[interview] EBS: Ralf Bjurbo

Here's FXDB's interview with Ralf Bjurbo of EBS:

How did EBS start?

Back in the 1992 we decided to separate the built-in effects from the first bass combo, the Taurus, and so we released the OctaBass followed by the UniChorus pedal.

Since we are (or were) all bass players we knew what we wanted.

Where do the name and logo come from?

EBS originally comes from Efekt Bass System, where Efekt refers to the company name by that time (Efekt Elektronik). EBS as brand name came from the first preamp built back in 1988 called EBS-1.

The logo comes from the handwritten text "EBS-1" on the first preamp back in 1988. The wave above the text in the logo actually comes from the EQ section layout on the same preamp.

What sets EBS apart from other builders?

EBS has an overall philosophy to make products for professional use. With the pedals, that means studio quality effects that works silent, offer excellent attack and action and works in full range, never cutting off the bottom. They are assembled in Asia, but we do QC in Sweden, and regular visits to the factories to do what we can to make sure our suppliers handle their business with high standards both in quality of products and in how they treat their employees.

EBS effects has become a standard among many professional bass players. And significant musicians (not just bass players) have found EBS pedals long before we found them, like Tony Levin, Brad Paisley (mentioned in interviews he's using an EBS MultiComp), Prince/Justin Timberlake guitar player Mike Scott and Sting/Beck guitarist Lyle Workman.

What makes EBS effects unique is that they are made exclusively for bass but are equally great on guitar and keyboard as well. You can not say that about many effects made exclusively for guitar.

How do you start on a new pedal?

We collect the in-house ideas and evaluate what could be interesting to do, as well as impressions and ideas from our artists and customers, not only making pedals from an economic aspect but because we believe in an idea and think it would be a cool and useful pedal. Design and Development takes everything from a couple months to a year or more before we push the button for production. Better do it right than hurry.

How do you name your pedals?

We usually put a name on our effects that pretty obvious describe what the effect does. So, a bit boring maybe, but also practical. These days we try to avoid putting "bass" in the names though, since that seems to scare off guitarists to even try them. The only one that has some funny connection might be the WahOne, but that only makes sense in Swedish.

Can you tell us something about the production process?

All design and development is done inhouse at EBS Sweden AB in Bromma (Stockholm-suburb). All assembling is done by contractors. Each EBS product comes with a Certificate of Origin where you can follow the steps in the production to see where all are executed.

The circuits use PCBs and SMT.

The enclosures are steel cases, made for EBS exclusively, with the exception of the wah pedal case, which is bought. They are painted and screen printed.

How important is the look of your pedals?

It is important in a way that we try to keep the brand together, so you instantly recognize an EBS pedal from other brands. We do not make the fanciest looking effect units, but they should look and feel and be sturdy and roadworthy. Sound is the main thing though - always.

Is parts selection important?

We do the design and choose the components that does the job best to support the design. This does not always mean the most known brands or standards. Some times we have chosen a component since it is supposed to be a high-end component from a high-end brand, but evidently learned they did not really live up to the reputation and replaced it with something from a less known brand that does the actual job better.

Which of your pedals makes you most proud?

Wow, many and for different reasons...

We are very proud of the OctaBass, that set a new standard for octave effects for bass when it was launched, and still stands tall in the competition.

Equally proud of the MultiComp, which is a compressor that is so easy to handle compared to most other compressors out there and sounds so good that many prefer to use it over expensive and technically advanced rack units, and can be effective for all kinds of instruments, everything from bass, guitar, keys to even horns and vocals.

We are very proud of the Stanley Clarke Signature Wah, since it is one of very few products that the legend has put his name on.

The MicroBass II is a great tool as well, and has been referred to as the "Swiss-Army knife for Bass players" by the press, which is a good way to describe its capabilities.

And we are proud to supply many of the greatest musicians out there with our effects - in a very wide range of styles too. Marcus Miller, Stanley Clarke, Tony Levin, Billy Sheehan, Adam Blackstone, Roger Glover, Alex Al, Justin Meldal-Johnsen, and countless more prominent musicians use and love EBS effects today - which makes us proud and humble.

Which of your pedals was your toughest build?

We have not yet made that pedal :) Our Tech Director knows his stuff and enjoys the challenge, and every pedal has its unique challenge to solve, but to point out a certain product... no.

Which of your pedals is the most popular?

The EBS MultiComp. It is one of the easiest compressors available to dial in, it sounds so great it can compete with many expensive high-end rack unit compressors, and it can be used on various instruments and in both live and studio situations. Most musicians need a good compressor from time to time, and the combination of what the MultiComp offers is dynamite.

Who uses your pedals and for which genres?

EBS has it's origins as a Bass Amp manufacturer. That means the pedals are made with the bass players in mind after a simple and effective goal - studio effect quality in pedal form. However, what benefits bass players seems to benefit guitarists and keyboard players too, so various EBS pedals are exceptionally good for guitar and keyboard, as well as bass. Top sellers among these categories are the MultiComp, DynaVerb, UniChorus and TremoLo. But several others, like the BassIQ and DPhaser are great guitar pedals too.

We also have a lot of famous users. As already mentioned we have made the Signature Wah Wah for Stanley Clarke. We also modified a MultiDrive pedal for John Moyer of Disturbed that evaluated to become the MetalDrive (important to say that is not a signature pedal though). Tony Levin and Billy Sheehan have been using the OctaBass for a long time, Stanley Clarke loves the MicroBass II with his upright bass.

There are a few anecdotes:

Pete Griffin, of Zappa Plays Zappa used a vintage phaser unit for a special sound that appeared on an old Frank Zappa recording, but never nailed it. So, we brought an EBS DPhaser to sound check, put it in his pedal board and Franks old guitar tech gave it a listening, nodded and said something like: "Yes, you got it!".

Another good one was when John Campbell of Lamb Of God A/B tested the MultiComp with his rack unit compressor, and found it so good it ended up on his pedal board immediately, making it possible for the band to do fly in gigs with one less big rack case which saves a lot of money on travel expenses!

Justin Meldal-Johnsens bass tech told that when EBS first presented some effects to him in the middle of the tour, he was so impressed he actually replaced several effects on his touring board on the spot, in the middle of the tour, which he had never done before.

There's also an unconfirmed story that guitarist Steve Morse borrowed Roger Glover's OctaBass to track a song on a Deep Purple recording while being endorsed by another brand.

Backstage at Justin Timberlake's Future/Love/sex/sound's tour we bumped in to his lead guitarist Mike Scott, who revealed he had an EBS BassIQ envelope filter in his stage setup since long, after being recommended to check it out by former Prince bassist Rhonda Smith years ago, these days Mike uses and love the MultiComp, TremoLo, MultiDrive, DynaVerb, UniChorus and more and has introduced them to several other guitarists and guitar builders that have come to us to check them out.

What does the future of EBS look like?

We tend to release at least one new pedal every year.

Our continuous focus will be on a wide range of use, from bass to guitar to keyboard and so on.

Are you working on any new products?

Yes, we are - and always are. Some exciting new effects in the pipeline, that is all we can say at this point. Some of them might raise some eyebrows too ;)

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