[interview] BJF Electronics (BJFE): Björn Juhl

Here's FXDB's interview with Björn Juhl of BJF Electronics (BJFE):

How did BJF Electronics (BJFE) start?

Responsible for getting BJFE to build effects pedals was my wife as she simply suggested that since I had built effects for many years mostly for my own use, since there was nothing available that would fit my exact needs I might as well do that in the company.

Back in the days before internet you really were left much on your own but we were some guys that had interest in music and in electronics and we got together. Back in those days if you wanted to know how electronics could work in a musical application you had to take a sidestep across radio & TV to learn electronics first. There were very few publications and most of them for HiFi so you'd really be on your own. You had to be in the business to get access to catalogues or know somebody that was and then you might call a semiconductor company and ask for a sample of a new semiconductor to experiment on.

But there were many small stores that sold electronics and much was word of mouth at musicstores where you'd have a store clerk that knew 110 pick techniques and would tell about a book by Craig Anderton that you could order at the bookstore.

I met most people that did anything in electric guitar related electronics in Stockholm in the late 70's and early 80's as I happened to work in one of Stockholm's oldest music stores.

Specifically for what I do, I'd say I have had great help from friends in various capacities but really always had to do what I do myself and it meant building many types of things just for education and drawing conclusions from various textbooks and documents, one even on a paper towel.

Where do the name and logo come from?

It is an abbreviation of BJ Förstärkarelektronik but as few people in the world know how to correctly pronounce that unless they are Nordic it had to be made more understandable and later shorted.

There's a logo BJFE in handwriting. The first pedal with company name on was a tremolo and it was made in a Deltron box that allowed the whole BJ Förstärkarelektronik at the bottom line of the pedal and actually all text in Swedish and made with Letraset (that pedal was sitting in the window of my workshop and the LED of the Tremolo would flash day and night). On the smaller K430 ELFA boxes firstly the text couldn't be in Swedish and secondly how to get graphics on was not solved until my wife told she could paint them with a brush.

What sets BJF Electronics (BJFE) apart from other builders?

I think what has possibly had most impact would be dynamics of distortion and unusual filtering techniques and unusual tone controls on the technical side in any of my designs either made by my own hands or marketed as BJF designs.

Regarding my handmade pedals I think partly the colors appealed to some and partly the handmade look did not appeal to some. They also have a drawing on the bottom plates.

How do you start on a new pedal?

I have a need or an idea of a sound, somebody gives me an idea of a sound or a function, or a bet if I could.

I give it a long hard thought what kind of components to first try and then build and tune.

The pedals I make myself can usually be put into production within a few days but then I have only two hands. I do design for other companies but because the volumes are tremendously larger it can take quite a bit longer with those.

How do you name your pedals?

Color relates to sound and I'd choose red for a distortion just because...

Something that is transparent yellow (and this always relates to the color and function combined), so transparent yellow that it looks like melted honey became Honey Bee Overdrive and it gets a honey bee hovering over a honey pot on the bottom plate.

For fun the Pale Green Compressor color was chosen to match the color of a type of ice cream.

Most of the others were to match colors of 50'or 60's guitars or cars. 

The Model H was made as an idea of the sound Pete Townsend at Live at Leeds and was suggested by two people and the funny thing is that they meant two different sounds, one meant the shimmering clean sounds and the other the distorted assault while I had the owner of the Wall of Doom to field test this and he said: "Easy, you just take your Hiwatt and two Hiwatt cabs and an SG with a P-90 and you turn that on full and you got the distortion and then you turn the volume control down to '2' and you got the shimmering cleans". Of course this is very easy for every one interested to do...

Can you tell us something about the production process?

They are built in house and I build them all myself and I play them all myself to make sure they are fun to play and function correct.

BJF pedals are handwired on handmade pcb's, in handpainted enclosures that are drilled, sanded and brushed with a steel brush before painting. Some active components are selected and matched for performance and each unit is played for fun and performance before packing and delivery.

How important is the look of your pedals?

It's a fact. It is important as it makes them recognizable from a distance.

Is parts selection important?

I spend a lot of time selecting and matching parts. Mostly modern parts, not really NOS or rarely anyway.

Which of your pedals makes you most proud?

I think that changes from day to day.

Which of your pedals was your toughest build?

The MiniVibe (the MGMV etc.) because of the matching of the components.

Which of your pedals is the most popular?

I think that would be the Honey Bee. Yes, it had no comparison when it came out, but it fitted a need of low gain overdrive that would be more popular than other solutions.

Who uses your pedals and for which genres?

I design circuits for other companies as well as build my own, but I only build or design for sounds I understand musically and could use myself so essentially I might build or design all for myself.

I think sounds inspire to certain playing styles and as long as I can understand the use it can be an easy connection between technician and musician. I don't think it's really possible to satisfy a public (with the pedal design) - that would be psychic.

I sent some pedals to Ken Fischer of Trainwreck amps and he said the Pink Purple fuzz was something he didn't like at all as it was neither a Big Muff nor a Fuzz Face and hardly a fuzz at all. He did however greatly enjoy the Red Rooster booster and even built an amp to match the pedal of which he had two...

What does the future of BJF Electronics (BJFE) look like?

BJFE will be focusing more on design and development of new products than production and may venture into lectures. I also want to make use of everything I learned about pick-ups many years back and I am making a joint effort with Lundgren Pick-ups on that.

Production will not end anytime soon nor will ideas of what I could make, possibly I should think and therefore there will likely be more products although maybe not all made by BJF. In view of demand of some of the BJF models I've started a venture in the US (Bearfoot FX) to make them as they used to be made, more or less with the same colors.

I think that will be good on many levels. Once there was BJF pedals and those were distributed worldwide. Mad Professor Pedals started as an extra branch and now those are distributed via the former BJF net and beyond. If every MP dealer would also have BJF pedals they'd get something like only one each.

Are you working on any new products?

I have handed over schematics to MP Amplification of a chorus and a special release pedal. I don't know when they can be expected. I am also working on several other projects for MP, among them amplifiers and a reverb, which makes pedal production lower. I always have something new to work on for BJF but no time of release at this point due to heavy workload.

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