Published on June 24th, 2019 | by Darren Paltrowitz0
KHDK Electronics’ David Karon On Working With “Skateistan,” Tone For Change’s New Pedal & More
David Karon of KHDK Electronics recently announced his new pro-charity guitar pedal initiative, Tone For Change. Its first project is a limited-edition “Skateistan” fuzz pedal, a one-of-a-kind enclosure made from skateboards used by students in Skateistan’s school. All profits from the sale of the pedal go to skate schools operated by the award-winning NGO Skateistan which brings creativity, fun and freedom into the lives of its 2,500-plus students, as based in Cambodia, South Africa and Afghanistan.
The Skateistan pedal is a fuzz effect inspired by skateboarding subculture. Creative freedom defines the pedal, with controls that let guitarists experiment and make the tone their own. It is an alternative use of distortion with mosfet stage for tube-like warmth. The tone evokes grunge and stoner rock with its characteristic sound: toothy, fuzzy, sharp and dry. Of the pedal, Karon has said: “Growing up, skateboarding and music were my passions. I am beyond excited to merge these two worlds in this incredible fuzz pedal and help Skateistan continue to transform the lives of vulnerable children.”
I had the pleasure of doing Q&A with David Karon about Skateistan, the new pedal he helmed and more. Additional information on both Karon and the great cause which Karon’s pedal helps raise funds for can be found online at www.toneforchange.com and www.skateistan.org.
Where did the idea for this project come from? Did you have the idea for a skateboard-recyclable item first? Or the idea for a guitar pedal first?
David Karon: I’ve been making guitar pedals for 5 years with my other company, KHDK Electronics. Pedals are my passion. I’m obsessed with great guitar tone. At some point in the past year, I started thinking about taking the pedal business to the next level and doing more than just making guitarists sound amazing. Sure, it’s incredibly fun and I love the pedal community but I felt like together, we could achieve so much more. Growing up, skateboarding and music were my two passions and when I met Oliver, the founder of the Skateistan NGO, it all fell into place: I knew I wanted to build a pedal to make them proud and to raise money for the kids that Skateistan is helping.
Where did the skateboard parts come from?
David Karon: All the skate decks come from Skateistan schools. They were used by the kids at these schools as a vehicle to get away from their sometimes pretty rough everyday reality — as I know firsthand, skateboarding is difficult and learning it can feel incredibly empowering. It worked wonders for my self-esteem as a kid and I know it does the same for the Skateistan children who need it more than anyone. So all of the skateboards we are using for these pedal used to belong to the kids and I like to think they had an absolute blast on them. You can tell by all the bruises on the skate decks that these were well loved boards! That’s why each skatedeck pedal is an absolutely unique, irreplaceable piece and full of history. I’m convinced that this only adds to the inspiration guitarists will feel when they plug it in.
Is there a guitar pedal you would compare this one from Tone For Change to? Or is it entirely unique sonically?
David Karon: The pedal pays homage to the classic 70’s fuzz sound, while adding a more tubelike analog warmth to your sound.
For those unaware, who does Skateistan benefit?
David Karon: Skateistan has schools in South Africa, Afghanistan and Cambodia. Their work is so innovative and powerful, they won awards for their efforts — having started with nothing, just one guy and a few skateboards in his backpack. Now, they are planning on expanding and building more schools that welcome children from unstable backgrounds and I’m beyond excited that Tone For Change will play a part in helping to finance this expansion and helping Skateistan to keep up the incredible, difficult work they do.
And Skateistan aside, any other projects of yours you can talk about?
David Karon: We have a lot in the works. Skateistan is our first 100 percent pro-charity project and we are actively working on more. I can say that one of the next pedals will benefit a musical instrument legend in need and we have another one in the works with a non-profit based in my hometown, Chicago. All the projects Tone For Change does have a really intimate, personal connection to me, which is why I pour my heart into them.
When not busy with work, where does your free time go?
David Karon: I don’t really do the work/free time dichotomy, it’s all part of one fun life which I love so much. My 5-year-old daughter helps me pick out guitar knob colors while we play, I get inspiration for pedals at a playground, when I travel for work, I take my family along, my wife is a huge part of the Tone For Change initiative… The cliche is true: when you do what you love, it never feels like work.
I do love firing up a good show. Chernobyl was amazing and now I’m finally watching Murder Mountain. Maybe a cannabis-related project would make sense in the future as well, come to think of it!
What was the last concert you attended for fun?
David Karon: The Misfits! I’m a die-hard fan and I was in Chicago when they played. It was quite an experience, they were one of my main influences growing up and I still love this band to death.
Finally, David, any last words for the kids?
David Karon: I realized that doing work I love while helping somebody at the same time gives me 1,000 times the satisfaction. I strongly recommend to everybody to find an angle in their work where they can go the extra mile and give a little back. Truth be told, none of us actually need the latest iPhone. Instead, making a positive impact to the lives of others is so much more rewarding.