This time we talk to the digital brain and analogue heart of Chase Bliss Audio, Joel Korte…
1. What was the first pedal you built and how did the design come about?
“I worked at Z.Vex from 2008 until 2013, and the first pedal I had a significant input into designing was the Instant Lo-Fi Junky. Zach [Vex] would get emails from people saying how much they loved the playback tone of the Z.Vex Lo-Fi Loop Junky [looper pedal], so we deconstructed it and attempted to recreate that sound in real time with the Instant Lo-Fi Junky. I think we were pretty successful. It has a strange, lo-fi, compressed vibrato that people seem to really love.”
2. What do you think makes Chase Bliss Audio unique?
“There aren’t many companies out there that are as completely obsessed with digitally controlling analogue effects, or that take it to the level Chase Bliss does. A majority of guitar pedals control the user’s experience, whereas I look at our pedals as much more of a blank canvas, where the user is in control of the experience. I want the user to have as much control as possible and be able to get creative with my pedals immediately, even if they don’t understand everything about them straight away.”
3. What’s your best-selling pedal and why do you think that is?
“Right now, it’s Brothers. It has two channels with a boost, overdrive and fuzz on each, or, if you like, six gain circuits in one pedal which you can route in 33 distinct ways. It’s less of a weird, esoteric luxury and more of a thing people might find indispensable to their rig.”
4. Which notable players/bands have used Chase Bliss pedals?
“Ed O’Brien [Radiohead], Ryan Adams, Nels Cline, Matthew Followill [Kings Of Leon], Vernon Reid [Living Colour], Rich Good…”
5. Is there anything new on the horizon with Chase Bliss Audio?
“We’re in the process of releasing a pedal called Thermae and have just released the Condor – an EQ/pre-amp/filter multi-effect. It’s been fun making videos of some of the stuff you can do with them that people might not realise is possible. We’ve started a video series called ‘This Is How I Bliss’ to show people how musicians and producers use Chase Bliss Audio stuff, which is also something I’m interested in learning more about!”
6. Tell us a secret about effects you’ve discovered...
“Always welcome suggestions from people about equipment you’re already very familiar with. It’s all too easy to get locked into a certain type of thinking, and oftentimes other people will have discovered something that you didn’t know was possible.”
7. What’s your best tone tip?
“Always think about context. You could have the most amazing tone in the world when you’re playing at home on your own with no other instruments, but in a live context it might not sound right. Conversely, you might have the right sound in a band mix that sounds horrible in isolation. Context is everything!”
8. What pedals are on your ’board?
“The pedalboard I’m gigging with right now has the Brothers, Wombtone, Warped Vinyl and Tonal Recall RKM Chase Bliss pedals and an Empress Reverb; they’re all hooked up to a MIDI controller and I’m also using a Z.Vex Loop Gate (a noise gate I designed when I was at Z.Vex). All the sounds are analogue, apart from the reverb, obviously…
“The Empress Effects Zoia looks cool. It’s really interesting – it’s like a modular system in a guitar pedal format. You can route anything to anything. I’m definitely going to get one. It’s a very creative and radical approach to a guitar pedal.”
9. If you had a three-pedal desert island ’board what would be on it?
“The Z.Vex Fuzz Factory. It’s hard for me not to have that pedal on my ’board right now. I’ve always had one, and it’s able to do so many different fuzz sounds. I’d have one of my Tonal Recall RKM pedals, because that’s my favourite Chase Bliss pedal at the moment. And I would have the new looper from Electro-Harmonix – the 95000 Performance Loop Laboratory. It looks like a mixing desk! Those three pedals would probably keep me entertained for a lifetime.”
10. What problems have effects designers yet to crack?
“We’re in an age where there’s a lot of emulation and trying to recreate analogue sounds with technology; I think that’s great on some levels, but there’s a certain human magic and imperfection you’re never going to be able to chase down.
“Even if you had a digital pedal that sounded exactly like an analogue pedal, I think there’s something about the way a pedal makes you feel that can never be emulated or replicated.”