HipKitty from Antioch a suburb of Nashville, Tennessee is building some excellent tonal sounding effect pedals, know in the industry by some top players, Vince Neil (Motley Crue), Marc Ford (Black Crowes), Pete Loeffler (Chevelle), Slaughter... click on a sound file below to hear what all the buzz is about!
In their workshop everything from board etching, populating, point to point wiring, enclosure drilling and finishing is done in house and by hand. The only thing that is subed out is the cabinets for their amplifiers.
They're now getting ready to beta test a new distortion pedal and are in the R & D process to add two new tube amps to their amp line.
I'm "the guy" that started HipKitty, does the R & D work and production work for our pedals and amp lines. My wife Toni, besides being my business partner, is the person behind the finished work designs and customer service.
I have been doing tube amp repair and modifcations since the late 70's. All of my repair work is word of mouth in order to keep the workload from interferring with the pedal and amp production and R & D.
I taught myself electronics by way of books, trial and error and a little outside guidance from my Stepfather, a retired aeronautical engineer. This began because of the want to repair, re-tube and bias my own tube amps and the desire to own pedals that I just couldn't afford as a kid.
The amp tinkering began back in the late 70's. My first "formal" creation was a stereo headphone amp to be used in conjunction with a mixing console. I built this during down time at a rural ambulance station when I worked as a Paramedic. I read a lot of rather dry tech books during the down times and would exercise my reading into true application once at home.
My first pedal, the Java Distortion, was built entirely for my use; I never imagined nor intended to market to anyone else. I needed a distortion pedal that I could take to band rehearsals, use my Fender Champ and have a clean (true by-passed) sound, an adjustable rhythm distortion and a third option of the full distortion with added 12db boost at output so I could hear myself solo over the drummer. By accomplishing this feat, I felt confident that I could R & D other ideas and did so.
Word of mouth pushed me to build and sell the pedals that I built for myself to my friends, their friends and acquaintances. I had, in fact, completed quite a bit of R & D work and was building up a small line of pedals long before offering them to the mass public. Though initially I wanted to build the stuff I couldn't afford as a kid, something inside pushed me not to copy other builder's works.
It wasn't until I was "public" (with a website offering direct sales only), that I had and completed a request to build a copy of a TS-808 with true by-pass in one of my enclosures. I did this as a favor to an artist and it remains the only pedal that I've ever done like that. I have done re-housing of mass produced pedals converting them to true by-pass, but now direct that kind of work elsewhere to allow me to concentrate on my own designs and their production.
I don't think that I made an honest, conscious decision to build effect pedals until I moved to Nashville, Tennessee where I became connected to National and International artists whom gave me very positive feedback and continued recommendations that I make it a full time business.
It was not hard for me to design my first effect pedal, the hard thing was acquiring the proper parts that were of high quality. Now, they are readily available, but back then, they weren't. Each effect has worked as designed but of course, there is the R & D process needed to work out the bugs.
Local bands saw me using the pedals on stage and this is how it "blew up" for me, my promotion initially was by word of mouth.
Click on a pedal below to enlarge the image!