© 2012 Pan60
Boomerang Musical Products Interview with Mike Nelson May, 2013 pan60 - Hi, Boss! Can we just call you Mike? Mike - Mike is fine, though the inevitable Mikey sneaks in from time to time, mainly from relatives. pan60 - LOL! Then we may sneak in a Mikey, as well? I hope we can get a few replies in from your partner, too. Mike - He's an elusive genius's type and is best found in his lab at 3:00-4:00 am, listening to Art Bell on the radio. pan60 - Well, we love an elusive genius in this part of the world! As one might suspect, I am all ready missing my Boomerang! I loved our chat and I'm looking forward to seeing the newest generation of the Boomerang. Please, do tell: ) Mike - For the near term, there is only the Boomerang III. Our current effort is another software upgrade and something we are calling 'brother sync'. It will provide the ability to sync multiple Rang™ IIIs without the need for an external MIDI clock. It should be very cool. pan60 - Sweet! That WOULD be very cool! So, Boomerang Musical Products is made up of two partners correct? Mike - Yep. Mike Nelson and Lee Hardesty. Two tech guys who have been full time pro players at different points in their lives. I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Mark Newell, our software guy. He's an amazing programmer. pan60 - That is so far over my head. I think guys that do programming work are really artists, as well. Mike - Definitely. Programming is a very creative process. There are rules, like making music that isn't noise, but plenty of room for individual approaches and designs. pan60 - How did you two meet? Mike - We were both playing in popular bands around Texas, Dallas - in particular, during the 1960s. (I'm dating myself here). pan60 - LOL, that's okay: ) What would each of your strong points be? Mike - Well I'm good looking and Lee is… pan60 - LOL!! Mike - That's unfair since he's not here to defend himself. Lee is a whiz at electronics and has a degree in mathematics. He has also become quite proficient at sheet metal design, plastics design & molding, and drafting. Though a technical guy, I ended up being the business-end of Boomerang. Invoicing, accounting, inventory, answering the phone… pretty heady stuff! Now, I really need to mention Mark Newell, our software guy. He's an amazing programmer. And most of our pedals are built, these days, by the lovely Lynne Hardesty. Yep, she's Lee's sister, but more importantly she's my wife. pan60 - Ahhhh! A third partner! Wife, that would qualify in my mind: ) . My wife is a saint! Mike - Is she watching so you had to say that?! pan60 - LOL! Tell us about the two of you, interests, hobbies and such. Mike - Lee still plays guitar and sings and messes around with recording. His reading leans toward the technical side of things, like particle physics and string theory. I play guitar almost every day with my jam mates, my Rang™ III looper and Rang™ Chorus*Delay. My wife and I love hanging with friends, sailing and dining. It's hard to overrate the pleasure of a great meal! pan60 - Yeh, it's hard to beat a great meal! That is always a treat! And Sailing? I used to work tug boats in another life. I have been using the Boomerang for years and find it to be a very useful tool. Not for just performance, but here in the studio and for song writing, as well. If for no other reason, I would have one just for song writing. I also like using it for setting up a loop with an amped instrument. Then I work to get what I feel is the best mic position when using multiple microphones. Mike - That's a great use in the studio. Another unanticipated use is - when tweaking presets in your effect pedals or even amp settings. Play an appropriate lick, then put your guitar down and pick up the effect pedal - then, tweak to your heart's content. This makes the process way more enjoyable. One guy reported using a Rang™ looper to capture pieces of music that he was transcribing. pan60 - So, you both are musicians? Mike - Well… yes, sir. We've both played guitar for decades. And, as I mentioned previously, we were both professional players at one point. pan60 - So, are there any other instruments you play? Mike - Years ago, I was good enough on the flute to play it on a song or two with my band at the time. pan60 - Have either of you been involved in manufacturing before? Mike - Not directly, though we worked for companies that made their own products. During the 1990s we worked at sister companies. Lee designed electronics for Showco, one of the 2 largest companies leasing touring sound systems to rock and country pros. I was a computer programmer at Varilite, the largest company leasing automated lighting gear for touring professionals. The companies were housed in the same large building and owned by the same group of people. pan60 - Manufacturing can be a whole new world, for sure. Where did the idea of the Boomerang come from? Mike - It just popped into my head. Seriously! So, I can take no credit. After the idea occurred to me, I went to the store to buy a looper, but was shocked to learn no such creature existed, as this was the early 1990s. The salesman kept wanting to sell me a Digitech 8s delay. After coming up empty handed, I told Lee about the idea, and he provided the basis for a product development system which consisted of: (1) some preamps, (2) filters and (3) a card cage computer system with A/D/A converters. I provided a small guitar amp and purchased 5 Yamaha keyboard pedals to function as foot buttons. Varilite allowed me to use their software development tools after hours. At this point, it was all fun and games. The thought of starting a company or selling pedals wasn't even discussed, yet. pan60 - For those that do not know, the Boomerang is a U.S.A. made product. Made there in Texas correct? Mike - Yes, our stuff is all Texan made! If you come for a visit, we can drive to the company that makes the metal chassis, then visit the company that makes the circuit boards, then drop by the place that makes our presentation boxes, etc. Early on, we decided that if profitability dictated building our pedals in foreign countries, then we'd just do something else. pan60 - That's very good to hear! Have you found this to be a hurdle in competing with the mass-produced import products? Mike - Absolutely. Our pedals are more expensive than many competitors. But, our units stand out because of our easy-to-navigate interface, impeccable sound and unique foot buttons. If we built our pedals in China, they would retail for half of their current price and competing with the larger companies in the effects pedal biz would be so much easier. pan60 - I know there were many naysayers when the two of you first started.  I'll bet you don't hear much of that anymore.  LOL! Way to go guys! Mike - I'll tell you a funny story. This isn't a knock against Lexicon, because they make righteous gear, but one, young, overly zealous Lexicon employee visited us at our NAMM booth in 1996 and said, "We're going to bury you." At the time, they were selling the original Jamman, a 19" rack mount looper. Well, the Jamman was discontinued in a year or two and we're still here. We just had our best year ever. pan60 - LOL! I remember Lee telling me that story years ago. I still get a laugh: ). A lot of changes have taken place, and some evolution from the beginning to now. Can you walk us through the changes that bring us up to where Boomerang is today? Mike - Jamming along to some looped chords was our entire original concept. Functions, like playing in reverse or at half-speed, were added because they were simple, after the basic unit was complete. But, as with many things, the initial vision that was so mesmerizing loses its allure with familiarity. So the Rang™ Plus had 2 loops, multiple decay rates, multiple slow speeds, higher sample rates and a few other bells and whistles. When Boss entered the field, we had our first real competitor stimulating some 'serious' design meetings that resulted in the Rang™ III. pan60 - I would bet the Boomerang product had a LOT to do with Boss's interest in entering the market? The newest midi function was something I have been wanting to see. Can you go into detail about how this will work for the musician? Mike - Our MIDI implementation is minimal, but powerful. The loops are simply quantized to the nearest MIDI quarter note sent by an external MIDI clock master, such as a drum machine or DAW. Once created, these loops will stay with the MIDI clock due to their precision. During testing, I had 8 loops on two IIIs playing with a Yamaha drum machine, and the whole symphony could be started and stopped from the DM! Pan60 - Very sweet! Also, I see some new products on your site. Do you care to tell us about these? Mike - There's our under appreciated stereo Chorus*Delay pedal that sounds freaking amazing. It just so happens to be on sale now (through summer 2013). It has 3 styles of chorus, can produce a pretty nice flange sound, it has 3 types of delay including reverse, 11 presets which can be recalled remotely with MIDI commands and extensive expression pedal control. Exp pedal is not included. But wait! We have a great little volume/expression pedal called the Wholly Roller™ pedal. Use it with our Chorus*Delay to morph between settings, control the playback volume or Decay Rate of our Rang™ III looper, control, some other effect pedal or use it as a volume pedal. pan60 - It just makes me smile! Is the Wholly Roller pedal basically what is on my older Boomerang? Mike - Essentially, yes. But the pot and electronics are newer designs. Pan60 - The expression pedal (the Wholly Roller), is that the pedal you want folks to use, or will any expression pedal work? Mike - Most after-market expression pedals will probably work just fine. pan60 - Boomerang Musical Products is known for offering an amazing product, good price, and great service. That for many potential end-users will make you a winner. I can't tell you just how awesome I think this product is. I have been using the Boomerang for years and find it to be a very useful tool, not for just performance, but here in the studio and with song writing as well. pan60 - The newest Boomerang is packaged on a much smaller footprint than older models, very nice! Also, tell us about the side car. What brought this idea about? Could you explain how this could be useful? Mike - After releasing the III, we began to hear from players who thought the power and features were great, but wanted quick access to ALL of the 11 optional functions. Because each "Bonus" button can handle only two functions at once, this meant you had to select the 4 you would use most often, leaving the other 7 waiting in the wings. The rumbling increased and they were coming at us with the pitch forks and torches! It was Lee's idea to start with a III, remove most of the parts, rewrite the software and make a companion pedal to "widen" the user interface. Doing this allowed for quickly bringing the Side Car™ controller to market. It's been well received. pan60 - Very cool! Anyone who has not tried one of the Boomerang pedals should! These are really great tools. I have had my old pedal for what seems like forever and just bought the newest one. As I love these guys, their service and products, I just felt they fit everything I look for when writing an interview/review. So, when I called to get the new pedal, I told Mikey he needed to take a coffee break and collaborate to get a cool read together: )~


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