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October 01, 2022 5 min read
This September, we talked with Greg Djerrahian — the founder of SolidGoldFX — about some of the things that he loves about being in the pedal industry. We talk about the in-house building process, the technical aspects of designing a new SolidGoldFX pedal, and the fabled search for the "golden tone."
How did you get started building pedals? What inspired you to take it to the professional level and start SolidGoldFX?
I’ve always had an interest in electronics and a desire to build and tinker from a young age. I built my first circuits in my late teens starting with germanium boosts and fuzz faces and kind of went from there. My first pedal sale was a total fluke, I remember selling an early 70’s Marshall 4x10 and the buyer asked if I could build a Rangemaster for his 20-watt head, which I did with pleasure. I was hooked! I continued to buy and sell gear while studying finance in university and started building, modding and repairing pedals on the side. After university, I was working at a body shop fixing cars while contemplating my career path in the world of finance and couldn’t really stomach the thought of wearing a suit and working behind a desk all day so I decided to jump into SGFX head first and haven’t looked back. I love working with my hands and building something from nothing and I need a creative outlet.
What is your process for designing and building a new pedal? Do you see it as more of a creative process, or a technical one?
It is both creative and technical. If it's not creative, it's boring, and without the technical aspect, we can’t really bring it to life. Inspiration comes from a number of places. It can be something we ran across in a previous project, a sound stuck in our heads that we want play with or a schematic, component or piece of tech we want to further explore and exploit. My best ideas always seem to come while showering where everything is relaxed and there really is no distraction.
When you design a new pedal, is there a “golden tone” that you seek out? Do you design in pursuit of a specific ideal tone, or is it more of a trial-and-error process?
Our product line is pretty varied, we look for the fun factor…how much fun is it to play the pedal, how badly do you want to come back and plug in for more, does it inspire you to play more or play differently?
If we look at a pedal like the NU-33 or Lysis, there is no golden tone that we’re chasing, but rather does it do what we set out to achieve? Here, the idea was to capture a feel and create a lo-fi sound reminiscent of a used and loved record for the NU-33 or heavy handed synth inspired fuzz box for the Lysis.
If we take a pedal like the Surf Rider, we were definitely chasing a golden tone where we were listening to different amps, echo units and reverb tanks while modeling the algorithms for the pedal.
Our process starts with a clear goal and parameters, we sketch out what we feel the control layout and UI should be and to be honest, a lot of that goes out the window once we start the actual R&D and exploration. We just keep pushing things until we’ve gone too far and reel it in. Once the core is done, we start dissecting it, fine-tuning the sound, control tapers and looking for bugs.
Which of the SolidGoldFX pedals was the most fun to design and build? What about the most fun to play with, as a musician?
They’re all pretty fun to design as the process is very gratifying. The Ether was a really fun process as our goal was to see how far we could push everything how heavy of a reverb we could create. Otherwise, the most fun projects are really the ones where Dylan and I work more closely together on the R&D, constantly bouncing things off of each other – pedals such as the EM-III or Surf Rider come to mind. Its always more fun to collaborate and feel less like work.
The most fun pedal to play for me would be the Lysis as it practically has an endless offering of tones and it really changes the way you approach whatever instrument you plug in. I just love the huge filter sweeps and heavy fuzz it can generate.
What sort of musical influences have impacted the pedals you design? Do you have specific musical styles in mind when you’re working on a new pedal?
We all listen to a wide range of music – walk in to the shop at any given point and you’ll hear us spinning anything from Wes Montgomery to Fleetwood Mac, Judas Priest, Ozzy, Blood Ceremony or Uncle Acid. There’s even the occasional Elton John record that hits the platter.
When I first started building pedals, I was chasing the sounds of my favorites - Hendrix, Pink Floyd & Black Sabbath. At this point, its really more about what can we do with a certain effect as opposed to trying to copy something.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
Where do I start? I love my team and the atmosphere we’ve created in the shop. I get to play with guitars and pedals all day long, where I build and design toys for myself really. I get to work on fun, big machines and interact with a bunch of great people….can’t ask for much more!
What are you most proud of regarding your company and the pedals you create?
I’m most proud about the fact that we build everything in house. We have our powder coating setup, a couple of CNC’s, UV printer and PCB assembly machines. We even do some work for other people in the pedal world. All of our R&D and design work is done in house as well. Everyone on the team is committed to their work and shows up in the morning with the goal of building something awesome and having fun.
Have you had any cool or interesting experiences from your time in the industry that really stand out?
I got to meet Dweezil Zappa and go back stage a couple of times when he was in town doing Zappa Plays Zappa. Checking out the Roxy Gibson SG prototype backstage before it was a thing was a huge kick! I got to get a backstage look at the Black Keys show as well a few years back thanks to their tech which was fun and NAMM is always a great time – you never know who you’re going to bump into or what you’re going to see.
What sort of innovations or evolutions would you most like to see in the boutique pedal industry?
I would love a really good headphone amp I can use when the kids are asleep….something that actually sounds and responds like my old Fenders and Marshalls cranked up and not like a headphone amp or modeler, maybe with a tube preamp. A boy can dream……..
Is there anything else you’d like to share, either about yourself or about SolidGoldFX?
My name is Greg and I may have a slight guitar addiction. Luckily, my wife is very patient and understanding……Seriously, we do have something very exciting that we’ve been working hard on behinds the scenes over the past 12 months. Something we’re very proud of and can’t wait to share. More on that to come, but in the meantime my guys and I are just really thankful and appreciative for the love we get and it means a lot to us when people plug into the pedals we’ve poured our hearts in to, so thank you!
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