September 01, 2022 8 min read
September brings you an interview with the Beings of Interstellar Audio Machines, the founders of a new boutique pedal company with some really stellar pedal offerings. They have a ton of effusive endorsements from artists like Santana, Guns N' Roses, and Bon Jovi, and each pedal comes with a unique backstory from the Interstellar Audio universe. Learn a little bit about how they got started and how they create their extraterrestrial pedals - plus a sneak-peek of what they're working on right now.
What motivated you to start Interstellar Audio Machines? Was it a general build-up to deciding to build your own pedals, or more of a “lightning strike” idea moment?
IAM/Eric: It all kind of began when I was out on the road playing at Red Rocks. I really took notice of how much guitar players all loved their guitar effect pedals like they were their children. It got my mind working and I started studying circuit board design and building test breadboards. I wanted to see if I was capable of first making a circuit board, that in the end would even work, and then designing it to sound as good as it could to my ears. Fast forward to March 11th 2020. I flew home from New York after a Madison Square Garden gig and the world shut down. There would be no touring in the near future. This gave me a solid 18 months at home to really hone this first pedal, and the Octonaut Hyperdrive was born. Now I had this pedal that I thought was awesome and needed to get it out there. I knew my buddy and fellow musician Sam had years of experience on that side of the business. We had known each other for many years as well as playing in touring bands and studio projects together so I reached out to him.
IAM/Sam: Yea, over the course of several months Eric and I tossed ideas back and forth about the final Octonaut look and feel, strategies on how to take it to market, but also we spent a lot of time just creating the foundation of what would become Interstellar Audio Machines from a long term vision standpoint. We knew the pedal (Octonaut) sounded amazing to our ears, but at that early stage we were curious to see if the players we knew and loved would think so. Thankfully they did.
When you’re designing pedals, what do you draw inspiration from? Are there musical influences that impact the development of your pedals?
IAM/Eric: We start with figuring out sounds that ourselves as musicians would love to hear. We search out other pedals that are in the same vein, test them out and decide what we like or dislike and how we can incorporate what we want into a pedal without making it too complicated. From there we search out quality high end parts that will help us achieve the sound we are looking for. As far as musical influences, it somewhat sways our decision on what the next pedal shall be but in the end it is the overall tones that affects our main decisions on each build.
What does your design process look like, and what do you try to keep in mind?
IAM/Eric: We talk about what would be a good fit for the Interstellar Audio Machines line, we research a ton and start with a breadboard version and then build actual prototypes to test with ourselves and a few select artists. Once we are confident in the build, the pedals are road tested, we send it into production. All production is done in the USA.
As a second layer to the pedals to cater to our sci-fi/nerdy sides, each pedal incorporates a different character with a life and backstory all their own. Those stories are part of a larger space/alien themed galaxy that we hope will eventually become a comic book and an animated YouTube series among other things. On the actual pedals, our “good” guys will have green LED’s and “bad” guys will have red LED’s. We hope to introduce more of this in 2023.
What sorts of challenges or opportunities have you faced in the development of Interstellar Audio Machines?
IAM/Sam: Any business faces a lot of challenges, especially in the first years of operation. Of course applying the years of musical knowledge to this new format if you will, of creating the tools to play instead of just playing them was a challenge. Like Eric said we just kind of went back to school to learn. Funding is always a huge hurdle for any new company. We initially funded this all out of our own pockets and really bootstrapped it to get it to the point we are at today. On top of that, supply chain challenges from a pandemic and a war that came out of nowhere really made us have to plan much farther down the road than most companies normally would. Really trying to guess what the market will be 6 months from now and preparing from a manufacturing standpoint to meet those demands is a tough nut to crack.
Now on the opportunities side, we are incredibly fortunate to have created something that sounds as good as we think it does to other legendary players and musicians. Jimmy Herring from Widespread Panic hearing the pedal (Octonaut) really kind of by accident as he was passing by Eric showing it to a friend, and him coming over and asking hey what is that, was a huge watershed moment for us. Then when he added the Octonaut to his chain, our minds were freakin’ blown. Him adopting the pedal really put it on other musicians’ radar which really boosted our visibility.
What makes an Interstellar Audio Machines pedal different or stand-out? What are you most proud of regarding your pedals?
IAM/Sam: Honestly, our commitment to sourcing and our personal ears for hearing what simply just sounds good, translates directly into our pedals. Beyond that, the character design and stories really adds an exciting layer to what we put out there. It’s not just a pedal, it’s a live creature from a fantastical make believe galaxy where the fight for the tone is ever raging. It just so happens that it also gives you the best guitar tone you’ve ever had!
What was the inspiration for creating a universe to go alongside your pedal lineup? Can you share some of the background lore from the universe?
IAM/Sam: As far as the backstory goes, we really wanted to make something that had some more depth to it. Something that could endure and grow beyond a great pedal. The pedals to us are like creatures that are on our "side" to make great music with. Each bringing their own powers and capabilities to aide in our "fight for the tone." Each pedal is almost its own collectors item in that sense as well making it pretty cool to "collect the whole set" on your pedalboard. With a wide open galaxy of ideas to pull from the possibilities truly are endless of what we can do as a company.
The next cool evolution in our galaxy will be the release of next pedal called the "Marsling." It's going be an Octave Fuzz and will be our first "bad" character, with of course the red LED's on the pedal. The Marslings are a bit of ruling class of sorts that are incredibly smart vs physically powerful. They utilize their minds to create great tech or forcefully assimilate it from other species. We hope to have this in the market for the December holiday season so stay tuned!
You have a lot of heavy-hitter endorsements for your brand. Is there a band or artist that you would most love to see using your pedals?
IAM/Sam: Man, that is no joke. The response from our peers has been overwhelming and truly humbling. I mean, to have rock ‘n roll hall-of-famers playing our pedals…just incredible. We recently got an Octonaut into John Mayer's hands, and boy wouldn’t that be amazing if he loved it. We also released a Fuzz - the Fuzzsquatch Fuzzdrive - which I would love to see Jack White play.
What was your experience with crowdfunding on Indiegogo like? Would you recommend crowdfunding to other aspiring builders as a means of getting their projects off the ground?
IAM/Sam: Ok, so crowdfunding is not what they try to get you to believe it is. Unless you have a large established fan base or lots and lots annnnnnd lots of friends, it’s very hard to make crowdfunding work. It is rarely this purely organic thing. We put several months into marketing the fact that we were going to launch a crowdfunding opportunity. We had this great effect pedal, but getting the word out to people about it was the hardest part and is what ultimately led to our successful crowdfunding campaign. I’m not sure if I would do it again, but if you do want to approach it, it’s a bit of a catch-22 in that you really need money to ramp up the awareness prior to your launch, and most people are doing crowdfunding because they need money.
On the “Our Story” page of your website, you mention the desire to create pedals that are attainable and accessible for more people. Why do you think accessibility is such an important issue for the boutique pedal industry?
IAM/Sam: Well, many brands out there have some expensive pricing, and some have insanely long waitlists for getting their gear. It seems to me, that if Eric and I can crack the code on creating a $200 pedal that sounds as good or better than what is available for much more money, with the same or better quality components due to our exhaustive supply chain searches, then that opens up the same opportunity to access great gear and tone for everyone. When I started playing guitar, I would work and work and save and save or sell my stuff or not eat to get a “pro” level piece of gear so that I had the same tools as my musical heroes so that I too could make great music. This idea is really at the core of our company mantra.
Is there anything you would like people to know about yourselves, Interstellar Audio Machines, or the pedals you make?
IAM: Man, we just look forward to seeing what kind of great music these young up-and-comers, as well as our favorite established artists, can create with our pedals. Recently Derek Trucks from Tedeschi & Trucks just played on Kimmel. Seeing our pedal on stage with Derek on TV, was another one of those moments that just told us yea, we are doing something right.
Check out the Interstellar Audio Machines brand page to get your hands on one of their pedals.
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