“I’m extremely picky about my tone & Voodoo is the only amp Mod company that gets it right.” Jason Hook of Five Finger Death Punch said.
Trace Davis is Founder and President of Voodoo Amplification, He started his business in the mid 1990s with a small shop in Ithaca, New York, repairing and modifying production guitar amps with his own custom circuits. And now he and his company produce and design some amps that are favoured by such great guitar players Vivian Campbell, Doug Aldrich, Jon Schaffer and George Lynch.
* Voodoo amp were in the LA amp show 2011, how did the show go for you? Can you tell me about the feedback from people who attended?
This was our first time exhibiting at the LA Amp Show in Van Nuys California. The show was a great success for us and we could not be more pleased. All feedback we received was very positive and we met a lot of great players. It was good to see a lot of old friends and meet many new friends. A good time was had by all and I am happy we decided to do the show.
* Which Voodoo products were shown there?
The rooms were smaller so we had to take limited gear.
- Two (2) “V-Rock DL100′s” (IE: Dual Lead/Multi Channel 100 watt amp
- One (1) “V-Rock SL100″ (Single Lead/1 channel 100 watt head)
- One (1) “V-Plex 50 Master Volume” head
- One (1) Custom Shop “V-Plex 50 Master Volume” head
- One (1) Custom Shop “V-Plex 50 Master Volume” 1×12″ Combo
- One (1) “Texas Heat” 10 watt 1×12″ combo amp. We officially debuted this at the show and it was featured in an up coming interview by Vintage Guitar Magazine as well as a video interview/demo by Premier Guitar video.
- Two (2) V4x12 Mono/Stereo Cabinets with X-Patterns of WGS Veteran
- 30′s and HM75′s
We are constantly striving to improve on all aspects of what we do, be it our own high end products or our Modifications. It has always been our goal to not only meet a players need but to exceed them. With this comes improving every aspect of what we do as no player wants an amp that is destined to break down or requires continuous visits to the repair shop because it was poorly designed. Through our Modifications, we strive to improve reliability as well as tone and performance. The Voodoo Amps products manufacture are designed to last a life time.
* Is there any shocking news that you want to tell us about?
We are proud to announce Mark Tremonti of Creed & Alter Bridge is now using/touring with our V-Rock DL100. It goes without saying that Mark is a great player and we could not be happier to have him onboard.
* Great musicians and guitar players like George Lynch, Vivian Campbell, Doug Aldrich and Phil Collen choose to use Voodoo amps products, how did that happen? i meant how do they find out about your products?
That is a good question and unfortunately it is one that has no specific answer as it varies greatly from one player to the next. We have seen every scenario you can imagine but to generalize it I would say it comes through referrals. Some players are gear-heads and are in-the-know through the internet though often times it comes through the referral of their guitar tech and/or another player who is in a band they are touring with.
* and tell me do you have meetings with your clients to discuss their needs?
Yes and that comes in the form of meeting in person and/or though phone calls. It really comes down to what works best for the artist and their schedule. Meeting at trade shows is all well and good (NAMM, etc) but any great player who tours will tell you that they need to hear the amp at stage volume and I whole heartedly agree, which is we always meet players on the road when they are touring.
The V-Plex was the first amp we released. This is a bit of a long story so in the interests of your readers I will try to keep this as short as possible; I used to own an amazing 68 plexi but one day I was playing the amp and lightening struck very close to the building and shorted the output tubes as well as the output transformer. Unfortunately the amp never sounded the same again, which ironically is also what lead me to getting into this business full time (trying to get back a tone that I had lost). Several years later a gentleman brought a very late 68 or early 69 plexi to shop to be serviced. We refurbish/service a great deal of older Marshalls but this was the first amp that sounded the same as my old plexi had and I couldn’t believe it! Naturally the gentleman did not want to part with it so after several offers he finally agreed to sell the amp to us. This amp was the basis for our V-Plex series. We sent the transformer to Mercury Magnetics so be cloned, including every minute detail as I wanted to offer an amp that would allow every player to be able to experience the magic is a great sounding plexi, without having to buy/sell numerous older ones in the hopes of finding a gem.
* What ‘s the company plans for the future? Do you think we will see the day when Voodoo amps are used the same way as Marshall are now?
That is one of our goals, as lofty as it may be. Our primary goal is to continue to build the company the proper way, which is by continually offering the highest quality products and services at the best possible price we can.
Having Modified thousands of tube amps gives us an advantage over others. IE: we see many short comings such as but not limited to; factory defects, premature failures, poor layout (hand wired or PCB/printed circuit boards), etc. This knowledge directly helps us to build a more reliable and bullet proof amplifier that will last a lift time.
* Tell me about yourself, how did you choose this path for your career? how did you find that you’re interested in designing guitar amps and creating new products?
I actually grew up around it. My father worked for Westinghouse Corporation making and over seeing the manufacturing of vacuum tubes. As many know Westinghouse made their own high quality brand of tubes but they also OEM’ed tubes for other well known companies such as RCA, GE and others. I also come from being a session player, recording engineer and a live/touring player. I truly cannot imagine doing what I do without having all this experience to draw from.
Our goal is to continually grow the Voodoo Amps brand to be as large as possible without sacrificing our high standards through which we built this company. I was raised with the mantra that “anything worth doing is worth doing well” and I intend to adhere to that.
What many may not realize is that we design products for other amplifier and pedal companies and have been doing so for the past 5 years. There are many larger companies that manufacture in China however Voodoo Amps has no plans of doing so. As such we offer our services to help design a better quality product that can still maintain its present price points. Having literally Modified thousands of amplifiers we have seen all the short comings (IE: design flaws, factory defects, etc) and this gives us a unique edge when designing. More to the point, we know what not to do and as such product reliability can be vastly improved with little to no additional cost.
As we are bound by NDA (Non-Discloser Agreements) I am not at liberty to disclose names at this time. Many reading this may ask why I would bother and the answer is simple; there are young kids cannot who cannot yet afford the products Voodoo Amps manufactures. I come from humble beginnings so I can relate to that on many levels. Learning to play guitar changed my life and as such I believe it’s important to inspire kids to play. If I can help to do that by taking part in improving/developing a product they can afford – I am more than happy to do so.
As the largest Modification company in the world we fully realize that one-sizefits- all does not work for everyone. There are players who have specific needs and/or are looking for tones that go outside of what is commonly. We are here to meet those needs, which is why we offer Custom Modifications. To follow suit we also have our Voodoo Custom Mod Shop. Through the Custom Shop we offer both single channel as well as multi channel models and are set up to meet the most demanding needs.
A great deal of time and experience goes into the production models we design and manufacture. Our products (and Mods) have been on tour all around the world numerous times and continue to perform flawlessly night after night.
This is a common question and one I receive at least once a week. What I am about to say is not meant to deter one from entering this business but rather it is an honest assessment at the time of this writing. This is a difficult and hard business to enter, it is honestly a labor of love. If working on amps is a passion then I would recommend doing it on the side (IE: have a good day job/career to rely on). The good news is that the cream always rises to the top and yes it can take some time.
Having worked as both a session/touring player as well as recording engineer and I understand that an amp not has to sound good but it has to equally feel good to playing. An amp has to sound good in the room so that its inspiring to the player but it also had to sound good under microphones, both live and in the recording studio.
I always strive to learn some thing new every day. We are constantly looking for new ways to improve our products and the journey to understanding every aspect of what effects tone is part of the alchemy or the art if what we do. Mathematics and oscilloscopes only take you so far, from there you need to use your ears to tell you what sounds right and use your hands to know what it feels like when playing on the amp. More over, having worked on some of the most famous amps in the business and having been blessed to work with so many talented players has given us all helped to give us a distinct advantage.
In short – we are obsessed with tone. We have worked with some of the most demanding players out there and I always look forward to the challenge. Tone is a matter of taste and as with all matters of taste there can be no right or wrong.
Thank you Trace, Wish you all the best.
- For more information about Voodoo amps products visit the Voodoo amp official website
Interview by Mohsen Fayyazi