Shop Spotlight: Hello Sailor Effects' Handbuilt, Tattoo-Inspired Pedals

Hello Sailor Effects are producing some of the most eye-catching boutique effects in the UK right now. Builder Joseph Halliday—a sailor still currently serving in the Royal Navy—makes each one himself.

His enclosures are vibrantly colored and feature artwork inspired by tattoo designs he's found around the world throughout his travels. Not only is each enclosure unique, but he'll even tweak some of his standard circuits to buyers' requests—which, at least one time, has led to a brand-new type of pedal.

We spoke to Joseph about how he got his start, his plans for the brand, and some of the more "out there" requests he's received.

How and why did you get started with making pedals?

I got interested in electronics when my first valve amp, an Orange Tiny Terror, broke. I armed myself with a multimeter and set about bringing it back to life. It was so much fun I thought, I’m going to build myself the ultimate, boutique point-to-point amp. To get there I decided to start by building an effects pedal or two, which turned to three and so on. I still haven’t got round to that boutique amp.

What is the ethos behind the brand and what do you hope makes you stand out?

The main idea behind Hello Sailor Effects is building hand-wired effects at a relatively affordable price. There are an infinite number of options, for example, you like the Kossoff Drive but want it in the same enclosure as a Ross compressor? Or maybe you want an OCD-style drive and a reverb in the same enclosure with a true bypass effects loop in the middle? It's all possible—you're only limited by your imagination.

All of my pedals have one-off enclosure designs. I do have standard models, but the enclosures are always individual in some form or other. I know there are other brands that do this, so it's not exactly innovative. However, I do think my pedals are instantly recognisable—and they stand out on a pedalboard.

What is your process for coming up with a new pedal design?

The Thunderchild

As far as enclosure design goes, I'm a huge fan of traditional tattoo art, and a lot of my pedals are inspired by the tattoos I have collected around the world over the last 15 years in the Royal Navy. In fact, the Hello Sailor Effects logo is actually a drunken tattoo I got during an operational deployment. I originally wanted to call the brand something cool and edgy like Sailors Grave Effects but thought that Hello Sailor was a bit more tongue-in-cheek.

I absolutely love boost, overdrive, and distortion. All of the pedals I build that are not direct clones come in some form of drive pedal. When I first started building my own pedals, I used to take sections from different pedal designs I liked. After a while, you start to learn what sections you like and, more importantly, what works well together.

Sometimes a pedal design takes no time at all and others can take months or longer. There’s an artist called Everything Joseph who contacted me looking for a drive pedal to end all drive pedals. Four footswitches to control boost, overdrive, distortion, and an active EQ. I worked on this thing for such a long time! I was away on operations in my workshop trying to get what I thought would suit his playing style and the description of what he had in his head. I think at this point he already owned two of my pedals. Now, if you check him out you’ll see he’s using a pedal called The Thunderchild, and it’s an absolute beast! He came up with this really great concept based on the War of the Worlds.

Hello Sailor Effects
Blue Monster Metal
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Hello Sailor Effects
Paisley Rangemaster
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Hello Sailor Effects
Kossoff Drive
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Conversely I sent an Anchor Drive to a mate of mine to demo on YouTube. He loved the pedal, even if he did describe it as batshit crazy, but thought it would sound better with less gain. I set about on lowering the gain and before I knew it I had changed it so much it was a completely different pedal.

I am currently taking on my second complete pedalboard build. This came about when a friend of mine asked if I'd build him a complete board. The concept for this board was based on a drink called The Captain's Call. I used old mahogany reclaimed from a ship's crest and my own beret badge as the artwork. The Captain's Call pedalboard turned out great, and I hope to bring some more crazy design ideas like this to life in the future.

What’s on the horizon for Hello Sailor?

In the future I'd like to keep growing the Hello Sailor fan base. I have six years left in the military to build the brand before it’s my full-time job—it’s a dream of mine to do this full-time. I want to get my pedals out there and show people that you don’t need to sell a kidney to afford great-sounding and -looking effects.

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