Oxford resident Lance Giles admitted he was happy to see his guitar pedal business, Dogman Devices, showcased on Twitter, but he also felt that the platform could only partially tell its story.
Currently a creator and designer of handcrafted electric guitar pedals, Giles’ previous adventures include a 2-year trip to Japan as an English teacher, trying to become a beer seller under the guidance of a Russian entrepreneur, and a brief gig as an underground Japanese punk-rock musician ; all of this before finally launching his black-owned Dogman Devices company. Oh, and he managed to sneak in write a novel too.
Guitar pedals are used to modify the sound coming out of electric guitars. Giles explained that without these pedals, an electric guitar simply does not have this ring.
“When you think of a guitar pedal, think of the funky sound of that electric guitar,” Giles said. “Think Jimi Hendrix, I can’t think of a single song Hendrix did where he doesn’t use that pedal, that’s where that sound comes from.”
After a few years of experimenting with making his own pedals for his electric guitar, Giles figured he could turn his newfound hobby into a business called Dogman Devices; a light phrase Giles’ friends called each other in college.
“The name comes from what my friends called me at university. Instead of saying ‘hey man’ or ‘what’s up dog’ we called each other dogman, ”Giles said. “I like to be silly, and having a serious name for the company seemed hypocritical to me.”
But selling guitar pedals wasn’t always Giles’ first option. After graduating from Earlham College with a major in Japanese Studies, he booked it in Japan for two years as an English teacher in the countryside.
“I’ve always been interested in living in another country,” Giles said. “I have been inspired by many books from Hemingway, where he travels and lives in Europe. The concept sounded so cool.
Giles said he chose Japan because he found the language the least difficult to learn and the most accessible for him.
“Before I majored in Japanese Studies, I was studying anthropology, and for me it made sense to just choose a specific culture,” Giles said. “And among the different cultures that stood out, Japanese was the most accessible to me. “
Although naturally anxious in his new surroundings, at first Giles slowly drifted away from home at a critical point in his life.
“At first I was a little nervous, the transition from college to the adult world was stressful enough, and now on top of that everything is in Japanese,” he said. “The essential things for adults, like setting up a bank account, have become much more difficult. “
Soon after, Giles declared that he was fed up with the work and realized that his real passion may lie elsewhere.
“It was really hard to find jobs that weren’t related to teaching, and I was sick of teaching,” Giles said. “I started to see myself as a way to teach to stay instead of really enjoying it. “
Before he could take advantage of Japan, he first had to find a way to pay his bills, or he risked being deported. At this point, Giles said he found what he thought was his big breakup.
“I found a job too ridiculous to say no,” Giles said. “A job as a salesperson for a Russian woman who was trying to sell German beer in Japan.”
Unfortunately for Giles, his big break turned out to be a big failure instead.
“I had no idea she was the only person in the business,” Giles said. “After things started to go downhill, I suddenly found myself in a place where if I didn’t stop, I would be stranded in Japan with no money. “
While trying to find a non-teaching career 6,515 miles from his original hometown of Oxford, Giles left the Japanese countryside for a more suburban area. Here he found himself caught up in the local punk rock scene, the first stepping stone to his next trip.
“I started going to local punk concerts in the city, there was a band”Mortal family“Which I would replace as a guitarist,” said Giles. “I think what I took away from the experience was that a lot of people had these wild instruments and devices or pedals, and that piqued my interest.”
Giles entered the realm of punk-rock, with guitar pedals he had bought on the Internet, a non-apparent around the members of his band.
“I started talking with people in the punk scene, and they asked me why I kept buying pedals when I could easily make them on the Internet,” Giles said. “And I just started to learn more and more about them.”
After being unable to find a job, Giles eventually had to return home to Oxford, but his trip was not in vain.
Using his experiences from Japan, he began making his own guitar pedals at his home in Oxford and sold them under his company Dogman Device.
Giles said he thinks his work is “more of an art than a job”, and said he takes pride in being able to make handmade guitar pedals that reflect his own lifestyle. Rather than being made on an assembly line or by machines, Giles handcraft every pedal, from the circuit board to the engraving and finishing of the case.
“I approach building pedals as an art and a craft to make the products,” Giles said. “It’s not that other companies don’t have that, it’s that mine has their own aesthetic.”
Giles took his first big break when popular country musician Jason Isbell noticed Dogman Devices a year ago, and he suggested his 350,000+ Twitter followers consult the company.
Giles said as a result of the tweet, his entire inventory sold out overnight.
One year later, Guitar Center, an online guitar specialist site, featured Giles and his company on their Twitter account.
Giles never thought his career path would take him down this path, but so far he’s happy with the outcome.
“(The business) has been a lot better than I expected,” Giles said. “I started it just as a way to do something, I was just like ‘why not give it a try’,” Giles said. “It’s really cool.”