EarthQuaker Devices originated in the hobbyist work of founder Jamie Stillman. In 2004, Stillman began working with guitar pedals after a DOD Overdrive/Preamp 250 that he owned stopped working correctly. Using websites such as geofx.com and generalguitargadgets.com, Stillman taught himself how guitar pedals worked. Stillman began building small amounts of pedals for acquaintances, eventually listing some on eBay for sale in 2006. At the time, Stillman characterized his efforts as a way to generate supplemental income. The original batch did not sell well, and Stillman put the sale of his pedals on hold. At the time, Stillman was working in various capacities for The Black Keys.
Stillman began working on pedals again in late 2006 and early 2007, creating the Hoof, Tusk, and Disaster Transport Delay pedals. These pedals were sold through Harmony Central message boards. The first of this pedals to be sold officially under the EarthQuaker name was the Hoof Fuzz. According to Stillman, the pedals spread via word of mouth, allowing the product line to grow to eight or nine pedals by 2008, allowing Stillman to work on the pedals full-time. The company hired its first employee, Jeff France, in 2010; a second employee was hired a year later. The company eventually outgrew it's original location in Stillman's basement, moving to a building that had previously been a glass factory near downtown Akron, Ohio. At the same time, Stillman's wife Julie Robbins quit her job as a financial planner to join the company as the vice president.
As of 2018, EarthQuaker devices operates out of a former auto parts and industrial paint shop in Akron, Ohio and employees 54 people. The company produces over 1000 pedals per week in their own facilities, and generated over $5 million in revenues in 2017. The company has also maintained a growth rate, year-over-year, of 28%, with pedals being sold in the North American, Asian, European, and South African markets. Currently, there are over 38 different pedals produced by EarthQuaker.
Design and fabrication process
EarthQuaker Devices founder Jamie Stillman designs the pedals for the company, mirroring other boutique builders such as Wampler Pedals and Keeley Electronics. Stillman voices the pedals in a way that is "just how [he] like[s] a guitar to sound." Stillman's process can be lengthy: his first attempt at created a Fuzz Face pedal took over 50 builds before he was satisfied with the results. Stillman works via trial and error, crafting pedals via experimentation with parts and designs.
Several of EarthQuaker's pedals have names that are tied to Ohio. The Dispatch Master, Avalanche Run, and Disaster Transport pedals are all named after a roller coaster at Cedar Point, the now closed Disaster Transport. The Terminal fuzz, another Earthquaker pedal, is illustrated with an image of the Terminal Tower in downtown Cleveland, Ohio.
Founder Jamie Stillman was a graphic designer by trade before starting the company, among other positions he held, and established the original visual design direction for the company. The design work, as of 2018, is handled primarily by artist Matt Horak, an artist who has also worked on Spider-Man/Deadpool and The Punisher books for Marvel Comics. Horak serves as EarthQuaker's art director and creates the art found on the pedals the company produces. The graphic design for individual pedals is handled by Horak, who works off of the name, knob pattern, and description of the pedal provided to him by Stilman. Horak describes his art style, and the style of the illustrations used on the company's pedals, as simple and geometric, mimicking the work of Art Adams, Mike Mignola, Moebius, and Jack Kirby.
EarthQuaker still hand-populates circuit boards, a difference that they highlight in their pedal building process. The company has stated that it goes to great lengths to keep their production local to Akron, Ohio whenever possible.
EarthQuaker pedals are used by numerous artists, including the following performers
- Theresa Wayman of Warpaint
- Paul Wiley of Marilyn Manson
- Matt McJunkins of Eagles of Death Metal
- Dave Catching of Eagles of Death Metal
- Mark Mothersbaugh of Devo
- Jeff Tweedy of Wilco
- Duncan Lloyd of Maximo Park
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- Malcolm X Abram (2011-01-30). "Business Amps Up for Guitar Fan - Longtime Musician Who Enjoys Fiddling with Effects Pedals Lands Gig Making, Distributing His Own". Akron Beacon Journal. p. E1.
- Malcolm X Abram (2012-09-18). "Making Waves from Akron - Earthquaker Devices Advances from Basement Operation to Manufacturer of Guitar Pedals for Paul Simon, Coldplay". Akron Beacon Journal. p. A1.
- Dan Shingler (2015-11-16). "Earthquaker shakes up the music business". Crain's Cleveland Business. p. 14.
- "Akron's EarthQuaker Devices wins national Exporter of the Year honor". Akron Beacon Journal. 2019-04-09. p. B8.
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