Do you take custom orders?
We used to, but we just can’t keep up with it—I’m the only one who can do custom stuff. Most of the people who work here do it like paint by numbers: They get a build sheet and they only know how to build our pedals. If someone wanted a purple Organizer [an EarthQuaker pedal that produces organ-like effects] with a boost function, I would be the only one who could do that— and I don’t have the time.

We have hired more and more people, so actually building pedals has been out of my hands for a year, if not longer. My daily routine involves answering a ton of emails and fielding questions from everyone in the shop. My final hands-on thing with the pedals is hand-screening them and doing all the repairs. Sometimes we do custom colors for people because they happened to write us just when I was about to order enclosures, so I can throw in a one-off color. But in terms of fully custom pedals, I just don’t have the time— which sucks for me, because I like doing stuff like that. Occasionally, I will do a limited run of fuzz pedals because I like doing them.

Are you working on any new pedal designs right now?
I haven’t had time lately to design anything new, but I had a lot of free time last year so I have a backlog of ideas and prototypes for new pedals.

Why EarthQuaker “Devices,” rather than “Effects” or “Pedals”?
It is my obsession with old things—it sounds like an old Japanese pedal company. It’s the same reason I use “machine” on the end of some of the pedal names. I always thought the old Foxx Tone Machine name was really cool, or the Hornby-Skewes Zonk Machine, which is my favorite name for a pedal—ever.

What kind of pedal was that?
I believe it was a treble booster into a Fuzz Face. I’ve never seen one, though.

Some EarthQuaker nomenclature can be a little vague. For example, is there any bit reduction going on in the Bit Commander synth pedal?
No—that confused everyone at first. I was thinking in terms of 8-bit sound as opposed to a bit crusher. Maybe I should have saved the name Bit Commander for a bit crusher pedal! [Laughs.]

Lastly, Production Manager Jeff France places knobs on the various pedals. Photo by Stephanie Falk

Is the Attack knob on the Ghost Echo a predelay?
Yes. That is another one of those confusing things that makes total sense to me, but when we first put it out people were like, “What is this?” I like to hover in the space somewhere between reality and being totally cryptic. About 50 percent of our pedals don’t have instructions for that very reason. Just plug it in and mess around with it and you will figure it out.

Was the White Light Overdrive a reference to Lou Reed’s “White Light, White Heat”?
No, I wish I were cool enough to say it was—not that I was unfamiliar with that song. I seem to go through phases when naming pedals. I was coming off an animal phase and moving into a short-lived color phase with that pedal.

Why would you call an amazingsounding fuzz Dream Crusher?
My wife named that.

Because you spent time designing it instead of taking her to dinner?
Yeah, right. I think I had the graphic before we had the name. It is based on the skull inside the dream catcher.

It seems a little pessimistic to call your delays—the Disaster Transport and Disaster Transport Jr.—“disasters”?
Dispatch Master [reverb/delay] and Disaster Transport are both Ohio references. Disaster Transport is the name of a roller coaster here at Cedar Point [amusement park in Sandusky]. It was called Dispatch Master Transport, but after an explosion knocked off some of the letters it read “Dis … aster Transport.” Coincidentally, that ride just shut down.

Tell us about the new Talons pedal.
It is an overdrive that goes from totally clean to full-on distortion, with a fully active boost EQ and a presence knob to tame that last bit of high end. It really covers a lot of ground—it does a lot more than most overdrive pedals I’ve played. I’m really happy with it, and it takes a lot for me to be happy with an overdrive. I went through eight completely different circuits. Ironically, the end result was the easiest circuit to work with.

How much of any given design is based on customer feedback?
Not a lot. You can’t please everybody. I will sometimes listen to our production manager, Jeff France. He will come up with ideas for additions and subtractions, and he will bluntly tell me if an idea sucks. Ninety-five percent of the time I go with my ideas, and five percent will be his suggestions. We get emails with suggestions, but everyone who works here— especially my wife—will tell you I am very set in my ways and usually use only my own ideas [laughs].