Modulation Effects Man Lee Nicholson Talks Business
Dunedin boutique effects maker Lee Nicholson has earned a reputation for creating innovative modulation-based analogue effects with digital brains that blend sonic experimentalism with ease of use. Josh Gardner at Guitar.com spoke to him about the growth of his brand, Lightning Wave.
Nicholson explains that he got into guitars as a young child.
“Around eight or nine, my cousin gave me Metallica’s Black Album on cassette and the riffs blew my mind,” Nicholson tells Gardner. “I took a few lessons with an acoustic, but was a bit of a wuss and couldn’t get past the sore fingertips
“I found a Diplomat bass under a bed at my grandparents’ when I was 15 and although the neck had banana’d and was barely playable, I got a kick out of hearing it clip through my parents’ stereo. This led to a friend loaning me her spare Strat copy and she egged me on enough to buy my own electric guitar and a Blazer amp. With some decent overdrive and reverb it was all downhill.”
Guitar.com asks Nicholson when was it that he first started tinkering with effects.
“I think I had a basic understanding of things with batteries and wires from an early age through pulling apart whatever I could get my hands on,” Nicholson says. “When I started collecting gear and it played up, the next logical step was to pull it to pieces and figure out if I could fix it without having to pay someone.
“It probably wasn’t until after finishing a music degree, around 2010 that I met a friend Gordon through the drummer in my first band Thundercub, who gave me a window into the world of breadboarding, schematics and PCB etching.
“Gordon really sparked the idea [of turning my hobby into the business]. We were inspired by New Zealand builders like Ben from Red Witch and Paul Crowther, who were really our only point of reference for what success looked like in the New Zealand pedal scene.
“I’m blown away by the growing number of independent companies with great ideas, but perhaps there is a bit of frustration going around. The internet mainly highlights successes rather than the late nights and hard work trying to create momentum. It would be cool if people could explore opportunities for larger collaborations which could lead to things like better platforms for getting noticed, and easier ways to share skill sets to build off each other’s strengths.
“I’m currently about to release a small batch of the EVA mk3d, which is a miniaturised form of the Lightning Wave CV and sync functionality with a rechargeable battery. They’re in their final testing stages now. And I’m just about to move from Dunedin to Wellington, which is an exciting development. I might need some time to set up a workspace somewhere, but will have no shortage of projects to dig into.”
Original article by Josh Gardner, Guitar.com, June 17, 2019.