Blog Archive

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Interview : Robert Keeley and David Szabados

MGS- First off David and Robert thank you for taking the time to chat with
DS- Thank you for the opportunity.
RK- Thanks Tony.

MGS -Can you give us some background on yourself guys? Most of us know you as one of the
Time Machine Boost desingers. Tell us stuff we dont know.

RK- David approached me with the complete concept.....then instead of just cloning two pedals...we decided to offer something unique, that is the
modern side, it was going to be a simple LPB-1 boost...but then I got excited about FETs and voltage doubling so that side runs on 18 worked out was my second unique design as far as guitar effects go and am still proud of it because it offers such clean, uneffected boosting!

DS- Well first I do have to say that I'm of course only one part of the TMB
team. Robert Keeley and Tom Lindenstruth are also a significant part of the
TMB team and definitely deserve recognition for the TMB's success.
But as for background on me, I've been a lifelong "experimenter" with
things. I always enjoyed taking things apart and figuring out how they
worked. Even as a kid, I used to try and modify my Lego projects such as
having cars with suspensions using springs from gutted pens and other
parts. Nowdays of course, you can buy those advanced Lego kits that include
all that stuff. These days I've got a number of hobbies and interests and
not enough time to really pursue them all. I love classic American Muscle
cars, playing music, spending time watching my two young daughters grow up
(2 and 6 y.o.), running two websites, and I'm writing a book. The Time
Machine Boost was just one of many projects I hope to eventually pursue in
the future.

MGS - Speaking of the TMB , how did that project get started? Who all is
involved and what role does everyone play in the process?

DS- Well, I've been playing Marshall amps since about 1989 and have used
various devices to boost them a bit - from e.q. boxes to overdrives to
boost boxes - I've gone through it all. They worked o.k. but it was ALWAYS
a compromise somewhere. Whether it was unnecessary coloration, too much
"hiss noise", or just overall flubbiness or loss of fidelity, there was
never the ideal solution. So I actually placed an ad on the LegendaryTones
information site looking for a design engineer collaborator and Robert
Keeley was the one who responded first. This was right before he launched
his compressor pedal and he was still working as a college instructor
teaching electronics and theory.

In anycase, Robert and I spent over a year working all elements of the
design and getting others to listen to it as well. There was computer
simulation and modeling involved with all of this as well as real-world
tests with just about every type of guitar and amp combination. Robert's a
great designer because he really understands how and why the elements work
as they do. I'm much more of a random-tweaker kind of guy. The electronic
knowledge I have is really more self-taught through books and
trial-and-error whereas Robert understands it much more deeply than I do.
However, I've got a background in graphic design and visual arts as well as
University degrees in Business and Advertising. As a result, our
partnership really leverages each of our best skills together.

Tom Lindenstruth came into the picture after the design was completed. He's
the person who builds each and every TMB. His work is meticulous and
extraordinary. Though the vision that I had for the TMB was to make the
inside look like a perfect work of art similar to some of the greatest amps
constructed in the past, I must say that Tom's results simply exceeded my
expectations. And he loves what he does.

At the end of the day, Robert and I are also extremely customer-focused
people. We both believe that any business should be about fulfilling the
needs of the customers and always trying to find the best ways to be of
service to them.

MGS- Any well known players using the TMB? It must be very cool to be able
to connect with some of these people. Any memorable stories?

DS-It's quite amazing in fact the number of pro players that use the TMB. I
don't want to just brag during the interview here and list off a bunch of
names for your readers so people that are interested in that sort of thing
can check that out at the website. However, I will
say that two experiences really stand out for me. Brad Whitford's guitar
tech Greg Howard approached me via e-mail about the TMB and Brad was the
first player at that level to ever have an interest in the TMB. They even
invited me to an Aerosmith show when they came near my town and I was
really starstruck meeting Brad. It was really cool just to learn that he
was into classic muscle cars like me - the difference being that he owns
virtually every dream car that I want. In anycase, that was quite an
experience and so cool to meet these people who really are down to earth
and genuinely nice people.

There are a several other players that use the TMB and it is just so cool
because I've been largely influenced by them and have been since I was a
teenager in the late '80s. Pink Floyd was a huge influence on me and so
it's a thrill knowing that David Gilmour has a TMB. David Gilmour's playing
is just so expressive and I still listen to Floyd now as much as I did when
I was much younger. George Lynch is another player that I greatly admired
for many reasons. Dokken and Lynch Mob both had kick-ass tunes and George
really knows how to get some great tone going in addition to being an
amazing player. It's been really cool getting to know George, who is also
extremely nice. And even after so many years of playing, recording, and
touring, he still digs talking tone and gear with me which is cool for me
because I was always worried that he'd get bored with my conversations on
that subject. Fortunately, it's not the case.

RK- I really like the fact that after Pete Anderson (Guitarist and Producer for Dwight Yokam) was on the cover of Tone Quest saying no effects turned him on, didn't like him.....he was just getting the TMB and now it has become a CORE part of all his new recordings! We made a convert out of him!

MGS- I see that George Lynch is getting involved with his own sig TMB. Can
you tell us all about that? How it came to be? Can you tell us about the
unit and a story or two about George?

RK- Both of us are Lynch fans....I saw him in Germany around 1987-1988 for the first time and learned many of his tunes for battle of the bands type stuff when I was in High School. He is also using the the combo of the TMB and our modded DSD-Ultra really seem to be a key part of his tone now.

DS- George was interested in selling the TMB through his site at and so when I was talking to him I asked, "Wouldn't it
be cool if we were able to do a special version for you like in a different
color or something?" He thought it was cool and tossed around the idea of
painting each unit himself. George actually painted a lot of his own
guitars and has a lot of talent there and I thought it was a neat idea. But
at the same time George is also really active in a number of projects so we
both knew he wouldn't really have time to just paint boxes.

I still wanted to do something special for him so we got to talking about
how we could improve the TMB for him to really make it the perfect boost
for him. What resulted was a TMB that has a much fatter bottom end and
fuller sound on the vintage channel with a bit more increased gain. We also
came up with the Mr. Scary switch which adds gain to the Modern channel,
while keeping the wide dynamic range and punchy feel of the channel intact
at the same time. When we sent him the final prototype, I was so thrilled
at his response. He just loves it and it should be available for sale at
his site very soon. It's the most labor-intensive TMB that we've ever built
from the inside, and the outside has a very cool graphic treatment that I
designed which is themed around his "Bones" type guitars.

MGS- Anything new in the works? I heard story of a Tube overdrive with
Robert Keeley?

DS- Well the TMB came about because it was something that I wanted to use
along with Marshalls, Voxes and other amps that just sound great when you
push them. But, I thought it would be great to also develop a tube
overdrive and distortion unit that could sound really good against a super
clean amp like a Fender Twin Reverb or Hiwatt.

Again, in my mind, the development of the tube overdrive is being done
because I've not been truly happy with the solutions that are out there
today. For example, when you run into a dynamically rich clean amp like
some of the great Fenders, and then you run a distortion box on them,
you'll often find that the sound feels like it suddenly is getting
"smaller". The wide rich and open sound is diminished greatly.

So the idea with the tube overdrive/distortion unit is to provide two
channels. The first channel is an overdrive that maintains the tone of the
guitar and amp and pure signal. Except of course, there is overdrive and
breakup now. The second channel of the overdrive unit is then designed to
step it up a notch and get that big harder rock gain sound. I wanted the
unit to be a pure unit and also properly run the tubes. So it's got AC
power, a real power transformer with the proper tube plate voltages on two
12AX7 tubes along with the appropriate voltages to the heaters. There are
going to be two channels that can be switched between OD/Distortion and it
will be built to be bullet-proof. The basic layout of the design is done
for the gain stages and it sounds fantastic. What we're going to add to it,
which is really now Robert's part of the project is to add an active
equalization circuit to provide a lot more added flexibility than what you
normally get with a sloped passive e.q. on most tube amps. The cool thing
is that the design already sounds great to my ears even without the e.q. so
the e.q. that Robert will add will only make it better for those people
that really want the flexibility to tweak the tone further.

It's hard to give a timeframe of when it will be out because I'm a
perfectionist myself and I want to again test this in a number of
environments and situations so a lot of people can enjoy it. I see it being
a great solution not only for tube amps, but to also provide a true tube
sound to modeling amps as well.

There's one other project I have in mind after the tube overdrive, but it's
not something I can discuss at this time. Let's just say that I'm always
looking to find solutions to challenges that have been posed in the past
and that would be of benefit to players. The 2-channel tube overdrive is
one, but there's one other afterward as well that I hope to be able to
figure it as it would be very, very cool.

RK- Dave and i spent some time listen to a bunch of tube amps this week and came to complete agreement on the goal for tone of the pedal overall. It has many unique things about it, such as the really nice Baxandall tone network that we are excited about.

MGS- Im assuming youve spent years playing out like alot of us? Any funny
or particular interesting moments?

DS- I was the struggling musician in my teen years (I'm now almost 33). I
took things very seriously - probably too seriously at the time in
hindsite. Anyhow I don't have any funny stories during my playing years
actively trying to "make it big". But an interesting moment certainly was
the time that I broke up with one of my bands. I was really pissed off
during a show because the entire band except for me went through a 24 pack
of beer right before the show. The drummer couldn't keep time, the bass
player was completely lost on the songs and the singer was yelling
profanities at the crowd. Now mind you, I was the primary songwriter and
now my songs were being butchered by people who just didn't seem to care.
During the third song, I simply turned off my amp and started to move my
gear. The band was shocked as I am usually the calm and non-confrontational
type of person but it was just too much for me. I packed up my gear with
the band trying to talk me into coming back on stage but I never did. I
actually never spoke to any of those guys again. Fortunately I had better
band experiences later down the road.

RK- I use more effects with my acoustic rig than with my electric !

MGS- David ,can you tell us about your site,

DS- LegendaryTones is an information site all about guitar tone. It really
started as a labor of love project over four years ago. I was always
curious about having a space on the Internet and learning how to do the
coding, etc. so that was one reason I pursued the site. The other reason
why the site came to be developed is I thought it would be really cool to
have tone tips and cover areas of tone for people that were struggling with
their own sound. In the '80s, I struggled and experimented with so much
stuff, but it took a long time to get the sounds that I was after. The site
is great as is the Internet these days in general because we can all learn
from each other and share our experiences. The site has grown dramatically
in visitors which has been wonderful. I think one of the reasons is that
since we're completely independent and not a for-profit site paid for by
advertisers, we are truly free to speak our mind about products and don't
have to "soft-pedal" what would otherwise be a poor review. When was the
last time you read a guitar magazine about a product that they didn't like?
You just don't see that anymore, at least not in the U.S. Though
advertising and editorial content are supposed to be completely separate,
they really never are and this goes in other industries as well. If Dell is
spending $100K per month advertising in PC Magazine for example, and came
out with a piss-poor notebook computer, could you imagine PC Magazine
biting the hand that feeds it running a poor review? It just couldn't

The same is true I believe with guitar magazines here. I think for this
reason, people really respect our no b.s. approach. While I don't like to
provide a negative review on anything I check out and much prefer to do a
good review, it's a disservice if I just lie to people. I mean what's the
point? Some good examples of the differences in reviews can be seen between
the new Marshall HW series amps, which I thought were fantastic, and the
Fender Bassman LTD, which was seriously lacking in the tone department
unfortunately. We're not afraid to call it like we see it, though again, we
do prefer to review things that we think we're going to like! I'm just as
curious about new gear as the next guy is.

MGS- Who were your major influences growing up?

DS- I graduated high school in 1990 so that means I was really a child of
the '80s shred era during my teen years. Van Halen and Rhoads were the two
initial guitar Gods that I studied. Then afterward it was folks like
Malmsteen, Lynch, Vai, and McAlpine. I hated classic rock players like Jimi
Hendrix, Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page at the time because I thought they
were overrated and sloppy. It's ironic because I have a HUGE appreciation
for these players now. I love all of them. One rock player who wasn't
technical but who I always loved was David Gilmour. He was one of the
players that I could really "feel" in terms of providing moods in his

I also listened to many other styles of guitar-music like Flamenco and
classical so both Carlos Montoya and of course Segovia were both masters of
the guitar and great influences.

RK- all the 80's metal, David and I share that ground and we are both Pink Floyd Fans), the I went back and drowned in everything from 1950-1974..that led to Frank Zappa, Grateful Dead and Dylan as my tonal references....
Later on all the blues greats from past to present.

MGS - Whats been your most memorable moment in the field of music?

DS- Probably the Battle of the Bands during my senior year in High School.
Talk about a crowd that was there for us. To play in front of the 500 or so
people that had that energy and were cheering us on was as close as I've
ever gotten to having that same feeling that the pro-bands like Aerosmith
experience every time they go out on stage - expect of course they get that
on a much larger scale. But it was still great nevertheless.

RK- Getting emails from people that say after they play a set people come up and ask about their tone...they point to the TMB or other Keeley effects.

MGS- What guitar and amp are you currently favoring?

DS- These days I most often play a '69 Custom Shop Strat into a Marshall 18
watt HW series amp that I just HAD to purchase after I reviewed it. I play
a lot of bluesy/rock stuff these days and like to jam with people in the
home studio. I don't actively play in a band right now but I love playing
with other people when they come over. That's what I've been plugging into
most often. I'm fortunate as I've got a lot of nice pieces of gear
including an old Marshall Super Lead setup from 1972 with an original
basketweave cabinet from 1971. I've also got a blonde '65 Fender Tremolux
which sounds fantastic as does my '65 Vox AC-30 top boost.

As for guitars,l've become more or less a traditionalist these days. While
I still have a hot-rodded type Kramer Baretta, I mostly play one of a few
Strats and sometimes pick up my 1960 reissue Les Paul Classic that I loaded
with Duncan Antiquity PAFs. That's a great rock and roll guitar.

RK-I currently favor the Mesa Blue Angle, a 1966 Vibrolux reverb, 1967 fender deluxe reverb, a 1966 fender princeton reverb, , my Dad's 1972 Peavey Duece 2X12, a Matchless Chieftan and a Star (Mark Sampson of Matchless, his new company) amp, the Flexi 50, a fender pro-junior, a 1956 Fender deluxe, a 1960 Gibson Explorer amp, and a Single-ended amp from Red Iron Amps...oh....and the 1976 Marshall JMP I bought from David Szabados!

MGS- What was your one piece of gear you regret getting rid of?

DS- I can't have regrets because anything I've gotten rid of was usually
all in the name of getting something else or "trading up" so to speak. I've
had LOTS of nice gear, especially amps. I can't even count how many things
I've bought and sold all for the name of experiementing to hear different
sounds and tones. Ebay is GREAT for all of that. I've had hundreds of
vintage and unusal pedals of all kinds, at least 30 different Marshall
heads that I've bought and sold, and a number of vintage guitars.

RK- A 1959 Fender Deluxe...simply the best deluxe I ever me into building amps...had to pay my Discover Card off though....

MGS- What are your goals for the next 5 years? Where do you see things

DS- I'd like to complete my book and have it sell well. I hope in some way
it can help make a difference in the world in that the book is somewhat
political and is designed to open people's minds without being "preachy".
If that goes as plans, then I'd like to continue and expand on my ventures
with Robert Keeley and continue to work in music. I'd love to do some
production as well as I think I have a really good ear and talent for that.
I'd also love to travel with my family and show the rest of the world to my
two daughters. I think traveling and experiencing other cultures is
wonderful and really help one's perspective. I also think that
well-travelled people tend to be more compassionate as well and that's
something that I believe we're lacking as a country these days a bit. I
won't go down that path right now, but let's just say that I'm very
concerned about the future of our country on many levels.

RK- The dual tube overdrive, a keeley workstation (compressor/smooth overdirve/gritty open overdrive..3 pedlas all in one small package), chorus, delay.,...the rest are secrets still.

MGS- If you could jam with one player who would it be?

DS- Just one? I don't know. I would be just as thrilled to be able to jam
with Edward Van Halen as I would any other great player like David Gilmour.
The truth is, I probably wouldn't be able to play with any of these guys as
I'd just be too damn star-struck over it. It would take me a long time to
warm up and feel comfortable playing with any of these folks. I've only
recently somewhat "gotten used to" talking to George Lynch on the phone.
When you've been reading guitar magazines for the past 20 years (and you
still have every copy) on these guys, actually knowing and talking to them
is quite a trip! I don't think I'd play very well in front of George - heck
I just visited my partner Robert Keeley for the first time last week at his
place in Oklahoma. I couldn't play for shit, but I'll blame a lot of that
on the fact that I was beyond tired as I just finished three days of
tradeshow activity out in Florida... :)

RK-Frank Zappa

MGS- Thanks for taking the time to talk with MGS guys it was a pleasure and an honor. Any closing thoughts?
DS- It was my pleasure. Thank you again for giving me the opportunity to
chat. It was lots of fun!

RK-The TMB has been a placed us in the very top of the high end market and we built a hand wired pedal that is simply MATCHLESS in sound quality and workmanship.