As a child in Scottsdale, Drew Foppe was constantly dismantling toys and rebuilding them.
It didn’t matter if it was a Nintendo or Lego, Foppe simply wanted to know how they worked.
“I remember having the Nintendo in pieces and my mom walking in my room,” he says. “I thought she was going to kill me. I had it back together by the end of the day, and we never spoke about it again.”
His tinkering led to Foppstar, a North Phoenix-based boutique music company that builds small-batch and limited-edition amps and pedals. The company uses Mallory 150, Orange Drop, Sprague and Jupiter Capacitors as well as Carbon Composite Resistors that are hand matched and hand tested for reliability and consistency. Once the amps and pedals are sold out, they are not made again.
Employed as a guitar tech, Foppe started Foppstar seven years ago because the musicians with whom he worked ended up being clients.
“I’ve built a lot of amps in hotel rooms and on days off,” Foppe says. “Last year, I was with Whitesnake for a little bit and we were in South America. I would build circuit boards for my amps, so I had less to do at home.”
A Scottsdale Christian Academy and Grand Canyon University graduate, Foppe received his first acoustic guitar at age 10. Through high school, he was an avid athlete, but his love of music never went away.
“My mom was big into music when I was little,” he says. “She loved her classic rock.”
His most notable band was Leo’s Invention, which was promoted by Jagermeister.
“They did all of our promo photos and made promo CDs for us to hand out to venues,” Foppe says.
“We recorded a radio single. Not too long after that, I left the band. I wasn’t into it anymore.”
Soon thereafter, Chico Diaz and Josh Kennedy, then of Chalmers Green, now of the Black Moods, suggested Foppe work for their friend Jim Kaufman in the band Opiate for the Masses.
“I said, ‘And do what?’” Foppe recalls. “They said I could fix their stuff. I didn’t know that was a job. Eventually, that’s how I became a guitar tech, and I haven’t really stopped. Jim has bought No. 2 of everything to support what I do. He’s always believed in me.”
Now a highly regarded producer, Kaufman uses Foppstar products on his records.
A decade ago, Foppe entered the music business as a guitar tech for the rock band 10 Years, which later opened for Korn, Deftones and Stone Sour on the Family Values Tour in 2006.
When the jaunt traveled to Canada, the guitar techs for Stone Sour and the Deftones couldn’t make the gigs. Foppe was asked to cover for them.
“That one tour led to a bunch of other opportunities,” he says. “I looked after Stephen (Carpenter, Deftones) on that tour, and Frank (Delgado, Deftones) on the DJ rig until we got back in the U.S.
“For Stone Sour, I ended up working for Jim Root. Ultimately, Jim remembered me, and when he needed a tech in the studio in 2007, he called me and asked if I could come out and work for Slipknot. I worked with Slipknot until 2009; 2010 is when I officially jumped over to Deftones. Those two bands have taken up my last decade.”
Foppe’s resume also includes a 10-year intermittent stint as Lindsey Buckingham’s amp tech and guitarist/keyboardist Brett Tuggle’s guitar tech.
“It’s weird, bouncing between classic rock and hard rock,” he says about Fleetwood Mac and the Deftones. “The personalities are so drastic, but that’s what I like about the job.”
Turn it up
Foppe’s side business has paid off. Mick Fleetwood of Fleetwood Mac uses his amps. Sheryl Crow’s band and Halestorm use his pedals. Deftones’ musicians use amps and pedals. The Black Moods’ Kennedy exclusively uses Foppstar amps.
“He’s the man,” says Kennedy, whose band recently scored the Top 20 rock hit “Sunshine.”
“His amps are pieces of art. I’m pretty hard on my gear. When it comes to my rig and my tone, he’s my parental unit. He’s the guy you don’t want to let down, because he’s just so smart. He’s like Doc Brown from ‘Back to the Future’ in his garage. He’s a mad scientist for sure. You cannot meet a better guy.”
Foppstar became even more of a priority during COVID-19, when touring came to a halt.
“I’m not touring anytime soon,” Foppe says. “I have all my touring tools at home. The last time I was in California, I picked up my work boxes and drove all my stuff home. I do guitar and amp repairs, setups and restrings—whatever people want in instruments. Touring isn’t going to start until sometime next year. I’m attempting to make this happen.”
Deftones’ Carpenter believes it’s going to work. He calls Foppe an “electronics genius.”
“Whenever equipment fails, he doesn’t have an attitude that defeats him,” he says. “He sees it as a challenge and says, ‘I can fix that.’ He does incredible work.
“He goes above and beyond, gets everything done and that’s it. He doesn’t brag about it or anything. He wants you to be happy, and he wants the work to be right. He has that good work ethic. He doesn’t have to do it again. I’ve told him over the years to take a break.”
Bassist Sergio Vega met Foppe as a member of Deftones.
“He’s seriously just incredible,” he says. “On a technical level, he’s probably the all-around most knowledgeable person I’ve ever dealt with in terms of repairing and setting up all aspects of our equipment. The people we work with are knowledgeable, but he stands out in that group of people who are really good. It’s a passion for him.”
A former member of Quicksand, Vega says Foppe’s talents go beyond repairing and setups. He balances Vega’s eight to 10 basses, lead singer Chino Moreno’s six to eight guitars, and keeps everything in top shape.
“He’s an amazing player as well,” he adds. “He makes my instrument sing. They’re easy to play when he’s in charge of them. He works very quickly and in adverse conditions. He’s fixed basses that have broken, where the body has split or the neck has broken off. He’s been able to repair it and have it sound good, if not better.”
Joel Hoekstra is Whitesnake’s guitarist, and Foppe acted as his guitar tech. The former Night Ranger axman, who’s prepping an album under the name Joel Hoekstra’s 13, says Foppe went above and beyond.
“He needed to miss a portion of the tour, and we needed someone to fill it,” Hoekstra says, laughing. “Drew created a manual for the entire gig with colored pictures of the whole entire rig. He put that in on a day off. We’d head down to the lobby bar and drink beer all day.
“He came up with this unbelievable PDF that described the entire gig for someone to use when he filled in. It was remarkable. It was so noteworthy—in a good way. We were all blown away. He’s amazing at his job.”
Hoekstra says the admiration is mutual.
“I would do anything for him after the job he did,” he says. “I was blown away by his performance and personality. I like to be around people who are positive and overachievers. Those are the kinds of people you want to be around because they inspire you and everybody pushes each other then. It can change the culture of a tour.”
Erik Kertes is just as enamored with Foppe’s work and personality. The musician behind Michael Bublé’s “Nobody But Me” says Foppe is a “very special being.”
“I’ve worked with a lot of guitar techs, but I personally have to say Drew is by far the best,” says Kertes, who has performed with Shakira and Bublé, among others.
“His aspirations to be the best guitar tech are so clear. I remember one night during Shakira rehearsals, she wanted a gold guitar. He stayed up all night gold plating a guitar in his hotel room. It’s amazing what he can do. He’s one of the most pure, sweetest human beings you’ll ever meet. I can’t say enough good things about him.”