[interview] BMF Effects: Scott Kiraly

Here's FXDB's interview with Scott Kiraly of BMF Effects:

How did BMF Effects start?

My father is great at fixing electronic stuff and amp mods. He modified a blackface Fender Bandmaster for me that just killed, I wish I still had it. Anyway, I was good a breaking stuff and sending it to him for repair and I think he said something to the effect of "You should learn how to do this yourself. A schematic is no different than a road map, just learn how to read it.", so I either bought or was given a BYOC Tube Screamer kit and it took off from there. 

The first offical BMF Effects pedal was the Fat Bastard and the first one was sold to True Tone Music in Santa Monica, California on September 17th, 2005. I knew the guys at True Tone from being a customer and they were key in getting the ball rolling for me.

My father was a huge inspiration and help and still is to this day. My father-in-law helped out as well, especially with some very valuable business advice though hands down my biggest supporter was/is my wife. She's the sounding board for everything from pedals to artwork but most importantly she's extremely patient and indulges my "hobby" quite a bit. 

As for peers... R.G. Keen, Jack Orman, John Lyons at Basic Audio and various forums. This is a constant learning process for me.

Where do the name and logo come from?

I'm a big Quentin Taratino fan with Pulp Fiction probably being my favorite film. As soon as I saw the Bad Motherf*cker wallet that Samuel Jackson's character carried I had to have one for myself and have carried it even since. When I first moved to California my neighbors were a couple of young women who took to calling me "BMF" and when I decided to start building for profit I was wrestling with ideas for company names. One night where I'm sure margaritas were involved, one of them suggested BMF Effects and it just stuck.

I don't have a logo per se but I did spend a bit of time finding the right font.

What sets BMF Effects apart from other builders?

With my company I do my absolute best to provide a positive customer experience...constant communication and follow up, deliver on or before deadline and generally treat my customer how I would want to be treated.

With the pedals I feel I offer great sounding, very well built pedals at a reasonable price.

How do you start on a new pedal?

A new pedal can come from a few different places...a sound I hear in my head that I can't get from pedals that are already out there, a certain guitarist's tone I happen to be obsessing over at the moment, pedals that are no longer made or suggestions from customers. 

The name, along with the font/color/look usually comes first (ass-backwards, I know). I knew what I wanted the Purple Nurple to look like long before I knew what it was going to be. The Liquid Sky was named during a "Name My New Pedal" contest that was held on a forum and won by vote. Some pedals are a play on a word, for example the Sisyphuzz. The Decho Box was another play on words (digital+echo with an Art Deco font).

From my head to finished product can vary. The El Jefe took about four years... I started with the base idea, made changes, loved it during the honeymoon period but for whatever reason put it away. Then I would revisit it months later, make some changes, played it some more and the cycle continued until I was happy. Some come along quicker, like The Great Wide Open. I just happened to mix the right parts and the group of guys I bounce my prototypes off of said, "Leave it alone, you're there."

How do you name your pedals?

All of my pedals have a name connection of some sort. The Aries is a Big Muff variant and the graphic is a ram's head (although the circuit is not a Ram's Head version). I had been sitting on the El Jefe name for awhile before it got used and I wanted a font and color that worked with it. The Fat Bastard is pretty self-explanatory as it's a boost that fattens up your tone and I need to thank Paul Cochrane for this one... I had started selling the Fat Bastard without realizing he had already offered up a DIY pedal with the same name a few years earlier. When I did find out, I reached out to him and asked if it was okay if I continued to use the name and he said sure. The Ge Spot Mk.I and F2 are a play on... well, you know. If you look at the graphic on the pedal, The "Ge" is actually the germanium box from the Periodic Table of Elements. As mentioned earlier, the Liquid Sky was chosen by public vote on a forum. The Little Red Compressor is a sonic recreation of an amazing '74 MXR Dynacomp that I had access to so the name kind of created itself. The Purple Nurple came to me while sitting in traffic on the 405 name, font and all. The Sisyphuzz silicon fuzz is a play on the Greek mythos Sisyphuzz. The Great Wide Open distortion is just that... a single knob (volume only) fixed distortion box that's meant to sound like an amp running wide open.

Can you tell us something about the production process?

Every pedal is built by me. Again, there are some things in the works that will most likely cause me to look for help but until then everything passes through my hands from start to finish.

Early pedals were built on either hand etched circuit boards or BYOC PCB's but the goal was always to develop my own circuit boards. I try very hard not to do multiple revisions of a circuit as I feel that's not fair to the consumer. Chances are by the time a pedal hits the street, I've been playing around with it for quite some time.

For the enclosures I primarily use Cliff USA enclosures that I drill myself.

With the exception of one-off custom pieces where a customer requests a special graphic, everything is powder coated, then clear coated and then silk screened. There was a lot of trial and error in finding the right company to coat and screen the boxes the way I wanted them but I was lucky enough to be helped out by Mike Fuller who turned me onto a company called Hytech Processing in Inglewood, CA and they are phenomenal when it comes to getting it right.

How important is the look of your pedals?

To me the look is very important. I want the customer to feel that they not only got a great sounding pedal but a great looking one as well. I want them to feel they got what they paid for.

How important is parts selection?

I'm not a big believer in "mojo components" but have come across certain parts that sound better in some applications than others. Basically I just experiment until I hear what I want to hear. I went through a period where I essentially hoarded NOS parts but eventually gave them away. However, if a customer absolutely has to have mojo inside I will do my best to accommodate them.

Which of your pedals makes you most proud?

I have some great customers and at the end of the day I'm very flattered that people like my pedals. I've tried running the numbers with charts and graphs to figure out what the most popular pedal is but things move in cycles. Right now the El Jefe overdrive is doing very well but coming up quietly in second place is the Liquid Sky chorus. The Purple Nurple seems to have a pretty dedicated following as well, the guys who have latched onto it really know how to work it.

Marc Ford was the first famous person to use my pedals and I was just blown away. I mean this was Marc F*cking Ford! This guy knows tone and he wants to use my pedals! And if that wasn't enough...he is super cool, just really down to earth and easy to get along with.

Which of your pedals was your toughest build?

The Decho Box was a time consuming build as is the Liquid Sky, both have high parts counts and can drag production down which can be frustrating when you're trying to knock out twenty of them.

Which of your pedals is the most popular?

Like I mentioned earlier, there doesn't seem to be one pedal that stands out as the most popular. I think the El Jefe is doing well because it offers a low to medium gain overdrive that doesn't suck all the low end out of your tone if you're playing at bedroom volumes and just gets better sounding as you get louder.

Who uses your pedals and for which genres?

I've built or sold pedals to Marc Ford, Jeff Massey (The Steepwater Band), Henry Kaiser, Andrew DeRoberts, Zac Brown, Paul Jackson and Charlie Starr (Blackberry Smoke), Miles Nielsen, Rick Holmstrom, Cesar Rosas (Los Lobos) and Luke Cawthra (Phantom Limb). I've heard that there are some other big names using my pedals but since I didn't sell to them directly I can't say for sure. Marc Ford had a great comment about a prototype El Jefe but I really can't repeat it. When I sent Jeff Massey the second prototype El Jefe, a few days later I got an email that said something like, "Played the new OD through my Ampeg B25 last night...holy balls!" and that's why the earliest versions of theEl Jefe are name Holy Balls! and I almost when with that name but general consensus was there were already too many pedals on the market with the words "holy" and "balls" in the name. I do still offer it as a custom piece from time to time though. One of the coolest things about what I do is the exposure to artist I may not have heard of otherwise and I tend to offer endorsements to people's whose music I like. I'm in the middle of working with this kid Steve Costello out of Canada. He's 19 and just smokes, I mean just kills it.

What does the future of BMF Effects look like?

Right now there are a couple things in the works but I've learned not to speak too soon just in case they don't pan out. The immediate goal is to weather the economy and come out the other side stronger than ever. Other than that... just to continue offering the best product I can.

Are you working on any new products?

There's always something getting messed around with on my bench. The next thing you'll most likely see is the Halcyon Phase which is in the final stages of prototyping and I'm hoping to have that out by the end of the year.

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