Jack Roan creates boutique preamps and amplifiers favored by professional players all over the globe. Jack takes 5 minutes to answer some questions for Noisegate…
What / who was it that made you first pick up the soldering iron?
I’m certain my father had a hand in it, he at least gave me permission to use his. I didn’t get my own soldering iron until college. I recall bringing home a huge tube-powered Allen Organ rotating speaker cabinet in early high school, thinking I could use it with my guitar. I think that was the first thing I soldered, to switch the input jacks to 1/4″ instead of the organ connections. I did a terrible job and it never really worked out. Ha ha! I still have the amplifier somewhere but the cabinet is long gone. But that was my first hands-on experience with soldering and tube amps and I was very intrigued.
What advice could you give to someone looking to start their own creative business?
A big turning point for me came when I realized it’s very hard to be both creative and critical at the same time, or of the same idea. I need other people around me to bounce thoughts off of and offer advice. So very early with Noble, while it was still just a fun hobby, I got together four or five good friends and took them out for drinks and to talk about Noble.
In our second meeting I told them I was not going to pursue the tube DI bass preamp because it was too hard to build (I had made four by that time). Fortunately they saw things differently and one of them said “that’s your best idea, you can’t give up on that.” Another strongly insisted I needed to start an Instagram account, which I never would have done otherwise. Both were absolutely critical in what followed.
These guys encouraged me, pushed me forward, and held me to deliver things I wanted to do but couldn’t hold myself to. They helped me sort out what was great from what was just good or average. Often your friends or others around you can see where you’re gifted better than you can. Noble Amplifier Company would not exist today without the kind advice and support of these friends in my life.
What album is getting played at Noble Amps HQ at the moment?
Ha! Actually I usually listen to podcasts and audiobooks while working, it keeps my mind moving. Lately I’ve been enjoying “The Pilgrim’s Regress” by C.S. Lewis, read by Simon Vance.
What is the best & worst musical purchase you have ever made?
Oh man, there have been a few CDs I wish I didn’t buy. Once I saw a blues guy playing on public television and actually called in and ordered his CD. When it arrived it was nowhere near as good as what I remembered seeing on TV.
What’s next for Noble Amplifiers?
A lot of the same I hope! I am very passionate about doing all the assembly myself, and about connecting directly with every customer. It is a lot of work, but also a lot of fun.
When I first quit my desk job and went full time with Noble, others I knew in the industry tried to encourage me with advice like, “you’ve got to get distributors, you’ve got to hire employees, you need to rent a larger shop space, you’ve got to get a booth at trade shows, you could be making more money, what if Fender (or Ampeg, or anyone) wants to buy you out, you could be a millionaire”, blah blah. And I thought, if that’s what this is all about I’m just going to stop now because that doesn’t sound fun or exciting or even interesting. That sounds like the corporate world I just left; if I had wanted that I would have just stayed there.
When I thought about it deeply, the vision in my head has always been: me in the garage building things and working one on one with professional artists. That is what I really want. And when I realized I already have that, I had that nearly from day one, it became very easy to say no to all the other delusions of grandeur that others imagined of me.
To wake up every day and realize you have what you’ve always deep down wanted, that is so powerful. And it’s as much a conscious decision as an unconscious realization, to remind yourself of that every day. So I hope that’s what’s next for Noble. I’m not looking to grow or cash out or take over the world. Just more of the same. I’m happy, I’m healthy, and I’m hoping to stay here as long as possible, doing what I’m doing now.
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