UPDATE (6-8-17): I wrote this article three years ago. Since then it has become the most read thing I’ve ever written, no other post on this site comes even close. Hopefully people who’ve found this article have read other posts here that deal with far more pleasant and hopefully helpful subjects. I have updated this post to reflect the recent charges about JHS and it’s links to the church group known as The International House of Prayer (IHOP) and it’s treatment of the LGBTQ community. Beyond that, nothing has changed and my position remains the same.-Adam, Real World Worship.
Warning: This is a long post. It’s not about worship, or even electric guitar playing. It’s about a company called JHS pedals, that many worship musicians buy gear from. It’s about accusations that have been made on guitar & gear forums and blogs all across the internet, and my personal journey trying understanding the sometimes shady world that is the guitar industry.
Disclaimer: If you read this post (and you may not want to… ignorance is bliss after all) , I ask that you read the whole thing before making any judgements. I’m using the courtroom motif on purpose and I’m trying to build an entire case, so if you read only one part you won’t get the full picture. I ask that you understand that I’m trying my best to be impartial. I also ask that you understand that these are just my opinions and observations, although I have tried to provide some level of documentation.
Author’s Note: I feel confident in saying that no one else has done the research I have on this topic. I certainly have not seen evidence of it anywhere else. For this blog post I spoke to many of the parties involved, although I’m choosing to keep all of those conversations off the record. I also talked to friends (or friends of friends) who work in the guitar/effects industry at many different levels to hear their take. None of those conversations have made it directly into this post. I’ve keep them all off the record for the purpose of fact checking, logic checking and thought process vetting, and to get a feel for how the industry works. I read, and reread forum posts. I tracked down articles and forum threads dating back several years. I joined forums that I wouldn’t have otherwise because I wanted to read and see evidence on threads that were linked to by bloggers and posters, but were behind membership walls.
This post took weeks to write, months to research, and is probably the hardest thing I’ve done on this blog. In many ways I wish I hadn’t started. There were several times I thought I’d scrap it, even up to a few days before posting. In the end I decided it was what it was and I posted it. So here is the result of my journey:
THE PEOPLE VS JHS PEDALS:
Josh Scott, founder and owner of JHS pedals.
Anonymous posters on Internet forums such as The Gear Page, DiYstompboxes, FreeStompBoxes, TDPRI, and others.
(NOTE: I regularly read and post on TDPRI under the user name SnowWizard… long story on the name )
The Charges are that Josh Scott and JHS Pedals stole designs from other builders and charge more for their stolen work then the original products cost, thus ripping off both consumer and builder. That JHS makes substandard, poor quality gear that (once again) they charge more money for than they should. That Josh Scott maligned and slandered pedal maker Devi Ever to retailers, causing her to loose business. That JHS claims to be a “Christian” company but acts otherwise.
Updated charges: that JHS is linked to a “hateful cult” known as the International House of Prayer, and money from the purchase of JHS pedals goes towards an anti-LGBTQ agenda.
I came across JHS through ProGuitarShop.com. I was bored one day and looking through PGS’s “stand out stomp box” section (which is really cool BTW) and I noticed the JHS Morning Glory. I loved the sound but I wasn’t in the market for a new OD so I didn’t think much else of it. Later when I heard about the Superbolt I started researching the pedal on forums for peoples opinions on it’s sound, build quality, etc. What I found was rant after rant reciting the charges above. On face value I tended to believe them, but I was troubled by the continued references to Josh’s faith. As a worship leader, pastor and Christian, it was very concerning to me if a business like JHS were guilty of the accusations and running a bad business with the “christian” label attached to them.
If the accusations were true, then I wanted JHS to own up and distance itself from the faith as a business. But if they weren’t true, I wanted to know why there was all this smoke if there was no fire? As I began to dive into this mess more and more I found out that things weren’t always what they seemed and that the truth wasn’t as clean cut as the accusers would make it out to be.
I’ve divided this report into two sections. The first is for the three specific complaints most often leveled at JHS Pedals, the second section is for general complaints that are also leveled at the company, but usually in conjunction with the three main complaints.
Here’s what I found:
This the one that started it all. There is no bigger grievence against JHS than the charge that he stole Devi’s Hyperion Fuzz Circuit for his Bunrunner and Astro Mess pedals, claimed the design as his own, and then trashed her reputation in a letter to JHS vendors and retailers (some of whom also carried Devi’s Pedals.)
The first question to ask is: Did Josh steal the design of another builder? Because if he didn’t none of the other questions matter.
The charge first appeared because of a gear run-through that appeared on YouTube featuring Switchfoot guitarist Drew Shirley (see that HERE). As you may know, when a band is the studio they may use all kinds of amps, effects, studio tricks, etc that can’t all be taken on the road, so Josh was working with Drew to recreate a lot of his studio sounds in a touring rig. So they created the Bunrunner, a 2 in 1 fuzz pedal. One side is a heavily modified Tone Bender fuzz circuit, then Drew dropped the bomb, saying the other side was a Devi Ever fuzz. Devi Ever then went on an internet rampage, using her own forum plus many others to make the charge that JHS has stolen her design. (See Circuit Comparison HERE) Drew Shirley contacted her to apologize for any misunderstanding and to say that quite a few of her pedals had been used in recording the Hello Hurricane record, and that Josh hadn’t done anything illegal or stolen a design. Now, if you’ve read my article on cloning pedals, you know that he could have taken her design and it wouldn’t have been illegal. So Drew Shirley didn’t really prove anything or help clear up the matter. (See Drew’s Email HERE).
I found a response from Josh himself HERE, this is one of the only times I’ve ever seen JHS address this specifically, which is part of what adds fuel to the fire. They seem to have taken a stance as a company to not discuss it all together. But what Josh claims is that the Astro Mess is a “Devi Ever Style” Fuzz, not a direct Devi Ever clone.
So did Josh steal her design? My take is this: I don’t know for sure. There is a lot of murky water on this one but I’m gonna use some logic and common sense to come to my conclusion.
My first thought is that it wasn’t nessesary. JHS is known for their rehousing work (See examples HERE), where they take old pedals, who’s circuits are still good but their cases have fallen into disrepair, or who weren’t well designed to begin with and put them into new casings with high quality switches and in/out conncections. So to make a clone was unneeded. He could’ve just rehoused a Devi Ever pedal for Switchfoot to use.
My second thought is that it even if it was a clone it’s not a direct copy. Even Devi Ever admits (kinda) that there are diferences. I’m fully going to admit that this is the where things get the murkiest for JHS. If you look at the circuits, they are really similar. I talked to a guy who’s pretty savy with this stuff (and who doesn’t have a horse in this race) and he confirmed as much to me. If you take Josh at his word that he was building a modern, silicon “Devi Ever style” pedal then you’d think that their circuits would look similar. Besides, Drew Shirley made it clear, he wasn’t looking for a Hyperion clone, but a fuzz that would get an over view of the sounds from the many different Devi Every pedals used on Switchfoot recordings. But, if you just compare circuits, they’re pretty close. So you decide.
The 2nd question is “did Josh trash Devi Ever’s reputation in an email to retailers?”:
The text of the email he sent out can be found HERE. It took me a long time (months) to even find the the text of that email. It’s hyped and cited on blogs and forums as absolute proof of the evils of JHS but good luck finding it. When I finally read it all I could say was “THAT’S IT?!?!? THAT’S ALL HE SAID?!?!?!” Even if all the accusations against JHS are true and he’s lying through his teeth, it’s a pretty mild email. How Devi could have lost retailers over that email makes no sense to me. It’s interesting that if you find forum threads dated before the JHS/Astro Mess hoopla, you’ll find a lot of guys who had less than great opinions about Devi. Posters who questioned her design/build quality. Posters who referred to her in connection to a lot of drama, and other less than flattering opinions. Is it possible that if Devi lost business it had more to do with these issues than a mild email send out by Josh Scott?
My take: Whether he intended to or not, is sure looks like Josh created a modded clone of the Hyperion pedal and that there is enough of a difference between the two for him to feel comfortable claiming it’s now an original or unique design. Nothing about that is outside of the normal realm of workings of this industry. For example, go to ZVex’s website and you’ll find they use words like “unique” and “original” for the Fuzz Factory pedal which started life as a Dunlop Fuzz Face circuit, or Fulltone which calls the Fulldrive 2 an original design even though it’s a TS style circuit. Whether you agree with that or not, in the context of the industry, that’s normal. Devi Ever herself has claimed at points that all of her designs are original, but one of her pedals was a modded clone of the EHX Big Muff (IC version), so she’s done the same things she’s accused others of doing.
The charge here is that Josh stole a design from Run Off Groove, a DiY website that provides circuit designs for you to build on your own. Specifically, it’s alleged that JHS took the design fro the SuperDeux circuit, which emulates old Supro amps for their Superbolt pedal, which does the same.
Again, here’s where my ignorance of circuits beyond the most rudimentary level hurts me so I have to rely on the reporting of others. I own Superbolt #1397, I opened it up and spent some time comparing it to the ROG posted circuit. Are they the same? Beats me; the PCB version looked different, but what do I know? Some guys swear up and down that it’s an exact copy. Other says it’s not.
I know this: VFE makes a version of the ROG Superdeux that ROG has licensed and it doesn’t have the same features or (to my ears) sound the same. Similar yes, but not the same. I listened to every sound clip on the ROG site and many on youtube, and it doesn’t sound the same as the JHS Superbolt to me.
My take: If JHS took the ROG design they modified it. If they took ROG’s design, they took a pedal that is not currently produced by ROG. If you believe that the ROG design is in fact in production by VFE, then what about the cloned circuits that VFE makes of Ibanez, Boss and MXR pedals, or the Tube Screamer circuits that exist on the ROG site? Do you see how this thing gets really murky really quick? But it’s all an “IF“. ROG has refused to state that they think JHS took their design, instead they’ve made vague assertions on a few forums, and left it to others to make accusations.
To be honest, researching the Superbolt is what alerted me to Devi Ever and the whole internet mess surrounding JHS. I started my journey thinking that the Devi Ever story was the real issue. But after everything, if there was one accusation that really held any water it’s this one. But, as I said above, any water this accusation holds is incredibly murky, and that’s the thing that the anti-JHS crowd on guitar forums won’t admit to. It’s not nearly as clean cut as they would make it out to be.
THE KLON KLONE
This is a charge you don’t see much on threads these days because the JHS Klone is out of production. But it was a big topic on threads a few years ago. It’s also the easiest to deal with.
JHS produced a high quality clone of the legendary Klon Centaur. They never hid what it was or what they were doing. They were making a reproduction of an out of production pedal. Bill Finnegan who designed the Klon made a stink about it, and JHS said that if the Klon went back into production that they would stop making them.
If you read forums dated around the time when the Klon KTR (a mass produced version of the Centaur) was announced, people said “JHS won’t hold up their promise because they are untrustworthy” or whatever reason they felt would hinder JHS from keeping their word. But they did keep their word. They ceased production. They stopped making them. Even when the KTR went out of production, they didn’t bring them back, and they won’t do custom shop orders of it either. That’s a whole lot of money in lost sales for a company that supposedly operates under shady business practices.
My take: This charge showed people’s bias. JHS could be making a lot of money with it’s Klone pedal, and they aren’t. But no one will acknowledge this. No one started a new thread admitting they were wrong. They assumed the worst, and when the worst didn’t happen, the retreated into the shadows of their blogs and forums. Whether you agree with JHS or any company cloning pedals or not, the Klon Klone shows that JHS produces high quality pedals (or they wouldn’t sell on ebay for as much as they do) and they have principles as a company, because that’s a lot of money to loose out on by not producing that pedal.
JHS AND IHOP
A new charge has arisen recently that JHS, via it’s connection with the International House of Prayer church of Kansas City (IHOP or IHOPKC) supported an anti-LGTBQ agenda, specifically in supported legislation in Uganda that would execute people for homosexual activity. Additionally, it is charged that IHOPKC loaned Josh money to start JHS and so JHS is owned or partially owned by IHOPKC, which some consider to be a “cult” and a “hate group”.
There are multiple posts on forums and gear groups that say that Josh Scott’s dad is a pastor with IHOPKC and he loaned Josh the start up money for JHS. Josh’s dad doesn’t even live in Kansas City and has never been an IHOPKC employee. But, even IF Josh’s dad was employed by IHOPKC, what would that prove? If his dad was employed by the state of Missouri would that make the state a part owner of JHS? If his dad was employed by “Kansas City Plumbing”, would that company be a partial owner of JHS. I believe the answer is obviously: NO. To be clear, neither IHOPKC nor any employee of IHOPKC loaned JHS money or at any point owned a part of the company.
Josh Scott was a part of IHOPKC and was a volunteer there for a number of years, but that doesn’t mean that the church owns JHS. It also doesn’t mean that he knew or agreed with every single thing done by some staff member or the leadership of his church. IHOPKC is massive in size and scope. The church has around 1,000 full or part time employees. My last church had 5 employees and I often didn’t know about something going on until long after it had happened, I can’t imagine what a church with 1,000 staff members is like. Beyond that, Josh hasn’t been a part of IHOPKC for many years, so can you really hold the actions of a church he used to attend against him? If you were part of some group years ago, whether a church or a little league team, would it be right to hold their actions against you now?
My take: I looked into the IHOPKC connection to the Uganda Anti-Gay legislation. It’s legislation that I wouldn’t support. It’s legislation I know for a fact that Josh Scott and the employees of JHS do not support. It’s legislation that IHOPKC has clearly said it doesn’t support.
Now, as near as I can tell, IHOPKC has supported certain mission groups in Africa and specifically Uganda. One of those groups supported a specific politician who supported this legislation. Worst case scenario on this is that one IHOPKC staff member (who I was told was later fired) was supporting parts of what was going on, but it was a rogue action and not the work of IHOPKC. It’s also possible that the truth of this story, and how much the staff member actually supported the Ugandan politician or his legislation is more complex; how much did that staff member understand fully what was going on? Speaking as a pastor who’s worked with missions groups, if you’re in an office in America, you’re only gonna know what you’re told from the people on the ground.
To be clear: JHS has since issued a very blunt and direct statement in support of human rights.
At some point, you have to ask the question, can a christian run a company? Not are they capable, but can they? Tolerance is a two-way street. I have LGBTQ friends, family, and co-workers who know that I don’t hate them, but they also know where I stand. I try to treat them with respect, and I’m grateful for the respect they show me. Labeling a person or a company as a “hater” because of their beliefs or the church they attend isn’t something to be done lightly, and I think its fair to call out those who do, just as it’s fair to call out any christian individual, church or group that doesn’t treat people with basic dignity as “image bearers” of God.
POOR QUALITY CONTROL
I’ve heard this a lot on guitar forums. I own Superbolt #1347 and Morning Glory #2813. There are a couple of thousand other players who have the same pedal. Somewhere, someone has one that went bad. My take is that early on, as they were expanding they may have had some issues, but all the complaints about build quality seem to be from the past. There’s a lot of people on forums who rip on JHS, but everyone who owns on seems to love it. I follow a lot of gear feeds on twitter and instagram. There’s a lot of JHS on those boards, and a lot of love for JHS pedals.
BAD CUSTOMER SERVICE
Did someone, somewhere have a bad experience? I’m sure they did. I was in retail management for a number years to support me and my family in ministry. I can tell you that every business is going to have an unsatisfied customer. No matter how hard you try someone will end up unhappy. I’ve quite literally won customer service awards only to have complaints and phone calls about my “poor service” sent to my boss the next day. You just can’t win. I’ve purchased directly from JHS on their Black Friday Sale and had no problems. I talked to a few guys at local guitar shops, and there’s a positive vibe with them that doesn’t exist for every builder out there. The majority of JHS customers, both in the general public and on the retail side seem to be happy.
HE’S JUST A CLONER
This one would makes me laugh, except that people come off as so mean spirited and self-righteous about it.
JHS started out making vintage clones (the Pulp ‘n Peel), and Modified Clones (the Morning Glory). See my post on Cloning Pedals HERE. They are seem to make a point to be honest about which pedals are based off a classic circuit and what that circuit is. In fact, they are more upfront about it than comparable companies are in many cases.
To my mind, the most comparable company to JHS is Analogman, and no one gives him a 10th of the hard time they give to JHS over building vintage circuits, which is 90% of what Analogman does (and does it well).
I just read a forum where a guy said “no one is hating on JHS for cloning”. But he hadn’t read the whole thread where several posters did just that. If you don’t like cloned pedals, then just stick with Boss pedals, and dislike every builder, not just JHS.
HE DOESN’T MAKE ANYTHING ORIGINAL
This charge comes from the fact, as stated above, that JHS started out making modified clones of vintage, out of production pedals. But it’s not true of every pedal JHS has put out there. The Panther Cub, and the Colour Box are all forgotten in those conversations.
JHS has come up with some very interesting takes on vintage designs and and some very original ideas with the Colour Box and Panther Cub. All the critics seem to ignore JHS’s original ideas as much as they ignore the lack of originality from other brands and pedal builders that they champion.
This one annoys me because its just factually incorrect. People who make this complaint fall into one of three groups:
1. They’re cheap: I’m a fan of many Boss pedals, but these guys think cheap Boss pedals are overpriced. While they complain about JHS’s prices, they don’t seem to complain about other company’s pedals of similar price being outrageous… unless they do :). The truth is that those who complain about the price of JHS pedals tend to complain about the price of every high quality pedal.
2. They’re uninformed: I think some of these guys just haven’t looked at comparable brand’s pricing. Sure, JHS sits on the high side of their “quality level’s” price range, but not outside of it. Mad Professor, Walrus Audio, Catlinbread, Wampler and others all sit in the same price range for many of their effects.
3. They just don’t know how much pedals cost to make. See my post on the subject HERE.
CHRISTIANS SHOULD ACT BETTER
Nowhere on JHS’s website is there a mention of Josh’s faith or the faith of anyone else. JHS does not self describe itself as a christian company, unlike some other builders and gear makers who feel lead to do so. Josh’s faith is public only because of a profile done in Worship Leader magazine about the company*, and in part because of the artists he’s worked with and who he’s endorsed.
My take: There are some people who are just looking for a reason to hate JHS and they’ll pile Josh’s faith on to the list. There are others who hate our Lord, hate his church, and hate us as the people of God, even though they’d never say that. The way people like Drew Shirley are referred to as “the christian guy” on Devi Ever’s forum is telling to me, even if the forum posters are too blind to see it. I no longer worry about JHS being labeled a Christian company since they didn’t ask for the label, and in my mind haven’t done anything to tarnish the faith, except to people who already hated us.
*Side note: Since worship players play live and do so more often than many gigging musicians, shouldn’t more builders and gear makers want to be interviewed and profiled by magazines like Worship Leader? We buy and use a lot of their gear after all.
If this were a jury in a court of law, I would have to vote Not Guilty.
Some of the accusers like Devi Ever lack credibility. Some, like ROG aren’t pressing charges. Some, like the anonymous posters on many internet forums choose to recite hearsay and can’t back up their statements except to link to another forum thread where they either produce more hearsay or link to yet another forum thread in an endless cycle. That’s not to mention that at no point is a law actually broken.
Here’s some takeaways that I’m walking away from this process with:
-Beware internet forums. What’s presented as gospel truth and holy writ may not be the whole story, and may not be truth at all.
-The People who hate JHS pedals seem to have an standard operating procedure. If you remove one of their criticisms, they just grab for the next one. If you remove that next one they just grab for another one. It’s a circular way of thinking, and it shows that their agenda has become more important than the facts. Conversations tend to go something like: “What about Devi Ever? (take that away). Run Off Groove (remove that). Bad Service (that he’s disproven), and back to have you hear about what he did to Devi Ever?” The cycle continues and people who are reading forums to try to find out about a pedal they want to buy just assume that these bloggers know what they are talking about, taking on face value the evidence without examining it for themselves.
-In my mind, there is no denying the connection that JHS founder Josh Scott’s Christian faith has to level of vitriol directed at him and his company. While I don’t believe it’s true for everyone who dislikes JHS, it’s certainly a factor for many. Nobody brings up the faith or beliefs of other builders who have done or who’ve been accused of doing the same things that JHS is accused of. JHS is “that Christian company”. It’s an unfair, and telling double standard.
-To expand on my last point, I’ve seen forums that rip on JHS but in the next thread defend ZVex (or other builders) for the same thing. “It’s immoral how much JHS overcharges for their pedals,” while on the next page you see “ZVex is only charging what the market will pay.” Lovepedal is another company that has been accused of many of the same things as JHS but you don’t see even half of the threads devoted to it as with JHS. People will go on and on about how great the Keeley comp is (Ross Clone) but then go off about what a ripoff the Pulp ‘n Peel is (JHS’ squeezer clone) at a slightly cheaper price. Its seems like there is something deeper in the distain for Josh and his company.
-The greatest example of the hypocrisy of internet posters on this subject is in regards to Devi Ever. Devi stole $20k in Kickstarter funds from her backers and tried to write it off as a “loss of passion for pedals” and a “mismanagement” when she used it for personal spending. (Read about that HERE.) But no one is up in arms about it. No one is posting thread after thread like they do with JHS. There isn’t even half the same level of vitriol and outrage. The builder who has actually financially hurt and defrauded her customers is put up as a victim, and her credibility, which would have been destroyed in a real courtroom, is still held in high regard in the Kangaroo courts held across the internet.
MY FINAL VERDICT?
Who knows. There is a shady underbelly to the effects industry. My personal opinion is that it’s all about context. An outsider would hear someone call something “an original design” and say that’s not true, but in the context and jargon of the industry its very accurate. Those builders who claim JHS stole their designs have stolen the designs of others (Devi used an EHX circuit in one or her pedals and ROG has a few Ibanez TS clones), so if we were to put JHS on trial, we would have to try Devi Ever and Run Off Groove as well. In the end, there are two charges against JHS that may hold water. But, in our system of justice, they wouldn’t hold up in court so we must declare JHS innocent.
Personally, I have no problem owning my JHS Pedals (The Moonshine, Superbolt, Morning Glory, and two Little Black Buffers, plus a Pollinator Fuzz that I’ve since sold). They are well made, high quality pedals that all sound great. I’ve had no issues with JHS customer service and I recommend them to others (see my review of the Moonshine HERE). They are great pedals that work well in a lot of musical settings, including Church bands. But I admit that I didn’t buy these pedals until I had gone through the journey and investigation I had described above, so I can’t blame anyone who would be hesitant, only encourage them to do their own homework.
I wish I could say case closed, sadly this issue will keep popping up on various forums and blogs. If you walk away with a different opinion then that it totally valid, and I won’t give you are hard time about it. We can agree to disagree.