From the frigid coastal region just off Lake Ontario; enriched by remnants of old Industrial buildings gathered around the Genesee River’s High Falls, a city deep in the heart of the rust belt being home to several flour mills, Kodak, Xerox, the Institute of Technology and vast film archives and photography exhibits inside the George Eastman Museum. Rochester, NY is hard working class city on the western regions of New York State and is now home to Adventure Audio; an electronics company specializing in guitar effects.
I spoke with Christian Terjesen, one of the founders of Adventure Audio who’s also in charge of Digital Design and PCB design. Christian was kind enough to send me one of their latest creations known only as the DREAM REAPER, a Fuzzy Feedback Modulation Machine loaded with weird features guaranteed to turn your tone into something unexpected. You can hear everything this pedal can do on episode 12 of the podcast as I run down all of its controls and functions. Overall I was very impressed by the “normal” fuzz sound that this pedal produced when the dream mode was disengaged. It’s a highly usable fuzz and when you click on the DREAM setting it takes you into total unknown (and noisy) territory. A must have for any knob turner, and pedal nerd such as myself.
You can follow Adventure Audio on Instagram and stay updated on what they have going on as it seems from this interview they are branching out on some new adventures.
What sparked your desire to start designing and building pedals and how did that carry on to the first design for Adventure Audio?
It started back when I lived in West Philly on Spring Garden and I was having trouble finding a stable job to help pay rent. The thought of starting a pedal company gradually became a reality after peaking inside some boutique pedals I already owned. At the time, I was working an apprenticeship at DIY Recording Equipment and that job really exponentially launched Adventure Audio. Circuit board design, part sourcing and management, shipping, how to launch products, take product photos and videos. It was essentially a start up that I helped and saw come to fruition. Peterson is still rocking it in West Philly.
The first design came from a few friends of mine that were hanging around the Headroom Recording Studio (which was at Big Mamas in 2014. They’ve since moved into a really tight spot elsewhere). They were talking about how he loved tube screamers and I thought it was a a great place to start. I studied that thing in an out man and a few short weeks later, the Siamese Growler was born! That pedal is kind of the Glacial Zenith V1.
What was it like during the beginning stages of getting AA off the ground? Who was on board and what was the process like getting pedals out there into the world?
Starting the company from scratch was kind of difficult considering the second and third year I had moved to Rochester, NY to attend grad school for Audio Digital Signal Processing. I was going to school full time and trying to build pedals on my own in my apartment. My second year of school, I met Matt Manes (who is the head analog circuit designer now). We had spoken via email about a year before that but had never met in person. The first time I walked up to him, he was looking at a Vero strip board layout for a pedal on his computer and I immediately thought “were gonna be hanging out a lot haha”. Now, two years later, we have two other awesome dude that help us build these noise boxes.
Who or what were your creative influences when starting? (i.e. other pedal builders, artists, books, movies, etc..)
Dang, I always have so much inspiration from the internet that changes how I design stuff. Midnight Amplification was a company that I really looked up to in terms of aesthetic design. Chase Bliss is also a huge inspiration for me personally. The micro controller integration control is something that we are seriously looking into.
Im also a big collector of VHS tapes, considering how cheap they are now. Just the texture and the lighting in some of those movies are so cool to me.
Jumping ahead now, where did the idea for the DREAM REAPER come about and what is that crazy pedal doing with itself?
The idea of the Dream Reaper was all Matts idea, I helped influence the design of the artwork and designed the PCB / Assembly process. Travis Johansen does all of the artwork for our products and he does a killer job. He’s about the hit the road in Kopps supporting Joywave on a nationwide tour. Stoked from him and all those peeps.
Anyway, where Matt got the idea for the Dream Reaper was from trying to mod a DOD250 and he made some wrong connections so it started feeding back. He was taken back for a second and then thought “woah, wait I can make this kind of like a synthy feedback feature”.
Explain the pickup emulator / sense knob features on the DR and why you decided to add in that feature.
The pickup emulator / sense knob came about after messing around with the Dream Reaper prototype inline with some other pedals. We found out that, when there is a buffered pedal before the Dream Reaper, the impedance from the pickups in your guitar, i.e. the volume and tone knobs, don’t work that well as controls for the oscillation frequency. So what we did, was put a pickup emulator in the pedal. Think of it like: theres not a great way to get around buffered pedals, so we copied essentially what your guitar tone knob does and put it right before the pedal so you can still wrestle the oscillation with something haha. Does that make sense?
Here’s a fun thing to try: Wah before Dream Reaper.
I really like the layout and design of this pedal especially how each control is essentially apart of the center “Filter” knob. Was that done on purpose to show the user that each parameter works with each other but based around the center Filter control?
For everything that I design, I draw it out or kind of just lay out the knobs and switches on a blank enclosure. I really liked the idea of doing a sort of circle of knobs with a big one in the middle. I asked Matt what the most used knob in the circuit was and it was definitely the tone knob. I think it just so happened that the filter knob was sort of the middle of everything.
What is your favorite effects pedal of all time and your favorite AA creation?
Favorite pedal of all time?! Cmon man thats a tough one. I really dig delay and chorus. The Roland Space Echo and Vintage Memory Mans hold a warm spot in my heart. Kind of funny how we don’t have a delay out yet. (We’re working on it).
Favorite Adventure pedal is going to have to be the Outer Rings. I think its our most ambitious attempt at a design so far. Im just really proud of what we’ve done as a team.
What’s next for Adventure Audio and What are you personally looking forward to the most moving forward?
We’re really trying to merge the eurorack synth world and the pedal world together by putting CV control jacks on the faces of all our pedals. We’re also very close to releasing our first module! Thats exciting.
As a team we’re working on 3-4 different projects at the same time. All with CV jack integration. I can’t release too much about it but Its gonna get bonkers.
Go to adventurepedals.com for all of their latest news and products.