Making It: Rock Stars Look to Akron's EarthQuaker Devices for New Sounds

MAKERS:  Jamie Stillman and Julie Robbins

BUSINESS: EarthQuaker Devices

WHAT’S AN EFFECT PEDAL? An electronic device that can manipulate the sound of any instrument. The “wah” pedal is probably the most famous, used by numerous rock and funk groups since the late 1960s.

NOTABLE CUSTOMERS: First major users were Akron’s own Black Keys.  The list has expanded to Pearl Jam, Cold Play, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Radio Head, Wilco, My Morning Jacket, Queens of the Stone Age, and Eagles of Death Metal, among many others.

HOW STARTED: “One of my pedals broke, so bought a new one and it didn’t sound as good,” Stillman recalls.   “Then, I figured I’d fix the old one myself.  Looked it up on the internet, found it and fixed it.  And I kinda got excited.

COMPANY GROWTH: Stillman says he and his wife Julie started building 30-40 pedals a week in their basement in 2004.  Today, he says, they employ more than 50 people and turn out 1000 pedals a week.

TRYING TO BE A GOOD EMPLOYER: “I really like employing people,” Robbins says.  “I really like families being supported by what we’re doing here and buying houses and all that good stuff.” 

PLEASURES OF RUNNING YOUR OWN SHOP: “I aspire to make interesting sounds by any means possible,” Stillman says.  “I’m still making things with zero regard for the market.  I always thought I was going to work for myself.  I’m lucky it worked out that way, because I cannot imagine working for somebody else.”

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