Matt Zuckerman was always into electronics. As a young man, he would take apart VCRs to see how they worked and reverse-engineer various machines. He used bar mitzvah money to build his own computer.
He started playing guitar at age 17, and a couple of years later started making guitar pedals for himself and his friends.
“This combines all my passions: the electronics and the music and the noise-making and what have you,” the 27-year-old Pikesville High School graduate said.
He launched NoiseKICK FX in 2011 and has been making guitar pedals full time for about two years out of the basement of his Remington row house. But these are no run-of-the-mill effects pedals. Each one is handmade, most right down to the circuit board, and feature unique art. Two recent pedals include designs by local artists Alex Fine and Matt Muirhead.
“The aesthetics are the big draw,” he said. “For what I’m doing, I want to combine art and music.”
His pedals have been purchased by musicians all over the world in addition to a bevy of regional musicians and members of nationally touring bands such as Dr. Dog, Rusted Root, Vertical Horizon, Florida Georgia Line and Joe Russo’s Almost Dead.
The JT visited Zuckerman’s basement workshop, where he had about 20 pedals in various stages of creation, to learn more about his craft.
Can you explain how a guitar pedal works?
You have your guitar, your electric guitar, and you have your amp. When you play your electric guitar through your amp you get one type of sound — the pure sound from the guitar. What the stomp boxes do is they take the electrical signal from the guitar and the circuit board inside alters the sound — it could be the fuzz, which really distorts the sound, or an echo pedal or a tremolo so you get a change in volume — and that sends the signal to the amplifier. So you’re getting multiple different types of sounds.
What is unique about your pedals?
I try to keep it all in-house, handmade and hands-on as much as I can. Since it’s all customized and the customers, they’re musicians and artists themselves, they have a lot of ideas that are translated to the pedals, and I can go from there. You have your standard effects, your delays, your fuzz. I try to take the standard sound and maybe add a little tweak to it.
Why is Baltimore a good place to make guitar pedals?
It’s a huge market with a lot of different types of music and a lot of different music scenes, and they’re not necessarily overlapping. You’ve got your punk and metal scene, you’ve got your jam scene, you’ve got your alternative scene, plus you’ve got jazz. Pedals can be used in any genre, really.
Did you think this could ever be your full-time gig?
It’s not like I expected this to happen. I’ve been building these ever since early college, and before I went out on my own, I was at the point where I had a client base and I had a reputation, and it just sort of happened. I never expect for people to pay me money to do this, let alone pay money and wait two months for their pedal. And they’ll happily do it. Each one is like a little piece of art and engineering and music.