Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Dark Side of Tone

It was just another day of surfing the web (or so I thought). I hit all the regular forums for talk of strange, new, and upcoming gear. I also visited my favorite Youtube channels for new effects pedal demos and did some browsing hoping to come across a unique find. Then there in the Related Videos section I noticed a video labeled The Great Destroyer!!!! Hosted by a channel called theonetrueaen. This turned out to be the video home of Dwarfcraft Devices, an underground operation specializing in against-the-grain designs and non-traditional tone boxes. This discovery was made a few months ago, since then I have made contact with them and have had the chance to demo not one, not two, but three of their off-the-wall builds. I should also say that these last few months with these pedals were nowhere enough time to pull out the sounds they're capable of. I should also say that when I say "them" and "their" I mean him, as in Ben the twisted mind behind these freakishly original effects pedals. Before we try and dissect the mind of this mad creator let's take a look at the...

The Great Destroyer

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To try and compare or describe this pedal in the "normal" sense, with the same old analogies would be sacrilegious. When Benjamin Hinz threw himself into the world of pedal building I'm sure his first thought wasn't "Hmm, I wonder what I can do with a TubeScreamer..." Plugging into the Great Destroyer for those of you who aren't ready for it can be both mind blowing and scary, the sounds that come out from this little box are beyond just creative noise and experimental. The Great Destroyer for me definitely delivered some much needed new colors to paint my tunes with. It's capabilities range from the "norm" all the down to the damned extreme. It is a very good idea that you get yourself some starting point settings from Ben before diving into the madness that is the Great Destroyer or you might just be discouraged and end up missing out. Let's start with some of the more traditional fuzz tones the Great Destroyer produces. If your thing is the Fuzz Face or Big Muff this pedal isn't for you, but if you're into more modern, fatter, and sharp cut right through the mix version of these pedals you will be right at home. The four knobs read Volume, Tone, Gain, and Starve. Other than the Volume knob these controls don't respond like your everyday run of the mill control knobs. The Tone knob once you start to tweak it automatically freaks out and begins to chirp and cry like a robot having the life beaten out of it. The Gain knob delivers such a massive boost of freakout that the first time I turned it I was thrown back, and the fact that my amp was at 6 didn't help. Then there's the Starve knob, I would imagine it's job is to starve the pedal of power to create interesting and wild fuzz tones, which it does! Combining it with the rest of the knobs is where this control really begins to get interesting. When I think of the tones this pedal creates I think of bands like Godflesh, Jesu, Low, NIN, QOTSA, and Fantomas just to name a few. The Great Destroyer creates tones perfect for rhythm guitar playing and chucking away. There is an element to this pedal that screams CHORD HEAVEN! There is a war going on out there, a war between builders who everyday send their creations out to the masses to see what new circle of sounds can be created. We plug our sonic weapons into our amps and try one way or another to invent the next signature sound. Dwarfcraft Devices and the Great Destroyer are on the frontlines of this audio warfare and with their weapons you will turn heads, shake things up, and hunt down the sounds only heard in your dreams and nightmares.

An
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Interview With
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Benjamin Hinz
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Alfie Cruz:
Hello Ben, I'll start with a question I like to ask all effects builders. If you have one, your favorite all-time stock pedal? Favorite company?

Benjamin Hinz:
Well, I think that the old DOD Digidelay could be my all time favorite. You could do a loop, then twist the time knob and pitch it up and down, and it made gnarly noises as the battery died. My most used though is probably my Crybaby Wah. Bottom of the line, straight-outta-the-box crybaby. I don't know how I ever played without one.
You get such a huge dynamic range with YOUR FOOT, MAN!

My favorite company is definitely Devi Ever USA, I wish I could have all her pedals, because for a fuzz junkie like me, there is a perfect fuzz for every occasion, and between the two of us we've got it covered.

AC:
What did you grow up playing?

BH:
Telecasters, I still do. But for my beginning, my sound was four string Telecaster>Bad Monkey Overdrive>DOD Digidelay>Peavey halfstack. My rig kind of grew up around that, EHX ring mod, Line 6 DL4 being the two most important additions.

AC:
I had asked about your start in building and you said it was in the summer of 07. A buddy of yours had started building and turned you on by letting you know how simple it was. The book you read on Hardware Hacking. Just give me a bit more info on those early early days when you first got interested.

BH:
Ok, well I was spending a lot of time in the cold dark basement working on this electronic stuff, but nowhere near as much as I am now! Hardware Hacking (which I heard a nasty rumor is out of print?) by Nicolas Collins really jump started me into building my own stuff. First was the Thumping Double Squaresnakes, my main Squarewave Synth, and soon after the Great Destroyer. I was hoping that I could basically, sell the first unit, build another for myself, and put the "profit" what little there was, into new parts for more pedals for myself! But very quickly friends and strangers both wanted more and more and more! Luckily I lost my cooking job in December of 07 (Galloway Grill, eat shit!) so I had a little more time to build.

AC:
You said you had experimented with pulling apart Behringer pedals and what not. Exactly what was it you did? Do you take them apart to learn how they worked, to see what kind of components, parts, etc.. they sported?

BH:
Oh, haha! I had no intent on learning! Circuit bending is just poking around and hoping for the best, it's like anti-science. I took them apart and just stuck a wire between random solder joints on the circuit board, and marked the ones that were cool.

AC:
That's killer! I'm gonna have to start taking some unwanted gear apart and what freakish sounds I can get out of them. Your first actual original build was?

BH:
Thumping Double Squaresnakes

AC:
What goes into a Dwarfcraft Device? How do you go about creating your designs, do you have something in mind, jump in blind, or experiment?

BH:
A whole lot of blood sweat and tears!! But really, it's a really strong effort on my part and my wife's, who does the bookwork, and a lot of the enclosure work. She actually populated the PCBs for the last batch of Great Destroyers, that was cool. Louise (my wife) works 9-5, so I have 2 or 3 kids all day. Then she comes home and we make dinner, and put them to bed, usually by eight. Then we have to walk the dogs, some times I take a half hour or forty five minutes on my playstation or the internet. Then I usually work from 9-2, and it's winter now so I'm fucking freezing the whole time in my basement. Summer is much better, its nice and cool-ish in the basement and I have my drill press out in the garage, so I can listen to Boris and smoke while I drill. I'm thinking about moving a major portion of the operation out there when the thaw comes, you know, for smoke and Boris.

AC:
Launch of Dwarftcraft, where you offered them up first and who was of help to you? The first pedals you offered in your line?

BH:
First to help were a few people from offsetguitars.com, and especially a LOT of people from Shortscale.org buying Great Destroyers from me. They're like my other family, and probably 3/4 of my friends. The next big help was Alan Sparhawk from Low buying (eventually) 4 destroyers from me, and letting me shoot some video of him with it. I think he's using it with one of his smaller bands, The Retribution Gospel Choir, who are fucking great. Last and most importantly Devi Ever has helped me out in sooooo many ways soooo many times. I can't even begin to thank her. Just the other day she set up a sub-forum for Dwarfcraft on her website. Like she needs the "competition". But I think we have more "overlap" than competition. Our stuff sounds really different, so that helps. Mine is more "open" and "flappy" and hers is a lot tighter and grippier. I know, doesn't make much sense but let me say it this way. I use Dwarfcraft for rhythm, and Devi for leads. I guess where we overlap is the "noise" department, but you can never have too much of that shit, in my opinion.

AC:
I can see that the stuff you build aren't the everyday mainstream effects pedals (which I love and respect). What got you into building these rare designs?

BH:
Yearning for new sound. One of my main obsessions in music is making the guitar sound like it's no longer a guitar. Some of the new stuff is more specific like, a dude wanted a bass fuzz with a clean/dirty blend, and I thought the Big Muff could be a lot better, so those ones I had very specific goals in mind. Honestly, if I had come out with another Fuzz Face or Tube Screamer, nobody would have given a fuck. I wouldnt have given a fuck. Luckily, I have always been into noisy droney dangerous stuff, so when i make pedals for myslef, they are unlike someone elses.

AC:
With all the companies out there building pedals today where do you see the business going? What would you hope your effects do for people?

BH:
First, I hope that people get out of their Tube screamer, Fuzz Face, Big Muff rut. These are all great pedals, but SRV, Hendrix and Jack White already happened. I like to see the variety on pedal board shots, peopel developing their own "signature" sounds. As far as the business goes, well I think we're going to hit a plateau at best, and a drop at worst in the near future. There's a new guy every day putting boutique pedals in the world, and people's wallets are getting thinner and thinner, at least in the US. Unfortunately for the rest of the world that starts to affect them too. I know Analogue Haven has been seeing a drop in sales this year. Times are tough and we who build pedals build items that are non-essential to survival for most people. On the other hand, there will always be a core group buying gear, mostly people who never had much money anyway, and are used to saving up for a piece of gear. To those people I say "KUDOS!" If I could give you all a pedal, I would!

AC:
Where can players find your boxes?

BH:
Theres a few places now.

Madape.com
Analogue Haven
Tone Factor
Brickhouse Music (Eau Claire and River Falls Wisconsin hometown pride, woot!) If you can, definetly stop into Brickhouse, they are all cool guys, and most of them know Dwarfcraft's products, so they won't probably give you the evil eye when you start oscillating and whatnot. Also they usually have stickers and stuff.

And then In belgium we have Crush The Button
England is The Last Guitarist
Japan has 9volt audio, I think it's called. I'm not sure, it's a bitch to navigate, what with it being all Japanese and stuff.

AC:
What's next for you? If there was anything you could build what would it be?

BH:
I've always wanted to build a really big gestural instrument, kind of like a theremin, but more sounds and controls. Maybe with a footboard to switch some paramaters? Something where I can just wave my hands around like a wizard and control sounds. After that, a brainwave to audio converter. The you can just put the helmet on, plug it into the PA and do the whole show from your mind. I think I would sell a lot of those. I was thinking about that, and how maybe in heaven thats how concerts are, you just go into the club and theres a dude up there thinking his whole set. But then it woudl turn into some goddamn cleverness contest, and pretty soon everyone would have those little black glasses and tight jeans and $50 tshirts that look like they came from the dump, and it owuld turn out you were in hell. So Yeah, I hope the Hereafter has a plan for when i get there. Maybe just sex 24/7. I suppose then I wouldnt need to make music.

AC:
Anything else you would like to let people know about you and your boxes?

BH:
1)They retain low end. I mean, how the fuck did the ten thousand guys before me miss that? If your pedals sound GOOD on bass, you sell twice as many.

2) No, I'm not high.

AC:
I'm really stoked to have you on board and look forward to demoing one of your boxes. Please let me know once you have the chance to send one out, I'd like to do a two part article on Dwarftcraft Devices. One part with the article and interview and the other with a review and demo of a pedal. Hope to hear from you soon. Please feel free to call me anytime and if there's anything I can do for you to help further your quest I'm game.


For more info on Dwarfcraft Devices click on the Great Destroyer logo in our links or go to www.myspace.com/dwarfcraftdevices
Look for more posts, demos, and podcasts on Dwarfcraft Devices in the near future.

2 comments:

  1. very informative & much needed interview. excellent.

    (the nic collins book is not OOP. a Second Edition actually has been reprinted i think & the First Edition is widely available used.)

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