Radial History by Peter Janis

My parents are both children of pioneers that broke the soil in Saskatchewan at the turn of the century. My Dad's family immigrated to Canada from Poland in 1909 while my Mom's French ancestors came to Canada way back in 1648. My musical roots run deep starting with my Mom and the old Heintzman piano that was given to her by her parents. She was the musical one from a family with eleven kids. Now retired, she continues to head up a choir that travels to old folks homes around the Ottawa area. Mom tells the story that I would sing before I could speak. I guess this is where it all started.

At the age of 7 my parents put me in piano lessons but unlike those that could read the notes, I would use my ear to learn the pieces. (I still use my ear to guide the sound of the products we make.) Later at the age of 14 I started playing guitar and remember being smitten with excitement when I would walk into a music store. By the age of 16, I was playing in local bands and to my parent's dismay; I had shifted away from scholastic endeavours to being a rock star. In 1976, at the ripe old age of 18, I got my official start in the music business at Steve's Music Store in Montreal where I started in the shipping department and was quickly moved to the sales floor. Back then, no one knew about synthesizers so I decided to get to work! It was not long before I was setting up Arp 2600 patches, helping folks use their Minimoogs & Avatars and got a chance to use the very first Oberheims.

During the next couple of years, I worked at Steve's Music Store and player music with various bands. This is how I came to meet a friend who at the time was working as a photocopy repairman for Xerox. I had ideas on how to make things work but back then, much of the equipment was primitive. I was using three amps on stage and I got my friend to build a switcher for me. We then built our first tube overdrive and let me tell you, it was terrible! But it was the beginning. I then conjured up the idea of a 3 channel amp. This was two years before Mesa Boogie had one. Back then, I was more interested in music and girls… so starting a business was not on the agenda!

I left Steve's in 1978 to play full time and after being on the road for couple of years, the disco era arrived. For bands that played progressive rock, it became more and more difficult to get gigs. I ran out of money and made my way to Ottawa where my parents had relocated. I soon got a job at Lauzon Sound where I expanded my technical skills in the area of PA system design, synthesizers and buying and selling vintage guitars. Yup… $250 for a 60's Tele was the street price back then!

During the next two years, I would design audio systems for everything from night clubs up to arenas and had become proficient with the new wave of synths from Korg like the 3100 and Sequential Circuits Prophet 5. The Arp Quadra was the latest technology of the day along with the LynnDrum. I eventually headed West to Edmonton, Alberta and immediately got a job at Keen Kraft Music. This store eventually became Long & McQuade. I was once again in charge of the high tech and audio side of the business. I brought in the latest PPG digital synthesizers, Apple Computers, and even had an oscilloscope to show folks how this stuff worked. By then CBS had acquired ARP and they noticed that some guy in Edmonton was selling their top end Rhodes Chroma synths. They headhunted me and brought me out to Vancouver where I took on the position as New Product Director for TMI, Fender's long time distributor and today, one of the key shareholding companies that purchased Fender from CBS with Bill Schultz and his team.

Over the next 10 years, my job was to diversify Fender Canada to ensure a stable platform until the new Fender could get off its feet. The first brand I brought in was Alesis. They had a 10ft table in the corner at NAMM and were showing the Midiverb. I freaked my boss out when I ordered 500 units! Next, I took on Akai right after they introduced the S900 digital sampler. In fact I was part of the steering committee that guided the development of the S1000. I also took on Audix microphones and eventually helped Audix develop the PowerHouse range of active monitors. This was two years before Genelec launched theirs. We built the power amps here in Vancouver and sourced the speakers off shore. Next we took on Casio and within 4 years, Fender Canada went from $4 million to over $18 million in sales.

When Fender Canada was shut down to centralize all operation in the USA, Bill Schultz asked me to move to California. But after 10 years, I felt that it was probably time to move on. Fender was getting too big. I started a marketing company with a few clients, but quickly felt that I needed to get back into the business I loved. One of my clients was CableTek. This was owned by Domenico Pingitore. I joined forces with Dom in 1992 where I eventually came up with the Radial brand. The logo is in fact the inside of a piece of quad cable. I chose the name Radial because it had Latin roots and would be easily translated to French and other languages around the world. We began by importing Mogami cable, Jensen Transformers and Sonex acoustical products. Soon, we found ourselves building custom snakes - a business that we continue to thrive in today. After a good run of several years, Dom and I decided to split. I had a global vision to build electronic products.

The first direct box we brought to market was the Radial JDI. This was in 1996. I remember our tech at Keen Kraft saying that Jensen was the Holy Grail' of transformers. Not only was he the service tech, but happened to be a top session player in Edmonton. He had built a Jensen direct box for his bass and would not stop talking about how good it was. The JDI came from this experience. In 1998, we purchased the design of the JDV circuit design from local studio guru John Vrtacic. The first JDV worked OK, but it was clear, we did not have the electronic design talent needed to truly go global. By now, we had started to import Presonus into Canada among other brands.

We had been selling Sonex for nearly 10 years, but came to realize that their core business was not the studio. They were interested in the automotive industry. In 2000, I decided to develop our own brand of acoustic materials and named it Primacoustic. We started by developing foam products and over the years, migrated to the Broadway glass wool range we have today.

A year later, my old friend who had been making Tonebone pedals and selling them on-line finally decided that he wanted a steady income. So we worked out an arrangement to sell Tonebone pedals and he would take on the role as our in-house engineer. This gave me the impetus to revise the JDI into the book-end design we now have. I eventually bought Tonebone and expanded our engineering team in Vancouver. Today, we have a team of six that do the Radial product development and another team of three that handle Primacoustic.

I honestly can say that after 35 years I still love this business! I have only had two jobs in the past 30 years and am grateful for the support that all of my friends and associates have given me.

Today, Radial employs a team of over 90 employees, a wide number of sub-contractors and we source products from across Canada, the United States and around the world. We are proud to say that Radial products are used by the very best players in the industry and are considered to be among the anchor brands of our industry.

Thank you all for your support.

Peter