Super excited to finally get this show on the road with our first featurette…Well we use that term to mean that it is something short of a full feature. Actually just the video portion is where we used some restraint, as we are new with all this stuff.
OK- so welcome to our maiden effort that includes a profile and interview with Shad Damron of Quinnamp as well as a video and written review of the QuinnPeds Hot Buttered Scotch.
When we hatched this hair-brained scheme about trying to give an honest and broadened experience of the gear and companies that we focus on Shad said he was game. So for being the first one to step fearlessly into our private little abyss we say thank you Shad.
The layout of our feature on Quinnamp and all Muzzjects include some background on the company, a fucking gawt awful attempt at some editorial input and the transcribed notes from both written and phone conversations and a small video that shows some canoodling on Quinn’s Hot Buttered Scotch. Other than Ted’s out-of-tune guitar in the opening sequence, we are quite happy with how it turned out.
Big thanks to Muzz contributor, Felipe Arroyo for his mad talents editing and filming. Oh yeah, Felipe is a crazy good guitar player who will be featured in some upcoming profiles here at Themuzz.
“I was supposed to be a Luthier…then again I was supposed to be a drummer” is Shad’s response to my first (obviously) freshman interview questions as to how he got started.
A cool story that is catalyzed by personal interest to understand the craftwork of happening effects circa ’98-02 time frame to the inevitable “they tell two friends” word of mouth that developed into a full fledged concern. A time proven, bottoms-up business model that has taken Quinnamps from a spare-time, home-spun, moonlight operation to a full line of Amplifiers and effects pedals. All of which now has Quinnamp in the mix of respected and quality builders. Creeping into a sustainable operation you could say that the QuinnAmps concern is living the dream.
The idea that one can start a business in an already competitive and overpopulated market and based souley on the focus of simply building great products without the ever present distraction of actually making money, the perfect collision of craft work and commerce can occur. The smaller, less obvious tome’ here is that the idea that one can start a business and actually live above break even should give all a little hope.
Most that get into the business keep one foot safely in the day job space as the pursuit however noble and honest doesn’t always pay the bills. Others are in or nearing retirement age so the dependency on dollars to keep the mortgage paid is not a risk. Shad is far from idealistic about the realities of actually living the dream. In a sense, the notion that despite all the odds, all the knock off artists, and the infinite, gaping web’pinions that can wreck and brand regardless of content. Someone among us still chooses to forge ahead into the unknown and smile at their loved ones that there will be food on the table and heat in the house.
In learning about Shad’s history and early trajectory, an image is conjured of an eager kid hanging around a traditional music store of the 60s and 70s hoping (read: praying) that the guys will offer him a job to sweep up and take out the trash in exchange for behind the counter access and the chance to hang around a Music Shop with welcome impugnity rather than mere pesky loitering…”Except, I was in my 20s.” but the infectious interest created muscle behind what was once a breath on the glass hobby into a more serious and dedicated pursuit.
It’s a cool story and Shad gave us a ton of good info to include. Rip offs, Dumble Drama, and of course Tag..It’s all here folks. Shad’s a super laid back cat that really doesn’t suffer fools. The business is run be Shad and his wife Karin who helps with a the marketing and admin with able tech/build assistance from Big Lou and of course the company name sake- Quinn. Quinn is their 11 year old son. “Quinn is still a Jedi in training”.. Pretty cool. I would love to be Quinn on “what does my Dad do day” at the local elementary school
**Full disclosure, I am a customer, a user, a fan (thought not a fan boy a distinction I will focus on in upcoming muzzcusion) of Quinnamp. Not good for those that will look askance at this whole thing. And they will. Damn, our first piece and we have committed the most venal of journalism; to confuse objectivity in journalism much less a basic gear review, but as the case with anything here at Themuzz, we do not ask for, nor do we receive any remuneration for our words and videos. Lester Bangs..We’re sorry to have failed you so soon.
The following interview took place over a few weeks when Shad and I were able to find time. This is the culmination of both written and recorded conversations that took place over the last few weeks. Ugh, I’m an asshole as the more I learned the more I kept pestering Shad for more info to which he patiently answered with exceptional detail and when I started to compile this into some sort of meaningful narrative. Many thanks to Shad for his aplomb!! Our phone interviews with Shad will be edited into Podcasts for the detail seekers..
TheMuzz: So here we go. I hate to be so basic but I guess we have to ask how you got started with all of this craziness?
QuinnAmp: Path of least resistance… I was supposed to be a luthier…then again I “supposed” to be a drummer. ;O)
It really began as a quest to build a fender reverb unit to use with a Mesa Boogie MKIIC+ I had since I was a kid that did not have verb on it. I couldn’t find one to buy and so started thinking I was smart enough to just build one myself.. I then began to pester the local amp techs like Jeff Brown when he was at Old Town Music and this other cat who worked out of the back of Briz for a spell… They would be encouraging and would print up schematics for me and send me home with an old chassis or a book or two and a list of things to get and books to read…I was super pumped for it…but then I began reading and realizing I knew shit about tubes and transformers and amps… I wanted great tone but I did not want to die. So stepped back from actually building anything with high voltage and instead opted to dive into low voltage stuff again (I had built some very crude Craig Anderton type circuits as a kid) while studying books navy electronics books from the 40′s. The ones with the cartoons of cute little amps and tube with faces.
Great visual learning aid to understanding electronics… Also the book There Are No Electrons…Possibly the most liberating book on the subject. Forget electronic engineering…what I am interested in is Magic! :O)
While doing that studying I got all serious with pedals and vintage effects repair… Then I went into a new music store that had opened up in my town. I saw under a display glass all these parts that I recognized belonging in amps…not like replacement parts but like manufacturing goods.. So I got to asking him about it. Long story short this guy wanted an amp company but hadn’t a clue how to build an amp. He spat all these figures at me that sounded awesome… so like a sucker I pretty much stopped pedals cold for 3 months and built this several amps for this guy with the parts he had on hand. That went ok and the amps sounded great and he sold them with no problem… The trouble came when it was time to order more parts. This guy was running several other businesses and he kept lagging on talking the amp building one seriously…all the while I am entirely vested into it to the point of not doing pedals anymore.. So I had this brilliant idea..This guy could not build an amp or find time to place an order for parts for them but he could sell them. So I got all the parts and built the first “brown” Derby amp, thinking he would jump at the chance to buy and sell them… HA! Dude flipped his wig! It was the weirdest ego trip ever…
Anyway so here I was with a killer amp, no retailer to buy it and no pedal action going on. We’ve been building amps ever since and we just began releasing pedals again last year.
I pinch of turret..
TheMuzz: Do people think your name is Quinn? I know I did until you told me your name was Shad. You were polite about it though so I didn’t feel like a total goob when we first spoke.
QuinnAmp: Yeah it happens a lot. We started out around around 2000 doing mostly custom built modulation effects (envelope filters, trems, phase and a short lived but well received dual series/parallel inductor wah named the WTF!? aka the silver bitch wah) under the name Eeek! Music. At this time it was mostly a hobby thing I did in my free time. When the real Quinn came along I ended my day gig to be a full time Dad. When he’d be napping I would in the garage with a soldering iron on one side and the baby monitor on the other. I kinda realized then that this was the sort of thing I would be doing the rest of my life. I knew I would want my boy to follow in my footsteps and it just made sense. Although originally it was just going to be Quinn but it sorta became Quinnamp somehow…all these things seem to have flowed into being on their own. I never truly chose the way things went they just sorta happened… path of least resistance. ;O)
Jedi in training…and diming the presence. Company Namesake Quinn Damron.
TheMuzz: which came first Amps or pedals?
QuinnAmp: Guitars actually. The drums were too expensive to get started in so I got a guitar. Kramer focus4000 with a real Floyd rose, thank you…Nice and pointy. I opted to not get the 60′s candy apple strat my grandfather’s friend wanted me to buy… it was all chipped on the bout and it was red…and a “grandpas geeters” … anyway someone gave me a Carvin pickup with the million pole pieces and so putting that in my Kramer was the very first official soldering ever…it was a horrific but it worked and got me hooked.
TheMuzz: BTW, I’m totally angry with you…
QuinnAmp: Dude it was college, we were just experimenting. Don’t let it define our love.
TheMuzz: well it’s like this..I was groking on some new originals for my band and then you turned me on to Tame Impala and they were doing exactly what I wanted to so now I have folded the band and given up..
QuinnAmp: Oh they are great band aren’t they!? When I first heard them I just instantly loved the sound…then I saw this video of them playing outside somewhere and realized they were essentially kids… I rejoiced for youth. The kids are alright!
TheMuzz: back to the biz…talk about how you got into the whole Dumble clone thing?
QuinnAmp: I grew up in Santa Rosa and Steve Kimock was a friend of a friend and then local hero and he had been playing one.
I grew up knowing about Dumbles and always assumed one day I would get one… The Boogie MKIIC+ I had was like the one I was “getting by” on. I even used to think I would luck out and pick one up a garage sale for maybe a grand! The world was very different before the intraweb…
Anyway I had been building amps for a while and had heard of this new site that was all about those amps. I thought “rad, I’ll pop in there, grab a schemo and build one for myself, yay!”… but it was not to be that easy back then. Suffice to say that people did not want to really be open sourced about anything back then..it was all very closed loop and not all that welcoming. So that kinda rubbed me the wrong way.I felt a little cock blocked by it. By the time I got my hands on reliable information I was so entrenched in it that it was insane… I had been telling a client friend of mine about how stupid it was that no one wanted to share this info at all. I guess the mystery rubbed off on him and he wanted one too… I couldn’t say no to him so I agreed I’d build him one as well…then I would get back on my mission of other amp designs mostly based on really old vintage circuits. I was really into octals at the time and using them in modern design… anyway a week goes by and he says he has this friend with a store and he wants to buy like three of them, and a derby, and an octal derby and a sweet thunder and a couple of cabs (I did all the cabinetry myself back then.) but he wants the chassis to be like the originals (I intended to use a slanted fender style chassis for myself…wild!)… and of course I am like …”sure he wants to buy all that…riiight”… So I lay the prices on him and go back to reality thinking that will be the end of that… But a few days later the order was placed. From there it went insane… It’s kinda overshadowed everything else I was doing and wanted to do. I got pretty spooked by it after a spell… I really did not want to be defined by it alone…after all I wanted to build one for myself initially but once the cat is out of the bag you can’t put it back in..
I even tried to discontinue the SDO’s but that only made people hound me even more for them..I never actually got to stop building them!! It was a little crazy… It did allow me to get out from under it though and do some other things I had been wanting to. That allowed me to also stop resisting the things that people seem to want the most from me.
People want these types of amps and many people want me specifically to build them. I used to resist it when it was overshadowing other talents and designs of my own. I’m cool with it now and embrace it. Path of least resistance. ;O)
TheMuzz: lotta drama on the whole D tip..
QuinnAmp: Who, huh, what? Yeah big part of why I had to step back for a spell… I just want to build great amps and pedals not bicker like a teen girl..
TheMuzz: So as cool as it must be to build Amps and Pedals for a living- you still need to clear your head. How’s that work?
QuinnAmp: Yeah, reeking of flux isn’t exactly an olfactory that induces amorous behavior from loved ones. I am an admitted Pinball head. Like coocoo for cocoa spuffs for some electromagnets and flippers. It’s analog, physics are at work in pinball so perhaps that’s the appeal. I am actually doing some PCD design work on the side for the Pinball and coin op industries..
TheMuzz: T2 was my rig in college. Hearing that loud ass woodknock indicating a free credit is such cool and timeless feature. Loud enough so everyone in even the loudest of arcades knows you have game.
TheMuzz: Your Sweet Thunder and Derby amps were killer..Are those still being built?
QuinnAmp: Not for the time being. I have some new designs coming out that may prove them obsolete. ;O)
TheMuzz: Sadness…Those Fender inspired circuits were all time! Dude, The Sweet Thunder guaranteed me a pure transmogrification into Joe Perry. My band did “Get the Lead out just ’cause of the sickness that amp could cop. Variable PAB on a Hot Rodded Bassman style circuit..
The Muzz: What?
QuinnAmp:…Sadness. Just kidding, Yeah, those were killer offerings but we got our customer’s back on those- The new Element series will do that deal just in a uniform look and feel to the rest of the amps. vs. the traditional, tweedy impertinence of those style chassis..
TheMuzz: Do you think some amp types or circuits are harder to play than others?? I guess I’m thinking about this notion of forgiving vs. unforgiving..
QuinnAmp: Yeah the hrm style amps.. not many seem to “get” those in the stock form. Our SDQ2 has some advanced features that allow the stock sound but also a much more familiar rock tones as well. I like them a lot but it decidedly not for everyone and in general when talking those amps it is the non hrm that people are mostly desiring.
TheMuzz: So let’s get into the pedals..how did all that get rolling?
QuinnAmp: I was a vintage effects pedal freak and when I began the amp thing I had about 30 effects on couple of pedal boards… But I really wanted to get to know the amplifier world as purely as possible. I had to listen to the amps and a guitar, pedal just got in the way early on. Plus I was doing everything on my own then, even the cabinetry! So really in a way we were a pedal company first, morphed in to amps and are just now getting back into pedals. Cycles…
TheMuzz: Tube Screamers get a lot of hype..I always thought they sounded like shit..thoughts?
QuinnAmp: Dude we’re old.. We recall buying and selling them for like $30-$40 left and right before any artist attachment. So we’re a bit biased… in way though it was crappy OD pedals that got me really into the amps. I was spending a lot of time cascading pedals back then (what the kids now call stacking) but could never get the commercial stuff to work very well… nor could I seem to build a great sounding OD pedal…distortion sure but not a smooth psychedelic warmth that I was after… That made my interest in amps grow, that in turn got me tot he sounds I wanted, which now I am able now able to make happen on proficient level with the pedals.
TheMuzz: The Dirt and Ernie was a revelation.. Did you weep when the final product was done?
QuinnAmp: Well yes but not for the reasons you might think. I usually know early on when something is working for my ears… so that is the moment of joy… but then I do the same as I do with writing… I will lay out this thing that in general is hitting me off…. but then I will refine and refine and tweak and try this value and that vale and this type and that… and really this just keeps going until I have literally mapped every permutation that my resources will allow and have exhausted every possible thing I can try to make it sound groovier… Then it’s over. I have done all I can do other then build some prototype, iron out any bugs from that process, create the BOM and set the testing parameters. Then put it out into the world and hope it resonates with others well… So at the end it’s always a bit bittersweet because it exhausting. But that method seems to be the only one that allows me to not have to second guess myself if it doesn’t become the next TS. ;O)
TheMuzz: talk about the new Hot Buttered Scotch.
QuinnAmp: Well I had gotten a request from someone who got a D&E. He said it was perfect with all but one amp that he used and asked if it would be permissible to build him the dirt side with a simple tone stack. I looked into it a bit and came up with a decent circuit called the Puddin’ that we built a small handful of. Along the way to that I found a few things that I really excited me…When I re visited them it happened just like the D&E. I worked up some elements that I liked and once I get that feeling …that vibe… it’s off to the races.
It is the OD sound I was trying to achieve with stacking and cascading pedal back in the day but could never make happen. It was bear releasing though. I got way too excited and tried to rush the process and as fate would have it they require the most testing of parts, the tightest of tolerances of parts and highest rejection rate. It sucks to have to pick 3 out of 10 parts that can be used but that is what they take. We finally have them down pat though and I am very pleased with the results.
**See the accompanying video demo that features the Hot Buttered Scotch..Apologies in advance for the outta tune guitar in the intro. We liked the way the shot looked so fuck it. We kept it in.
TheMuzz: Dude, Great info here. Thanks for being our first!! Hopefully not to painful.
QuinnAmp: Cool man, Glad there is something useful there. Good times!!
*Next update will include the Video and Review of the QuinnAmp Hot Buttered Scotch.
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For the truly antsy..Here is a link to the Video