I started out as a pedal addict from the time I started playing guitar at age 14, listening to Mike Einziger of Incubus, and his massive pedalboard made me intrigued at the number of sounds someone could produce just clicking on a little box on the floor. The pedal addiction lasted on through the years, starting with cheap pedals and slowly upgrading over time. I loved how with a relatively cheap (compared to amps or guitars) investment could radically change my sound on the fly. My first introduction into the boutique world was a modified Boss TR-2 tremolo from Robert Keeley. Getting that pedal made me realize that there were more choices out there than the standard Digitech, Boss, Electro Harmonix’s of the world. This lead to a spiral and me driving my girlfriend (now wife) crazy.
I learned about Wampler in early 2010 when I was on a hardcore Brad Paisley kick, dedicating all of my free time to learning his guitar tricks and solos. I stumbled on a thread from TDPRI that said something about a Paisley signature overdrive, and I immediately looked up the website. It was going to be a few months before its release, but I literally checked back to the Wampler site every day for months hoping to glean some more information on the tones it could produce and what features it had. I decided to go the Christmas route and ask for it from my Wife, who again is very patient with my pedal addiction. The minute I plugged into the Paisley Drive I fell in love. It was precisely what I had been looking for, and it covered way more than just Brad’s tone. At the time I was playing through a Marshall AVT150 or through a Hot Rod Deluxe. I found with the Hot Rod Deluxe paired with the Paisley Drive that I could get closer to the tone I was looking for, and quickly moved on from the AVT150. That was the tipping point for a long relationship with Wampler that is still ongoing today.
As mentioned above, I was highly active on TDPRI (the Telecaster forum) at the time, and somehow or another I made a cheesy graphic that expressed my love for the Paisley Drive, and I was recommending it to everyone under the sun because it was just my end-all be-all favorite OD. I received a message from someone, and at the time I didn’t know it was Jason Wilding, head marketing and graphics guy for Wampler Pedals asking what my favorite parts of the Paisley Drive were, and discussing graphics and all other sorts of nonsense. It turns out that the Paisley Drive was his first graphic design for Wampler, so there was a kindred connection metaphorically because the Paisley Drive was both our first introduction to Wampler and what created our friendship. We chatted back and forth pretty regularly, and eventually became friends on Facebook a few weeks later. We talked occasionally, and he quickly became my source of GAS for all things Wampler. After getting the Paisley Drive, I had to get the Faux Analog Echo (come on, BP was using one!). After that came the Pinnacle and the Ego Compressor. The addiction just grew from there, and any spare money I had would be diverted to getting whatever new Wampler was coming out at the time, or one that I hadn’t acquired yet. The best way to describe it was that Brian was creating pedals that produced the tone that I heard in my head, and the controls were easy to dial in and self-explanatory, so I could find a useable tone within seconds of plugging in.
I became a true addict, eventually having an all-Wampler board, and still waiting and lusting for the next release. I frequented TDPRI still, and discovered The Gear Page in late 2011, early 2012. That’s what did it for me. I went into a trading and flipping frenzy that was borderline insane, at one point having one pedal going out and another coming in on the same day. I enjoyed the flipping and learning about each pedal and the trends brands took and what tonal secrets were enclosed in each box. My wife and I had just had a new baby, so time was limited playing so I spent most of my time learning and reading TGP and the ins-and-outs of various pedals. What worked, what doesn’t work. How pedal X was similar or different than pedal Y. I was on dialysis at that time (20+ years total, long story for another day). Essentially I had 5 hours of dedicated time where I was tied to a machine with needles in my arm that prevented playing guitar, so the next best thing was learning and absorbing everything pedal and amp related. I would scour the web for hours just reading and absorbing everything I could find. During this whole time however, I still maintained my love of Wampler, and I was the first person to suggest one of Brian’s pedals to any thread I could contribute to. Over time I got to know Jason better and even talked to Brian some on Facebook messenger, along with making friends with some Wampler artists along the way. My intent was that if I couldn’t work for them (only a faraway dream at the time) that I’d do everything I could to help and facilitate building the brand that I love so much.
Fast-forward to April 15th of 2014, my life changed more than words can express. That morning as I was heading out for work I received the call that there was a deceased donor that arrived at the hospital and and his kidney was the closest match they could find after me being on the transplant list for 14 years (and having 2 previous kidney transplants). I got the call, we dropped what we were doing and rushed to the hospital. Within 24 hours I had a brand new kidney, and I had been given a new medicine designed to treat my blood disease specifically (which to this day, has proven it works). April 17th of 2014 was my last dialysis to date. I preface this because it was the start of a shift in life towards the positive in every way.
Starting in late 2014, I had contacted Brian about a “Wampler Fan Club” on Instagram, and luckily he was open to the idea. I started posting pictures of players pedalboards featuring Wampler gear, basic GAS-inducing stuff that came to mind and just overall showcasing my love of the brand. During this time Brad Paisley had received a lo-fi delay prototype (The Wheelhouse) that I saw on Facebook and other social media outlets along with The Gear Page, and of course I bugged Jason to death with questions, including trying to bribe and bargain and being a general pain in the ass. I finally got the hint that it was still a prototype and that Brian wasn’t a fan of giving out protos because he prefers the pedal going to the players to be perfect. Luckily Jason had a tremendous amount of patience and knew I was just an over-excited tonechaser with a tendency towards addiction, haha. I continued growing the “Wampler Pedals Street Team” fan club Instagram account, and was attempting to coordinate with Jason to help the best I could (learning later on the other side that it was a double-edged sword, more on that later).
On my birthday in April, I woke up that morning and my wife had a surprise for me, and had my 3 year old little boy bring me a box. I had been asking for a Clarksdale (after having one and foolishly lending it out to someone and never getting it back) and I thought that’s what was waiting inside. The outer box looked familiar, and as soon as I opened it that familiar white cardboard box was staring me in the face. At the same time my wife pulled out her phone and started filming me opening the box, and I had no idea what was going on. I was shaking and nervous as could be (I have a love/hate relationship with surprises). I opened it up and lo and behold it was my very own personalized Lo-Fi delay, identical to the one custom made just for Brad Paisley, with the words “Special limited edition lo-fi delay prototype for Alex Clay”. On the inside was a handwritten note from Brian thanking me for all that I have done for the brand, and his signature on the bottom. I was speechless, and could feel my face getting redder and hotter by the minute as all of these emotions started bubbling to the surface. I somehow choked out a “Thank You” as I started tearing up a little bit, and luckily my wife stopped filming before I burst into tears of elation. I was beyond floored and couldn’t focus the rest of the day. I found out later after talking to Jason that he reached out to my wife and wanted to do it as a thank you and to celebrate my kidney making it to one year post-transplant. I think I told Brian and Jason and the team “Thank You” at least 1,000 times, and it still doesn’t seem like enough to this day. I plugged the proto in and it was EXACTLY what I was hearing on the Wheelhouse album. I’m still in shock thinking about it, and it is one of the kindest and heartwarming gifts I’ve ever received, and I’m eternally grateful to call Jason and Brian and everyone at Wampler close friends.
As the year carried on, I continued working with Jason, with him allowing me to help “reveal” some new product photos for new releases and helping to share the news of impending releases. Mid-June came along and with it a conversation with Brian that would set into motion things I had only dreamt about…