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Meet Johnny Balmer and Victoria Thiede of Alchemy Audio in Jefferson Park

Today we’d like to introduce you to Johnny Balmer and Victoria Thiede.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Johnny and Victoria. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
Johnny: I’ve been a musician since I was a teenager. About five years ago, I started modifying guitar effects pedals on my kitchen table. What began as a hobby quickly grew into a profession. It happened very organically, with new business arriving via word of mouth. Victoria joined a couple of years ago as the workload increased. We now have clients worldwide – including members of Wilco, Smashing Pumpkins, Megadeth, Anthrax, Bruno Mars, Counting Crows, Lucinda Williams and Joe Walsh.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
The biggest challenge, as a two-person, husband and wife operation, is simply finding the balance between work and family time. We now have a workshop outside of our home – which means we don’t bring our work home with us any longer. Otherwise, the only other challenge is finding the time to complete all of the random projects we have. There is always stuff to work on!

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Alchemy Audio story. Tell us more about the business.
We mostly build, repair and modify guitar effects pedals. That is our core business. We also build custom instrument cables and service amplifiers and microphones when time allows. We are best known for our pedal modifications. We are the people to call when you want your favorite pedal repaired and / or “hot rodded”. I think our reputation for quality work and exceptional service sets us apart from the basement hobbyists who attempt this type of work. I’m most proud of our ability to make our passion our profession. What began as a hobby on our kitchen table is now a business with rock star clientele.

Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
I don’t believe in luck. What I do believe in is a mixture of determination, skill, work ethic, enthusiasm (and not being an asshole).


  • Standard shop rate is $40 per hour + parts cost.
  • Most standard guitar pedal mods range from $40 to $60.

Contact Info:

Getting in touch: VoyageChicago is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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