of a tube. Power tubes have a negative grid
bias and when you start pushing the grid
positive, the tube is literally stumbling while
trying to maintain its equilibrium. You can
actually hear this and you can feel it.
When I heard the final version of our Vypyr,
I couldn’t see it. I could’ve sworn it was a
tube stack but it was a solid state, open
back with 75 watts and it had that—you
can’t describe tone quality in words but I’ll
try—it had that choke, that kind of visceral
feel like a big tube amp when you hit a
power chord. It had that.
So let me get this straight, guitar players
are going nuts over tube-driven boutique
amps for a few years now, but you’ve
just put out a very affordable [and metal-friendly] modeling amp called the Vypyr.
This follows on the coattails of your popular ReValver modeling software
Yes and by the way, this new software is
the future. It is amazing because it absolutely mimics anything you’ve ever heard.
The beauty of this is it doesn’t just model
well-known amplifiers, it lets you literally
design your own amplifier. One of the problems that we have with language, written
language and spoken, is that no matter
how good your vocabulary is, you can’t
describe tone. What does “fat” and “thick”
mean? It may mean something totally different to you than it means to me. For the
first time, we’ve allowed people to go in
and design their own virtual amplifier to
change the tubes, to change the voltage
on those tubes, to change their placement,
the plate resistor, the cathode resistor, the
cathode bypass resistor, etc. Anything, any
sound, you have in your head that you can’t
describe to anybody, you can now design
and achieve those things.
People measure success in this industry in
a number of different ways: maybe by the
number of albums their gear can be heard
on, their worldwide sales figures, the number of patents they own, etc. How do you
measure success in this business?
I believe the measure of success is how long
you can stay successful doing something.
The saying, “He who is left standing when
the dust settles, wins,” is very telling. Peavey
is, as Coca-Cola once tagged themselves,
“the Real Thing.” The interesting thing
about the music and sound business is that
companies die but names never do! What is
the company, really? At the end of the day,
a company is the people. If the name is the
same but all the people are different then
it’s not the same company. Incredibly, a lot
of musicians assume that the name today
is the same as it used to be. That couldn’t
be further from the truth. So in that sense,
I can’t think of anybody else who has been
around longer in the same venue or under
the same ownership as we have except Jim
Peavey didn’t hit its stride until Hartley introduced the
PA- 3 sound reinforcement system in the late 1960s.
Marshall, who started two years before I did.
He started in ’ 63 and I started in ’ 65.
What’s your take on Jim?
He still owns his company, and I have great
respect for that. I’m doing the same thing.
Because frankly, if I were doing the things
that I do under a bunch of bankers or whatever, they wouldn’t let me do them.
I don’t know whether you know the old
Greek story of Diogenes, who was looking
through the darkness of eternity for an honest man. He’s still looking, by the way. I’m
looking for the truth, too, wherever it leads
me—like when I started out making guitar
amplifiers. My first amplifiers weren’t very
successful, so I got into the sound system
business and we did extremely well. Still do.
But I’m still searching for that Holy Grail.
One could say that Grail searching is what
spawned the boutique industry as we
know it today.
The fact is, five years from now most of
those companies won’t be around. There
are so many pitfalls. Believe me, I know, I’ve
stepped in most of those potholes. Thank
God I didn’t break a leg, but I almost did.
We know some of the things to do and
many things not to do, and I enjoy it. The
company has become, in many ways, a
springboard for me to press my knowledge,
because I’m crazy about learning just as
much as I can. For me, it’s very disconcerting
that the more I read and the more I learn,
the more I realize I don’t know. And there
are people out there who actually believe
they know something and those people,
nine times out of ten, really don’t know
much because if they did they’d realize we
are all pretty ignorant.
We don’t even know what causes magnetism. Most guitar players don’t know how a
magnetic pickup works. Nobody ever bothers to tell them. Some of them think you
sprinkle fairy dust, or that there really is an
old hermit who winds pickups by the light of
the moon. That’s just not reality. Some musicians don’t talk about reality. They want to
believe in magic and it breaks my heart to
see them taken advantage of.
What advice would you have for gearheads, then?
You know, earlier I alluded to that old saying
about he who is left standing when the dust
settles. As it relates to my story, I’d say just
keep doing what you do.
Now, if my competitors were to come to me,
hell, I’m not going to tell them what to do.
Nobody told me. Not to be selfish, but God
didn’t put me here to educate my competitors. What I was put here for was to build
the best product I know how to build, and
that’s been going on here for probably close
to fifty years—full time for the last forty-three years. Good Lord willing, I’m going to
be around a few more years. I’ve seen my
competitors sell out, go public and get conglomerated. It’s happening again today.