In an age of endless transparent overdrives and clones of famous fuzz pedals, there are a few manufacturers who are choosing a different path. David Rolo from DroloFX is already quite some length down this path.
To say there are options within the guitar pedal market would be quite an understatement, the boom over the last decade or so has seen literally thousands of pedal manufacturers pop up and in some cases disappear. One of the reasons I believe a number of these companies have come and gone is due to their product offerings – I’m confident that the world has enough options for transparent drives and fuzz face clones. DroloFx is a company (or perhaps more accurately a single person) from Belgium making pedals that generally do not fall into these standard product offerings. In fact, many of his pedals are wholly unique and difficult to classify. This is incredible to me.
David was kind enough to answer a few questions about his process, the concept of creativity and how it applies to his pedals:
First of all – thanks for taking the time to answer these questions. Could you give a quick intro on yourself and what your company does?
My name is David Rolo and I run a company called ‘drolo’ that makes pedals. At this time it is a one man operation and I’m trying my best to keep it like that.
When it comes to guitar pedals there’s a lot of similarity between most companies offerings – there’s only so many ways you can tweak a tubescreamer – you don’t really fit into that mold. It seems that today’s pedal market is large enough to support a seemingly endless amount of transparent drives and fuzz pedals – what inspires you to lean towards the experimental and away from more “standard” releases.
I guess boredom. Usually, I make stuff that will do something I need that does not exist in the particular way that I need it to be (otherwise it would be easier to buy it). Sometimes I’ll have an idea and get curious to see if I can make it work and how it will sound. Often along the way, I get derailed from that initial idea and stumble upon something nicer that I had not thought of, which is actually more satisfying.
I find the concept of creativity as it applies to music, but also towards design and engineering, to be such an incredibly fascinating topic – you build tools that are clearly focused on providing a spark of creativity or inspiration – how do you decide when one of these your creations is “complete”, it seems that you could tweak these designs endlessly?
And I do! I don’t think I have anything in production where I could say it is 100% complete. I tend to go back endlessly, trying to make things work better or do more interesting stuff. I am making a conscious effort to not update products more than once a year now. There was a time where I would make new versions of pedals a few times a year. Even though it was fun for me, it took away a lot of time and confused customers a bit as they never knew if they should better wait a couple of months before I released another update.
You’ve mentioned in other interviews the idea of designing pedals to solve problems, which makes sense – however, the problems you’re looking to solve seem to be a bit more abstract than most, what inspires you to get to work on a new circuit or design?
I think a lot of what I do is trying to create tools that get in the way of the musician’s conscious decision-making process, introducing some randomness, which in turn can hopefully generate new ideas.
Yes! This is such a good way to describe that process – I’ve struggled to articulate why I love these types of pedals but the idea of the device “breaking” my conscious decision or muscle memory style playing is awesome. This kind of begs another question though – how do you walk the line of something introducing randomness or disrupting a thought, but also (maybe?) maintaining some semblance of the original musical idea?
Not sure if you are asking that in respect to the pedal or in general for music. When I make music I’m all about accidents as I never have a particular idea to start with. I don’t have any musical training so I’m clueless anyway. At some point either it does something to me that I like or nothing happens and I move on. I guess with a piece of gear and the disruption or chaos it might introduce, it’s a bit the same.
I often get asked if I am planning on implementing presets or midi capabilities in my pedals and while it sometimes feels like it would be nice to have, it’s just not me. I don’t use any midi or presets for myself. I like the idea of not necessarily being able to reproduce things 100%. So I would feel a bit fake if I offered something I’m not really interested in and I’m probably not familiar enough with it to understand people’s needs.
Midi control and being able to consistently recreate the “random” aspect of the pedals seems to be almost antithetical to the concept you’re going for.
You live in what appears to be an incredibly peaceful and beautiful place – based on my social media stalking not personal experience, my only experience in Belgium resulted in bedbugs – how do you feel environment influences your work?
Well, we haven’t had any bedbugs around here (knocking on wood) but lots of chiggers in the garden during the warm months, usually from July through September. They’re nasty buggers. We’ve been here for about 3 years now and I like that it is quiet, as I don’t have to deal so much with surrounding events. I’m not very at ease in crowded or noisy places. Yet it is starting to feel a bit lonely around here. There are not many places to meet like-minded people out here in the country. I would not exclude a move at one point or another.
Your pedals seem to be utilized heavily in the ambient and experimental music – are you ever surprised to see the uses some people come up with?
Absolutely! I am primarily a guitarist so most of my stuff comes from that perspective but since I started doing this I have come to realize how many other instruments are using these pedals, drums, synths, harps, saxophones, violins, computers, phones, cooking pots …
This realization is influencing how I do things more and more, as it brings in new perspectives.
I’ve always been a huge sucker for pedals jammed inside guitars – what’s the story behind the Betty’s FX collab – Stamme[tt] tele?
Edwin, who is behind Betty’s FX had this idea to offer a service where he would integrate pedals into people’s guitars. He bought a couple of my pedals for customer builds over the course of a few months and we started chatting. I found it really intriguing. To be honest, while it was really cool to see one of my pedals in a guitar I was a bit skeptical about how useful it would be. But it turns out it is really fun. At one point Edwin asked me if I would agree to make a few minor modifications on certain modes of the stock Stamme[n] that would make them work better in that situation and little by little we ended up modifying them all, even creating some completely new modes 🙂 It was a very fun collaboration and he had lots of good ideas, so now it is its own thing. I am the lucky owner of one of his builds and I love it immensely, it has become my main guitar.
Want to get any word out about future releases or anything in the pipeline?
There is nothing really specific planned, for now, lots of ideas floating around but I have not had enough time lately to materialize them.
Thanks again to David for taking the time to answer these questions. For more information about his pedal lineup, visit his website here. As of publishing – Nov 2019 – there are some restocks coming in the next few weeks. Be sure to sign up for his email list to find out specific release times & dates.