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INSIDE: DAREDEVIL PEDALS
Freedom is not fitting in.
Do it because you want to. Do it because you have to. Do it all yourself and just see what happens. That’s Johnny Wator’s mindset, and if that’s not the mindset of a daredevil I don’t know what is.
Johnny founded Daredevil Pedals and never looked back, pushing past professional limitations and personal hardship to produce some of our favorite pedals in the industry.
As a matter of fact, we cut Johnny his first Daredevil check ever almost seven years ago and we’ve been cutting them for him ever since.
He remembers those days and how doing it himself went from a necessity to a life philosophy as Daredevil grew from a basement hustle into a flourishing business, but he’s not focused on where he’s been, only where he’s going: “forward...in a big squiggly line.”
What is Daredevil Pedals?
A Chicago-based, hand-built, original-design effects brand born out of necessity by a touring musician roughly 7 years ago.
Who is Daredevil Pedals?
Johnny Wator started up Daredevil and has been operating a mostly one-man show with the incredible help of some close friends, like Quentin Poynter, who does layouts and applies his studio and audio background to certain aspects of audio design. Casey Sass is the artist behind the graphic design of the pedals. He's integral to the vibe and look of what we do and a killer tattoo artist, painter, and musical encyclopedia to boot.
How did you get started building effects?
I was trying to find a circuit like what eventually became the legendary Atomic Cock pedal, but nobody built one. After some encouragement from a friend, I decided to dig in and eventually became completely obsessed with effects circuits, vintage pedals, and the likes ever since. I was touring heavily in my band at the time and couldn't afford to buy much for gear anyways, so a few broken wah pedals turned into franken-wahs. One- or two-knob versions of the AC. Then I needed a rangemaster boost, etc. Once I got to fuzz circuits I was hooked for life.
When and how did Daredevil Pedals begin?
Roughly 2011, I began learning and soldering. In July of 2012, I set up the official business name, since Chicago Music Exchange cut my first check and I couldn't deposit it! I spent 3 years in an unheated, 8x10 basement room with no windows, all black walls, and all my gear piled up around my workbench and drum kit. It would flood whenever we got a lot of rain, at least 2-3 times a year.
That was my only income at the time so the first few years were kinda rough. I had serious health problems and spent a lot of time hospitalized so diving deep into pedal circuits kept my mind off things and I could make a little cash building stuff at home. I have great memories of all that creative discovery, but would definitely not want to go through it again.
What inspired you to begin and what inspires you continue?
Inspired by how awesome a feeling it is to build a circuit, then have it come to life and be something other people can get inspired by, create with, and hopefully enjoy just like I do.
I have no one telling me what to do. I create my own work when I want to. I know for sure I could never go back to a “regular” job having to jump through hoops and take orders. I've had a million shitty jobs since I was 13 years old. That's enough to motivate me to keep busting ass when the going gets rough.
How would you describe a Daredevil Pedals effect to someone new to the brand?
These are original circuits that fill some void in my sonic spectrum. Everything I try to design is born from some tone or function I'm searching for in my music. Nothing is just tossed together. Nothing is ever just "good enough.” The brand is honest to who I am as a person and musician. The pedals reflect my love for big, loud, dirty rock ‘n’ roll, vintage circuits, and players that are looking for something that can be put through the ringer on stage or on tour and perform every night. Obviously Daredevil offers more for everyone out there than just that aspect of it, but that's where my past and my heart are with the brand. I've never been one to pretend or try and fit in with the cool kids club. There's plenty of that out there already.
How is a Daredevil Pedals effect constructed from start to finish?
I design and build every aspect of this process with the exception of doing the PCB layouts and artwork, although I usually come up with the aspects of that as well. I drill the enclosures, build everything, and handle the business of it all, 8 days a week.
What components, designs, techniques etc. make Daredevil Pedals effects unique?
All hand-built with a vintage approach. I keep it simple, straight-forward, and focused on function. You've heard of the 6-knob rule for amps? Well, I believe in the 3-knob rule for pedals. If it doesn't sound good with minimal controls it probably won't sound any better with more.
How long does it take to make a Daredevil Pedals effect start to finish?
It depends on which one, but anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour each.
What is the spirit of Daredevil Pedals?
You know when you're playing a great show and you break a string and your hand splits open and bleeds all over your guitar and it's covered in sweat and beer and you finish the song and you feel like you made the right decision not buying a suit and tie after high school and joining some thankless workforce, being told what to do the rest of your life ‘cause you get to express yourself creatively and inspire others and do something most people only dream about?
What is the Daredevil Pedals mission?
Contribute to the musical timeline of rock ‘n’ roll.
Where does Daredevil Pedals go from here?
Forward...in a big squiggly line.
Is there anything else you’d like for our customers to know about Daredevil Pedals?
I've been a recording & touring musician for over 15 years. Everything else can be gathered from bathroom graffiti.
We haven’t had the chance to read any of the graffiti Johnny’s talking about, just what’s in our bathroom and all that says is, “Daredevil Pedals are sweet,” and “Johnny’s a good guy.”
To check out why we bought into Daredevil as early as we did, all you need to do is stop by our Lincoln Avenue showroom or check out some of our Daredevil demos online and shop our collection. They’ll make you want to pass on that suit and tie all over again.
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