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SAIT-trained electrician builds custom guitar pedals sought by customers from around the world.
Juan Ortiz (Pre-Employment Electrician ’11, Electrician ’14) has gas — gear acquisition syndrome, an affliction that causes electric guitar enthusiasts to acquire stacks of instruments, amplifiers and effects pedals.
It’s all to find the perfect tone and to sound like their rock star heroes (think Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Jimi Hendrix). Ortiz, a SAIT-trained electrician, turned his gear obsession into a business called Tone Hungry Effects. A musician himself (Ortiz plays guitar in the Calgary band Heavydive), he designs and builds guitar pedals sought after by guitar players worldwide.
“I’ve loved music since I was a teenager,” says Ortiz. “I became an electrician to support my music habit.” Pedals enhance the sound of an electric guitar by injecting effects such as distortion, fuzz and reverb.
For Ortiz, 27, the bug started in junior high when he took apart a pedal to see how it worked. It wasn’t long before he started building them, first from kits, then custom made. He traded a few to players and, after repeatedly hearing “You should sell these,” he established Tone Hungry. You won’t find his pedals in music stores.
Word spreads through his website and via social media. He makes about 100 pedals a year, filling orders from the USA, Norway, Brazil, Japan and across Canada. Ortiz says his pedals are special because he builds them using vintage components, a combination of retro and high tech. He says the brand name sums up the obsession.
“It’s the hunger for tone, right? You can have ten fuzz pedals and you still want the eleventh, the twelfth and more.”