10 Years of El Capistan: An Interview with Strymon's Pete Celi
Believe it or not, Strymon Engineering’s landmark delay pedal, the El Capistan dTape Echo, recently celebrated its 10th birthday.
“Time flies,” says Strymon co-founder and sound designer Pete Celi. “It really doesn’t seem like that long ago, but I think El Capistan has aged well — probably better than I have.”
Of course, when the El Capistan launched back in June 2010, Strymon was just finding its footing as a brand.
“The possibilities were endless,” he recalls. “We were excited by the prospect of focusing all of our processing power on a dedicated tape delay pedal. I came up with the name somewhat jokingly as a play on capstan — an element of the tape transport — and El Capitan, the famous rock summit in Yosemite. Eventually the name stuck.”
Fast forward a decade and the success of the El Capistan has served as validation of Strymon’s concept and direction for making pedals, providing the confidence to continue pushing the envelope of what it means to be ‘high quality’ in an ever expanding pedal universe.
“El Capistan was the first pedal we designed with the intent to capture the nuances of an electro-mechanical system in DSP,” Celi explains. “We were painstakingly detailed in our efforts and the success has had an influence on subsequent product designs in many ways.”
And yet, it still seems as relevant as ever.
“New products can come up, but El Cap’s friendly layout and wide range of tones still make it very worthy of consideration,” Celi says. “I am still proud of the development process and the end result of the pedal. Its success has helped us grow to the company we have become and it’s rewarding to see so many people using it to achieve their own creative works.”
Perhaps never more rewarding than when Celi discovered that the legendary Jeff Beck — who has sat atop his list of personal guitar heroes since receiving the Wired album for christmas in 1977 — used an El Capistan in his Rock 'N Roll Party tribute to Les Paul tour.
But in retrospect, Celi believes that pedals like the El Capistan provide something unique for each musician that plays it.
“People will have their own ideas and use cases that they want to explore,” he says. “It might be 'always on' to add a sense of space, or used sparingly as a special effect with some less subtle settings. We also see many synth and eurorack users with El Capistan in their signal chain.”
Arguably though, the most impressive feature of the El Capistan over the years has been its staying power — and Celi says it isn’t going anywhere.
“We don't plan on any sort of future obsolescence or expected life cycle for any of our products,” he says. “We do the best we can with them and hope that they can stand the test of time based on their merits, as the 'classics' do — and that’s really the highest hope you can have when starting the design process for any product. That said, I think El Capistan has met or exceeded our highest expectations and continues to do so.”