Is it possible to have too many LoFi inspired vintage tape-style effects? In my mind - no. I’m sure some people would disagree with me on this but they probably aren’t reading this so whatever. Taking a LoFi inspired tape effect and pairing it with throwback product design? It's like it was specifically made for a feature on this very site.
Today’s interview is with Steve Demedash from Demedash effects. He’s a small one (maybe one and a half) man shop out of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada producing some incredibly interesting pedals with a great retro vibe.
One of the newer manufacturers in the space, Steve managed to make a big splash with his T-120 videotape echo. This pedal took inspiration from the worn-out VHS tapes of (most of our) childhoods and placed it on our pedalboards. This pedal is discussed widely elsewhere and I’m not really trying to push people toward products (but if you must) but it helps with understanding some context of what Steve does. I absolutely love the sound of this pedal and find it so incredibly inspiring that the pedal market will support builders like him in such a merit-based economy – build a great product and people will find it.
First of all, thanks for doing this! It means a lot and I super appreciate your time. Figure we can start the same way as every other one of these – can you give a quick intro on yourself? Who you are, what you do and why you do it?
I’m Steve Demedash, a 31-year-old dude living in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, who started a small one-man pedal company called Demedash Effects in mid-2018 and accidentally stumbled into a bewildering amount of success that he does not fully comprehend but is thankful for nonetheless.
He graduated from the University of Manitoba with a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering and a Minor in Computer Science in 2016. He has started speaking in the third person and is not now sure how to stop. Next question?
The choice to move from a “guy who fixes pedals” into a “company that manufactures a product” is a pretty big leap. What was the trigger moment when you decided to go all-in on it?
Long Answer: I was working as an electrical engineer/programmer for a local GE Transportation subsidiary, testing computational devices used on freight trains, and started getting back into pedals after buying a Montreal Assembly Count to 5. It was so weird and fun it opened my eyes to what else pedals could do besides adding dirt or Echo or whatever narrow box Effects are generally categorized in.
So I started buying more pedals that sort of transcended those boundaries, and, well, it wasn’t cheap, and I was still paying off student debt. I decided I could always build a few pedals for local musicians on the side to generate a bit of cash to spend on these purchases, so I started building modified clones of this and that and selling them on Kijiji (Canadian Craigslist, basically), then on Reverb.
I’m from an artistic family and am a hobbyist graphic designer myself, so I started designing new graphics for each pedal and using waterslide decals to apply them. I started using my old inactive Instagram account to share pictures of these as I built them around this time, and that sort of started pushing a bit of awareness about me I guess.
Your company name is your name – I love this so much – to me, it is akin to the restaurant that has you walk through the kitchen on your way to your table, there’s nowhere to hide. What made you decide to do this rather than come up with some type of company name?
Brian Wampler tells a really great story in an interview he did a few years back that has stuck with me and basically is the reason I named the company after myself. He was branding his pedals as “Indie Rock Guitarist Effects” or something along those lines, and a friend said to him “That has got to he the squirreliest name I’ve ever heard. Just use your name man.”
I thought that was good advice. So my take was, use your name, and only make things you’re proud enough to have your name emblazoned across them. Of course, it also helps that I have a fairly unique last name and don’t need to worry about some other “Demedash Effects” already existing.
The pedal industry has a lot of companies that make a lot of pedals based on a lot of pedals that already exist. I’m willing to bet you’ve built a few of those as well during the “hobby” phase of being a builder – at what point did you feel confident to create your own circuit? Your engineering background here probably came into play, I’d guess.
As I touched on earlier, I prefer being able to design my own circuits for myself. The tipping point when I felt I could do that was when I sensed that I had enough name recognition to use my name as the selling point, rather than the name of the pedal I was making a modified version of.
The engineering background certainly doesn’t hurt when it comes to circuit design. It provides a lot of fundamentals for understanding. There are a lot of things about analog audio electronics as used in guitar pedals that aren’t even covered anymore in modern Electrical Engineering coursework though, so a lot of self-study is also required. There are lots of guys, like Chris Carter of DC6FX, who don’t have engineering backgrounds but have been able to design amazing circuits by doing tons of self-study as well. So it helps but isn’t required by any means.
When you sit down to design something what are the first thoughts that come into your head? Do you start with a sound and design backward from that goal?
I usually have a general goal, but not a specific set of things I want or a set-in-stone sound I want to nail. I sort of start out with an idea and experiment on a breadboard, adding things and changing things until I have a rough “sketch” of the basic building blocks and structure of the circuit. Then I’ll fine-tune things, draw up a PCB layout, and order a prototype. I usually go through at least 7 prototypes before I’m happy with the finished product. I listen, and either think “yeah that’s it!”, “no no this won’t do”, or something like “almost there. would be perfect if only this knob went this much higher” or something along those lines. Basically repeated testing and reevaluation, guided by what’s there and what I wish it did better until I feel like its everything it can be, and that I’m happy with what it is.
It looks like you’re working on a harmonic tremolo right now – how does the leap from Lofi Delay to Distortion to Tremelo work? Again – chasing sounds or something else?
The Retro Harmonic is an idea I had years ago as something I wanted to just buy, but no one made anything like it. So I’ve always had it in the back of my head that I’d love to make myself a pedal that did all these things. I figured why not try? So it’s been a sort of ongoing, in-development thing for a while now, working on it when I get the chance but not rushing it.
The Overdrive was designed for maybe a silly reason. Schecter guitars reached out this past February and asked if I’d be interested in trading 2 delays and an overdrive for a guitar of my choice. I was indeed interested. But I didn’t want to knock out a clone of an overdrive so I decided to design my own. It started as a recreation of the Fender Princeton 112 Plus drive channel, but over the course of 15 prototypes and revisions, sort of turned into something else entirely. I liked the 112+ name though so I kept it.
As a design nerd myself, the VHS aesthetic is super fun and playful, did you intentionally want something a bit less serious? I feel like its very easy to take the pedal company design stuff very seriously and it’s refreshing to have something a bit more playful in the market.
I think the best pedals work as well as tools as they do as toys. I like to think I make devices that can inspire fun and creativity, but also help you dial in a wonderful texture or tone when it’s time to get down to business. Having graphics that reflect that makes sense to me. Bold and colorful without being goofy or gaudy.
As far as your company is concerned, do you have plans to expand in the future? More releases? More people? What drives your decisions on this? I’m always curious about the step between being a pedal builder and being the guy who runs a company. It’s strange seeing talented engineers moving into a management role. This applies across all professions I suppose.
I hate the idea of being a manager. My retired dad has been helping out a lot lately. I’ve taught him to solder wires and potentiometers in place. He does a lot of the enclosure drilling, among other things as well. I also don’t really have space for more workstations, so I don’t think I’ll be hiring anyone to come work directly with me anytime soon. Outsourcing is one option that I think would help expand. I’ve been working with a couple of people recently to set up automated assembly for circuit board population and soldering, so that should help remove some of the burden on that end. It takes me 3 hours just to place all the components on 10 boards, and I hate doing it the whole time, so that will be nice to not need to do anymore.
As much as I like to pride myself on the fact that I do everything in-house, from circuit design to PCB layout to soldering, graphics, sales, etc, eventually it just becomes too much for one person. I’ve also got a few plans to make order-taking and adding people to my waitlist less labor-intensive on my end, so that will be nice.
Anything else you’d like “the people” to know? In this case “the people” being people who read pedal nerd blogs. Probably a pretty solid target market for you.
Jeffrey Epstein didn’t kill himself.
Solid. Thanks, dude!
Thanks again to Steve for taking the time to answer these questions. We’re all now on a government watch list so – enjoy that! If you’re looking for more information on Demedash Effects check out their website here and if you absolutely cannot wait for his next release you can purchase at some exorbitant markup on Reverb below and it’ll kick a few bucks back to the site at no cost to you.
T-120 photos by @olzios – Workshop photos provided by Steve Demedash.
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