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INSIDE: CHASE BLISS
To Joel Korte, Chase Bliss means many things. It means pedals, sure, but it’s also a name, a mantra, and an imperative. Commemorating the founder’s late brother Chase Korte and his favorite words to live by, “follow your bliss,” Chase Bliss is a rallying cry for Joel and his team of colleagues and collaborators to pursue joy in their work. It means collaborating to create things that exceed the sum of their parts, as well as the individual strengths of their creators. It means remembering the past but not being afraid to leave it behind; to find new ways and continue moving forward towards the unknown and a better life doing what you love.
The business itself, Joel says, is just the catalyst that makes it possible.
What is Chase Bliss?
Chase Bliss Audio is an audio electronics company that–at least for now–primarily makes guitar effects pedals.
Who is Chase Bliss?
Chase Bliss Audio is me (Joel Korte); I’m the owner and chief designer of the products. I founded the company in 2013. Zack Warpinski is my right hand man and lead tech at the shop. He does most repairs and a good deal of calibration, as well as numerous other jobs at the shop. Tyler Devonald handles our sales, shipping, bookkeeping, and artist relations. Mike Mastel is in charge of general tech support as well as assisting Zack with repairs and other technical work. We also have a few part-time people. Paul Uhl is our longtime midi guru and handles all midi support questions and also produces midi related videos out in Tacoma, Washington. Lastly, we have another electrical engineer who does part-time work for us in Parker Coons. He lives in Utah and does hardware design and layout, and is also starting to do DSP design for us.
How did you get started building effects?
I started getting interested in audio electronics design in college, as I studied electrical engineering. I became obsessed with pedals shortly after college when I got a job at ZVEX Effects.
When and how did Chase Bliss begin?
I had been working at ZVEX for several years and I felt like it was time to strike out on my own. I think part of it was stubbornness; I was ready to follow some ideas I had without any restrictions, and succeed or fail on my own terms.
What inspired you to begin and what inspires you continue?
The reason I started learning about electrical engineering in college was because I was interested in designing audio products. At some point that dream and passion faded and evolved into something more practical. I just wanted to get a job. In February of 2007, just a few months before graduation, my life changed forever when my brother, Chase Korte, was killed by a drunk driver. He was living and working in LA, pursuing his dream of becoming an actor. One of my brother’s guiding principles was a phrase known by philosopher Joseph Campbell: “Follow your bliss.” When I started the company, I thought “Chase Bliss” would be a good name because it incorporated my brother’s values as well as his name. After my brother died it took about a year before I could really function normally as a person, but when that happened I decided I needed to follow my own bliss and that is around the time I got a job with ZVEX.
How would you describe a Chase Bliss effect to someone new to the brand?
In the beginning, our goal was to give unprecedented digital control to original and creative analog designs. This has changed a little bit as we have explored the digital realm. In general, I’d say we want to provide something unique to the sonic landscape. We want to create new sounds, honor the past but not repeat it.
How is a Chase Bliss effect constructed from start to finish?
This is a difficult question because it changes so much dependent on the pedal. Lately, we’ve been doing a good deal of collaborations because it is so fun and inspiring to me. I love to work with others who have skills in areas that I lack.
What components, designs, techniques etc. make Chase Bliss effects unique?
When we started, we built the analog part of the pedals by hand with old-school through-hole components. That has changed as those old parts have been discontinued and surface mount assembly has become more prevalent in the industry as a whole. We have a super-high quality contract manufacturer in Los Angeles that specializes in pro audio build our pedals. Then we have them shipped to Minnesota for final inspection, calibration, and packaging. After that we ship them to dealers and end users all over the world.
How long does it take to make a Chase Bliss effect start to finish?
When we were doing most of the electronic assembly by hand it would take around 6 hours to make a pedal. It’s tough to say exactly now as we’ve grown and do things in larger batches, but if you ever look inside one of our pedals you will get an idea of how much work goes into one. In some cases there are up to 4 unique circuit boards in a pedal, with hundreds of components.
What inspires your creative process?
I want to make something new and something that inspires people. I don’t just want to recreate what has been done many times before. It all starts there, and lately a big part of that has been collaboration with other designers who I greatly admire and respect. In that way, we can make something that draws on everyone’s strengths and turns out to be a thing that we couldn’t have done on our own, only through cooperation.
What is the spirit of Chase Bliss?
I’m currently at the airport returning from a work trip with some collaborators and one of them wrote me an email today that said, "At some point during this trip I noticed something: in a non-pedal way, your company has really become Chase Bliss. Think of everyone on this trip and how collaboration has become such a fixture in what you do. Chase Bliss has become this conduit for people to live out their dreams." This made me get pretty emotional because that is really important for me. This latest trip was a cool example of that, because we brought some people along where it may not have made immediate sense that they were there, but then it just works out that it’s an important part of it all. Of course I want to make inspiring devices that are useful to musicians, but more importantly I want to be able to improve people’s lives and be a catalyst for experiences that allow myself and others to do the things that we love.
Where does Chase Bliss go from here?
I guess that’s the fun thing; I think I’ve built the company in such a way that we can go anywhere. It sounds cliché, but the only limits are our imagination.
Don’t let life chase you away from doing what you love. Find joy and collaborate with it, and let your own imagination be the only limit. To chase your bliss, stop by our Lincoln avenue showroom to shop our selection of Chase Bliss Audio effects, or just give us a call!
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