A Long-Distance Call from the Past
How our noise-crazy new pedal columnists developed a rad take on recycling with their Telepunk Fuzz.
Meet the Telepunk Fuzz. This is one of Sehat Effectors’ best-selling devices. Let that sink in, because it’s unconventional—to put it lightly—and very cool. Here’s how it happened.
Back in 2017, I met my buddy Keket Soldir. We have the same interests in making disturbing pedals and going to flea markets to hunt for cheap treasures. We have very little money, so we’re looking for things that we can use for pedal enclosures. We’ve found lots of medical tools, military tools, old office tools, and one day, I found a wall intercom phone. I told Keket, “Let’s make a pedal with this!” and he laughed at me. “That’s not going to happen,” he said. “The shape is weird and there is limited space inside. I think we’re not going to make it unless we modify the shape.”
I brought it home anyway, opened it up, cleaned the inside, and put a simple 1-knob overdrive circuit within. It worked! But that was just the beginning.
The phone itself is a ’70s/’80s Japanese wall intercom, which was very popular in many offices in Indonesia back then. Discarded variations are cheap and easy to find. There are many different brands: Aiphone, Matsushita (named after the founder of Panasonic), National, etc. But the Aiphone was the most popular and is still easy to find, probably because it was the cheapest brand back then. There are also different models and shapes, depending on the year of production. The ’70s to early ’80s models usually come with a carbon microphone with a simple germanium preamp and amplifier driver, and the newer models usually come with a more modern electret microphone with an improved preamp circuit in it. Actually, almost all Japanese electronics with audio drivers from that era come with the same boards. Perhaps there was one major factory in Japan which produced and distributed that board for various brands, just like Matsumoku in Japan’s 1960s and early ’70s guitar-building history.
“Let’s make an effect pedal from this phone without losing its identity as a telephone.”
The enclosure itself is made of hard plastic (often called “atom plastic” in Indonesia) with sharp edges and a metal cover plate. We also salvage tons of vintage parts from these phones, such as germanium transistors, Matsushita film caps, and sometimes we pull lots of white- and blue-striped diodes (MA150, MA161, and 1S1588), which were also used in early Tube Screamers and other vintage ’70s/’80s Japan-made effects.
The Telepunk Fuzz idea itself is: “Let’s make an effect pedal from this phone without losing its identity as a telephone.” For the first example, we already had an oscillation fuzz called the Moisture Fuzz, and we just put that circuit into the telephone enclosure. But when we decided to keep making more, we added an Atari punk console for weird modulation. Today, there are three circuits in our Telepunk Fuzz: an oscillation fuzz, the Atari punk console (which is a lo-fi synth circuit), and the microphone preamp. Also, if you unplug the guitar, it’ll work as a standalone noise box, thanks to the oscillator’s and punk console’s ability to generate ridiculous amounts of noise on their own.
The device’s mic and instrument inputs—honestly, you can plug anything into either one—are separate from each other. But the mic input has its own preamp and volume control, which then stacks into the fuzz circuit. The instrument input feeds the punk console and can be mixed into the overall output signal to create a harmonic tremolo texture.
So, that’s the story behind our Telepunk Fuzz, although we think there are many possibilities for more telephone-based effects units in the future. Luckily, there are also still a lot of those telephones available for very little! And who knows what other home we might find for a circuit at a flea market or pawnshop? We’re also thinking about a more pedalboard-friendly version, so the device can enter the larger stompbox universe. Who knows where these noisy Fuzzes from a time long ago in a galaxy far away—the pre-digital zone—will end up on their sonic journey?
A former Guild employee builds guitars and winds his own pickups by hand. Here's his latest creation.
Name: Jacques Blanchette
Location: Rhode Island
Guitar: Blue Hawaii
I've been building guitars on and off since the '80s. I worked at Guild Guitars in Westerly, Rhode Island, for two years under Kim Walker's tutelage. After leaving, I worked at a music store as manager, repairman, and buyer.
I haven't been active in the music field since the mid 1990s. It's very hard to work as a builder or repair tech alone with no reputation. I build guitars now as a form of therapy. I don't really think about what I'm going to do with them when they're finished.
This is the latest guitar I've built. I call it Blue Hawaii, and it's actually the second of a set of three guitars. The third one is still in my head.
Blue Hawaii is a tribute to 1960s import guitars with a nod to the surf scene. The pickups are my own version of the old Danelectro lipstick tubes but without the tubes. I used 42-gauge wire wrapped directly onto alnico 6 bar magnets. The metal interferes with the magnetic field, so I leave them open. These pickups are handwound, as in bobbin in left hand and wire in the right hand. They have a very tight and snappy kind of sound, not much low end—think Fender with a bit of Rickenbacker mixed in. I made a set of these for my 12-string, too.
Each pickup has a volume, tone, and on/off switch with a master volume as well. The pickup covers are white PVC, the bridge is a salvage, the tuners are Gotoh, and the neck is a Chinese import. The guitar's body is a solid slab of poplar. The finish is nine coats of Rust-Oleum Lagoon. That's it, no clear coat. This guitar took about three months from start to finish, including finish-drying time.
I don't use many power tools, mostly because I can't afford the good ones. I just have a cordless drill, belt sander, jigsaw, and palm sander. I source most of my parts through Amazon. What I can't find, I make.
I've always loved the '60s and early-'70s imports and this series is my take on the various makers. The surf vibe of this guitar is because that's what those guitars were primarily used for. I decided on a set of three guitars like this, in primary colors. First is red, then blue, and finally yellow. The yellow guitar is still in R & D.
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Reader Guitar of the Month: Larry Fine
A guitarist named his custom violin-shaped gem after the violin-playing comic from The Three Stooges.
Name: Tucker Christine
Hometown: Bensalem, Pennsylvania
Guitar: "Larry Fine" by Coyle Guitars
Years ago, I came across a blog article spotlighting the Shadow violin guitar from the mid '70s. This was a beautiful instrument that was shaped somewhere between a Les Paul and a violin. I became obsessed, but being as there weren't many made, they are very hard to come by. And when you do see one, they aren't exactly affordable. (Also, rumor has it that they don't sound quite as good as they look.)
Fast forward a few years: I'm sitting in the waiting room for my daughter's voice lesson and the proprietor of the store (Kevin Coyle, Richboro Music in Richboro, Pennsylvania) is hanging a beautiful handbuilt custom guitar of his own design. I immediately asked if he'd be interested in helping me recreate my dream guitar. We got to work right away.
The shape is based on the Shadow but is not exact. Some adjustments were made for comfort as I do most of my playing seated. The body and neck are mahogany, with an ebony fretboard. There is something about Kevin's fretboards that make them a dream to play. A pair of Lace Alumitone Grillers and a Duesenberg Steel Saddle Piezo Bridge make for some versatile tone possibilities. My band, Pleated Gazelle, plays everything from jazz and blues to prog to gothic soundtrack music for a local library/museum, so versatility is very important.
The Duesenberg Radiator Tremola is the most comfortable and stable in my arsenal, and it looks stunning. We gave it banjo tuners just because I like them. And Kevin even recreated the Shadow logo with his own name. We've joked that this guitar is a work of art and should be a museum piece, but it's also so much fun to play that you never want to put it down.
All of my customs are named for characters from The Three Stooges. Moe is a black and white Triple-T-style with Brian May-inspired wiring/switching. Shemp is a Les Paul with Jimmy Page-wired lipstick humbuckers. Besser is an SG-style guitar I built with my son. Being that Larry was the violin-playing Stooge, we named this one after him. I haven't found Curly or Curly Joe yet, but Kevin Coyle will certainly get the call when inspiration strikes.
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