Interview: Chris from Austin Hot Mods

Hello there my good and faithful Minions! I hope all is well.

Today we are going to do something just a little different. As some of you know I spent many a magical night on stage as a founding member of the costumed super group Thunderpants here in Houston. Although I no longer play out anymore, I still enjoy a good jam session from time to time.

Scarecrow Pic

Well, a friend of mine recently started a side business modifying foot pedals for guitar players at an affordable price. And though his interests are not exactly horror-themed, he is a fellow maker and I think what he’s doing is really cool. So over the weekend I sat down with Chris from Austin Hot Mods to see what this whole thing is about.

And with that, please welcome Chris from Austin Hot Mods.

So tell me a little bit about AHM. How did you get started in electronics?

Well I started Austin Hot Mods as a point of necessity…for others really, not my self. I have been an audio/video engineer for well over a decade now, both live and in the broadcast world and have worked with literally hundreds of musicians. They all want to have a “sound” that is huge, but the problem is most musicians simply can’t afford boutique pedals. Much like suits, they are very expensive and there are plenty of “off the rack options” that come close enough. What we are doing is taking these very commonly owned and mass produced pedals and transmogrifying them have a sound that is much warmer and closer to analog with a far smaller price point.

wah project 3

I began tinkering with electronics when I was around eight years old. I remember having a project in a school class one day that blew my mind with switches, a light, a buzzer and a battery. I was absolutely mesmerized! How could my brain NOT want to explore this? Next thing I know I am building my first time machine. It of course didn’t work…or did it? I can’t remember for some reason.

I continued for a couple of years with silly ideas, putting random things together when one day I ran across a book of simple projects at my public library that changed it all. Once my Grandmother bought me my first soldering iron for my twelfth birthday it was over. Though I soldered poorly I managed to start making my own speaker phones, simple microphones and light projects. From there it was years of field experience with live audio engineering, picking the brains of sick geniuses and absorbing as much as I could all culminating in the creation of my own little pedal modification company AustinHotMods.com

Where do you get your materials?

That depends on the materials. I love finding old vintage gear that’s broken, buying it in bulk and stripping it down to bare parts. This is how I get quite a few of my knobs and some older capacitors and germanium parts that can be hard to find. Nothing ever sounds like these vintage parts…EVER! I also use a few wholesale suppliers, I personally try to steer clear of specifically “Chinese” parts mainly due to the production standards. But one would be surprised the quality that can be found in as simple a place as Amazon.com.

Vintage '82 Japanese Boss CE-3

Vintage ’82 Japanese Boss CE-3

I’m looking at your website and I see that you have several specific mods available for various foot pedals. Do you do custom work as well?

(Laughing) You know you are not the first person to ask that question. The answer is not yet…YET! As I mentioned before, my heart truly lies with the struggling artist. You know that guy we all know who works the minimum wage full time job to pay his bills and spends 3 nights a week practicing to play a gig for 30 people, if he’s lucky, that may or may not be listening, but plays it with all his heart every time. What about that guy?! he can barely even afford the gas to get to the gig much less $55-$100 for a pedal to begin with. These are the souls I want help find their sound. I want us to be able to take their off the self hum-drum pedal and make them into rock star’s that have a custom sound and shine. So to simplify, yeah someday.

If I were to bring you a pedal, how long would it take for you to transmogrify it?

Well much like any luthier or auto shop it all depends on what we have on the bench presently and parts available in house, but our average turn around at the moment is around 14 days. Of course that’s with a personal drop off and pick up. If you were to be shipping as the nice gent from the UK who contacted us, well it could take longer to say the least.

wah project 1

I really want to hear that Crazy Diamond mod. Will you bring it with you next time you come to town?

HAHA…Yeah I must say that one is a personal favorite. It’s so entirely smooth. You bet, I’ll bring that and then some. I would never dream of denying you the transmogrified goodness!

Great! Thanks so much man. I look forward to seeing what you do next!

Anytime…and thanks for having me.

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