Remember the very first time you stepped on a pedal? That same sense of wonder and awe is encapsulated into each and every painstakingly handcrafted stompbox from Kink Guitar Pedals, inside and out. Since February 2017, Mark Quarrell – the sole proprietor and mastermind behind Kink – has been steadily carving out his own niche in the oversaturated boutique pedal market with quality components and one-of-a-kind artwork.
Before Kink’s launch, Quarrell slaved away at theory and DIY pedal kits, learning as much as he could about the ins-and-outs of what made a guitar pedal tick. “I’m not an electronics engineer. I’m mostly self-taught,” he says.
“Over the years I did a lot of theory on electronics, but mainly learned through completing basic kits and buying components and boards from other manufacturers. I dove in head-first with designing my own boards, getting around schematics and understanding how each component affects the effect. I spent a lot of time researching, reading and understanding the ‘why’ and ‘how’ behind everything.”
It’s no secret that many of us guitar players appraise a pedal by its artwork first and foremost, and Kink Guitar Pedals has undoubtedly some of the most unique and interesting artwork in the pedal scene today. “I’ve always wanted to do something that was more along the lines of artwork, and being able to express that creative part of you as well,” says Quarrell.
“Being able to put my own ideas to an artist and having those ideas put across onto a pedal, and to have that sitting on your board was the main vision behind Kink Guitar Pedals. To have fantastic sounding pedals that look awesome and distinguishable on a pedalboard, not just having the same old pedals with just a name and logo on it, with the controls on it and whatnot. I went the opposite way with that – leaving out the controls and instead mainly featuring this really cool art. My artist Pascal is awesome. I can pitch to him what I want and to have him bounce back with some really good ideas is phenomenal.”
Quarrell’s distinctive artwork can sometimes be a double-edged sword, which he is fully aware of. One of his best-selling pedals, the Charlie Fuzz, features a silhouette of serial killer Charles Manson with a pair of glowing red LEDs for eyes. It was the backlash over this particular artwork that led Quarrell to create two more pedals – the High Horse fuzz/octave, and the PC boost. “The High Horse came from copping a lot of flak, particularly over the Charles Manson pedal,” says Quarrell.
“It’s a dig to all the people getting upset over the Charlie Fuzz, and the PC boost is another dig at the whole “politically correct” culture. It slightly annoys me that we’ve lost all artistic license to do whatever you want to do without someone getting offended. Melbourne’s an extremely artistic city. There’s amazing artists out there doing amazing things, and we’re shutting them down because we don’t like some of their content.”
But not all of Quarrell’s pedals feature artwork of an ‘edgy’ nature. His latest release, the Straya, is a hilarious expression of Australia’s many wonders, including servo sunnies, Victoria Bitter, and most importantly, drop bears. “I had some ideas pertaining to Australia, and I drafted something with my pretty ordinary artistic talent,” he laughs.
“We’re kind of a piss-taking country and I wanted to tap into that market. So I told Pascal I wanted a guy holding a can vaguely resembling a VB with the Kink logo on it in AC/DC font, and little Easter eggs around the pedal – the drop bear, the footy, the Southern Cross tattoo and all this other stuff. It was just a really fun pedal to make. The whole idea was to get a tube screamer going into a Marshall-type sound, so you can cover sounds all the way from blues-rock to metal, even. It doesn’t necessarily produce Australian sounds all the time, but it’s incredibly fun to play.”
While basing his pedals off tried and true circuits from the past, Quarrell performs modifications that further improve tonal range and flexibility, invariably making them his own creations. “A lot of the circuit modifications out there have already been done. I usually do some of them myself to see if I like it and if I’d have it on my own board,” he says.
“My goal was to take a simple circuit and “Frankenstein” it, adding upgrades and extra functionality to make it sound my own. For example, wherever I can, I add different clipping options to get a wider range of tones, like on the Straya. The Charlie fuzz uses a 30-40-year old circuit that’s still awesome ‘til this day. I’ve made a few little changes to its bias and its components, upgrading the quality of the parts and making it a lot quieter. I try to add flexibility to my pedals to accommodate as many people as possible.”
The worldwide support for Kink Guitar Pedals since its conception has been Quarrell’s main source of inspiration, and his quest to develop and build more quality pedals isn’t ending anytime soon. “I’ve received awesome feedback from my customers across the globe. One of them even owns all five iterations of my Charlie fuzz in every single colour.
“I suppose if I didn’t have all this great feedback I’d just stop doing it. I like building pedals for myself, but giving pedals to my mates and people around the world is what really does it for me.”
For more information, visit shop.kinkguitarpedals.com.