goes through constant evolution to improve their product and appearance in the market.
J.Everman: We started out doing hand layouts and the etching of PCB’s, that took FOREVER, 3 years ago we moved up to CAD layout and a PCB fab building the boards, so that takes hours off the process…. Once again quality comes into play, you need good parts to build a good product….identify those parts that stand the test of time, see what works on vintage gear and what breaks and you will know how to build something that will be a keeper.
SSS:What types of changes have occurred to your business to help make it successful?
J.Everman: What changes need to be make to make one sucessful? I think it all really rests on customer service and support. Getting the customer the help or information they need to make an informed decision is very key to sucess. If they are happy, you will be happy. Happy customers means good business and more business, it kind of takes off from there…..dont want to share too many of my secrets now do I…..
SSS: What is your relationship with other gear builders or guitarists in general?
J.Everman: Really just a bit of ocassional chat between us, a few emails or posts to web forums, not alot of interaction, but I try to keep uptodate as to what everyone is working on. I have no interest in building something new and cool if another builder is about to release nearly the same product, we need new designs and innovation now these days.
SSS: What are some of your favorite effects from other builders?
J.Everman: Other builders stuff… Anyone of the many innovators out there……they have my respect. Yea thats really general, I know. Next question……..
SSS: What musicians have had the greatest impact on your life and your pedal building?
J.Everman: Hendrix, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Smashing Pumpkins to name a few.
SSS: How much of a musician would you consider yourself? Have you ever toured with a band or as a solo artist? What kind of rigs did you play? What do you play now?
J.Everman: Well you can play more guitar or build more pedals in my world and since I dont tour and dont have a band right now the choice is made for me…..build more pedals…..I get some pracice time in though, heck I play each pedal before they ship.
J.Everman: Currently I am using a Marshall JCM900 and Fender Strat. I am definately a Strat guy overall and though I like Marshalls and Mesa amps, I have been seen on a Fender amp or two before as well…..its a mood thing and again, let the tone you are looking for determine the rig you use. You cant force it or it just wont sound right, as the saying goes, “use the right tool for the job”.
SSS: What are your favorite examples of how musicians have used their gear to increase their expressiveness?
J.Everman: I think alot of times musicians hear the music in their heads and are just looking for the tools to get that information out. Gear is a tool that lets them do that. I dont know if it increases there expressiveness as much as it gives them the opportunity to express that which is already inside of them. But yes new pedals have given some people ideas for songs so I guess we are both right here. Apparently I need to eat more i’m starting to get off topic….need sugar……ok I’m back now…..(munching on a chocolate bar)…..next question.
SSS: With your years of tonal wisdom, how would you design the ideal rig for flexibility and purity of tone? What would your guitar, amplifier, and effects of choice be? How would your signal chain go?
J.Everman: Hard to say, different types of music require different gear, so in general there is not one do everything rig unless I can have 4 guitars, 30 effects and 10 amps in one rig 😉
SSS: There are many digital mulit-effect units being produced today by large corporations. If you had to build an analog multi-effect unit, what effects would you include? What about routing possibilities?
J.Everman: Funny that was actually my Senior EE Project before graduation. We integrated a wah pedal, a fuzz and a vibe in a single case. We then used an analog switching setup that reorganized the effects to change the sound. A single knob was used to switch the order the effects were chained in. This was all housed in a sturdy steel case that would survive a nuclear war……..
SSS: What is the secret to good tone?
J.Everman: Buy J.Everman pedals 😉 Sorry could not resist that one….. I think tone is a very subjective thing and though we can mostly agree on a general sound being “good tone”, I find that some will like “more bass” or “more mids” or “more sustain” you get the idea. So with that I build as much flexibility into each pedal as I can go give the user the chance to make the pedal work for their personal needs.
SSS: Where is the last place you would suspect to find Carmen Sandiego? What would she be doing, and what item from the game of “Clue” would she be holding?
J.Everman: Carmen and Waldo (of Where’s Waldo? fame) are here in the shop building pedals since my Elves are now on strike asking for longer lunch hours and new outfits that are not “so green” in color……Oh dont look now but Carmen has the knife from “CLUE” and is chasing the elves around….guess she would rather be in Paris than building pedals. Not a half bad idea I guess. You ask questions like that…you get replies like this 😉
For more information, please visit the website for Everman Custom Analog..