Juan Solo and Cleggy

Ladies and Gents, I have a confession to make…

My name is Phil and I’m a pedal geek. There, I said it. Feels better already.

Though its not easy being a pedal geek. For starters not everyone knows what variety of pedal I’m geeky about. Most assume I have some kind of unhealthy obsession with bicycles. Well, I don’t. That would be weird. The kind of pedal that I get all excited about are guitar effects pedals, those little boxes of sonic magic that can open up a whole new musical palette for a guitarist and, in some cases, even furnish said guitarist with a signature sound that makes them instantly recognisable to the masses. Take, for instance, Jimi Hendrix’s use of Wah, Fuzz and Univibe pedals, Brian May’s use of a Treble Booster or Kurt Cobain’s use of Overdrive and Chorus. What do you mean that’s still a bit weird? Go easy, I’m opening up here…

My pedal geekdom took hold sometime in the 90s and hasn’t really abated since, if anything getting more intense as time has passed. I have spent, literally, thousands of pounds on numerous overdrives, distortion, fuzzes, choruses, delays, wahs, univibes, octavers, phasers, reverbs, boosters and compressors over the last twenty years or so, all in search of that elusive perfect ‘tone’, which is the holy grail for every electric guitarist on earth, the ultimate yet unreachable end (this applies especially to overdrive pedals, which, for transparency’s sake, I will have to capitulate and admit to having an unhealthy obsession with. Overdrive rules! Ok, yes, I can see how that might make me look a little bit weird). I have come close on numerous occasions to obtaining tonal perfection and currently own an MJW Custom Overdrive, which I consider to be the best I’ve ever plugged into, but somehow something is still missing. I am compelled to keep searching. So, imagine my utter joy when I discovered two like minded souls, who not only share my enthusiasm for pedals but also build them AND live in the same village as me! This, as things have turned out, is simultaneously my best and worst discovery in recent memory.

John and Andy (aka Juan Solo and Cleggy) are two fine upstanding gents who, as a hobby, build their own versions of some of the finest effects pedals known to man, convening several times a week in Andy’s front room to indulge their passion for all things pedal related. It may not seem it, getting together with your mate to do something you ultimately enjoy doing, but this is quite a big commitment and its one that could only be made if you are truly dedicated to the cause, because building pedals isn’t exactly cheap. In fact, if you have a boat load of cash and you want to lose it very quickly, aside from going down the bookies and betting it all on a three legged, blind, greyhound that’s just been fed a Mars bar, start a business building effects pedals. You will not be disappointed with the results. John and Andy were roughly £600 down on the day I went to visit them with my camera and that, by all accounts, isn’t too bad going!

The first time I met them, I’d only been in their company for half and hour and I’d commissioned them to build me a compressor. Not long after that I’d ordered yet another overdrive pedal. They have several other pedals that, if I had the cash, I’d snap their arms off for, most notably Andy’s AC30 in a box, which is devastatingly loud and sounds great to boot. For me to venture into Andy’s front room, wot wiv my terrible affliction and all, I have to be prepared to either remain strong and resist the temptation to spend, spend, spend or be a weak, ill disciplined, glutton and spend, spend, SPEND!!! Its not all about my internal conflict though. I hardly ever get a chance to talk about pedals with anyone (the wife is well meaning but she just doesn’t get it…) so spending time with John and Andy is a rare and welcome opportunity to do so and if I have to arrange a photo shoot in order to spend more time chatting about pedals then so be it…

I took quite a lot of photos of the build process but the photos I’m showing here are more focused on John, Andy and their working environment as I think this is where the true story of what they do and why they do it really lies. Hope you like them.

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http://juansolo.demon.co.uk/stompage/index.html

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