New Friends: Aisha Loe of Loe Sounds

I recently watched The Pedal Movie, a documentary by about you guessed it, effect pedals. In the movie I was introduced to Aisha Loe, founder and pedal builder at Loe Sounds. Loe Sounds is a effect pedal company that specializes in repurposing used or previously thrown away electronics and giving them new life as some of the most beautiful pedals you'll ever find. Aisha took some time to virtually sit down with me and chat about her work and process amongst other things. 

Tell us a bit about yourself. 

Hello! I am Aisha Loe. Me and my spouse Fiona make guitar pedals and sound tools under the moniker LOE, which stands for "Love of Earth". We use a lot of salvaged parts and enclosures that we find in landfills and other waste facilities. Making something new and beautiful out of "garbage" is our specialty. We are currently based in beautiful Southern California.

You embrace the broken, discontinued or otherwise forgotten electronics of the past. How do these products influence your designs both visually and audibly?  

Oh yeah! I grew up in the 80s & 90s, so that era's aesthetics really inspire me a lot. Since I freakin' love analog BBD chip-based effects so much, I feel like those are my favorite things to put inside of what we call a "salvage build". These builds usually start off with a really cool, old enclosure we acquire somehow. We discuss what type of sound we would want to hear coming out of that thing, and I begin building away.

Fiona's hand painted pedals are the more pedalboard friendly-sized things we make. Most of her inspiration comes from the natural world, inspiring color palettes. I really love that she is doing these with me. It gives us great pleasure to be able to collaborate in this way, and to be able to share not only a hand made pedal, but also a hand decorated one. I would say it's pretty important to both of us that each and every one have a certain uniqueness to it, subtle or otherwise, in some way or another. 

Kicking on a rippin' fuzz or dirt pedal puts a big grin on my face for sure.

Did you ever have formal electronics/circuit building training? Any words of wisdom or resources for folks looking to get into the DIY pedal world? 

Absolutely not! My training consists of whatever I can read about, or find information online about, tinker with. I let some ideas form out of that. I have a lot of friends online who build, and we talk a lot! We share information and just generally help each other. I think this ethos is what has elevated this whole thing to a higher ground. It seems a lot less competitive to me than it used to... It's a more nurturing vibe and scene, at least, in my experience. 

I come from DIY 100%, so naturally I love the idea of as many folks trying this as possible... I think a person starting out right now, today, is really fortunate to have all the resources that are now available online in order to help them learn this. 

This was my very first project! Paul made some amazing beginner videos that just really got me excited to learn more. 

There's really so, so much out there to check out! Search engines are your friend, you can sign up and reach out on forums (there are so many!), ask questions. Again, in my experience, most everyone is super nice and helpful. 

The other great thing is that everyone can learn at their own pace! This is especially important to me, as sound design is my primary focus in life ;) My learning path for building pedals and hardware has been steered, more often than not, by that. There will be a sound in my head that I can't make with the computer alone, so I get to tinkering and thinking, and eventually building something. It's so rewarding when it works out, and I love being able to do that!

So…you like fuzz pedals / distortion eh? Would you call that your specialty?

I love it all! Even if I don't use a pedal more than once a year for something, it's valuable to me. If it does that one thing that makes me smile when I hear it, it's a keeper. That being said, my desert island pedal is the EHX Deluxe Memory Man (big box). Delay is my heart. But yeah, kicking on a rippin' fuzz or dirt pedal puts a big grin on my face for sure.

When did you get interested in the arts?

 I have been interested in the arts since I was a child. I began playing music at the age of 10, and haven't stopped since! Visual art is something I feel has been inside of both myself and Fiona since birth. We are both deeply inspired by the natural world, and take many cues from the complex simplicity of designs formed by life itself. 

My years as a gigging musician inspired me to dig deeper and learn about some of the circuits that have been inside the go-to tools I have found useful all these years. 

Let’s talk about your process. From idea to final product, what does a typical workflow look like for you? 

I generally start with an ancient analog circuit that I love the sound of, and play around with different modifications to sort of "tune" it to my liking. Once I have it to a point where I find myself getting lost in playing while auditioning the circuit, I know that it's done. I love to build in the point to point style, so most of the custom things we make for folks are built in this way. Usually, Fiona will be working on the look and decoration of the enclosures while I am building out the circuits. After she is done, I perform the surgery of inserting the "guts" into their new home(s). It takes a lot of careful planning ahead to make these happen! 

Who / What inspires you now? 

What usually gets me out of bed in the morning is a call to the ocean. We sit by the ocean every single day, and draw untold inspiration from it. I couldn't imagine not being able to soak up all that majesty and power on a daily basis. It's so invigorating! We were both born just a few steps away from the Pacific Ocean. It influences a lot of what we do in general.

If you could collaborate with anyone dead or alive who would it be and why?

I would have to say Bjork. To us, she has always epitomized true creativity in all of her work. Each album is so much more than a collection of songs. There's an entire aesthetic and range of emotions over both the audio and visual aspects of her work, and this has been an ethos for us in our work as well.