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JASPER FANCIES

guITAR ART Launched in October of 2010, the Caroline Guitar Company is one of those odd, exciting niche companies which Columbia has the privilege of calling our own. Founded by Philippe Raymond Herndon, principal product designer and branding director, the company calls itself a “small batch distortery,” a clever description for the producer of boutique electric guitar pedals which have created a mini-buzz in the industry at-large. In addition to the many prominent local players who make use of his pedals, Herndon’s work also graces the stage of headline acts like Wilco, Gomez, and Toro y Moi, lending some serious credibility to the relatively small business. The principles the company lives by as a boutique, according to Herndon, are: the product must be American-made, hand-made, and easily serviceable. Caroline Guitar Company’s pedals—which there are now four of—fit this bill to a T. The serviceable part is clearly one of the biggest concerns for Herndon, who was originally inspired to start fiddling with pedals based on his collection of vintage pedals from the 60s and 70s which he bought used and broken and fixed up into usable status. “I would never had been able to afford [those pedals] at market rates, but I could buy them broken and then repair them because they are [so] serviceable,” he says. On that principle, Herndon began building pedals inspired by those vintage pedals he loves so much—first the Wave Cannon, a distortion pedal, followed by the Olympia booster (“based on the tone bender kind of stuff from the 60s and 70s”) and the Icarus buzz. Their latest effort, the digital delay Kilobyte, debuts this month in stores. Herndon, the face and personality behind the pedals, is a compelling mix of enthusiastic rock and roller sophisticate and detail-oriented technerd. In between mechanical jargon and industry talk, he casually quotes Malcolm Gladwell in one breath and champions the brilliance of latter-day Fast and Furious sequels films in the next. During the course of our interview, he takes time out to talk dog-washing strategies and a failed attempt to corral Free Times editor Dan Cook into joining his new musical project on bass, a group tentatively inspired by “Air and Midnight Vultures-era Beck.” And, of course, his passion for guitar pedals knows no bounds. “It feels great not to throw something away, but actually have something for a lifetime,” he insists. “It gets worn down and beat-up, and

THE ART AND APPLICATION OF ImPROV WITH VICky SAyE HENDERSON

also better and better.” He compares his products with the cheap alternatives at Best Buy with a simple analogy: “Yeah you can buy a suit for 60 dollars nowadays, but is that suit you would wear to your wedding?” The analogy speaks not only to the company’s dedication to quality, but also to their discerning style and sense of distinction. Caroline Guitar Company pedals are often given unique artwork or individualized writing and numbers, in part just to demonstrate that “someone put their heart and soul and craft into getting it exactly right.” The pedals themselves take between 1-2 focused hours to assemble, although the designing and implementation of that design can take much longer. Herndon estimates he spent 6-8 months working on the design of the Kilobyte, although he admits a digital delay is more complicated, with more moving parts, than a standard pedal. A more typical design period, he estimates, is 1-2 months. And setting aside the uniqueness of its creation or the novelty of locally-made guitar equipment, Herndon firmly believes that his company’s best-selling quality is their sense of sonic judgment in the construction of no-nonsense, easily-serviceably pedals. “I feel unbelievably confident that if you grab a Caroline pedal, and you grab another pedal—there is no way you can’t say that the Carolina pedal sounds good,” he asserts. “That’s the minimum. And, inevitably, a lot of times we get that ‘oh my god’ reaction.’” //KP

Vicky Saye Henderson has been leading classes and workshops in improvisation as an acting technique for much of the last decade. Now in her new position as director of education and outreach at Trustus Theatre, she is offering improv to the professional community as an innovative corporate training and team-building tool. Local theatres often get calls looking for outside-the-box training opportunities; Henderson found her first client when Workshop’s Paula Peterson referred an HR manager for the Target distribution center to her, saying “I just got this really weird request, and you were the first person I thought of.” She drew some inspiration for structure and presentation from an Atlanta-based company with which she worked on a training for USC staff, but went in her own direction, developing a multi-layered, interactive program which borrows from “the way artists work, which sets a premium on collaboration, and in which the tenets of improv easily cross-pollinate, and can be applied to real-world, every-day situations.” Her program for Target was a six-hour retreat for 40-plus employees, and involved dividing the participants into small teams, identifying specific needs, and then creating a program using the individual strengths within each team. Subsequent clients and topics have included SCANA (focusing on customer service), the Richland Library (innovative thinking), the Saluda Shoals Foundation board (personal empowerment in the context of fund raising), and Richland One School District theatre educators. Training can be a one hour session, a retreat for one day or one week, or even ongoing quarterly sessions. As teacher and facilitator, she feels she simply creates the laboratory, while participants create the solution. First Henderson identifies a clear objective with the client, then makes an initial visit to assess the participants in their own group environment. She makes an inventory of relevant history, past successes, challenges faced, the current culture of collaboration, and how this training will serve the bigger picture or goal. Following the event, there is an evaluation discussion with the planners. Henderson uses three tenets from Dan Diggles’ Improv for Actors: 1) Make your partner look good and feel smart, 2) “Yes, and...” i.e. agree with your partner, but then build on it, and 3) Train your brain to go with your gut, i.e. honor your intuitive reasoning. She notes “the world around us doesn’t Photo above by Thomas Hammond

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Jasper Magazine  

Vol. 002 No. 006