It was a good 10 years or more since I’d last met, or rather, first met Flo (aka Florian Prix) in Vienna. I recall us talking about the boots I was wearing at the time. A pair of black stub-toed Doc Martins I’d found in Hong Kong. The boots are long worn out, in fact, at least three pairs since, and I’m now wearing sandals Flo’s living slightly out of town in a superb house with a yard resembling a forest of sorts.

Flo at work, 2008.
Flo at work, 2008.

Flo is many things. But I had not known him as a guitarist let alone a very good one. His passion for sound is evident in his playing and more recently, his new-found love of guitar amps. Not just any amp. Amps of his own making, for both personal use and by commission.

Florian Prix and Roman Stift at B72, 2013.
Florian Prix and Roman Stift at B72, 2013.

Why pray tell would anyone enter the custom amp market when there are so many beautifully crafted guitar amps available? It’s a curious story.

After being invited to play guitar on a live version of a recorded project he’d worked on, Flo set about to recreate the guitar sound on the album. He’d used a VST plugin to emulate a vintage Fender tube amp. He was, in fact, looking for an amp that sounded like a plugin that emulated an amp!

Not satisfied with what he’d found on the market, but pretty much settling on a reasonable approximation, he purchased a DIY amp kit off the internet. Building it over the Christmas holidays Flo found himself entering a world that combined his passion and perfection for sound, design and just plain noodling with technology. Turns out his collaborator on the album is a designer who came up with some pretty cool ideas of the kind of cabinet Flo’s amp would be housed in.

The Kaulbach Weber 53 clone.
The Kaulbach Weber 53 clone.

I asked Flo about his obsession, his quest for the kind of sound that both motivates his own work and adds to that of those with whom he collaborates.

I think you really hit it since you understood what I am after. And it’s creepy in a great and fascinating way because not a lot of people understand this quest for…The Sound. Also, most people don’t understand that Rock n’ Roll, Blues, Musique Concrete, Sound Art, contemporary or baroque orchestral pieces, Pop and everything else is not mutually exclusive.

The Rolling Stones, Henry & Schaeffer, Gould, the old Nazi Karajan and Portishead, to name just a few, all used technology in combination with brilliant musical skills to create sound textures which immediately strike you. And if they didn’t have the technology (Webern, Bach, indigenous people in remote locations long ago, etc), they used their instrumentation and/or intervals on solo instruments to create these sounding worlds within our brains.

With the amp completed, well, it didn’t stop at one. From here the possibilities Flo saw, given his technical and creative expertise, were no doubt immense. For example, could one build an amp that came with a tiny computer, an open operating system and the ability to run VSTs and Puredata, sharing patches over the net? Yep. No worries. And so it began.

Check out Kaulbach Amps and here’s a bit of a teaser. Sweet sounds to be sure.

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