In addition to designing and building custom pedal boards for a virtual who’s who in the worship guitar world, Goodwood Audio’s Grant Klassen and Michael Woodward have designed a growing range of innovative guitar junction boxes, most notably The Interfacer.
[WM] You’ve become the go to pedalboard guys for Nigel Hendroff, Michael Guy Chislett, and Jeffrey Kunde, just to name a few. Building a clientele like this doesn’t happen overnight. Tell us about the path that led you to what you’re doing now.
[Grant] I started an instrument cable company with a buddy around 2010/2011. We had one aspiration, sell a couple cables to friends and use the profits to buy raw product for our own personal cables. The plan worked for a while and then we ran out of friends to buy our product. The positive take away was that I learned to solder and experiment with cables and basic routing circuits.
[Mikey] I knew that Grant was making cables, and I also knew that there were guys in the U.S. and U.K. offering pedal board setup services. For some reason, I’m able to retain information about pedals and pedal board setups. I had collected a library of gear knowledge in my head and he knew how to solder, so I asked him if he’d be willing to give it a try with his pedal board.
[Grant] It passed signal but sounded like a wool blanket was put over my amp. It was a nightmare and had to be completely re-done after I played one service with it.
[Mikey] It was a disaster, but we learned a lot. Once we had a little more confidence in what we were doing some friends came to us with their boards. I’ll always remember scheming up a new setup for Adsy (then bassist for Hillsong United) on napkins during lunch breaks at the café I worked at. The first turning point was when Nigel asked us to take a look at his board. One tweet and an Instagram post from him and we suddenly had some profile. Through Nigel we got connected with Jeffrey, who in turn gave us another profile boost, particularly in the US.
[WM] Mikey, you used to spend a lot of time on TheGearPage.net (aka TGP). What are the most significant things you learned, and what do you value most about that community?
[Mikey] What I value from communities like TGP is honest user experience. They’re gold mines for how pedals work in the real world, and how they interact with other pedals. This information is crucial for me when consulting with a client on their custom setup. Clients may not realize it, but when they’re working with me on their setup the Rolodex of data in my head is whirring away, looking for any info that might be relevant.
[WM] You have also crafted a number of custom junction boxes, some of which you’ve made available to the public. Besides the Interfacer, what are some of your other offerings, and what special tricks do they do?
[Grant] I spend a lot of time and budget (sorry Mikey) trying new ideas and approaches to the circuits we use. The best thing we did for our junction box offering was to open a custom shop. People come to us with ideas they want to see become a reality. Getting to prototype is my favorite part of the job and also the most frustrating. The learning never stops.
Our product line has just recently been completed. We now offer a two line parallel effects junction for bass players, an updated Interfacer, an Acoustic/Electric Interfacer, an angled board-friendly Interfacer (called Underfacer… clever we know), a solution for players that want per-preset wet/dry effects and a couple other fun things. A lot of the above now comes with ground lift and phase correction as well.
[WM] The Interfacer is your flagship product and solves some fairly common challenges that players with complex pedalboards and rigs face. You had a number of revisions before you brought it to market – was there an initial “Aha!” moment where most of it came together or does it more closely reflect the revision process?
[Grant] There have probably been 15+ revisions to the Interfacer, mostly unknown and many years ago. It had more to do with the fact that I was learning how to build circuit boards than the features of the Interfacer itself. We’ve made some really cool upgrades to the Interfacer recently. We completely re-did the coding (thanks to the patient help from Jon at Bondi Effects), included two types of summing, summing on a relay which means you can change it on the fly, and the best part, a transformer isolation option which our touring customers can’t be without. The upgrades we have been making these last couple of years have been out of a place of improving an already solid product, not because I’m learning circuit design!
[WM] The ability to easily sum stereo outputs at the end of a pedalboard signal chain is something that I haven’t seen before. As you looked around were you surprised not to see a number of other boxes that addressed this issue?
[Grant] I was, yes. Summing isn’t anything new as a concept, far from it. It is quite new however on a pedal board as a stand-alone box. Giving people the flexibility to choose when they want to run one amp or two, stereo or dual mono was a huge step for us and really got us going as a company.
[WM] As a lover of fuzz and wah, I was excited to see that you created an extra input loop that allows you to place pedals that don’t “play nice” with buffered inputs before the “main” buffered input.
[Grant] If I remember correctly, that was a Mikey idea. A lot of pedals are fine with buffers, but the one you really want on your board won’t be. It’s a straight-forward add on that really can save a lot of headache. A best-kept secret of the passive input (just for WM Mag) is that you can use the passive input for an off-board tap or expression pedal.
[Mikey] Here’s a perfect example of how information I picked up from gear forums has directly influenced product design. Time and time again I read about people complaining that buffers ruined the sound of their favorite fuzz and wah pedals. It made sense that if the Interfacer was going to be as comprehensive as we wanted, it needed a passive input.
[WM] You did a very successful Kickstarter campaign for the Interfacer. Who and what inspired you to go this route, and did it exceed your expectations?
[Grant] One of the many lessons I have learned in this business is that boundaries breed creativity. We didn’t have the money to launch the Interfacer but really believed it was a good product. We researched what a successful Kickstarter campaign looked like and invested a lot of time and a small amount of money into doing it well. Kickstarter is great, but is not an easy out. You really need to do your numbers well and be realistic on what you can pull off. We hit our $10k target in the first week and were able to go a bit further than that which bought us our first engraving machine. It was a game changer for us. We now had something like 80 orders to fulfill and the resources to do it!
[Mikey] I don’t remember how we came to the decision to run a Kickstarter campaign, but I do remember that once the decision was made we asked advice from everyone we could. Michael Weavers (Flux Effects) had run a very successful campaign to bring his Liquid Ambience to market and was very generous with tips and advice. To this day I’m still amazed it went as well as it did. The goal was $10k and we ended up with over $17k.
[WM] Mikey, I saw the video demo you did for the Interfacer before we connected around the magazine. It is one of the best product demos I’ve seen in terms of explaining what a given piece of gear does, how you can use it, and actually hearing it in action. That’s actually a lot of tricks to pull off in one video. How much did that video play a role in the success of this product, and did you know once you were ready to bring this product to market that video was going to be the most effective way to get the message across?
[Mikey] It’s funny, because I look at that video and cringe. The most important message was towards the end, well after most people stop watching – a mistake we won’t make again. That said, for people that keep watching it’s hard not to enjoy the “stereo glory”. One of our biggest pain points is the burden of education. The utility/junction segment is not well understood, so video is a crucial element to helping people understand what our products can do to transform their rig.
[WM] Given the high profile of your clientele, do you think some people don’t approach you because they think you’d be too expensive to work with?
[Grant] Honestly, we keep thinking that will be the case. I am definitely a numbers guy… a good day at work is creating a spreadsheet that does all the calculations for any given job (I’m a hit at parties). We don’t come to our prices by pulling numbers out of thin air, everything is calculated based on wages, raw parts, time to build, overheads and so on. A few years back, we would look at what it cost to build a board or a custom junction and think, “There’s no way people will pay that, it’s too much!” but it’s what we had to charge to stay in business as a custom shop/service provider.
[Mikey] I’m sure there are people that are hesitant to reach out to us. Our pricing reflects the cost to run and grow a business, and take home a wage in Sydney, Australia. In 2017, we increased our prices and have been busier than ever.
[WM] Grant, you guys love developing custom solutions for people. Curious to know if you draw this stuff out on paper, do it all in your head, or some combination of the two?
[Grant] The love for developing custom solutions comes from our passion for creating something uniquely tailored for the player. It’s so cool seeing a project take shape from initial concept to delivery, and then hearing back that its exactly what they had in mind. I draw out the schematics on a very fancy $10 whiteboard and see if it will work on “paper”. If the concept looks good, I will get to building. Sometimes it works first try, other times I miss one small portion of a circuit and take hours or days to find why it won’t work the way it should. When I’m having a day like this, Mikey generally doesn’t talk to me because he knows I’m about ready to explode.
[WM] Mikey, when we met up you seemed pretty excited about the sonic benefits of mic’ing up one amp for your unaffected, post pedalboard signal and using something like a Cab Zeus to run your effected signal direct to the FOH board so the soundman could get a great amp tone, and in turn blend in effects to taste. Can you guys tell us a bit more about the evolution to this approach?
[Mikey] A few years ago we built Nigel a rack system which included the option to run wet/dry/wet. I’d never experienced anything like it before. The sound is absolutely massive! Being able to isolate clean and overdrive tones through one amp creates a very strong foundation for wet effects to sit on top, but of course, lugging three amps to a gig is no small feat. The last few years have seen the emergence of cab simulators and so we figured, if we can prove to ourselves the viability of being able to run wet/dry/wet with only one amp and a cab sim, we could present it to our customers as an alternative to the traditional stereo setup.
[Grant] I enjoy thinking of ways to route a pedal board and build boxes to suit, more than I do actually playing guitar (sorry guys). There was a boundary of only one amp where I normally played guitar, so I got to thinking about the best way to run a hybrid rig. How could I use a tube amp but then also use a DI to get more out of my rig? Mikey and I chatted about the best way to pull this off for weeks. I brought the idea to the production guys at my church and they were up for experimenting. I built the rig to have dry effects (compressor, Electro-Harmonix POG, overdrives) sent straight to my AC30. That same dry signal would also feed two Eventide H9’s in parallel. The H9’s would also be fed by a tube pre-amp and some sort of cab simulation. This meant I could run my dry effects to an AC30. and my wet effects to a DI via amp simulation. FOH could now mix my dry and wet signals independently, and I could have a monster sound in my ears with one amp.
[WM] Mikey, when we met up in Australia, you mentioned that you guys are working with some business advisors. What common mistakes do you see boutique companies your size make, and what are your advisors doing to help you avoid making them.
[Mikey] It’s great to have people with experience in business guiding us. Some really good advice we’ve taken on board is understanding our position in the market and how to think and operate outside of traditional norms.
[Grant] The biggest lesson we have learned is that thinking small will get you nowhere. We started with the dream of being able to support our families. Now we have a vision for Goodwood and our future that would be laughable if I were to say it out loud. We believe we have a purpose that is much bigger than just the two of us and that we can actually use this company to make a very positive impact on our immediate and external sphere of influence. The biggest mistake I see other boutique companies make is assuming they can only ever achieve a one-person operation that will allow them to scrape by at best.
[WM] Thanks again guys – our readers have loved your contributions to the magazine over the past couple of months, and I have as well!