[interview] Emma: Jan Behncke

Here's FXDB's interview with Jan Behncke of Emma:

How did Emma start?

Jan Behncke started to do custom orders for different people in the early 90's. Switchboxes, A/B switches and so forth. With a background in electronic engineering, it soon took of, and he build his first autowah for a customer, inspired by Pat Martinos sound, that later became the DiscomBOBulator.

Per Byrgren has since the beginning worked for Jan, as an electronics repairman, with a lot of ideas in the department of 'how to' and 'how not to'.... He has prepared the SMD boards for production and does a lot of technical ping pong with Jan Behncke. He's been a technical sidekick since the beginning.

Former employee Timm Campbell, known as 'the american', was a main factor in the early branding stages and the funny name department. Timm used his extensive network to introduce the pedal in the States, and the rest is more or less history :)

When Palle Schultz joined the company in 2008, the production line was optimized, shifting to smaller and more stable components, preparing the small company for continuous mass production. That is a work in progress. Palle has worked with TC Electronic from 91-97 and via his experience has strong influence on sound, quality and design and was the main sound designer on the PisdiYAUwot metal pedal and the Stinkbug overdrive. He also designed and prepared the AmARHyll for production, using 3D CAD tools in the process. He and Jan Behncke can be seen as the two nutty professors in the widely praised commercial 'instructional' video about the AmarHyll on Youtube.

Where do the name and logo come from?

The company is named after Jan's daughter Emma Toft Behncke.

In 2008 we introduced the hand drawn Guitar playing 'StinkBug', as a mascot. The logotype will be changed soon, after much pressure from designer Palle Schultz, who is not a big fan of comic sans ;)

What sets Emma apart from other builders?

Build quality and uncompromised sound quality, life time warranty, the names, the artwork. Our clients are widely spread in any genre you can think of. With so few pedals in our product line, we think that is quite unique.

How do you start on a new pedal?

We get ideas from general inspiration all over, put it on paper and put i aside, until we decide on what idea to develop.

How long it takes.... That depends on the product.

How do you name your pedals?

Names are often derived from the pedal itself. E.g. the DiscomBOBulator, A super fast autowah, can sound quite discombobulated when played in a certain way. We don't like numbers much. We think DiscomBOBulator gives the pedal much more of the character it earns, than e.g. AW1Y - Envelope Filter.

Most of our names are from cartoons or words from the Danish language spelled in a way that makes most people pronounce it right.

Can you tell us something about the production process?

In house production, outhouse components.

Enclosures: Rugged aluminium casing with anodized aluminum surface plate. Foam for the bottom plate, comes with the pedals, in case they are used on the floor. In many cases users fits them with velcro for their pedalboards. 

Surface are designed by hand, transferred to computer and later printed on the surface plate.

How important is the look of your pedals?

Important enough, but the sound is the most important.

How important is parts selection?

Quality and sound are essential to us. We don't care one bit about anything else.

Which of your pedals makes you most proud?

I'm proud of them all.

Which of your pedals was your toughest build?

The PisdiYAUwot was a challenge because of the vast amount of gain. How we fixed it and what we fixed is a secret ;)

Which of your pedals is the most popular?

They sell equally, but the PisdiYAUwot has been the fastest selling pedal in our history. The Reeza the most.

Who uses your pedals and for which genres?

It's a mix. We mostly make them for ourselves, that people like them is quite nice.

Scott Henderson, John Scofield and Pino Palladino uses our pedals, either live or in the studio. We haven't changed any pedals. If a known user uses our pedal, it is a production model.

What does the future of Emma look like?

Our short term goal is to get the remaining products designed with high and even quality components, for mass production, so the quality and sound between the pedals are as similar as can be. We are not far from that goal.

Thereafter, we'd like to get our development of new products into a higher gear. We have a lot of ideas and work to get them realized.

Are you working on any new products?

That is something you can read about on our website. :)

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