UK-Made Pedals and the Future of Analogue Tone with Tim from Fredric Effects

Fredric Effects have been at the heart of the UK pedal building community for years and are mighty popular with some of Reverb’s biggest UK shops. We caught up with founder Tim Webster to talk about the state of pedal building in the UK, the beauty of fuzz, and why it’s time to retire the humble 9V.

How did you get started building effect pedals?

When I was gigging regularly (in The Sailplanes with Stacey, also of Fredric Effects) I enjoyed modifying effects and guitars. Things like adding extra foot switches to work as presets on the Electro–Harmonix POG, or building multiple effects into single enclosures to make better use of space.

Fredric Effects founder Tim Webster

Tinkering became a hobby, then a profession as my interest and knowledge deepened and the number of pedals I was building increased and I got local companies [for producing and and finishing enclosures] involved in production.

The UK pedal building community hasn’t really exploded in the same way it did in America. How you do feel about the state of pedal building in the UK?

Fredric Effects started in 2011, while the UK was still in recession, and from my perspective we've seen steady growth particularly over the last few years, with more retailers becoming aware of Fredric Effects and choosing to stock us. We also had some awesome early adopters in the UK who've continued to support us, like Regent Sounds and Vintage Guitar Boutique.

However, the USA has a more established boutique pedal industry and was where boutique pedals were originally popularised by pioneers like ZVex, Frantone, and Devi Ever. The US market also seems more supportive of USA–made effects than pedal-buyers in the UK are of UK–made effects.

It's evident that UK companies have a harder time getting accepted here than American manufacturers and I'm not entirely sure why. Perhaps because the US is where classic guitars come from, pedal buyers assume they have a head–start when it comes to sweet, sweet tones.

How do you see it changing in the next few years?

I've already seen more buyers looking for homegrown effects due to the increasing cost of imported pedals. Once people realise the quality and variety of locally manufactured pedals they seem to get hooked and try more.

Fredric Effects Dresden Synth Fuzz

Fredric Effects Pocket Weasel Fuzz-Wah

Is there something in particular that attracts you to working on fuzzes?

Fuzz is the most exciting effect. It's the most visceral and primordial of sounds. It's one of the earliest effects, and it still can't be convincingly recreated by digital modelers. Nothing can compare to an analogue fuzz like an FY6 Superfuzz or Standard Fuzz. And fuzz doesn't need to be crazy. The Harmonic/Utility Percolator circuit sounds great dialed-back.

There's something thrilling about the fizzing decay, gated octavey overtones, and oscillations of certain fuzzes.

Do you see more innovation still to come with analogue pedals? Or are we at the point of just focusing on small improvements on classic circuits?

Yes and no. There's a strong demand for improved and reliable versions of vintage effects, as we've shown. However, there's still plenty of room for innovation in combining analogue circuits in interesting and innovative ways like in the Cloak Audio Jackdaw, Fredric Pocket Weasel, and Dresden Synth Fuzz.

There's also the route of digitally controlled analogue effects, for example the awe–inspiring Goatkeeper tremolo from a few years back. It's something I toy with from time to time as microcontroller ICs have become so small and affordable. It may, however, be a whole lot of R&D time and expense for not much practical gain.

Fredric Effects Standard Fuzz Machine

Fredric Effects ICBM 78

You still include battery snaps, but discourage battery use. What's that about?

There's just no need to power pedals by a battery in 2017. We still include a battery snap in each pedal we may not for much longer. Perhaps some sort of survey is needed. There are so many affordable and reliable power supplies available with decent filtering and isolation. Some can even do the dying battery voltage starve thing too.

What’s in the future for Fredric Effects and Cloak Audio?

We've particularly enjoyed working with bands to produce batches of effects to sell via Pledge and Kickstarter campaigns, so we're looking forward to more collaborations in that vein. The fuzz we built with Julia Ruzicka of Future of the Left to coincide with their last album was a particularly rewarding project.

We're also producing a batch of Bristol–based synth company BugBrand's Bug Crusher effect under licence. It's a sample rate reducer, kind of an analogue bitcrusher effect.

Cloak Audio is an offshoot of Fredric Effects for more bizarre and complex ideas, such as the Jackdaw Esoteric Synth Fuzz, and time permitting there'll be another Cloak pedal out this year.

There's also an onboard preamp/fuzz called the Thumbcutter, which is going into a destroyed Musim Eterna I'm restoring to demonstrate at guitar shows. On which, you can see us and try some pedals at the Thame guitar show on the 4th of June 2017.

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