Continuing our ad hoc series revealing how creatives have not let the grass grow under their feet during pandemic, we talked to Jonny Brelliott, designer and builder of his brilliant and coveted range of Brelliot valve amps and now a new range of foot pedals. Jon provides gear support to an array of touring and recording household names. It has to be noted too that Jon also rescued the sound mix at our Outsideleft Nights Out. So we love him for that...
OUTSIDELEFT: Hi Jon, hey great to see you again. It's been a while.
Let's catch up with what's happening beginning with why you are threatening to move to Aberdeen? Are there are lot of bands needing your support in Aberdeen, maybe Jasmine Minks and Evelyn Glennie...
JB: There is a lot of countryside, housing and land is cheap, and Alice (my wife) has a lot of family up there. I'll travel down for the big gigs and special jobs. Most of the big tours operate from Redditch, and that's where most of my side of the family are. I'm building up both the products and the repairs side of the business, so I’ve got stuff to do at either end. It'll be a bit of a challenge, but, meh! What isn’t?
I’ve started discovering Scottish bands – one of which is a Moray band called “Bad Actress” who style themselves after Mötley Crüe, after they saw “The Filth” – the ‘flix biopic. That’s worth a watch. Scotland’s the way forward, especially when England is either flooded or scorched during the next few years. Probably both.
OL: It seemed at the end of the first lockdown there was a skateboard incident that led to a hospitalization...
JB: Yeah, we'd been going down to the skate park pretty much daily towards the end of lockdown, so I thought I'd get one for myself, rather than scratching up my daughter's. The new board wasn't up to much, and the wheels creaked, so I didn’t commit as much as I should. Anyway, I landed hard on my hip, straight onto concrete, and ended up breaking it. I was out pretty quick & was back in work, on sticks, within the week.
OL: You're known for your amazing sounding Brelliott hand-built all-valve amps. But recently you've been working on a series of effects pedals. They seem pretty exciting.
JB: Yeah, the arse just kinda dropped out of the hand-built tour & studio amps side of things, which was a shame, as I'd just completed my range, ready for The Guitar Show at New Bingley Hall in Brum at the end of Feb. I started building pedals, partly for something new to try, but mainly because the TrailBlazer SCS range don't have overdrives. I wanted a fuzz, distortion and overdrive that would be perfectly suited to that amp.
So, I've made a whole bunch of fuzz boxes, each one unique, and a few Fuzz Designers. They’re crazy fun – the same basic fuzz circuit, but with switchable buffers in and out, and loads of tweaks: it’s got 7 knobs and 2 switches. You can have Russian germanium transistors fitted too, if that’s your bag.
I've also made a pedal called the Tube Overdrive Distortion Plus or TODP. It’s essentially a gain stage, into a clipping selector, into a valve, into a recovery stage – any or all of which can be overdriven - and then into a filter. The clipping dial lets you choose from 3 types of distortion, and 3 types of tube overdrive, then you can tweak the EQ before and after the tube, and a few other funky things. Someone said it’s a “Swiss army knife of distortion”, but I couldn’t say that. Whatever. He said it. Cheers Chris. I usually say smorgasbord. And it kicks ass with guitar or bass.
OL: There is a movement to put a whole modelling amp in a box not much bigger than a Big Muff, can you see yourself doing anything like that?
JB: No. Nothing against that kind of thing, just not my bag.
OL: Any exciting repairs, keeping people on the road you can talk about although most people are currently off the road...
JB: Before lockdown we'd picked up a few big clients, but that's pretty much stopped for now. Most people have been at home, bored, so a lot of people have been digging in cupboards and finding stuff to fix. Our biggest problem isn't finding work, it's been completing work. Lockdowns, school closures, quarantines and so on have all had their impact on our workflow. I think a lot of the repair guys are chokka at the moment.
OL: You're based in Digbeth and that part of the city seems to be changing the fastest right now. Like all of the reasons people want to be there will be crushed beneath the sheer weight of concrete pouring into the place. No amount of curated bar space can replace the original character and charm. It's another chasm in the city, coming to you soon courtesy of Birmingham City Developments Inc. I mean, why can't Digbeth just carry on being dirty?
JB: Rent prices are going up, parking schemes and a Clean Air Zone has come in, and more apartments are being built. I'm not sure how long we'll carry on there - it's only a matter of time before the land price goes up enough the old buildings will be sold and flattened. Que sera sera.
OL: After we finish here, you're going to climb a mountain? Can I ask, since I basically do not do the outdoors, if I wanted to get into climbing can I use the same helmet and shoes I wear on my bike?
JB: Haha, yeah, no. We've been climbing indoors at Redpoint Climbing Centre on the town / Hockley side of Newtown. You don't need a helmet, but you can, and it's more like a site helmet than a bike helmet. The shoes are more like ballet shoes, and are tight around your feet, and have a thick layer of rubber to help you grip. They give instruction on belaying if you want to partner climb, or they have extensive bouldering area, which are essentially short problem climbs with mats underneath.
Jonny Brelliott image by Danny Pullar and Simon Badger for The Creative Field
Brelliott Amps and Pedals can be found at www.brelliott.com or www.instagram.com/brelliottamps, or Facebook, if that’s still a thing. 17062021234745-jon-pedal.jpg
TLC Amplifiers repairs (and also keyboards, desks, FX and other vintage gear) can be found at www.tlc-amplifiers.co.uk
Oh and if you need to rock climb like Jonny does... https://www.redpointbirmingham.co.uk/