|Interview with Dave Friedman (in English)|
Dave Friedman is a well known guitar gear guru from Los Angeles. After hearing the Friedman Kitchen Sink Plexi for ourselves we decided to take an interview with the man behind the mod in this amp.
TubeTone: Hello Dave, how are you?
Dave Friedman: Great, how are you?
TubeTone: I’m all good too. Before we begin I would like to say that we took your modded Plexi for a spin the other day. And I personally think it sounds phenomenal! We’ve heard a lot of Marshalls including many modded ones, but this one really stands out.
Dave Friedman: Great!
TubeTone: There are a lot of Russian guitarists interested in modded amps nowadays, especially Marshalls. However, they know little about the American companies and people who actually do the mods. So we thought we would change that. My first question is.. when and how did you get involved in the amplifier modding business?
Dave Friedman: Boy, let’s see.. I might have to see how far to stretch back with this. I moved to Los Angeles when I was 18 from Detroit, Michigan. I was always into amps and gear. Always kind of searching different sounds and tones. When I moved here I went to work for a company called Andy Brauer’s Studio Rentals. At that point in time doing cartage for famous studio musicians in the Los Angeles area. You know, moving their gear around and things like that. So I was always in and out of studios. Been around many amazing records. During that time, I always sort of dabbled and messed around with amplifiers. I became acquainted with Bruce Egnater. Well, more than acquainted. I had had some work done by him when I was a child back in Detroit. Later, when I started working out in this business, I called him and said: “We should do something together! You should make THIS”. And that was a four channel guitar preamp. And so I became a partner of Egnater at that point of time. Most of my amp knowledge actually came from learning from him.
TubeTone: So he was kind of a mentor to you?
Dave Friedman: Sort of a mentor to me, yeah. And then also my desire to further my own knowledge and just learn. You can’t teach a lot of this stuff. It’s self taught. So I learned many things from Bruce. And that kind of snowballed, shall we say, over the years. Also, during this time putting guitar switching systems together for guitar players. Which is also something I learned from. I first started doing for Andy Brauer’s Studio Rentals and picked it up from there. Later it branched out to Making Music, which was a store at the time here in LA. And then just continuing on my own after that. So I was always around all the famous guitar players, around this stuff.
TubeTone: What amps inspired you?
Dave Friedman: As far as amps I was always into vintage Marshalls.. the old Plexis.
TubeTone: Yeah, we kind of see that. Because most of the Friedman modded amps are Marshalls. Is there a general idea behind your modifications? Is there anything specific you do with the tone of the amplifier?
Dave Friedman: That’s a little tough. The sound I hear in my head is what I make. And that stands from a 60s Plexi Marshall. But what I wanted to accomplish with a lot of the mods was being able to play it at much lower volume. And have more control over the amount of gain it has and EQ. So basically it’s like a big badass Marshall tone! With varying amounts of gain depending on what kind of a player you are. You know, even the high gain tones are still in the Marshall land. As far as tones I like everything from classic rock tones to heavier Alice in Chains kind of tones. I think the amp can do a variety of stuff depending on what kind of a player you are and what guitars you’re using into it.
TubeTone: How do you usually tweak your amp? Do you come up with the idea in your head and start doing the mod? Are there any certain development stages before you put the amp to your customer?
Dave Friedman: Sometimes I have some help with the amps. But each one still passes by me. I mostly do a certain set of mods. I do that on any Marshall amp I feel suited for it. But every amp is fine tuned. Sometimes certain amps come out brighter. And if I don’t like that I’ll go back and tweak it until it sounds right to me.
TubeTone: Yeah, some amps are not the same sounding.
Dave Friedman: Exactly. Some are different versions, eras of amps. Sometimes they sound worse. So I do have to do extra thing to those amps to make them sound right.
TubeTone: What are you favorite power tubes? EL34s?
Dave Friedman: Yeah. Generally speaking on a specific brand, I prefer JJ EL34s. Just because there’s not a lot of great choices. There really isn’t. I find =C= tubes a little too bright for my amps.
TubeTone: Miss the old days and tubes?
Dave Friedman: Yeah, exactly! Although the JJs do sound pretty good for a European style EL34.
TubeTone: What about transformers? Do you ever swap them out?
Dave Friedman: I do sometimes. I have a certain transformer that I use in my amplifiers that I can upgrade for someone. It’s not always necessary, but it will definitely give you a richer tone. It depends on the amp we’re talking about.
TubeTone: Do you mod any amps besides Marshalls?
Dave Friedman: Mostly Marshall style amps. I can do mods to Egnater amps or different Marshall clone amps that people make, like Ceriatone. I’ve done mods for Fender amps too, like the old Bassmans. It definitely comes out different but it can still sound good. I’m not going to modify a Crate though, you know.
TubeTone: Ha-ha! You will need to take EVERYTHING out from it! We’ve done a couple of mods to these amps in our company. It was so much work that the mods turned out costing more than the amps themselves.
Dave Friedman: Yeah, just not worth it. Too hard.
TubeTone: What do you think about the low wattage craze that’s been popular lately? You know, the bedroom volume amps.
Dave Friedman: I think it’s a lot of fun. In fact, I’m going to be doing one.
TubeTone: Really? A low watt Friedman amp?
Dave Friedman: Yep, it’s a single channel low wattage amp with a loop, EL84 power tubes. It will probably sell for about #### dollars.
TubeTone: Oh, that’s not too bad!
Dave Friedman: Well, I’m not going to be able to make much money on it. I wanted to make sure I could price it so that people would buy it. I want to put in reach for those who can’t afford to play a big amp.
TubeTone: Who are some of your most notable customers? Both for mods and everything in general.
Dave Friedman: I have tons of famous guitar players like Eddie van Halen, Steve Stevens, Jerry Cantrell.. guitar player of My Chemical Romance, Richie Sambora, Guns’n’Roses, Black Eyed Peas.. I don’t know. The list goes on! There’s probably a lot that I’m missing too.
TubeTone: Do all of them come to you knowing what they want, like what kind of sounds or the particular switching systems they need. Or do you have to guide them in a certain way?
Dave Friedman: It’s a little of everything. Sometimes they come and know exactly what they want to use. They just don’t know how to put it together in one package. Other times they’re like: “Here’s the sound that I used on the record, but I don’t really know how to get it, so what do you recommend?” Other times they just come in and they know nothing. They even barely know how to play guitar! Which is surprising sometimes. Then I guide them completely through something, making them what I personally think they’d like.
TubeTone: Do you think musicians nowadays are becoming more aware of various options for their setups? Is there any evolution of their perception of gear. Obviously, you’ve been doing this for a long time. Has anything changed since the time you started?
Dave Friedman: When I first started there was no Internet. Not the kind of information we have now. You would think they’d be more aware. But in some respects they have no idea. I’m not saying everyone, but there are a lot of guitar players out there that have forgotten or never learned how to play guitar properly. They don’t know how to use the volume knob on their guitar. Dave Friedman: They don’t know pickup choices or how to get certain sounds out of things. They’re used to playing through a Line6 POD at home. But there’s a lot more to it!
TubeTone: Usually such musicians get quite a surprise when they play big amps, especially at loud volumes on stage. Their picking is not used to it.
Dave Friedman: They can’t control it, they don’t understand how to do it. My favorite thing is when I see a guitar player plug into one of my amps and turn the gain down instead of up. And use their volume knob and dynamics. To me that’s the heart of playing guitar! You should be able to plug into a single channel amp and get tons of sounds out of it with, let’s say, a Strat or a Les Paul without anything else. But it doesn’t really exist too much these days. Which is.. kind of sad.
TubeTone: Which leads us to my last question. What do you think is the future of tube guitar amps with all the modeling stuff becoming more advanced and popular? It seems that we’ve reached some kind of a plateau with tube amps.
Dave Friedman: Yeah, I think the digital modeling has a purpose and place. But you look at albums, records for instance, and you see a strong backlash now. People are buying vinyl again. Ultimately I don’t think tube amps are going anywhere. Because a modeler is not the same. It’s never going to be the same. I think people actually realize that after they play it for a while and then try a tube amp. Modelers do have their place and they can be really useful tools. But they’re not an amp and.. they’re just not cool!
TubeTone: Well, thank you for your time. Best of luck to your business. We hope we can get more Friedman amps to Russia!
Dave Friedman: That would be great! Good luck to you too!
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