From guitarists who hope to spice up their live sets to electronic producers who push their gear to the edge, now more than ever, effects pedals are an essential tool for most music creators, regardless of genre. Many of these sound architects turn to these devices for musical manipulation, and others have risen to the challenge of inventing and distributing pedals of their own – just like Tijuana-based company Paradox Effects.
Paradox’s mission is to produce high-quality, visually striking devices that combine processes with potential for great harmonics. Co-owners Efren Castro and Fernando Servín founded the company in Tijuana in 2013, but their story goes a little further back, as Efren tells Remezcla via Skype. “Fernando and I have known each other for 14 years or something; we’ve been in bands together. It was a natural consequence to be part of a project that was different from being in a band together.”
Along with two others, Castro, an electrical engineer, and Servín, a visual artist, make up the staff at Paradox. “We grew up with DIY philosophy, so since forever we’ve been talking about creating our own devices to experiment with noise,” Efren explains. Fernando continues, “One day we got together and talked about what we had in mind; we thought that there weren’t a lot of people in Mexico doing something like this, and that gave us the motivation. We thought that it would be cool to start a company, sell pedals, and have a line of products, not just build single pedals on request, but rather go in a more formal direction.”
“There weren’t a lot of people in Mexico doing something like this, and that gave us the motivation.”
Creating pedals with a bold visual aesthetic is important to them, since they believe their creations are more than just sonic devices. “We see it almost like a piece of art,” Servín explains. “We try to think about the user’s whole experience with the product. We love a ton of video games and sci-fi movies and culture we grew up with. I think all of that carries weight on what we do aesthetically; it’s like we’re inventing all these crazy weapons that can be part of your arsenal,” Castro says. “We have the Defibrillator pedal, which we thought could be used by a psych band from the Blade Runner universe. We try to bring our ideas for pedals beyond the expected.”
Since their inception, the duo has garnered an avid following of musicians around the world. Efren says, “We got orders from stores in Denmark and it has grown to include clients in the U.S., Norway, UK, Brazil, Spain. This has been through people who do reviews and write about gear, and other musicians, of course.”
Then there’s the fact that one day, Noel Gallagher bought a pedal directly from them. Castro recounts the day the man behind Oasis came into their lives. “It was funny because we woke up and we got an order from the UK, and it was like, ‘Oh, a sale from the UK, that’s cool.’ We got happy, but we went to get breakfast, make some eggs [laughs]. Then in the afternoon, I reread the order and it said ‘Noel Gallagher’ and I sort of laughed it off because I thought it could be a common name [in the UK]. But reading further we found out [the address] was Oasis’ record label and confirmed that it was him.”
“People from customs have doubted that we make our products because people in Mexico don’t do that.”
Although both owners agree that the experience is one of the most surreal things that have happened to them, Efren argues that every aspect of the job is surreal “because the process of creating pedals is very personal. We spend so much time in a room making these things, making mistakes and correcting them, and then it’s out in the world with a life of its own. A bunch of times we hear someone use the pedal and saying ‘WTF? We didn’t know the pedal could sound like that!’”
2017 proved to be a very productive year for the manufacturers. They released a new unit called Ionizer and revised their Oniric pedal with more features. Their client list grew to include producer Steve Levine (Beach Boys, Culture Club, Motörhead), Alessandro “Asso” Stefana (PJ Harvey), and James Bagshaw (Temples). In 2018, they aim to improve their internal process methods and attend electronics shows and conventions to expand their audience beyond the internet. They’ve also launched a new pedal called Terran.
Although Paradox has grown exponentially since its beginnings, the company still has a long way to go, and continue to face many challenges. Efren doesn’t hold back when asked about some of the obstacles they’ve encountered. “Ignorance and idiosyncrasy of the Mexican public, and the lack of entrepreneurial culture in the country has affected us a lot. There’s been a lot of stores that have asked us to lower our prices in order to sell them. People from customs have doubted that we make our products because people in Mexico don’t do that. But in the end, we’re not complaining; those are situations we need to address and let them know that our products are as worthy of retail sales as any others, not because we’re a local business, but because we want you to fall in love with our pedals.”
It’s a mission they will surely keep pursuing. “People who have bought our stuff are very happy with their purchases,” Castro explains. “It’s exciting that it yields new paths to creativity through these new technologies. I think it’s a very exciting time to be doing this.”
Check out all of Paradox’s products on their website.