[interview] Donnerbox: Donner Rusk

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

How did Donnerbox start?

Well I guess the roots of Donnerbox go back to being a pedal nut since I got my first pedal (a Morley Power Wah Fuzz) in 1973 and have been fascinated with them ever since. In the 90s I got into painting and building guitars and amps and I wanted to do something in equipment building so I got the idea to paint guitar pedals to match guitars about '98 and I started messing around with that but really got serious about 2001. I got the idea to do the outside and find some pedal builders to do the inside and bring in some other builders to have a sort of one stop custom shop. This grew into PedalworX as I found George and Bob and Dave and some others... my part was Donnerbox.

I have started Donnerbox pedals a few different times - the first ones were the Phybe and Amvybian and Spatial delay I designed and had built 2 and then 6 knob versions of the Spatial delay I did with 4ms pedals which was also in St. Louis but moved to Austin.

I then started Full Moon amps and pedals with a friend here and we did a whole line of amp protos and the Fraternity overdrive pedal. My friend moved back to Detroit about the same time Bjorn Juhl suggested a US build spot for some of his designs which became BearFoot FX (Bjorn in Swedish means Bear). So all the experience from PedalworX and Donnerbox and Full Moon has led to BearFoot FX which is really all that Donnerbox does now though the possibility is there for other ventures.

I learned to paint guitars from a local guy and there are many painters in my family so its not much of a suprise what I do.... when I started there werent really any pedal painters except Jason Myrold (for Z. Vex) and really part of my idea for Pedalworx was the reverse of the ZVEX/Myrold set up - instead of the painter painting for the builder, I thought I would have the builders build for me and I'd paint them and market and sell them ~ they would do the inside and I'd do the outside.

Landgraff/Arlon Price also started about the same time and that was another inspirational twist... I think the first artfully painted box I had was Roger Roberts Fatbox which was '96 and was the dip swirl of Darren Johansen of the Ibanez JEM / Fender Bowling Ball Strat fame.

Where do the name and logo come from?

Donnerbox is my netname 'Donner' with 'box' on the end since I dealt with stompboxes.

Well it was DonnerboX ( cap X on the end just for visual appeal), which came from a company I started in 2002 called PedalworX. I invented the TourboX as a marketing vehicle and did many of them for other builders and other people took up the concept and you still see them today...

I was known for painting and marketing pedals when I left PedalworX. I continued doing TourboXes for other people and started using the name DonnerboX and it became my official taxpaying business name in 2005, same year as the Tsunami and Katrina relief Projects I ran that year - I then started a custom shop of pedals I painted for Skreddy, BJFe, Analogman, Sweetsound, Cusack and the Donnerbox brand - today I mostly do BearFoot FX but it is still considered part of DonnerboX.

What sets Donnerbox apart from other builders?

I have always tried to push the envelope on the design of my pedals.

How do you name your pedals?

I like to play with words and names.

  • FRATernity was based around the Rat pedal and the fraternity of other pedals based on that design.
  • Phybe was a combination Phaser vibe.
  • Amphybian was a watery sounding vibrato chorus and the name was descriptive...
  • Spatial delay is personally funny because it was both about the Space looking paint job and because it was 'special' at the time, which in the southern US, where my mom's side is from, special is pronounced as Spatial and my uncle worked for NASA.

Can you tell us something about the production process?

The assembly, painting, lettering, sales and service are all done in St. Louis, MO

How important is the look of your pedals?


Is parts selection important?

Always best possible quality choices.

Which of your pedals makes you most proud?

Each has its own pride point, each one has some little innovation, probably the FRATernity was the most interesting labor of love.

Which of your pedals was your toughest build?

The 6 knob modulation Spatial delay.

Which of your pedals is the most popular?

The Spatial delay had a lot of fans though there weren't many made.

What does the future of Donnerbox look like?

Donnerbox is fully engrossed in BearFoot FX now.

Are you working on any new products?

Always have the wheels spinning...

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