[interview] Bearfoot FX: Donner Rusk

Here's FXDB's interview with Donner Rusk of Bearfoot FX:

How did Bearfoot FX start?

I got into pedalmaking with DonnerBox (you can read about all that in the Donnerbox interview). Bearfoot FX is a collaboration between DonnerBox and BJF Electronics.

I met Bjorn sometime in late 2001 on the Musictoyz forum and we have had near daily email contact ever since and he has come to St. Louis a few times. We soon started working together and sharing ideas and brainstorming many projects even in the beginning of and through my departure from PedalworX. We had an ongoing 'for fun' project called TAPD&BFC which stood for Trans Atlantic Pedal Designers and Beer Fanciers Club ; ] Things like the Honey Bee and Little Green Wonder and others came from this early collaboration ~ so in many ways TAPD&BFC parented both the BJFe customshop and BearFoot FX.

BearFoot FX opened for business on 2/22/11. But it was years in the making. Bjorn and I had been talking for a long time about coming up with a way to make more BJFe pedals at a higher availability and lower consumer cost. Even before Mad Professor was started there has always been pressure on BJ to make more for less; we had often joked about getting him some 'elves'. About 2008, Bjorn decided it was time to find a way to make pedals somewhere else and he asked me to do this in the US and over the next few years we put together what became BearFoot FX based on Bjorn's electronic designs and my external designs based on BJFs and my BJF customshop artwork over the years (Again you can read all about my background in the Donnerbox interview).

Though we are still in our first actual year of business, there is a whole range of BJF designs already in the queue for eventual BearFoot FX production.

Where do the name and logo come from?

Bjorn Juhl of BJF does all the electronic designs for BearFoot FX and Bjorn means 'bear' in Swedish, his native language... and of course, the 'foot' is important in using floor pedals ; ].

Bjorn's wife Eva has always done all of the lettering and artwork for BJFe and it's part of the recognizable look of BJFs. So I made a font from her lettering samples and use that for all the lettering screens for BearFoot FX. So there is a very intentional use of BJF visuals in the BearFoot line since they are all BJF designs.

Hw do you start on a new pedal?

All the designs are Bjorns and he decides what he wants to release - most of the BearFoot line are circuits that have been BJF regulars or customshop/research pedals.

How do you name your pedals?

The Honey Bee got its name from Bjorn and I trying to come up with something special for him to take to the Stockholm Guitar and Drum show that he had coming up in 2002. I had been working on making a Flametop overdrive box that looked like a Les Paul flametop, BJ liked the idea but said he wasn't too fond of Cherry sunburst and preferred a Honeyburst look which I shortened to Honey B and then became Honey Bee as it was also descriptive of the sound sweet and gooey with a little buzz above.

Can you tell us something about the production process?

We have a team of local professional assemblers for the electronics (an engineer and 3 assemblers). They are all hand wired by people who have done electronic assembly for decades. I personally test each one with a real guitar and amp and my ears and we do any needed tweaking right there.

The externals are done by me and some local artists and painters. One of my goals is to get a large stable of artists to do a variety of custom runs.

How important is the look of your pedals?

very... BearFoot is carrying on the BJF look and feel and nailing the BJF visual vibe is essential.

Is parts selection important?

Parts selection is critical to getting the proper response out of the pedal.

Which of your pedals makes you most proud?

The Mint Green Mini Vibe was a bear to get into the small box and was literally a dream come true.

Which of your pedals was your toughest build?

The Mint Green Mini Vibe is easily our most complicated build and our assemblers invented some new curse words giving birth to this one.

Which of your pedals is the most popular?

The Honey Bee will probably always be our most popular pedal as it is already a recognized classic and has its own set of fans. We were blessed to have our first product already have a strong fan base.

What does the future of Bearfoot FX look like?

BearFoot FX is still growing quickly and we have all the growing pains and thrills of any company, but the future looks bright.

Are you working on any new products?

Ohhh yes! We are really just getting started...

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