Do you still manufacture the CAA amps?
John Suhr does that—I sold the rights
to him. I don’t make amps anymore.
I got into building hardware because
there wasn’t the hardware out there
to do what I wanted it to do. I never
wanted to be a big hardware manufacturer,
so I collaborate with other people.
I like building systems and working
with the end user.
So you are concentrating on
Absolutely, I have a new foot controller,
the RS-T, which is an evolution of
my old RS system.
Take us through the evolution.
When I started, the switches were what
you call direct access, or instant access;
there weren’t any presets. That’s why my
boards were so big: you had an individual
switch for each effect. The evolution
from there was being able to hit
one switch and make multiple things
happen. I came up with a scheme for
having programmable preset combinations
of these instant access switches.
There was no MIDI at the time, no
microprocessor involved, no code—it
was all static memory chips.
So you had one set of switches for
individual effects and a separate set
Exactly, and it had switches to move up
and down banks. Rocktron came along
and wanted to come out with a system
based on mine. They added a character
display so you could name the presets. We
worked together through the ’80s and ’90s.
CAE custom switchers
come in any size and
configuration that will fit a
In the meantime I wanted a simpler
system, so I developed the RS-10, with
10 direct access switches, four preset
switches and two switches for bank up
and bank down—16 total. You could
expand that with an expander unit that
had six more direct access and two more
preset switches that would sit on the
floor right next to the RS-10. It had just
a three-digit display. The Rocktron thing
ended, but I continued building RS-10
systems for hundreds of name players.
A few years ago I developed the
RS-T. Based on the RS-10, it is MIDI,
has a beautiful vacuum-fluorescent
display for naming presets, inputs for
four controller pedals, and is expandable
from an eight-switch version to a
40-switch version. It is now assignable:
You can decide what any one of those
eight to 40 switches do.
In other words, you can decide
whether they are direct access to one
effect or a preset switch?
Or both—they are all direct access in
“direct mode.” In “preset mode” you
decide how many are preset switches.
Say you have 16 switches, you can set
it up so eight are direct access and eight
are presets, but in direct mode they are
all direct access. When you are in direct
mode the LEDs are red, in preset mode
they are blue. If they are programmed to
be momentary switches, they are yellow.
There are seven or eight colors, depending
on their function and 200 possible
presets. It is still evolving: We finally got
SysEx going so you can back up presets to
the computer, and we have USB ports on
them so we can develop editing software.
How have gear setups changed in
It has gone more towards pedals. From
the beginning, for me, it has always
been about the interfacing of pedals
with rackmount pieces. It got very
rackmount heavy in the ’80s, now it has
come back around to mostly pedals these
days. Pedals are compact, and you can
spend a couple hundred bucks and have
a new sound.
The rack stuff got a bad rap over time,
but that was just a format for the sounds. It
is harder putting together systems with pedals—
you have so many different voltages
and connectors. Also, think about it: You
are spending $300 for this pedal and then
you are stomping on it. That is another
reason I wanted to get the stuff up off of
Eddie Van Halen with his 5150-tour switching
system—the first rig Bradshaw ever designed for
How are you dealing with this trend
That’s the thing I am most excited about
pursuing these days: a pedalboard-based
switching system. That’s why the RS-T
controller is long and thin: so it can fit on a
pedalboard. I don’t like pedalboard switchers
where the loops and controller is one unit,
where you are stomping on the audio router.
I prefer a controller that you step on,
with your pedals sitting in between that and
an audio loop router that you patch into
on the perimeter of the board, or what I
call the audience side. It is still a two-part
system, it’s just that the audio router and
pedals are no longer back at a rack.
Are you selling the pedalboard
Oh yeah, there are dozens of them out
there. The controller is an off-the-shelf
piece, but the audio routers are custom
built. Everybody’s rig is different, that’s what
makes this still fun after 30-some years: One
guy’s system might be stereo, another mono;
one guy might need eight inputs, another
just four; one might want to use the effects
loop of an amp, and someone else might use
a preamp and a power amp.
My systems are based on a format of
switchable functions. These functions
might be a loop, or a switchable output—
to send the signal to various amps. It might
be a control function: maybe an isolated
relay contact closer, for doing channel
switching. Then there are subsets like A/B
switches, A/B combiners, mixer circuits,
and summing amps.
If you want something custom built,
I am the guy who can do it. Sometimes
it might take a while because it is labor
intensive. I have an assistant or two, and an
assembly house that puts together the RS-T
units, but my hands are on everything
before it goes out of here.
Do you just supply the system or do you
wire up the whole thing?
It is all built and wired by my assistant or
me. There is a science to laying all these
things out—it’s like a game of Tetris. You’ve
got all these pedals in all these different
sizes, and everybody wants it small, and
light, and that ain’t easy. That’s the biggest
trend, smaller and lighter.