How Colorado effects pedal maker Mantic Conceptual is already getting national attention

Ian Gassman
When Luis Etscheid and Caleb Henning launched their boutique effects-pedal company, Mantic Conceptual, in spring 2013, they had a great deal more curiosity than experience. Fortunately, the Denver-based musicians are pretty good at experimentation, and in their first year, they found an impressive list of clients. Etscheid sent Adrian Belew, formerly of King Crimson and Nine Inch Nails, the Master Flex synth-fuzz pedal, and Belew started using it at shows. Ikey Owens of Jack White's touring band had Mantic build him a custom delay called the Isaiah. And Ed Rodriguez of Deerhoof used the Proverb reverb pedal during his last tour.

Etscheid and Henning discovered their unique approach to manipulating sounds in their own band, Holophrase. When they started the group with Malgosia Stacha in 2007, Etscheid had never picked up a guitar. "I didn't know how to play at all," he says. "So I just started immediately plugging stuff in, trying to compensate for not being able to play properly with the use of software and, of course, effects pedals." The two began taking apart their gear, eventually learning how to create their own effects. The music they create in Holophrase is electronically driven yet expressive, partly because of Stacha's haunting vocals and partly because of all that tinkering. A few years later, the two decided to start making their own equipment, and effects pedals were the logical option.

"Luis got me Nicolas Collins's Handmade Electronic Music book," Henning says. "After that and all those projects, we just went through and made a few fuzz pedals."
At the time, Etscheid and Henning were trying to scrape by with their music, and a somewhat amateur effects-pedal company held little promise of security. Still, Etscheid remembers, they wanted to keep making pedals.

"It seemed like when the idea hit me, it was something that we could do, because we're passionate about it," Etscheid says. "We were already knowledgeable, we had a little bit of experience, we had good ideas and we're hard workers. It's all I really had left to believe in at the time. And the planets kind of aligned for us."

Under the Mantic Conceptual name, Etscheid and Henning began working on their first pedal: an updated and modified take on DOD Electronics' rare subharmonic bass-booster pedal originally called Meat Box. They decided to christen their pedal Density Hulk. After plenty of positive feedback, they organized an Indiegogo campaign and raised more than $4,000 to make enough pedals to build up an inventory and start their business.

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