Monday, March 21, 2011

An Interview With McSpunckle

In the first of many interviews to be posted on this site I would like to introduce McSpunckle, creator of pedals such as the Gnomeratron (a crazy versatile and tweakable fuzz) and the And Aardvarks! (an awesome boost/overdrive for guitar or bass). He's a very funny person so I recommend that you read on past the break to get to know the creator behind these awesome FX boxes and how they came to be.

McSpunckle's gnome soldering stand

Tell us about yourself, anything and everything you think we should know.

I'm a gay, vegan hermit and my ass just -pops- in a pair of skinny jeans.

What do you think has been the biggest key to the success of your recent Gnomeratron and the …And Aardvarks pedals? 

HT Samurai

Glowing LED Eyes, Awesome!
Why did you choose the name Gnomeratron?

It's a name I had for a long time. If you think of Gnomes as these magic creatures that are brilliant engineers, the Gnomeratron is kind of their Frankenstein, except its a magic Gnomish robot. From Russia. 

Originally, it was going to be called "Dr. McSpunckle's Waveform Decapitator," but I decided that name would be better for something a bit more br00tal. But I already have a name for my next fuzz, sooo it'll probably never happen. 

What inspired the Gnomeratron?
Uuuuhm. I wanna say Big Muff because the circuit is kinda Muff based, but having recently played a real Muff for the first time (calm down, perverts), I don't really like them. I tend to describe the circuit as a multi-stage distortion instead. I honestly think the Brassmaster was more of an inspiration, and there's no Brassmaster in the circuit-- but it is an octave-up fuzz with clean blend. But I was basically just going for a layered distortion effect, and the whole thing kind of matured, and it's still maturing. Some of the idea came from stacking Devi Ever fuzzes, as well. 

Basically, it was all an accident and just kinda came to life through experimentation. A lot of the details are pretty fuzzy (hah hah!).

McSpunckle also makes a mini version of each of the modes of the Gnomeratron VTF

There are a lot of knobs on the deluxe version and I hear you might be changing out a few knobs for some different things? Tell us about the revisions for future models and walk us through what all these knobs do, if you don’t mind.

Yeah, I'm working on a second version of the Gnomeratron circuit that'll basically polish up the original design and get rid of all the options that seem to confuse people more than anything.

The deluxe models had all the controls of the standard VTFs, but they added 2 rotary switches that did the function of the diode switch, and the diode switch kinda changed function to a weird treble-only sorta clipping option. They also had a starve control on the fuzz circuit. My biggest issue with these was that the rotaries were really confusing and the whole thing ended up looking like a mod (because it basically was). 

The new ones are going to use more toggles over on the side with the trimmers to get some of that function back, but in a way that makes more sense, and the basic circuit is going to be tweaked so that a lot of the controls just work better. The whole thing will likely just have more tonal range in general. 

The Gnomeratron VTF

Can we expect a new pedal even more complex than the Gnomeratron from you in the future? What else does the future hold?

Yup. The next pedal you see will knock your socks off then give you a foot massage. To completion. 

I really do hope I can make this pedal building thing sustainable. It's a cool job, when you think about it. I'm thinking breaking away from just fuzz will really help with that goal, and maybe more small, simple pedals like the And Aardvarks! as well. 

Gut-Shot of the Gnomeratron VTF

What other pedals do you have on your pedal board, who are some of your favorite builders?

Honestly, the only pedals I own right now are a DOD chorus and Ibanez PM7. I'm really looking to get some pedals from Fuzzhugger, Smallsound/bigsound, Mellowtone, and Dr. Scientist, though. Those dudes are the best. 

Anything you would have done differently at the start now that your business is growing?
Oh, man. So many things. I started off selling Gnomeratrons for $130. How crazy is that? I was really naive looking at the work that goes into them. And I was building them on perfboard! I kept saying "Oh, they'll be done in a couple of weeks", but one after another the mental fatique, the fact I was still new at production, and the fact I'd just had a really bad breakup... nothing seemed to come together the way it was supposed to. Some of that is still true, but I've gotten way better at building, which really helps the mental fatique. That was almost exactly a year ago.

The weird thing is, I wouldn't have realised all the things I wasn't prepared for had it not been for that really awful first run, and it funded all the things I needed to get better prepared. 

And Aardvarks!
What’s the story behind the And Aardvarks!? Where’d the name come from? What inspired you to build it?

I was playing around with some booster circuits because I wanted to make some changes to the clean blend in the Gnomeratrons. I literally took the old circuit, and plugged in a MOSFET to see what that did, and it was awesome, but it didn't distort right, and I wanted more headroom. So I tweaked it a bit, and expiremented with some clipping diode combinations. I never got what I wanted for the Gnomeratron, but I ended up finding a really sweet overdrive. So, basically I went to Jrmy (who has acted as my oh-so-wonderful graphics designer so far) and asked if he could do some graphics. At the time, he was already doing graphics for the Gnomeratron Minis, and he'd made a comment like "Let me know how you like it, if I should start over, it should be an aardvark, etc." And that's where the idea for an Aardvark theme pedal came from. The Centaur in the graphic was a natural addition to a transparent overdrive. 

After the graphics and such were ready, someone (Tigerbass on ILF, I believe) asked me about tuning it for bass. And, I liked it for bass already, but I added an extra position on the toggle switch that basically blocks the low end from getting clipped. 

And that's where babies come from. 

Any advice for those wanting to build their own pedals and maybe how they could one day make crazy fuzz like yours?

Knowing that raising the value of R13 increases gain doesn't mean you know what R13 is doing. Google how the components work. Ask questions. Really try to understand it. Don't just build and hope for the best. Pedal building is more art than science, but if you don't know what colours to mix, how will you ever paint the picture in your head? 

Still, jump into it. Head first. Then punch a shark in the face. Mod everything in sight. Build kits. Stare into the guts of every pedal you see for ideas. 

Oh, and radio shack soldering irons are crap. Get the $10 one from Sparkfun. 

Breadboard from the Gnomeratron design process

How can hip-hop be dead if Wu-Tang is forever?

'cause Wu-Tang Clan ain't nothin' to fuck with. 

Check out McSpunckle's Shark Tank Page over on the I Love Fuzz Forums to get more info on the Gnomeratron and And Aardvarks and how to order one for yourself.

Note: All photos (besides the Wu-Tang one) are courtesy of McSpunckle. Check out his Flickr to see all of his photos


  1. Wonderful, thanks for the interview!!! :)

  2. Great interview I really liked it.

  3. Great, entertaining interview. Excited to hear there are new things on the way!

  4. Tha Profound Conqueror approves...

  5. Great interview!
    Thanks for this information.