Tone Report Weekly Issue 144 - Page 22

with easy-to-acquire parts, companies to do your artwork for you, or do your shipping and fulfillment, and more. These days, there is a company out there that will do any part of the process for you—for a cost—and if you have the means to farm it out then anyone can get in the pedal game regardless of skill level. That has been great for a lot of people to have a pedal of their own, and bad for an industry if you intend to make a living manufacturing effects pedals at scale. In contrast, 20 years ago it was hard and expensive to be in electronics manufacturing on any level, and you had to have all kinds of heavy skills just to get in the game and play. I started designing my circuit boards with ink on paper in the mid-‘90s and manufactured my own boards in house through the aughts but those technical skill boundaries no longer exist to anyone wanting to have a start up and make electronics today. It’s cheap, quick, and easy now on all levels by comparison. Not that that’s the way I do it! We still hand paint, hand screen, and hand assemble, and I design everything myself, but most everyone today can go the easy route to a product, and many do. Whether any of that is cool or not, that’s another thing. Culturally however the industry is much the same as always. I have talked pretty honestly about that part of it recently and received some kickback, but also a great deal of support and I think on the 22 INTERVIEW // whole a recognition that the industry needs to get out of the locker room and invite diversity. I think that opening up the music manufacturing industry to designers and entrepreneurs who are not “a white guy” will mean a much different future and much more varied product designs, more original ideas, and ultimately new kinds of equipment and music, but in that regard much still has to change. TR: You disappeared for a while and your pedals started to fetch ridiculous prices on the secondhand market. What was the catalyst for leaving the industry for a while, and what spurred this comeback? FB: That too is a long story that I have spoken about at length recently, but the short story there is that I got outed on the guitar forums as trans and pretty much became a laughingstock, and, virtually overnight, no one took me seriously anymore. My dealers clammed up, and sales stopped. Adding to that serendipity was the rise of a whole new army of startups and big companies alike getting into the pedal game all at the same time. Frantone just got washed away in the mire and I had to move on and do other things to make a living. It was actually my friend Zack Vex that gave me some advice back then. When the crap hit the fan, he told me that the best option was for me to go out of business. He said just go out of business, wait five years, then come back. Zack was confident that after The Return of Real Boutique: A Chat with Fran Blanche of Frantone