Feature: Turn Your Dream Custom Pedal Into A Reality

We get an exclusive interview with NoiseKICK FX main man Matthew Zuckerman   29-Feb-12

Feature: Turn Your Dream Custom Pedal Into A Reality

NoiseKICK FX is an effects pedal company based in Maryland, known for their cool designs and utilitarian custom pedals, NoiseKICK offer you the chance to have a pedal built to your exact specifications for the price of a mass-manufactured stock pedal.

You might be wondering how they do this, well put simply, you order the pedals directly from NoiseKICK, so you don't have to worry about distribution costs and mark-up costs from retailers. If you head to their Facebook page, you can see some of the custom pedals that have been made for previous customers. Custom pedals start from $100, and some of NoiseKICK's stock pedals retail at around $70.

Needless to say, the custom pedals and the stock pedals are hand built in the USA. If you don't have any ideas for your custom pedal at the moment, it's definitely worth taking a look at NoiseKICK FX's range of stock pedals for inspiration.

Obviously if you want to have something adventurous built for you, you will have to part with more cash than $100, but the pricing is still very reasonable and you can negotiate this with Matthew as he helps you to do design and conceptualise your pedal. This means that instead of going out and potentially buying four or five pedals to serve separate functions, you could have a chat to Matt and he may be able to incorporate a number of functions into one custom pedal. You can read about an example of this in the interview below. I caught up with Matt to find out more about his work:

RB: So first things first, tell us a little bit about how NoiseKick FX was born!

MZ: I started working with guitar-based electronics while in college. The project I did was modding my Strat pickups and selector switch to get more tones (coil tap, series/parallel switch, etc.). Before long I was obsessed with modifying and building circuits. After a couple years one of my friends asked me to build him a pedal just for him. It was a boost, I believe, and he wanted his band's logo printed on the face of the pedal. He seemed to enjoy it and suggested I make this service available to all! I never really thought about turning this into a small business really. It wasn't until June of last year that my friend, Michael, helped me turn my hobby into a marketable product. He helped with creating the current logo, Facebook page and getting the initial word out about noiseKICK FX.

Anyway, the initial small run of the flagship pedal sold out pretty quick. The “Fuzz vs Boost”, or FVB-1, is a 2-in-1 pedal. A distortion akin to the early big muff from the 70's and a clean boost. One of the great functions that was featured on the FVB-1 is the 'effect order switcher'. This allows you to choose the order of the effects. So for example you can have the fuzz going into the boost; or the boost going into the fuzz.

Going from a hobby to a small boutique turned out to be a great idea. Building pedals is something I really enjoy and take pride in. Customization is a key element of noiseKICK FX. One of the most fun aspects of this job is working with customers to create a completely unique and custom product that suits their personality and taste. With each custom pedal comes something new. I like the fact that I’m never doing something twice in exactly the same way.

RB: What's the coolest custom pedal you've built so far?

MZ: The most extreme custom job I've done has to be the GuanoLoco! a.k.a. “Batshit-crazy”. And the name is quite fitting. It's a 3-in-1 pedal, meaning 3 different effects in one enclosure: a square wave tremolo (great for getting that stuttering sound), an octave fuzz, and an analogue delay with warp function (runaway repeats). It can really produce some very unique sounds. But it's not all about the craziness. The GuanoLoco! Is really beneficial for producing some mellow tones as well. There's a in-depth demo video showing off the many features of the pedal. The GuanoLoco! also sports the 'effect order switcher' which is available on many other noiseKICK products. It's my most recent custom work.

It seems each custom job gets more complex. Which is a great thing. Like I said, it's great working with a fellow tone junkie to come up with new idea which may have never been attempted before. I'm always excited to see what a customer can think of and I am able to give to them.

RB: So when a client comes to you with an idea, how long does it usually take to turn that into a reality?

MZ: The usual turn-around time for a custom pedal is 4-6 weeks. My main goal is for the customer to get the highest quality product possible. This all depends on the complexity of the circuits and aesthetic requests of the customer.

RB: Could you take us through to process, from inception to completion, if I was to ask you guys to build me a pedal. I play bass and guitar, so maybe a dual channel fuzz pedal, with one for bass and one for guitar - that'd be awesome!

MZ: Dual channel or multi-effect units are very common at noiseKICK. The process usually starts with me and the customer brainstorming. I'm completely open to customer input. Like I said before, noiseKICK is all about customization. You can choose almost any aesthetic option and make it your own; down to the LED colour, knobs, even the orientation and positioning of the input/output jacks. For your dual channel bass/guitar fuzz I can add a toggle switch to allow more 'low end' to pass though. I've made a few dirt boxes for bass, which unlike a normal fuzz circuit, don't clip off the lower frequencies.

Once the effect and aesthetic options are decided I begin to build. I usually send the customer a concept drawing of what the pedal will look like when completed. The whole process usually takes 4-6 weeks.

RB: Who comes up with the pedal artwork, is that done by hand, and is every piece of artwork unique?

MZ: There are two main options we give to a customer. Either we can print out a decal with any image or I can hand paint the enclosure. Sometimes I will put some painting (for the classier crowd) or make up my own design on the computer using graphic design software. As for the hand painting, lately I’ve been prone to utilizing a 'swirl' painting technique. I like this because it ensures that every pedal is unique and can never be reproduced to look the same. I don't really consider myself a professional artist (as in I’ve never studied it formally) but the customers seem to like my choice of artwork if they leave it up to me. Additionally, the pedal enclosure can be a unique 'canvas' to work with. With each pedal I get new idea. It's really all part of the creative process.

RB: It says on your Facebook that you have no affiliation with the Dutch Terrorcore Gabber band who are also called NoiseKick. Why not? You could kit them out with fuzz pedals to create a fuzzcore gabber band.

MZ: That's a great idea! I'll shoot them an email. I do try to get noiseKICK pedals in the hands (or feet) of professional musicians if possible. Some local bands here in Maryland, USA have used my pedals and its great to see something you built being used on stage and having in influence in a concert. The most notable band which uses noiseKICK is Rusted Root. They had that one song, “Send me on my way” in the early 90's. I gave a distortion pedal to one the guitarist at a show and they seemed to like it because the bass playing wanted one too! They have 3 different noiseKICK pedals they use now and will most likely use them on their upcoming album.

RB: What's gabber…?

MZ: Fuck if I know.

RB: So other than NoiseKick FX, which is obviously awesome, what other pedal companies are you keen on?

MZ: Zvex makes some pretty innovative circuits; including their sequence pedals for example. Also, the Empress vintage modified superdelay is one of the best delay circuits I've heard.

RB: Finally, let's shoot forward ten years. What's the dream for NoiseKick?

MZ: Haha I try take it day-by-day for now. This is still a 1-man operation but my main goal is to expose the noiseKICK name to as many musicians as possible. I never want to get so “big” that the whole 'personal' aspect of a noiseKICK pedal is taken away. Either way, I don't see myself stopping any time soon.


You can contact Matthew Zuckerman by shooting him an email - noisekickfx@gmail.com, or visiting his Facebook page - Facebook.com/noisekickfx

Rich Beech

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