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Tone makers - Walrus Audio: “Common mistakes? Obsessing over gear rather than obsessing over your personal development”

(Image credit: Walrus Audio)

Walrus Audio president, Colt, and manager, Jason, hand out tone tips and reveal plans for their new MIDI pedals...

1. What was the first pedal you built and how did the design come about?

Colt Westbrook: “Walrus was started by Brady Smith in 2011. He’s an amazing designer. The first Walrus pedal was the Voyager [preamp/overdrive] and it had some great endorsements from people like Ed O’Brien, Joe Bonamassa and Nels Cline. Brady ran Walrus until 2014 when he formed Old Blood Noise [Endeavors]. At that point, Jason and I came in to run the business and develop products. There wasn’t an in-house engineer before Jason; it was being outsourced to other people, but everything’s happening here now.”

The first pedal that Colt and I worked on was the Descent

Jason Stulce: “We thought, ‘Let’s design and build this stuff in-house.’ The first pedal that Colt and I worked on was the Descent [reverb/octave]. Brady started the project and we finished it. After that came the Bellwether analogue delay and the Messner overdrive, but we really hit our stride with the Julia chorus/vibrato.”

2. What do you think makes Walrus Audio unique?

CW: “We take the timeless vintage sounds that people love and try to employ our ideas for modern innovations. We design specifically with professional touring musicians in mind.”

JS: “We develop everything with a lot of input from professional musicians. We have a group of people from a large cross- section of musical genres that we call on for completely honest, raw feedback.”

3. What’s your best-selling pedal and why do you think that is?

CW: “The best-selling pedal of all time is the Deep Six compressor pedal. People really like the [wet/dry] Blend control.”

JS: “With the Blend control you can retain your attack while getting the sustain. The studio guys always knew about parallel compression, but it wasn’t so much of a stompbox thing. The Deep Six really opened a lot of people’s eyes to that.”

4. Which notable players use Walrus Audio pedals?

CW: “Drew Shirley from Switchfoot, Danielle Haim, Nels Cline, Blake Mills... and Phil X uses the Warhorn [Mid-Range Overdrive pedal].”

JS: “It’s really all over the map. A lot of Nashville players use Walrus [pedals], but then so do a lot of post-rock players.”

5. Is there anything new on the horizon with Walrus Audio?

CW: “We’re currently working on something with a little more horsepower.”

JS: “We’re really excited about MIDI. It’s a very useful - and widely used - thing. It’s another one of those studio things that’s been used for many years, but it’s a matter of turning people on to how it can be used in the pedal world.”

(Image credit: Walrus Audio)

6. Tell us a secret about effects...

CW: “You can find great-sounding effects at any price range. There are amazing effects out there for $60. And there are some amazing effects out there for $400, too.”

JS: “There are also some really bad effects out there for $400...”

7. What’s your best tone tip?

CW: “Tune your guitar! Keep experimenting with strings and find a set that really works with your guitar. And get the guitar/amp combination down.”

Get the marriage of your amp and guitar right first. Don’t do anything until it’s the absolute best it can be

JS: “Practice! Also, get the marriage of your amp and guitar right first. Don’t do anything until it’s the absolute best it can be, whatever combination that may be.”

CW: “And find an EQ pedal you really like. There’s so much you can do with guitar EQ before any other effects. EQ’s not a very sexy effect, but you can get some awesome sounds if you know how to EQ your guitar just right.”

8. Name some common mistakes guitarists make with effects...

CW: “Obsessing over gear rather than obsessing over your personal development. I think people sometimes spend far too much time trying to figure out what the missing pieces of the puzzle are in terms of gear, rather than just concentrating on becoming a better player.”

JS: “Thinking there’s only one way to use a pedal, or only one way to chain pedals together. In my opinion, a really well- designed pedal has a lot of usable sounds in it, so spend time experimenting with different knob positions.”

9. What new pedals trigger your GAS most now?

CW: “I think Meris is doing some really cool stuff. I love the Enzo and the Hedra.”

JS: “The GFI [System] Cabzeus cab sim is incredible. We used them at NAMM. We went down every possible option, but when we discovered the Cabzeus, our search was over.”

10. What’s your favourite vintage pedal and why?

CW: “My first pedal was a Big Muff and it’s still great. You can’t beat it. It’s hours of fun and I think I’ll always go back to it.”

JS: “I really like the Boss VB-2. That sound really inspired the Julia’s vibrato side.”

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