Meeting Jack Vaughn - Guitar Tech and Line 6 Modder Extraordinaire

Recently one of the footswitches on my Line 6 M13 Stompbox Modeler went bad. I'm pretty good with a soldering iron, so I started poking around on the Line 6 website, but it didn't look like Line 6 sells that type of footswitch as a spare part. Before calling Line 6 about the problem, I thought that I would do an Internet search to see if anyone else had run into this issue and what they did to resolve it. As it turns out, a bunch of people had run into this exact problem; most people's feedback was incredulity that Line 6 had created such an incredibly rugged pedal like the M13 with such easy-to-destroy footswitches. (Unlike the individual Line 6 stompbox modelers like the DL4 and DM4 which you could probably run over with a tank and they'd still work.)

However, a bunch of guitarists had blogged about how they had modified their M13 by drilling out the original footswitches and replacing them with more durable, off-the-shelf footswitches. This increases the overall durability of the M13; but should a footswitch ever go bad again, it's much easier to replace the bad switch when you're using readily-available parts. One particular blog on Guitar Geek was extremely detailed – the blog's author had taken copious photos throughout the whole process. It looked like it would take an entire weekend to do the mod myself, and I was planning on using the Guitar Geek blog as a guide for modifying my own pedal when I noticed that the author had written in his notes that if he had it to do over again, he would hire Jack Vaughn (www.jhv3.com) to do the work for him.

I checked out the JHV3 website, and it looked like Jack charged a fair price for doing the M13 footswitch mod, and he did other mods as well. What's more, when I looked at the "Clients who use JHV3" section of his website, he had a long list of Christian artists whom I listen to as his clientele. I contacted Jack through email, and I discussed hiring him to do a couple of mods for me – the footswitch replacement and his audio upgrade. We settled on a price and he gave me his address  on the East Coast. Jack asked that I get it to him quickly because he works as a guitar tech for bands on tour, and he would be heading out near the end of September. With that in mind, I packed up my M13 and sent it to him in the mail near the end of August. Jack had mentioned that it takes him 3 to 4 weeks to complete the mods, so I wasn't worried when I hadn't heard anything from him in a couple weeks.

Jack contacted me a couple of days ago to ask for my telephone number; I sent that to him, and he called me a little later that day. He explained that my pedal was almost done, but he needed to report for Casting Crowns tour rehearsals that night. He said that he could mail my pedal to me from the road, which would probably save some postage since Casting Crowns was touring the West Coast and I live in Arizona. I said that was no problem, but he mentioned that Casting Crowns was going to be in Phoenix at Grand Canyon University (GCU) on Friday, September 19th; Jack said that if I wanted to do so, I could drop by GCU and pick up my pedal from him in person. I said that sounded like fun for me - and he said that it would be interesting for him, too, because he has never met any of the people who send him their pedals for modifications. (He also said that he might be able to get complimentary tickets to the show for my wife and me, but my wife had to work that day, so I had to politely decline the offer. This was too bad – I like Casting Crowns.)

With our plans in place, I took the day off from work on Friday, drove my wife to work, and then I made the two-hour drive to Phoenix to meet Jack. I sent him a text message when I arrived at the GCU arena, and he came out to meet me. We shook hands, and then he took me backstage to show me my modified M13. We discussed the updates for a few minutes, and Jack said that if I wanted to hang out while he set up the guitar gear for the bands, we could go out for a late lunch. Watching the stage set up sounded like a lot of fun, really - I like seeing how a show comes together from the technical side.

So Jack took off to set up the guitar gear for the show, while I tried my best to stay out of the way on the sidelines as I checked out everyone's gear from a distance. I didn't have a crew pass, so I needed to hang out near the guitar area; oh darn. (Note: Josh from Casting Crowns plays some nice guitars from Paul Reed Smith; even the sea foam green one looked good.) Before we headed off to lunch, Jack gave me a tour of the effects pedal boards that each of the guitarists was using; this is always a great deal of fun for me, because every guitarist has their favorite pedals – including me – so we like to see what everyone else is using. (Hence why the Guitar Geek website exists.) Another thing that I thought was particularly ingenious was the way that the guitar techs had recycled one of the drum crates as an isolation chamber for the guitar amplifiers, so the stage volume was significantly reduced, while the amplifiers were able to deliver some great tone at volumes for which they were designed.

Once Jack was done with the initial gear set up, we headed out to lunch. We found a nearby taco place, because I never need to be asked twice if I would like Mexican food. Jack bought lunch, which was a nice gesture that wasn't necessary. Over lunch we talked about various pedals, guitars, mods, families, etc., and how Jack got into work as a guitar tech and effects pedal builder/modder. He's extremely well-read from an electronics perspective, which lends itself greatly to his skills as a guitar tech.

We had a great discussion over a bunch of topics, but eventually it was time for Jack to head back for Casting Crowns' sound check. I drove us back to the arena, and Jack said that I could watch a bit of the sound check before I headed back down to Tucson to pick up my wife from work. This sounded like fun, so I followed Jack into the arena, and I found a seat on the side of the arena that was close enough to the stage to watch a bit of the sound check while I stayed out of the way. My son plays in a band in the Seattle area, and he likes Casting Crowns as well, so I thought he'd like to see what another band looks like when rehearsing. With that in mind, I took a short video during the the sound check to send him. (Note: Jack is the tech who walks onstage about 15 seconds into the video.)

I watched the sound check for around ¾ of an hour, and it was amazing how tight Casting Crowns sounded; it was only the second night of their tour, but they were effortlessly nailing their songs perfectly. That being said, I needed to head back to Tucson to pick up my wife, so I dropped by where Jack was working, thanked him again for everything, and I hopped back on the Interstate headed south.


One last note – since this whole adventure was started because I needed to mod my M13, I should point out that Jack's mods were great. I would recommend him to anyone, and I'd hire him again. ;-)

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