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Cloud 9 Recording Studio:
Analog Alien
We are located on Long Island, one hour outside of N.Y.C.
The way that we got started in the boutique pedal business is a pretty colorful story in itself. My brother Joe and I have been involved in music since we were kids. I began playing the guitar at the age of ten. In 1978, I decided to form a band with a high school friend of mine who played the bass. We needed a drummer but we couldn't find one. So I did the only thing I could do - I told my kid brother to pick up a pair of drum sticks and start listening to “Who” records. Hey! If you're going to play the drums, then who better to inspire you than Keith Moon?
We added a singer and started playing clubs in the Long Island, N.Y.C area. In order to help us get gigs, we decided very early on to make a demo of ourselves in a recording studio. It wasn't a pro studio by any means. It was a small basement studio that consisted of a 4 track Tascam tape recorder and a mixing deck the size of a cheese board. Back then, home studios were a long way off. In a way, the fellow who owned this one was a pioneer. Even so, it had a big effect on me. I caught the recording bug right away and I loved it. I decided to build my own 4 track studio - a place where I could record our band any time that I wanted. So I took a hammer and a saw, cut a hole in my mother's wash room wall, and voila! We had a studio!
FuzzBubble-45 in the Studio
As time went on, technology changed and it became possible to build a top quality recording studio in one’s own home. And that's what we did. Soon after that, Joe took up recording engineering and before I knew it, my kid brother surpassed me as an engineer.
In order to let people know about our studio, we decided to advertise our services in a local music paper. Before long, business increased and we earned a good reputation for making quality recordings. This led to more business. We started getting calls from musicians asking us if we would record their bands. In time, we outgrew our basement studio and made plans to expand.
So in the mid 90's, with the help of our dad, we built a cutting edge professional recording studio. It was a major commitment for us at the time, but we knew that building it would take us to a more sophisticated level of recording. We decided to call our new recording studio Cloud 9 Recording. Since opening, we've worked with rock super stars such as Joan Jett, to local bands playing all types of music. In fact, we received platinum records for our remixes of Joan Jett's hit song "I Hate Myself For Loving You" for Guitar Hero.
Joe with Courtney Chase
As the studio business grew, we started to collect more instruments and amps. We've built up quite a collection over the years. We would let our clients use our collection to record with at no extra charge. This was really unheard of for a recording studio. But what mattered most to us was that we made great sounding records, and that was important to all of the bands that we worked with. We are very proud of the fact that our reputation continues to grow every day.
As the saying goes, "one thing leads to another" and I soon found myself with quite a collection of effects pedals as well - 103 to be exact. I liked some pedals just as they were, but I felt that some could use a bit of tweaking. I took care of all the guitars in our collection so I decided to take care of the pedals as well. This eventually led to modifying them. Whenever a guitarist would bring a pedal into the studio, I'd say, "Why don't you try this pedal instead? I think it might sound better than the one you're using". Whenever they took my suggestion, the response was almost always something that went like this: "Dude, where did you get that pedal? It sounds great! My TS-9 doesn't sound like that". Before long, I started getting requests to modify pedals for other guitarists.
One day I got an idea. I decided to try my hand at building a pedal from scratch. I wanted a pedal that was capable of getting both a great overdrive sound with a great fuzz sound as well. The only problem was that although I knew how to modify pedals, building one from scratch was entirely new for me. So I bought a few electronic books and decided to give myself an education. In time and with much trial and error, I felt that I knew enough about circuits to turn my dream pedal into a reality.
Joe and I have what we feel is a very unique perspective on pedal building. Because we own a recording studio, we can't rely on one thing all of the time. This pertains to just about everything in the studio - amps, guitars, snare drums, compressors, etc. It even holds true for effects pedals. You never know who is going to record next. Therefore, you always have to be ready to give that person what they need to get the sound that they want. Playing styles and musical tastes vary greatly from one guitarist to another, and each new recording session can present a whole different set of challenges. Because of this, we have a unique insight as to what many guitarists are looking for in terms of their sound. Some get very picky while others just say, "plug me into something and I'll just go with it". This insight would play an important role in the design of the pedal.
I made several prototypes until I felt confident that I came up with a pedal that most guitar players would want to have in their collection, even if they didn't really have a pedal collection. I tested the circuit using several different guitars and amps until I was satisfied with the results. I also let other guitarists use it but I never said that I made it. I wanted their opinion of it to be honest and unbiased. If they asked me where I got it, I'd tell them that I saw it on eBay, or something like that.
Soon my overdrive/fuzz face pedal became the pedal of choice for a lot of guitarists that were recording in the studio. As time went on, I let the cat out of the bag and admitted that Joe & I had made it. Of course, that led to, "Hey! Can you make me one, too?" When we started getting requests to build boutique pedals, we knew we had a great product to offer. Therefore, we decided to give the boutique pedal business a shot.
The first thing that we needed to do was to find a look and name for our pedal – one that would make ours stand out from the many others out there. We started with the name first. We called it the fuzz this and the fuzz that. Honestly, I can't remember how many names we came up with. Finally, one of us came up with FuzzBubble, and for some reason, that one just stuck. The more we said it, the more we liked it. We were getting close to a decision but we weren't satisfied yet. We were looking for something more. We had designed the pedal to have a retro sound. The 60's were coming back in full swing and peace signs were popular again so we thought of using a peace sign on the pedal. However, that was a little too retro. We loved the idea of using some sort of symbol, but we wanted something that would stand out. As we brainstormed, we thought of the plastic piece that used to be inserted in a 45 record so that you could play it on a turn table. We decided to call the pedal the FuzzBubble-45 and to use that symbol! The color for the pedal came a lot quicker. We chose our high school colors, which were purple and yellow-gold.
Joe then suggested coming up with a little cartoon. He said, "You're an artist. Why don't you draw a little guy that looks like a bubble and he'll be the FuzzBubble guy". In a little while, I came up with a drawing that looked just right for the pedal. When Joe saw it he said, "Cool, it looks like a little alien". We decided that he should have a name and we came up with Analog Alien! That, we decided, would be the name of our company and of our line of pedals: The Analog Alien FuzzBubble-45! Everyone was sure to remember that.
Once the look and name of the pedal was decided, we turned our attention to packaging the product. The Analog Alien comes from another galaxy called the fuzzZone, so instead of putting the pedal in a plain box, we thought it would be cool to put it in a time capsule carrying case! One of the Alien's favorite things to do, besides time traveling, is to blow bubbles. So we threw in a bottle of bubbles for good measure. Hey! They used to blow a lot of bubbles back in the days of peace and love! In fact, the Analog Alien's sign for peace is the 45 record symbol. There’s a whole story about the Analog Alien on the web site. It tells about who he is and where he comes from. Joe's a big comic book fan. He used to write comic book stories when he was young, so this was right up his alley.
But the attention to detail with the FuzzBubble-45 is more than cosmetic. It has to sound as good as it looks and it has to be built to last. The circuit boards are professionally manufactured to the highest standards. In fact, you can't get a circuit board that is made better than the one in the FB-45. It's as good as it gets. Each board is placed in the pedal box, along with the jacks and switches, and then it all gets wired up by hand. Our quality control standards are very high. We test each pedal 5 times during assembly to make sure that everything is working properly. Only then is it given a serial number and placed in its time capsule. So it is safe to say that we put as much attention into our pedals as we do into our recording studio, which is quite a lot.
Another cool thing that we started doing was creating a special blog page that only viewers who use the opt-in feature on the Analog Alien web site can see. It's called the fuzzZone. When you're in the zone you'll go behind the scenes of actual recording sessions that take place at Cloud 9. You will see the equipment that we use in the recording session as well as interviews with the artists and session musicians. You will also see me working on vintage guitars. It's a great place to check out. In order to join, use the opt-in feature on the Analog Alien home page to sign in!
There are plenty of other Analog Alien pedal designs that are in the works and they will be coming out in the near future. At this time, we've built approximately 250 FuzzBubble-45 pedals, but we're just getting started. As far as promoting our pedal, we have some videos on YouTube and we sell the pedals on eBay. We also plan to advertise them in several guitar magazines soon. But the real promotion is the pedal itself. The way it looks and sounds is that best form of promotion there is. We like to let the Analog Alien do the talking for us.
So, as Chip the Analog Alien likes to say, "Plug in, tune up & blast off". Enjoy making music! Peace out.
The Analog Alien.
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