An Interview with Daniel Steinhardt – The Gigrig & That Pedal Show
Ever since I started playing the guitar, collecting, testing and generally messing around with pedals has been a major part of the enjoyment. So, when I got the chance to chat with Daniel Steinhardt (TheGigrig / That Pedal Show) I couldn’t wait to talk about all things pedal related.
For those who aren’t familiar with the name, Daniel’s built a successful business designing products including the G2 switching system, and putting together pedal boards for the likes of Radiohead, James Bay, Biffy Clyro – the list of great names is endless. If that wasn’t enough, along with Mick Talyor, he also runs the hugely popular ‘That Pedal Show’ on YouTube which has garnered over 44,000 subscribers.
If you’re into pedals, you’re going to love this!
Online Guitar Lessons: So to start off with, could you just introduce yourself and what you do?
Daniel: My name is Daniel Steinhardt. I own a business called The Gig Rig. We make switching systems and the power supplies for guitar players. And I also have, with Mick Taylor, a YouTube channel called ‘That Pedal Show’, where we help guitar players work their way through the world of effects and help them find their own tone.
Online Guitar Lessons: Just from looking through your site, you’ve built boards for some pretty amazing artists. Have you had any highlights?
Daniel: Highlights, there have been so many. Where do I start? Working with Ed O’Brien on his board for the latest Radiohead tour is certainly a highlight. Seeing him use that rig in Paris with Radiohead was absolutely amazing. But I’ve got so many amazing moments, like seeing our original switcher that we made, the pro 14, on stage at the Albert Hall with Paul Stacey who was playing guitar for Neil Finn at the time, who is my favourite artist ever. Like ever. So that was a massive moment.
But seeing guys who have become better players, because they’re more in touch with their sound, and are able to express more freely, it doesn’t get much better than that for me, personally. Because as someone who does that all the time, my whole thing musically is simply trying to express stuff.
And that’s a challenge that every artist faces, and working with those guitar players who want to be artists and by artists I just mean someone who is expressing something through an art form. And, that’s the challenge. To be able to express something.
So, yeah. So, that for me, helping guitar players achieve that is, that’s certainly the best thing. It’s just fantastic.
Online Guitar Lessons: How did you start getting these jobs where you’re building boards for such great people? How did you reach that caliber?
Daniel: Well, it’s been a long process. So The Gig Rig has been running as a company for 10 years now. And I’ve been working on these projects for like four years before that. It’s certainly not an over-night thing. But a lot of people only found out about us recently, because of various artists and stuff that we’ve been helping out with.
But, I’ve played guitar my whole life. I’m fascinated by the instrument. And the physicality of it, it takes two hands to make a note. You’re so in touch with the instrument. My whole professional life I’ve been a musician.
As I was growing up…I didn’t have a lot of classic rock or anything like that in the house. I mean that my parents weren’t those sort of parents. My dad didn’t listen to Led Zeppelin or anything like that.
So I grew up thinking that state-of-the-art was the best.
I was stunned when a producer friend of mine let me play with some old analog effects. And I couldn’t believe how much better they sounded than anything that I was using. So I became fascinated with this idea of…what was it about these old devices that made them sound so fantastic? And why hadn’t these new state-of-the-art effects, why weren’t they doing this anymore?
And so, I started collecting these old pedals and looking for things that sounded really great. And I started to get a collection together. But the problem was, while I was touring I was…I had these midi racks and things. And I was used to stepping on a midi floor controller, and having one button. You know, recall the sound that I wanted.
And obviously, you couldn’t do that with effects pedals, because you’re jumping all over the place. Tap dancing to songs and…
Online Guitar Lessons: You’ve only got two feet…
Daniel: Exactly. Exactly. And the sort of things that I was doing when I was touring with a lot of high profile acts in Australia.
And I needed to…I needed it to be professional. And I didn’t think that situation was professional. I needed to have a lot of access to a lot of the combinations, and I couldn’t…just jumping on the pedals just wasn’t going to work for me. So I looked around for something that would help me sort this out. And there just wasn’t anything around certainly in Australia at that time.
Then I helped a friend work on a Pete Cornish rig in Australia. And it was incredible. Obviously, Pete Cornish is one of my heroes.
I think the man’s work is genius. But, there was nothing that I could afford that was going to solve my issues. The Pete Cornish rig at that time in Australia, it cost as much as a house. It was incredibly expensive. And that just wasn’t an option for me. So a friend of mine says, “Well why don’t you build something?” And so I started doing courses in electronics and trying to work out how to build this thing.
And so I started doing courses in electronics and trying to work out how to build this thing.
And then, I ended up coming to England. I had tried to get the business going in Australia, but no one was interested. Ended up coming to England with my girlfriend at the time, who’s now my wife. And I started talking to engineers because it got to a point where it outstretched my electronics knowledge. I knew exactly what I was trying to achieve and how to get it, but I needed help.
I ended up talking to a guy who’s now my business partner and has been for the last 14 years. And we, yeah, we got started. And I’ve been working on defining the idea of the sets. And then the first part of that was just the Pro 14 the big white unit.
Our very first ever customer was a guy call Mark Johns, who was playing guitar for Ray Davies at the time, now one of my closest friends, incredible guitar player. And it turned out that this was a solution that a lot of guitarists were looking for.
Online Guitar Lessons: So it was really born from a problem that you were having when touring yourself?
Daniel: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. Once I had discovered the sound of these pedals, that was it. There was no going back for me.
But I couldn’t compromise on that. There were other issues with it as well. So individually, the pedal sounded amazing. But as soon as we started chaining them together you got tone loss.
For example, vintage phasers – when you turn them on, the level can drop. It’s the nature of phase cancellation that happens within the audio, and it’s a perceived level drop. And I thought somehow I gotta find a way to sort this out.
So whenever things aren’t being used, get them out of the signal path and when theyre in there, compensate for any volume drop…so to be able to control the volume on each preset. That was the first prerequisite. And then being able to mix the outputs and to have two different outputs and stuff. I actually saw Robert Ford at the Basement in Sydney, he was using two amplifiers and switching between them.
And the guy just…what a sound. I thought that, “What a great idea.” The Fender, won’t sound like a Marshall. A Marshall can’t sound like a Fender. So part of the thing as well, I wanted to have two switching outputs so that you could have different sounds going to the amplifiers, or indeed combine them. I want to be able to press one button and make everything happen that easily.
Online Guitar Lessons: In doing that, solving the issue with having two amps, and the chain, and all the earth hum, and everything else and just…
Online Guitar Lessons: so you’re saying “I want that tone, and I want use these pedals, with this setup because I know that’s the best I can get for that tone.” But in doing so it creates these series of issues, or complications, or signal loss along the way. So I need something to do it without the negative side effects…
Daniel: That’s exactly right. Exactly right.
Online Guitar Lessons: And is that why say if someone Ed O’Brien or James Bay phones you up and says, “Look, I need some help”, they’re basically having exactly issue that you’ve had, and why you ended up creating this company to start with, right?
Daniel: Absolutely. These guys, if they…James is a great example, who is just an astonishing guitar player. I think for me he’s my favourite artist to come out of England in a long time.
Just a really wonderful guy. At the end of the day, he’s incredibly talented and all that sort of stuff. But he’s a guitar player, like the rest of us, and he has the same problems. I got a call and he was asking for help. So I went to see him in London and I could see what was going on instantly with his pedal board. And so I just said, “Let’s try a couple things.” So for example, one of the things that James uses is vintage guitars with P-90s…
That’s a big part of his sound, those P-90s. And so the vintage P-90s, and as with any low wind vintage pickup, the signal that’s coming out of those things is precious. And you need to have as few things in the way of that signal, for it to be as true as possible. So these things for James it’s just making sure the stuff he didn’t need for that particular sound was just not there. And so, we put a G2 rig together for him, and he loves it.
Online Guitar Lessons: It’s quite a simple setup. I watched your episode of That Pedal Show when you delivered it. First off, I had no idea he was such a good guitar player.
Daniel: He’s astonishing.
Online Guitar Lessons: I was like, “Oh my god.” First off, I was just amazed. And then, you look and what you’ve done there, and it’s quite a simple setup.
Daniel: It is quite simple. The thing with James is the combination of amplifiers that he uses to get that sound.
But, because he’s a singer, he needs to step on one button and have everything switch for him. And we’ve got a situation now with his tech, where his tech has the G2 and the pedal board offstage, James has just the G2 onstage, and then switching his pedal board remotely offstage.
But, he just needs to hit that one-foot switch to have everything change, so he doesn’t have to think while he’s in the middle of singing and really pouring his heart out. Start trying to tap on these and jump around on different pedals.
Online Guitar Lessons: Yeah, I really enjoyed that one. It struck me that the whole goal though was just keeping everything as true to the sound of the guitar and the amp as possible.
Online Guitar Lessons: And, do you have any players that you’d love to work with, but haven’t had the chance yet? Who do you want to phone you up?
Daniel: Who do I want to phone me up? It’s funny actually, I’ve been…I have been really lucky. So Radiohead, Neil Finn, Biffy Clyro, these are in my top favorite artists of all time. So I’ve been really really blessed to be able to work with these guys or in Nei’s case, his guitar player. When I was a kid, loved Steve Vai, and we did the board for Steve Vai’s rhythm guitar player.
And maybe we’ll get a chance to put a board together for him. But Steve is the busiest musician person in the world. But…I don’t know. Now that I’m working with a lot of these guys, it’s just I haven’t thought about that question for a long time. I’m just so honoured do what I do.
I do have the best job in the world. One thing I would say though is that I’ve got an amazing team at The Gig Rig. The company, the people who work with us every day, they’re just the best people. I certainly couldn’t do any of this stuff without the team that we have.
I do have the best job in the world. The company, the people who work with us every day, they’re just the best people.
Online Guitar Lessons: Just getting onto That Pedal Show, it’s a really nice window into it. The content is great. And as soon as I got my first guitar, I was onto pedals. That was it.
Daniel: Because they’re so cool. They’re just the coolest things ever!
Daniel: I still get excited… it’s ridiculous. I’ve got a lot of pedals. I don’t like to think of them as a collection because I use every pedal I have.. If I don’t use it, I don’t need the pedal.
But I still get excited when someone releases a new pedal or…Like just yesterday, a friend of mine told me about this treble booster from a builder in Liverpool called Dan Whitelock-Jones. I was so excited to hear this treble booster, that I got in my car and drove from London to Liverpool to go and get this treble booster. And it’s amazing. It is absolutely brilliant! I’m still really excited. I think that they’re just the most wonderful things.
They allow you to just fine-tune and really create an individual sound. We’re living in a golden age as far as pedals. There’s so much information about them available online. You can make really informed decisions, whereas I was a kid you couldn’t do that. You simply had to stop into every music store and find what you liked by working your way through the stuff, and work out what you like and didn’t like.
That in itself had its advantages and disadvantages. But now I do think that we are living in a pretty amazing age where you can actually research and find what things you like.
Online Guitar Lessons: That Pedal Show is huge. But why did you start it? And, how has it grown over time to be such a successful channel?
Daniel: So, Mick is very close friend of mine. We’ve been friends for 10 years and I love his guitar playing. We would often just talk about gear.
When you see Mick and I on camera talking, we are exactly the same off camera. Our conversations are all about, “Oh have you heard this yet? This is amazing.” That’s just what we’re like. So I was getting ready to go to NAMM a couple of years ago and Mick called me, “So I’m thinking of coming over there, but I don’t have anywhere to stay.” I said, “I’ve got a hotel. Come over and crash.” And so he came over, and we were just chatting the whole time about gear and then he said. “You know what? We should film this.” I go, “Okay.” So when we got back, we just started filming our chats. That’s basically what it was. We didn’t have an agenda with it, we just thought there is some information that we could share, that I would’ve loved to have had when I was starting out.
Mick’s knowledge is just astonishing. Especially his knowledge of guitars is incredible.
Online Guitar Lessons: You can tell…
Daniel: Yeah, and he’s such a wonderful guitar player. He’s got such a swing to his playing that’s really beautiful. So, we come from a different place, but I think that it works. And, we had no idea it would turn into what it’s turned into. We just thought it’d be fun, and see what happens.
What it’s turned into…I don’t even know how to describe it. I think it’s in both Mick’s and my nature not to do anything by halves. So if we go for something, we will really go at it. We made That Pedal Show the best it could be. Not just with the content, but the way that we film it, record it. A lot of these concepts, it’s really important that they’re recorded properly, so you can actually hear what we’re talking about.
We spent a lot of time to get it right. Got a little room recorder, positioned the mics properly to record the sounds in the room, and that’s it. So yeah it’s turned into somethnig now which is just an absolute blast. We were in NAMM in January and I’ve been going for a number of years, and it’s always great. Ive always had a few people who’d stop and say, “Hi, I really like what you’re doing. Can I get a picture?” And that’s always fun, but this year, Mick and I went, and it was crazy.
We couldn’t walk 10 feet without people stopping and asking us for a picture. And the funniest thing was, Mick has been going to NAMM longer than I have, and people would stop and say, “Can I have a picture?” and Mick would say, “Sure.” And he’d take the camera from them and go to take a picture of me and whoever it was, and they’d go, “No, no, can you get in the picture as well?” It just took him a while to get his head around it. It was hilarious.
So it’s been a blast. It really has been a blast.
Online Guitar Lessons: You can just tell. Each show seems like a very a natural conversation about something that you’re both completely passionate about. It comes across. I think the production is great, and it just works.
Daniel: It’s the he funniest thing. I’ve had a conversations with the people asking about the success of That Pedal Show. How have we done it? That Pedal Show comes out every Friday, and we get 20,000 views on the first day of each show, and it’s going up and up each week.
There are people who have been doing this for a long time who have called asking how have you done this, and I sort of didn’t really know what to say. All I can say is that… we didn’t have an agenda with this. We didn’t set out trying to be the best YouTube channel in the world. We just thought it would be fun to show some guitars and some sounds and some pedals and just talk about how cool these things are. Because this is the passion. This is what we’re both so passionate about, and that comes across. People will always smell a rat.
This is what we’re both so passionate about, and that comes across. People will always smell a rat.
If you are being insincere, if there’s an agenda behind some of what you’re doing, people can just tell.
I think that’s a difference.
Online Guitar Lessons: Integrity goes a long way…
Daniel: You know what? It’s everything. You know, if you’re a guitar player…a friend of mine said to me last week about guitars players…you don’t choose to be a guitar player. You are a guitar player. It chooses you. And everyone knows if that’s true of them or not, and if you are, there’s nothing that you can do about it. It’s something you’ll have for the rest of your life. You’re a guitar player. You’re a musician. You’re an artist. You’re a painter. Whatever.
The art finds you and then that’s who you are. Being totally fascinated by these sounds, from that to a business… you know, it took a long time. It took a lot of really hard work, and if I had done that hard work maybe any other business, I would have been much more financially successful. But I would be nowhere near as happy because this is a major passion of mine. So you know that’s integrity and people appreciate that. They really do, and I honestly believe that if you do anything in life, do it with integrity and people will appreciate it.
Online Guitar Lessons: Absolutely. I think that’s probably a good not to wrap it up on. That’s a really nice ending right there! Thank you so much for your time, it’s been great chatting!