In a recent interview on Guitar Jar, guitarist Stuart Garrard (One Sonic Society, Delirious?) mentioned the use of the GigRig Pro 14 switching unit. Guitar Jar uncovers the man behind the GigRig; guitarist and effects pedal guru, Daniel Steinhardt.
This is what ‘TONE’ is, it’s the vehicle that allows you to express something personal through sound…
Hi Daniel, before get into the details of the GigRig range of products, can you tell Guitar Jar readers how long you’ve been playing the guitar and what prompted you to learn the instrument?
I’ve been playing since I was 4, Christmas 1975. My brother got one of those cheap little acoustic guitars in those triangle cardboard boxes. He unwrapped it and took it out. I heard the first strum of the strings and started to cry and didn’t stop crying till mum bought me my own guitar. Turns out that mum was learning guitar when she was pregnant with me, so it kinda explains the strong reaction to that sound, or I was just a spoiled brat who wanted what my brother had, it’s one or the other. But since then I really haven’t stopped. I wasn’t any good at sport, and growing up in Australia, that’s a bit of a liability, but guitar, not necessarily music, but guitar playing came quite naturally. I figured it may be my only chance at getting a girlfriend who didn’t have to rely on her personality so I stuck with it.
Can you list the guitarists who have influenced you over the years?
It’s a bit of a weird list. I didn’t have a dad who was into Zep or anything like that. My father was a devout Christian but somehow got it into his head that all rock music was evil, so we didn’t have any of that in the house. Mum was into Dolly Parton, and the only record my step dad had was an album of kung-fu fighting sounds from the movies, so far, things aren’t looking good.I was allowed to listen to Christian rock, my sister was singing in church a lot and I got into bands like Petra, Whiteheart and Stryper but then my brother bought home Van Halen’s 1984 and I was totally blown away. I then did a complete turn around and really got into song players my fav being Neil Finn in Split Enz then later with Crowded House, but when I heard XTC, that changed everything for me. Dave Gregory is my favourite guitar player ever. Crafted guitar parts, tone, feel, touch, he’s got it all. I used to take lessons from our first ever client and one of London’s top session players Mark Johns, and that had a massive effect on me as a player and took me to another level again. He is the master of communicating and idea on the guitar and remains one of my closest friends.
Have you had the opportunity to play alongside any mainstream acts? If so, who?
When I first got to the UK, Mark Johns who was playing for Ray Davis at the time asked me to do a dep for him with a singer/songwriter Lauren Field who had co-written her album with Randy Bachman from Bachman Turner Overdrive. He was over in the UK watching the Shadows so we did this gig with him at a song writer’s convention. At sound check he hands me this beautiful Gretsch White Falcon and asks me to tune it up for him. I hand it back saying what a lovely guitar it is and he says ‘yeah, it was a present from John Lennon’. Freaked me right out.I played for Max Sharam in Australia for a couple of years who was a big deal at the time but at the moment I’m actually in a band called ‘Tin Spirits’ with XTC’s Dave Gregory. It’s the highlight of my musical life thus far, a real honour.
It’s seems you’re a guitar pedal guru. Your knowledge of effect pedals is extensive. What was the first pedal you owned and do you still have it in your collection?
My first pedal was an Ibanez Overdrive, the old orange one. Was an incredible pedal but I didn’t know it at the time and probably sold it for money to buy C90’s to record Phil Collins on the radio. The first pedal I had when I knew pedals were cool was an old BOSS CE-1, and this one I still have. Best chorus ever made.
Can you describe what the GigRig Pro 14 and MIDI 8 products do?
After my ‘rack’ days, I fell in love with the sound of great pedals but I was used to hitting one button and getting my sound. I needed to have the same thing with my pedals but the only thing available was expensive rack systems so I decided to develop something that would do it on a pedal board. I hooked up with my now business partner Dave Mapleston and we developed the Pro-14.It was designed so that you would plug in all your amps and pedals, then just press one button and recall pedal combinations, amp selection, amp channel change, whatever you programmed into the Pro-14. Your signal only goes through the pedals you select so it hard bypasses everything that isn’t selected. This is what saves your tone. Most guys buy the units to save the tap dance but what they all say is how much their tone improves.
In what scenario are the products best suited? Live or in a Studio?
It works for both really. The guitar and bass players with Jamiroquai used TheGigRig extensively on the new album, Porcupine Tree recorded all the amplified guitar tracks on the last 2 albums through a Pro-14, Stu G used it on the last Delirious album and in his studio all the time. I get emails from loads of session guys telling me how easy it made dialling in tones in the studio. Live it allows you to get those sounds instantly, like a live production tool for guitar players.
When did you first create the GigRig? What is the most popular GigRig product? What were the early prototypes like and was it difficult to turn your thoughts into a fully functional manufactured product?
The first product was the Pro-14 which came out in 2005. It is still our most popular product followed by the MIDI-8. We now do a massive range of switching and pedal power supply stuff as well.Seeing the Pro-14 finally manifest into being was one of the proudest days of my life. It literally took years. I was so nervous the first time I gigged with it, but in 5 years and after 600+ gigs it has never missed a beat.
How many effects pedals do you actually own and have you tested the majority of them with the GigRig? Are there any pedals that sound great but are just a pain to get working?
Well I’ve just trimmed down my collection from about 150 to about 50,ish. I hate the idea of being a collector for the sake of it. All the pedals I have need to earn their keep. I was going through the cupboard of stuff and realized that there were pedals in there that I hadn’t played for years, so I just through a bunch on the bay. I tested ALL of them with TheGigRig because this is where you hear the pedals in the best environment. It isn’t being affected by the pedal before or after it unless you choose it to be.The thing is with pedals, same as all musical gear is nothing works in isolation and it’s only ever a part of the picture. By itself a pedal, amp or guitar makes no sound, it only reacts to what is going into it, so of course that all depends on the player. So that is the process, finding the stuff that sounds good with YOU at the helm. This is what ‘TONE’ is, it’s the vehicle that allows you to express something personal through sound. I personally sound like an arse with a tube screamer, but that’s because it doesn’t suit the other gear I use and the way I play, but give me a Kingsley Jester or a Love Pedal Eternity and I’m away.
Is it a challenge running your own business? How has the “credit crunch” affected GigRig as a company?
It’s an understatement to say that we started this business naively so it has been a steep learning curve, but one that I have found fascinating. It seems common sense now but just because you make a great product doesn’t guarantee you success. Making a great product is just the start, you need to then make a great business, and if you think making a great product was tough, you’re in for a shock. Running any sort of business is hard work, and running a business in this sort of climate is definitely a challenge but we were lucky enough to have been established before things got really bad. We have kept our operation as efficient as possible and everyone involved is very hands on so there’s no dead weight so to speak.
As a businessman how do you stay motivated?
This is actually a really good question because sometimes just having mouths to feed isn’t enough, but that’s a great place to start. Simple fact is I absolutely love what I do. I have always been a player with passion, more like obsession for great tone. Now my business is to help players achieve that tone. I feel honoured every day that I get to put the key in the door of our office. I’m grateful for every guitarist that has chosen us over everyone else to help them get their tone. I have the best business partner in the world and our team is brilliant. Some days I honestly pinch myself.
There’s a huge list of guitarists using GigRig products. Do most of the guitarists come to you directly or do they simply purchase the units from dealers around the country?
Both really. We have a lot of guitar techs who love our gear because it makes their life so much easier and when they change to a new band they introduce their new guys to us. I see it on stage with guys I never knew had it. I received a Facebook message from someone saying that there was a picture in Mojo of Jeff Beck using our Loopy 2’s, and I had no idea, so that was cool. We have lots of great dealers as well who really know their stuff. Last year we sold into 36 countries around the world so it’s an active network out there singing our song which is really nice.
Do you endorse any guitarists? If so, who?
Well, we’ve never given anything away, every guitar player in our artist list paid for their gear. We don’t operate on huge margins so we can’t afford to give stuff away, but in a sense we endorse all the players who use our gear. We are here for them in every way we can be.
You must have dealt with a large number of guitarists over the years. Do you find your people management skills have to engage from time to time? Do some guitarists expect high demands from you?
Even though we are in the industry of rock stars, and you have to expect that they’ll be specific about what they want, they are generally no more demanding than the guy who sits in his bedroom and just wants to get the absolute best tone he can get from his gear. It really is about the performance of the gear and when it comes to the gear no one expects more from it than me. But we have the best customers in the world. An obsession for great tone is a lot to have in common with someone so I know what it is they’re trying to achieve.
What was the last gig you went to and did the guitarist(s) use any of your products?
The last gig was seeing Transatlantic at the Empire in Shepherds Bush. He wasn’t using our stuff, but he should’ve been;) Before that was seeing Paul and Jeremy Stacey at the 606 in London. Paul was using a MIDI-8 sounded like God. He is such an astonishing player. If you’re in London search the 606 website and lookout for a Monday night gig with Paul and Jeremy. It’s a gig you’ll never forget.
What albums are you currently listening to?
Big Big Train – The Underfall Yard featuring Dave Gregory
Harmonic Warrior – Lyle Workman
Mumford and Sons – Sigh no more
Joni Mitchell – Blue
These are all on high rotation in the car at the moment
Your house is burning down. What is the one guitar item you would save?
Let’s see, I have a 61 SG shape Gibson Les Paul Junior that is one of the great guitars of all time, but then there’s my old Tele, and my 59 Vox AC10 twin, my duo fuzz, old blue echo drive and CE-1, ….actually, I think I’ll just go down with the ship.
Have you had any nightmare experiences when gigging?
I gig a lot and have had my share of mishaps. Turned up to play a wedding and forgot the PA, that was fun. Turned up late to a dep gig and band forgot to tell me they tune down a half step. Lynyrd Skynyrd was turning in his grave.
Lager or Cider?
Both in one glass with a tiny shot of raspberry cordial. Called a Snakebite and will get you where you’re going real quick!