Building a custom overdrive pedal for Mike Weiss of mewithoutYou

For about eight years now, mewithoutYou has been my favorite band. They’ve been a huge influence on me both musically and personally. This past summer, after I’d been building my own pedals for a few years, the thought occurred to me that I might be able to give something back besides a few dollars every time they come through Iowa. So I got in touch with their manager and asked if I could build a custom pedal for Mike Weiss, their lead guitarist. It was a blank check—anything you want just as long as you’ll use it!

Within a couple of days, Mike sent me an email saying that his main overdrive (a Fulltone Fulldrive 2) had just quit working and he was in the market for a new drive pedal. So all of a sudden I have the opportunity for my pedal to be a big part of my favorite guitar tone by my favorite guitarist. Pretty surreal.

I didn’t want to mess with perfection—a Tube Screamer flavor into an AC-30—so I sent him two TS-based pedals to try out. The first was a single-channel Fulldrive clone and the second was a Landgraff Dynamic Overdrive. After playing with them for awhile, he preferred the LDO, so that was the variant I ended up building. Here’s how it turned out:

mewithoutYou custom overdrive pedal

mewithoutYou custom overdrive pedal

The etching on the front is derived from the Celtic triskelion which goes back a few thousand years. At some point, it was adopted by the church as a Trinitarian symbol and is sometimes seen in Gothic architecture.

I got the pedal to Mike right before they left for their spring tour last week. He’s been playing it every night and sent me a note saying he loves it and it’s working great with his rig. He’s going to try to make a video of it before long, so keep an eye out for more updates.

Here’s how it looks under the hood:

mewithoutYou custom overdrive pedal

I used the Stratus PCB to build it. The documentation for that project include the parts list for a Landgraff Dynamic Overdrive, so there’s nothing top-secret about it. The switch on the left (PCB left, outside right) controls the clipping diodes, which is directly from the LDO. The switch on the right is set up as the “Flat Mids” control from the Fulldrive 2, which reduces the gain and changes the EQ a little.

Anyway, I’m really happy with the way it turned out and excited that I had the opportunity to be a tiny part of the band. This is my favorite custom project I’ve done so far, and I doubt that will change any time soon! (…Unless Mike wants another one.)

Filed under Custom Builds

Aion Compressor on Saturday Night Live with Imagine Dragons

I gave an overview awhile ago of the custom Centaur pedal I built for Wayne Sermon from Imagine Dragons. Not too long after I built that pedal, he wanted to add a compressor to his board and so he ended up with one of mine. I originally thought it was only going to be on his B-rig for smaller shows, but apparently the Grammy Awards and Saturday Night Live count as small. Here’s a shot from “Radioactive” on last night’s SNL:

Aion Compressor on Saturday Night Live with Imagine Dragons

The cameras didn’t ever get too close to the board, but the knobs light up so it’s pretty easy to catch. He had it on the whole time for both songs. The videos are embedded below.

Here’s a picture of his pedalboard that their guitar tech sent me:

Imagine Dragons pedalboard with Aion Compressor and custom Centaur

The compressor is on the top row and the Centaur is the gray one on the bottom. I know he played the same rig at the Grammy Awards last week, so my pedals were onstage there too, but there was too much smoke on the stage to get a good view of the pedalboard. It’s a pretty surreal feeling, to be honest, but it’s very fulfilling to see my stuff being used like this.

Here are the videos of their two performances.

(By the way, Wayne’s guitar was made by a company here in Des Moines called Bilt Guitars. They’re great guys and make a killer product.)

Filed under Artist Sightings, Custom Builds

Custom Centaur pedal for Wayne Sermon of Imagine Dragons

It’s a long story as to how I got hooked up with Imagine Dragons, but last year I got the opportunity to build a custom Centaur clone for their guitarist, Wayne Sermon. He was putting together a new live rig from the ground up and wanted to include a Centaur, but didn’t want to give up the pedalboard real estate for his original unit. I designed a PCB that would fit into a 1590B-sized enclosure and then built the pedal with an almost antique-looking distressed finish. Here’s how it turned out:

Klon Centaur clone for Imagine Dragons

And here’s the inside:

Inside of the Klon Centaur clone built for Imagine Dragons

After I built the first one, he tested it against his real Centaur. He couldn’t hear any difference between them, and this one is about 1/3 the size, so the real Centaur got the boot. He then asked for another one for his secondary rig. So he actually has two of these now.

I later used this PCB design as the basis for my Refractor PCB project. If you want to build one, you can buy the PCBs right here on the site.

Filed under Custom Builds

New blog

Here it is. I don’t plan on posting too frequently, but I wanted to have a place to post news about Aion Electronics, pictures of custom pedals I’ve built for others, and interesting DIY modifications and projects that I’m doing.

I’ll also occasionally post things that other people have made with my PCBs. If you’ve got something unique, special or interesting that you want to share, send me an email—the address is my first name at my domain name (or just fill out the contact form).

More soon. I’ve built a couple of really cool one-off pedals in the past few months that I’m itching to share!

Filed under General