Made in California, the brand new A/DA Re-Issue Voltage Controlled Flanger and Final Phase Pedals are now In Stock!!!
In the early ’70s, Berkeley, California was a thriving hippie community (and in some respects, it still is today) that attracted flocks of creative individuals to its hills. The main campus of the University of California is situated there, and many aspiring electrical engineers came to Berkeley to study. Of course, the San Francisco Bay Area also enjoyed a thriving music scene, and many of these engineers found employment for bands like the Grateful Dead and Santana (Furman, Alembic and Mesa-Boogie are just a few of the companies that got off the ground by making products for Bay Area musicians).
Seamoon Ltd. was established in Berkeley in 1973, when Craig Anderton, who later gained fame for his articles and columns in Guitar Player magazine, and for his book Electronic Projects for Musicians, solicited a music store in hopes of selling a pedal he developed. “I had come up with the circuit for an envelope follower that later became known as the Funk Machine,” says Anderton. “I had a friend named Larry Schreiber, who was familiar with a music store in Berkeley called Skatzenbag Music. I took it in there to see if John Lang, who owned the store, was interested in selling it. He ended up taking it to a NAMM show and got orders, so we decided to make the thing.”
Shortly thereafter, Lang founded Seamoon, and started making their first product, the Funk Machine. The original units featured range and sensitivity controls, and were housed in a Bakelite box. However, too many overeager funksters crushed the box with their feet, so later versions were housed in simple aluminum boxes held together with six screws. The circuit was deceivingly simple. “It contained two op-amps with an opto-isolator to do the actual envelope detection,” says Anderton. “It’s that famous opto-isolator sound that everyone is rediscovering. Because the opto-isolators are all a little different. Every Funk Machine varied slightly. It wasn’t anything obvious that would make someone go, ‘Oh, I’ve got to have this one instead of that one.’ But there was a tiny variation. It was an analog world, and in some respects that added to the character of the thing. Part of the testing process was very subjective. If it didn’t work properly, we would pull the opto-isolator and solder in another one.”
Martha Davis, who later became famous as the lead singer of the Motels, was an early Seamoon employee who did a lot of the company’s assembly and testing. According to Anderton, she developed a peculiar method of testing the Funk Machine. “She tested them by running her fingers over particular parts on the circuit board. By noticing how the hum was affected, she was able to really nail what was going on with the unit. It was very cool. Her finger hum testing technique was flawless.”
Soon after hitting the market, the Funk Machine fell into the hands of several famous musicians, including Steve Cropper, who bought one of the very first units, and funk bassist Larry Graham. “He was really big on it,” says Anderton. “When he was on TV once, he held it up in front of the camera. It was a big part of his sound.” Shortly after designing the Funk Machine, Anderton came up with the circuit for Seamoon’s Fresh Fuzz distortion pedal. This circuit was a simple op-amp based device with gain and bite controls. “It was really basic,” says Anderton. “It used regular diodes. If I was to design it today, it would be a lot different.” The unit was a favorite of Tom Scholz, of Boston. These products remained the mainstays of Seamoon’s product line through most of the mid ’70s, although the company also introduced an ill-fated battery-powered solid-state amp called the Peter Portable.
By 1976, Seamoon had undergone significant changes. Anderton departed the company, the cosmetic appearance of the products was redesigned and several new products joined the lineup. However, it was also the beginning of the end of Seamoon and the dawn of a new company that would carry out Seamoon’s ideals and ideas with even greater success.
Sometime in 1975, a young Berkeley musician named Dave Tarnowski started working for Seamoon. He got the job after walking into Skatzenbag Music and impressing owner John Lang with his technical knowledge. “One thing let to another and I started working on some musical effects,” says Tarnowski. “The first musical effect I designed for them used early bucket brigade devices from Radicon. These are earlier than the bucket brigades from National or Panasonic. I actually did some R&D work at Radicon Corporation. I picked up a few of the chips to see if I could make a time modulator.”
Tarnowski designed the Studio Phase, an impressive phase shifter with intensity, shift and speed controls that originally retailed for $129. Other products in Seamoon’s line at this time included a cosmetically updated version of the Funk Machine, and a distortion box called the Controlled Tone Preamp, which featured volume, tone filter and distortion controls. A product called the Two-Track Delay was announced in the summer of 1976, but it was never released to the public.
By late 1976, Seamoon was having financial troubles. It was difficult to compete with companies like Electro-Harmonix and MXR, who were biting into their market share and gaining headway on the west coast, where Seamoon’s sales were strongest. Tarnowski was confident the effects pedals he wanted to build would be commercially successful, so he bought up the remaining Seamoon inventory in late 1977 and formed A/DA (Analog Digital Associates) in early 1978.
In the early 80s, A/DA discontinued its pedals and started producing rack-mountable analog and digital delays. However, Tarnowski, who still works at A/DA, has reissued the A/DA Flanger and Final Phase and is reissuing the Seamoon Funk Machine and Fresh Fuzz under a new division, called Rocket. The division is also producing a line of combo amps based on vintage circuits, and reissuing Carrotron effects.
We have the rights to a few of the older manufacturers’ designs,” says Tarnowski. “The company has invested a lot of R&D. We’re going to be introducing a lot of products in the next two years.