In the Part I of our interview with Chase Bliss Audio founder Joel Korte, the pedal maker talked about picking up his first guitar, the unfortunate loss of his brother and the inspiration it provided for launching his brand. Opting to follow his dreams, as his brother did, Korte has since created two outstanding pedals for all the world to hear, the Wombtone and Warped Vinyl.
Throughout the evolution of guitar pedals, designers have created a wide range of products, especially in terms of complexity. With the release of Korte's latest masterwork, the Gravitas, we spoke with the Chase Bliss main-man about his philosophies on pedal building and why he has a passion for gear that allows total control.
There seems to be a few camps in the guitar pedal world, those that keep it extremely simple and those that want to offer as much control as possible over a player’s sound. You’re obviously leading the latter camp, what made you develop that type of philosophy when it comes to pedals?
For me, it’s just about doing things that other people are not doing and making new sounds. I’ve been lucky enough to develop a skill-set that allows me to develop products that others either have not dreamed up, are not willing to do or do not know how to do.
I think that pedal customers are getting incredibly sophisticated as well. They’ve seen it all and they are hungry for something different. I feel like I can make something new and explore sonic territory that others have not. I think that customers really appreciate that in today’s market.
Is there ever such a thing as too much control? How do you know when to stop when you are developing a new pedal?
I’m not sure if there is or not, but you have to draw the line somewhere or things would never get done. For me, it’s just a feeling when I know that I am done. If something is nagging at me, if something does not sound quite right, then I know that I am not done. I suppose that the mkII pedals are an example of something that I thought was done but then I decided I needed to revisit them to make them better.
If you had to create a pedal with extremely limited controls, what would you build?
Probably a fuzz – there are still so many tones, so much fun to be had with a limited control set in this type of effect.
A big change is that I moved the dip switches from the bottom of the pedal to the side. This was a big deal for folks because having them on the bottom made it really difficult to make changes when the pedal was affixed to the pedal board. I also added some bonus controls (tone for Warped Vinyl, mix for Wombtone), and expanded the midi functionality. There are now a total of 122 preset slots that can be recalled via MIDI.
Warped Vinyl mkII also has reduced noise and a wider vibrato range. Wombtone mkII has a tweaked feedback circuit with more open voicing. I also allowed for a super slow rate on Wombtone mkII since that can be a really cool effect on phasers in particular.
When you were thinking about creating your next pedal, what led you to come up with the concept of the Gravitas?
I’ve known for a long time that I wanted to do a tremolo, I think what held me back from making this my first or second release was that I wanted to make sure that it offered some things that were different than what was already out there. For whatever reason, there are more than a few feature packed tremolos out there.
When I started playing around with the idea of doing standard tremolo, as well as harmonic tremolo in the same analog pedal, coupled with the digital control I introduced in the previous pedals, I thought that I had something special.
I usually have the idea for a very long time and then it just takes many months to execute. As I actually make progress in the design, some things sound better than other things, so there is a process of change that happens as well.
The end product is never what my initial plan was because you have to make adjustments based on how things are sounding. For Gravitas specifically, I would say that I spent the most time tweaking the harmonic tremolo – it was really important for me to get that sound in my head.
What can users expect from this pedal and what are your favorite applications for it?
I think people should expect a wonderful analog do-it-all tremolo that also has a wacky and psychedelic side. I really love ramping the tremolo rate, or controlling the rate with an expression pedal. I’ve been enjoying square wave harmonic tremolo settings, sometimes with another standard, slower tremolo over the top of it by modulating the volume knob. I think that this pedal really excels at swells too. I like setting a relatively slow rate with both standard and harmonic tremolo happening simultaneously and setting the ModuShape controls to a swell type of effect. Very pretty and weird at the same time.
What's next for you and Chase Bliss?
I have a list of ideas that is growing faster than I can make stuff. I just knock off the thing that seems to make the most sense at the time. I’m not sure about any grand visions or anything, I just want to keep exploring and trying to add things to the sonic landscape that are not already there. To Chase my Bliss.