Graig Markel has been running Recovery Room Studio for ten years. He knows his room, he knows his board, and he knows how to get the right sound out of bands. He’s a gear head’s gear head that has attained his knowledge from years of being both a musician and an engineer / producer. He’s worked on recordings for Band of Horses, The Spits, Nada Surf, A-Frames, Jon Auer, Robert Roth, The Girls, and Barton Carroll to name of few. I have recorded for Graig projects in the past and have seen his keen studio savvy firsthand.
Recently, he started making his own Recovery Class pedals for the masses. We spoke:
What do you call your distortion pedal? Markel: Dust to Burn. It's a warm distortion pedal that ranges from a rich full overdrive to thick, deep saturation.
What type of sounds are you going for? How do your pedals differ from ones you might get at Guitar Center? Unlike commercial pedals or even most boutique pedals, Dust to Burn is completely hand wired. There is no printed circuit board. I use new old stock whenever available such as vintage carbon resistors, vintage germanium transistors, etc. I use American made stock whenever it's available. The Dust to Burn pedal is about 20% American stock, and I'm always looking to improve.
How did you get into making pedals? I'm fascinated with tools that help me create unique sounds, and I'm obsessed with learning how to be a more versatile and valuable artist. I love playing guitar, but I also love producing, twisting knobs, and building stuff.
What’s your process for pedal making? After I've completed the long and arduous process of building my design on a breadboard, interchanging parts and tweaking to get it sounding just right, I look for parts to build two or three at a time. I search eBay, Mouser, and other online stores to get the parts I need. Then I sit down, solder, and listen for a long time to music and various news programs. Have you used the Stictcher app for the iPhone? You can listen to podcasts, news, etc, and arrange the order in which they play. Oh! After soldering, I drill, paint, and assemble. It's very therapeutic. Although I don't think inhaling lead is very good for you. That reminds me, I need to look into some of that lead free solder.
What do you have to say about Vinnie Vincent? Vinnie Vincent was a songwriting partner with Kiss for a long time (Vincent Cusano) before his high speed shredding was exposed as studio trickery on his solo record. See, he slowed down the tape so much that it sounded like chipmunk guitars. But fuck him, he wrote mostly only whack Kiss jams, it's not like he co-wrote Rock and Roll All Night.
Have you ever electrocuted yourself? I'm messing with DC, not AC wall current with these pedals, so my risk of getting lead poisoning is way higher than getting electrocuted. I have been shocked bad a shitload of times though from various musical adventures. You know the bass player from Uriah Heap died from getting shocked on stage? It's true. Also, the Shell station down the street, where I buy most of my beer, sells fake gum that shocks you when you try to pull out a stick. There's a misspelling on the packaging. It says "TULL HERE". They also sell XL and XXL Obama T-Shirts, dreamcatchers, lotto tickets, knives, and crack pipes.