An Interview With Eric Junge From Hungry Robot Pedals

 Sound Shoppe:

You are a smart dude. You went from chemical engineering at Iowa State to have a BA in physics and teaching. Ultimately, You're a science teacher. But not just any science teacher, you tought at a juvenile detention center? How was that experience? Do you have any stories?

 Eric Junge:

"Smart Dude" may be exagerrating a bit. Ended up not being too interested in chemcial engineering, so I switched to Physics Education. I loved teaching at-risk kids and had a lot of passion for it. Some really intense, violent stuff happened, but for the most part, they are normal kids with really, really challenging home lives and upbringings. Most of the kids really liked me as a teacher, so I rarely got attacked like some of the staff. In the end, they closed down the facility and that is kind of what forced me into the pedal business.

 Sound Shoppe:

Wow. what was the transition like?

 Eric Junge:

When they closed down, I had built and sold a couple pedals as a hobby business, but nothing too serious. I ended up being unemployed for about 8 months, so to bring money in I started getting serious about the business. Eight months later, as unemployment was running out, I took a new job working with at-risk kids at another facility and continued doing it part-time and on the weekends. I stayed there about a year and then was finally ready to step out full-time and I was starting to bring in enough income to make the (at the time) very scary jump into full time self-employment.
 
 Sound Shoppe:

Yes. That is scary. I've enjoyed the evolution of the hungry robot logo. I've heard that your wife does the artwork. Is she responsible for that?

 

 Eric Junge:

Starting out, we did do 100% hand painted pedals, Simply because I didn't have the know-how to use any other method. So my earlier designs are all done by her. Once things got too busy a couple years in it was unfeasible to have her hand painting all of them, so I had one of my long-time friends convert her drawings to digital form and since then he has been doing my designs.

 Sound Shoppe nyc:

Which is your favorite?

 Eric Junge:

I would say The Wardenclyffe is my favorite artwork. When I switched to screenprinting, it was a fun transition for the artwork too. By necessity, the first designs had to be simplistic and easy and quick to replicate since it was done by hand. Having the freedom to put whatever I wanted in a design was very nice.

 Sound Shoppe nyc:

I actually drove out there once to see that tower. I'm in Long Island a lot. I didn't realize it had been torn down. It's a shame.

 Eric Junge:

Yeah. That is too bad. I love things that seep with lore and mystery and Tesla is dripping with it.  

 Sound Shoppe nyc:

You recently moved from North Carolina back to iowa.What prompted the move? Did you miss this housing crisis?

 Eric Junge:

Yeah. We just moved earlier this summer. We both grew up in Iowa and lived here most our lives. We moved to North Carolina a few years ago to live in the mountains and just decided it was time to come back with the intention of finding an acreage to live on. We love our seclusion and a midwest acreage in the middle of a corn field is a perfect place for us. It took us a few months to find the right place, but luckily we timed things perfectly.  We closed on the acreage before the prices melted up and we sold our mountain home while the prices melted up. 

 Sound Shoppe nyc:

I know that at first you couldn't make product because of the move. The supply chain/microchip shortage came soon after. What was that time off like for you? Was it worrisome after the investment in the move?

 Eric Junge:

Yeah. I took some time off for the move. We wanted to get our mountain home fixed up before we moved, so I did a lot of repairs and remodeling leading up to us moving. Then took some time to get settled into the new place. Little did I know that when I was finally ready to start work again, there would be a massive shortage of parts in the industry. It was more frustrating that worrisome. Here I was expecting to finally grind through my massive backlog and now I am waiting on parts.  

 Sound Shoppe nyc:

What exactly are you in short supply of?

 Eric Junge:

Most of my parts have leveled out and back to normal. All except for the FV-1 chip which is causing a bunch of issues for pedal builders because it is a very popular DSP in pedal building. The FV-1 has only one manufacuter and only one US distributor. So when thing get bad, there are no options other than waiting. I can find pots from many different sources, I can find enclosures from many sources, but FV-1 from only one source. 
 
 Sound Shoppe nyc:

That's tough but not all of your pedals require it so you're still putting out product, correct?

 Eric Junge:

Yeah. I have been building still for sure. I have FV-1 chips on hand (don't tell other builders), but most of my backlog is Wardenclyffe Deluxe which has been wildly in demand and uses the chip. The Wardenclyffe Deluxe is my first pedal I have seen crazy high demand like this and the first i've seen scalpers on Reverb.

 Sound Shoppe nyc:

Yes, it's very successful. Congratulations on that.

 Eric Junge:

Thanks!!!  

 Sound Shoppe nyc:

Your new shop is enormous but has no insulation? What was it before you moved in? If there was any blacktop I'd imagine it was an airplane hanger. It's a very big shop for a one man band. Are you planning to expand? Will you have walls by September?

 Eric Junge:

Yes. Our Machine shed is actually more than double the size of our house. We don't farm, so we don't have equpment or crop to store in it. It is a bit oversized for a one man band!!! I don't have any plans of expanding my operation to anything bigger than me (and I was able to have one of my North Carolina employees to stay on sort of as a contractor). I like my small business even if I can't keep up with demand. Years ago I had plans of expansion, adding employees and trying to push into the mid-tier of pedal builders, but the more volume you push out the more stress and moving parts. But yeah, by winter I will have two small rooms fully build and insulated. I just framed in one of the shops and will probably do the powder coat / enclosure shop later this month.


 Sound Shoppe nyc:

That's wonderful! Of the brands that I carry you are most invested in eurorack creating hungry robots modular in 2018. I feel a lot of pedal enthusiasts don't know much about it. Could you give us a rundown of what that's all about?

 Eric Junge:

Yeah. Probably around 2017, I personally went down the Eurorack rabbithole. Spent a lot of money buying synths and modules, had a lot of fun with it and learned a lot. I launched Hungry Robot Modular with little time or effort advertising and getting the word out and it has surprised me with how successful it has been. Pedals are still my main focus and income, but I love building synth stuff too. The lineup consists of a unique take on modular synth. Instead of doing eurorack modules, I build a line of traditional synth modules in pedal boxes that run off of standard 9V power. My idea was to have a low cost way to upgrade their existing Eurorack setup or semi-modular setup without buying power modules, cases, racks, etc. I will eventually do more with the lineup and have a side-business called Artium Instruments where I will explore more synth related ideas and concepts outside of the umbrella of Hungry Robot Pedals. 
 
 Sound Shoppe nyc:

Your pedals are constantly evolving. You have many V2 models and of course the Wardenclyffe deluxe. Do you have Plans on new versions of your existing line?

 Eric Junge:

A lot of my pedal do evolve from the initial offering to what is currently being sold. Sometimes this comes from customer suggestions and some from new ideas that inspire me that I didn't have when I designed it and some come from my evolving knowledge of circuitry and what can be done.  I do have some plans for evolving a couple of the current offerings. I don't want to speculate and name anything right now because historically, I have more ideas that are in my head and on paper than I could ever physically prototype and release. An issue with a lot of entrepenuers is that we come up with too many ideas for businesses and ways to make money and lack follow through. I am weekly scheming new pedal ideas and new business ideas that never come to fruition. And with my current backlog, it would be suicide to try and release a new model right now. Needless to say I have years and years of pedal ideas to comb through and hopefully people will still be interested in my small little operation and continue to be inspired by my work.

 Sound Shoppe nyc:

Well Thank you Eric, You certainly inspired me to become a pedal dealer. I started playing guitar again during covid and was looking for new and inventive stuff. I was amazed how far and few everything was so I decided to attempt to be the guy that brings it all to one place. at MAP (Minimum Adertised Price) So thank you for that! Thank you for your time here. I think we have some good stuff. While I have you, is there anything you'd like to add? -Tell the world?

 Eric Junge:

I am glad you have entering the dealer space... you seem to be selling pretty unique stuff and not just a bunch of EHX LOL!! Thank you for your time as well.  I don't think i have much to add 🙂

 Sound Shoppe nyc:

Ok. Try to enjoy youself this weekend like it's a holiday! Cause it is. Take care Eric.

 Eric Junge:
 
I work literally every day  LOL!!!  granted, not full 8 hour days
 
 Sound Shoppe nyc:

Well some people call this work. Me, not so much.

 Eric Junge:

Peace out. have  a good rest of your day

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