Brad Ferguson: The invisible man behind Shanghai's sounds
Tucked under a typical Shanghainese compound, inside a bomb shelter, and past a maze of 20th-century concrete and mold, Brad Ferguson, 32, tinkers away at various switches, circuits, wires and tubes, carefully crafting the sound effects, pedals and amps that will one day be used by an emerging generation of Chinese alternative musicians.
It is here in this dank workshop off Huashan Lu, roughly 9,000 miles away from Ferguson’s hometown of Austin, Texas, that he is influencing a number of musicians with the custom sounds and tones of his Futuresonica and FC Audio brands.
Ultimately, I hope to build [FC Audio and Futuresonica] into a world-class brand of effects and amps,” explains Ferguson, “but it's going to take some time— Brad Ferguson
All for Shanghai live music
“[Ferguson] is a scientist and an artist of sound, a huge fan of analog instruments and a progressive inventor,” comments Han Han, frontman for local rock outfit Duck Fight Goose and head of Miniless Records. “His pedals [and] custom amps can handle both traditional and progressive sounds very well.”
While Ferguson is currently making a name for himself as an electrical and sound engineer, his involvement in the Shanghai live music scene dates back to 2006, when he first began managing the now-defunct Live Bar in the city’s Yangpu District.
“Brad's main sticking point during his promoting days was staying true to the bands,” says local music blogger and scene aficionado Andy Best. “He put local bands first and always gave them a fair deal. For Brad it was never about profit, it was about the bands.”
From his days at Live Bar, Ferguson went on to stints at several other venues around the city, including Shuffle Bar, Windows Tembo and Underground and 4 Live. He later turned to audio production, recording and mixing material for local groups like Hard Queen and Boys Climbing Ropes, before concentrating his efforts on creating top-rate audio equipment, developing a line of effects pedals for Tonerider, including his signature American Overdrive and Super Lush Chorus.
“He builds his pedals tough,” states local producer and Luwan Rock blogger Adam Gaensler. “The pedals sound great [and they are] very competitive with other similar products on the market from both a quality standpoint as well as price.”
[Ferguson] is a scientist and an artist of sound, a huge fan of analog instruments and a progressive inventor.— Han Han, Duck Fight Goose frontman, head of Miniless Records
FC Audio is born
After more than a year with Tonerider, however, Ferguson’s desires were too big to limit himself to simply making effects pedals within the confines of another brand, so he went off on his own, creating FC Audio in late 2009.
Local musicians have immediately taken to Ferguson’s creations.
“I see [Ferguson] an infrastructure provider. I think his role [in the local scene is] transparent,” adds Gaensler. “The artist on stage should sound great and the audience believes that it is all because of the brilliance of the artist, [but] only us techies know that [Ferguson] helped him or her achieve that sound.”
Aside from Gaensler, Han and Best, all of whom use Ferguson’s products, some of China’s top guitar players, including Zhang Shouwang of Carsick Cars and Xu Bo of P.K. 14, have already commissioned custom pieces from Ferguson’s Futuresonica imprint, leading some to believe that FC Audio may be his biggest success.
Regardless, Ferguson remains committed to his products, his brand and his role behind the scene as the sonic architect of the local sound.
“Ultimately, I hope to build [FC Audio and Futuresonica] into a world-class brand of effects and amps,” explains Ferguson, “but it's going to take some time.”