The Maker’s Dozen – Andrew Federico Jr. of Monster Grips
If you’re anywhere near this page, you’ll likely have heard of Monster Grips, the ultra-sticky plectrum holder. But do you know the story behind them? Having got my hands on some a while ago, and following the video review that I shot of them, I felt that more people needed to know the remarkable story that led to their creation, so I collared company founder and mainman Andrew Federico Jr. and sat down to talk Tommy Emmanuel, silicon and survival. Read all about it!
HR – Thanks for talking to Heavy Repping! For those who don’t know, how would you describe Monster Grips?
AF – My pleasure. Thank you for the invite! Monster Grips are high quality, textured, silicone grips that you simply place as a sticker on your favorite pick, or anything else for that matter, for a greatly enhanced grip. Gone are the days of unwanted turning and dropped picks, among other things. Guitarists know all too well, that when a pick changes position accidentally while playing, there is a myriad of issues from that one simple annoyance: missing a string in sweep picking or string skipping, loss of attack as the side of the pick glances off the string, or even if the pick isn’t fumbled it is common to grip it tighter, or quickly try to reposition without jumping out of time. We’ve found that for most musicians, it is an accepted frustration…until they use our grips. That’s when they question how they ever played without them. We didn’t set out to make a company, but they are something the industry needs.
HR – What was it that inspired you to create Monster Grips?
AF – They were born out of personal necessity after my battle with Leukemia. The chemotherapy and bone marrow transplant had not only left me quite weak, but with extremely dry skin, and I could no longer hold onto a pick. I tried all the products that were on the market at the time, and even things such as sandpaper, glue, engine sealants, and more. I wanted something clean that wouldn’t leave a residue on my hands, strings, or even ruin the finish on my guitar, so the research and process began. The road was certainly not easy as I had serious health concerns that I faced each day, but my amazing wife, Chantel, made it possible to see it through. She’s an outstanding woman, and we are 50/50 partners. I am most certainly blessed to have her, our two boys, and daughter; Novani (7 years), Raphael (2 years), and Elianah (4 months).
HR – What was your background before developing them?
AF – By trade, I’m a solutions architect with a background in development, on-premise and cloud systems, networking, and project management, but I’m a bit of a technology enthusiast, so my areas of study are quite broad.
HR – How did the industry respond to such a thing?
AF – It has been quite a ride for sure! It is one thing to have friends and family try your product, but we were a bit overwhelmed attempting to create a new product category, as guitarists that had played for many years without them were understandably hesitant.
Yet, that’s the exciting part! Once the first few reviews rolled in, it gave others the confidence to give us a try, and then caught like wildfire. It was, and is, awesome to see our product talked about on forums, blogs, videos, and the like, but then something happened, and we realized we had caused a ripple, seeing more and more pick manufacturers make guitar picks with grips or texture on them. They too, likely by our entrance, had realized this is a very real need. To our benefit of course, the other grips can’t compare, and pick manufacturers began recommending us to their customers.
HR – I understand that you had a chat with some heavy players in the industry as well – how did that come about?
AF – I absolutely love Tommy Emmanuel’s music and charisma, so when we heard he was playing at The Hochstein School in our hometown of Rochester, NY, we jumped at the opportunity. Novani was our only child at the time, and we had all dressed up for the occasion. When Mr. Emmanuel saw our young boy in a suit, he walked over and introduced himself to Novani. We were able to sit and talk with him for some time, and learned that battles with cancer were personal to him as it had touched his family and friends. We gave him a pack of our product and he was genuinely pleased, and stated that it would work great for when he flat picks. We all know he uses a thumb pick mostly, but even last week we had another review left from someone who loves to use them on the inside of their thumb picks to help secure them.
We’ve also had the absolute pleasure of being endorsed by Hershel Yatovitz and Scott Van Zen. They are both kind gentlemen, and amazingly talented. I also received a call from Lincoln Brewster after sending him our product, so I’ll have to get an update on how he likes them.
HR – What artists are using Monster Grips currently?
AF – Hershel Yatovitz, best known for Chris Isaak and the Silver Tones, was one of our first, and my goodness, he has played for a large number of famous artists.
Our most recent close friend is Scott Van Zen, who is a superbly awesome musician and rare find. He’s like the Swiss Army knife of guitar techniques, and you have no doubt heard his backing tracks on some of your favorite TV shows, movies, and he even co-wrote some of KISS’s songs with his friend, Gene Simmons.
Some other well-known individuals completely surprised us, and we are ever grateful for their feedback and lasting impression. Tyler Larson (Music is Win), mentioned us in his video for his absolute “must have” guitar accessories, and Tony Polecastro featured us on Acoustic Tuesday, in the most amusing way, and called our product, “the best guitar pick grip ever”.
Additionally, we have had the pleasure of sponsoring a good number of bands and artists over the years amongst the many thousands of musicians that enjoy our grips daily.
HR – Was the development process of such a thing a long one? Given the nature of the adhesion, that must have taken a bit of time.
AF – Our latest revision, last year, took months to accomplish, having gone back to the drawing board to enhance the material and grip. We went through several dies before we got it right as well. Creating such a soft silicone as thin as we do, while texturing it, and ensuring it still remains durable, is no easy task, but the end result is well worth it. We are honored to be able to offer a reliable and convenient solution for musicians around the world.
HR – You’re stocked through Chicken Pick’s website as well – how did that relationship come about?
AF – It actually came from Hershel, who had introduced us. We have experienced networking in the truest sense, and we greatly look forward to expanding our relationships and making new partners.
HR – Have you had any success outside of the musical field? What plans do you have to expand?
AF – Funny you should ask! We are looking to branch out into both gaming and mobile. Our biggest challenge is that we don’t want our primary industry to feel slighted, or perhaps confuse anyone, so we are thinking through our branding approach and what steps to take.
Ultimately, we sincerely want to get our grip in the hands of every serious gamer; on their controllers, portable consoles, and high precision mice. The mobile aspect is a direct fit, as even just one of our grips on the back of your phone can stop an unwanted slide off a surface. Even four small grips placed on the bottom corners of a laptop can help prevent accidental disaster should it get bumped on a table or such. To be honest, the possibilities are endless. We even had one sweet lady send us photos of her beautiful dog, along with a story explaining how her dog’s arthritis had advanced to the point she could no longer walk on the tile floors in the house, but that our grips placed on the bottom of the dog’s feet solved the issue, and she thanked us for improving her dog’s life. Now, while we cannot promote that for obvious reason of a potential choking hazard, it always amazes us how creative our customers are. One customer even got us using our grips on the back of our hung picture frames and canvases to help keep them perfectly in alignment against the wall.
Who knows how many amazing new uses will be found?!
HR – What advice would you give to anyone looking to purchase Monster Grips to make the most of them?
AF – I personally recommend a minimalist approach with the grip, placing a single grip centered on the back half, thumb side up, as shown in our logo. This will allow you to have your thumb utilize the grip and control the positioning of the pick as it glides across your index finger. Since the textured grip works so well, a single thumb flick in or out is all that is needed to change between strum and shred position. The goal is to let the grip do the work, allowing you to hold the pick more lightly. Placing a death grip on the pick is a hard habit to break, but once you do, you’ll find you can play with more endurance and better articulation, greatly improving your technique.
The second thing I would like to point out is that you can wash them in a non-moisturizing soap, such as Dawn, while they are adhered to the pick. This will remove any sweat residue or oils, and restore the grip.
HR – What picks do you use yourself?
AF – Well, I thought I had a nice collection going, but I think you have changed the definition of pick collecting! I absolutely love a variety of stone, metal, and various resin and plastic based picks, but lately, I’ve been finding my go-to pick is the SwitchBlade by V-Picks.
HR – What’s been the proudest moment in the history of Monster Grips?
AF – I honestly don’t know if I could choose just one moment. It’s been an amalgamation of every part of the process and everyone’s individual walks of life that have allowed us to become what we are today. We are honored to have worked alongside the passionate guitarists, the parents purchasing gifts for their children, instructors helping their students, Mom and Pop stores around the world that help keep the industry alive, online bloggers, magazine editors, and so much more. So, I would just like to take this opportunity to say thank you to all the hard workers and passionate and aspiring artists out there, who are truly our partners.
HR – Many thanks for talking to Heavy Repping! All the very best indeed.
AF– It’s been my pleasure, and I greatly look forward to more of your excellent reviews.