Moniker Guitars: Please introduce yourself and your company…
My name is Scott Davis and I run Pretty Skin Custom. I create heirloom quality custom pedalboards and other musical furniture that your grandchildren will fight over.
MG: Why are we interviewing you?
Because Pretty Skin custom pedalboards are now available through MonikerGuitars.com!
MG: Are you a musician?
Yes I am! I started with guitar when I was 11 and picked up just about everything instrument since then. I’ve played in tons of bands, mostly as a drummer. In my latter years I’ve been composing and creating a lot under the name paperpeople (www.soundcloud.com/
MG: How did you get started making pedalboards?
Accidentally, actually until a year ago I was working in the video game industry as a Finance Manager; forecasting and project planning for product development and later on the publishing side. My first foray into woodworking involved building a fireplace mantle for our old house. Really simple design; literally a wooden box with crown molding attached, filled, painting. After finishing, i didn’t want to stop woodworking. I had recently build a pedalboard out of an Ikea cutting board and a rubber placemat. I had so few tools and common sense about fabrication that I used a drill to cut the wood. I would drill a bunch of holes in line, so that it looked like perforated paper and then broke it off and then sanded it until it was smooth.
MG: That sounds like an absolute nightmare.
It wasn’t! I was naive and troubleshooting with the tools I had.
Little did I know how CHEAP you can get tools on craigslist.
So I set out to build a new pedalboard. When I am really interested in something, I completely submerge myself in it. When I got really into cooking, I watched a thousand episodes of Good Eats with Alton Brown, I read On Food & Cooking and Jacques Pepin’s The Complete Techniques, because what good is knowing how to cook a single dish? You learn the underlying techniques, you learn the science behind the chemical reactions and you can literally cook anything. I took a similar approach to woodworker.
I watched hours and hours of YouTube videos and old episodes of New Yankee Workshop and Woodwright Shop. One of the dudes that I got really into, besides Norm Abram (duh), was Paul Sellers. He’s an Englishman that does everything by hand. He teaches TECHNIQUE. I knew I wanted dovetails on my pedalboard so I learned to do dovetails by hand by watching Paul Sellers. I was so bad, but I kept practicing. I’d cut up an 8 foot piece of common board into 6 inch pieces and just do joint after joint. I made my first pedalboard in the same gorgeous two tone aromatic cedar that we offer in the store. I made the dovetails huge and chunky. It was aesthetically pleasing AND functional as hell. I bought a cheap router and made my first top. It was horrible and I covered it in this low pile gray carpet. I bought some through-jacks and an IEC inlet. I learned to solder.
I put a picture up on Instagram and within 2 hours I had my first two orders. Over the month, I realized this could be a really great way to make some money on the side and I incorporated as Pretty Skin LLC. A month later, I realized that I had bitten off more than I could chew. I was still figuring out the processes and the workflow. I was making grand promises to a bunch of people. I had orders in the pipeline and delivering sloppy joints and poorly glued tops. I stopped taking orders and went back to the drawing board, focusing more on my day job. Last year when I left my job, I decided to follow my passions. I took some composer jobs, I built custom furniture, and I resumed building pedalboards. Since then I’ve honed my methods/workflow, I’m living on my own terms, and I’m doing something I love; MAKING ART.
MG: I hear that from a lot of creators: they start out with one idea of their production capacity and quickly find out that it’s much lower than they expected.
A THOUSAND TIMES YES. The biggest advice I can offer to someone starting out in taking a hobby to a career: load test yourself. Build 10 of whatever you’re gonna be building/creating at the same time. Set an estimated time of completion, but don’t work towards it – just see what happens. Nine times out of ten, you’re going to take way longer. And if you DO hit your estimate, you probably worked too many hours per day and you’ll hate doing it and ruin your hobby.
MG: Where’s your shop located?
I work out of my garage in the Bouldin Creek neighborhood of Austin, Texas. It’s literally my favorite place. It’s amazing, everyday I get to walk my kids to school and back and then use them as illegal labor to do all my sanding.
Ready to get started on your Pretty Skin Custom board?
Get to it!
MG: Why custom pedalboards?
It comes down to this gear illness that we all suffer from. We all want the shiniest toys. Those toys costs a lot of money. At some point, a plain black metal frame gets old. These pedal makers are putting out rad sounding pedals but they also look super rad. As gear addicts, we don’t want to disrespect the canvas we create with effects chains with an ugly frame! These venerable pedal makers deserve respect. That’s where Pretty Skin comes in.
MG: What’s the craziest pedalboard feature you’ve been asked for?
Everyone wants LEDs! Honestly, I’ve found that people prefer their pedalboards quite utilitarian. About half of my customers want to gig their boards and about half want them to sit in their studio like piece of fancy furniture. I once built a road case for a friend that was in a band with a VERY complicated live setup. I proposed that we put an 8-spot TRS patch bay in each side of the case, mount his UAD Apollo inside the case pre-wired. This way the guitarist and drummer just have to hand him their cables and everything runs through him to the front of house mixer. I added an IEC inlet and rolling suitcase wheels because it weighs 60 pounds and it’s probably the most unique piece of gear I’ve created.
MG: If you could have a pedalboard in the hands of any one player, who would that be?
JEEZ – tough question. Do I put it in the hands of a musician I truly admire or in the hands of someone that would truly appreciate it? I don’t know why, but Tim Kasher from Cursive/Good Life keeps popping into my head. His guitar tone is always so interesting and usually serves the songs thematically, as well.
MG: What’s your favorite pedal?
Abominable Electronics Don’t Shred on Me Deluxe. It’s the ProCo Rat that we all deserve. In addition to the distortion, filter, and volume knobs, it also has a clean blend, a high AND low shelving EQ to cut through and thicken up respectively, and the “DESTROY” footswitch for LED clipping which acts like a boost/thickener. It’s a helluva great sounding pedal. And the artwork is sublime.
MG: What’s your favorite wood type to work with and why?
Walnut because of the smell when you cut it.
MG: Favorite show on TV (read Netflix) right now?
Right now it’s probably The Leftovers on HBO because it just started up again. It’s like watching Lost but with CUSSIN’.