Q&A with Stephen Pettyjohn, Owner and Founder of Pettyjohn Electronics
Q: Who are your musical influences?
A: As a player I grew-up with a heavy dose of U2, Coldplay, Muse, Audioslave, some classic rock, arena rock, Euro rock and indie. I also grew up on Christian music and toured with a Christian rock band for three years.
Q: Did your playing have an effect on you entering the business of building pedals?
A: When it comes down to it, I am a melodic player more than anything else. I found that most pedals in the analog space were not giving me a smooth, musical tone. Drive pedals fundamentally changed my guitar tone too much. What really influenced me was this frustration of not being able to find pedals that didn’t get in the way of my playing … what my fingers are doing, what my pick is doing. I wanted to retain the identity of my guitar, rather than adopt the identity of a pedal. So transparency was key to me.
I realized that utilizing a high-end microphone pre-amp, you could make a cheap mic sound like a million bucks. A great piece of analog gear always gives, and is never taking. It adds magic, feel and depth … however most pedals felt flat to me and robbed the identity of my instrument.
I set out on my circuit design with that kind of perspective … to recreate some of my favorite tools that I’ve used in the studio and fashion them specifically for guitar, bringing them into a pedal format.
I’m really pleased to say that for me, these pedals accomplish this. That special moment when I plug into a high-end preamp. … it is a musical, magical and inspiring playing experience.
Q: When were you struck with your first idea for a pedal?
A: We launched our first pedal in May 2014, but the idea for these pedals came to me quite a few years back. I went into electrical engineering right after high school, and I have been working as a full-time studio engineer and in post-production and mastering, so I’ve been exposed to some wonderful high-end gear.
About 5 years ago, I started to think about pedals again. I had been in the studio for about 8 years, I wondered whether I could use a discreet op amp in a guitar pedal. Could this function for my guitar as it does for my microphones. I thought about this for two years, basically wondering if anyone was going to do this … it sounds crazy to some, to put a $50-$100 chip in a guitar pedal … so I finally gave it a try. My gut told me that it should sound better if we do it right. My partner trusted me on this, and after a few months of planning and design, we started testing some chips. It got me pretty excited when I figured out that all these sonic things that audiophiles were appreciating, were now happening in my prototype pedals. I felt that there were probably a bunch of players waiting for something like this.
Put the preamp at the beginning of your chain, and send a really great signal down the line to the rest of your pedals … we started thinking about what features would be needed at this point in the signal chain.
Q: How do you keep busy when you’re not in your shop?
A: I have a great team of builders, who allow me to focus on R&D. I still work in my mastering studio, I do some production and mixing … one of my passions is in the production process.
Q: Any closing words for now?
A: Yes, we have two ‘taglines’ for our products:
- Tools for Tone—reflects our purpose to inspire people to make music
- Studio Grade—we want to bring studio grade quality and features into pedal format