[interview] T. Jauernig Electronics: Timothy Jauernig

Here's FXDB's interview with Timothy Jauernig of T. Jauernig Electronics:

How did T.C. Jauernig Electronics start?

I've built pedals for myself for a long time. But, in 2004 I was in Dave's Guitar Shop and I tried a boost pedal that was popular at the time. I took a look inside the thing and decided it was about $10 in parts, so there was no reason to buy one for $200. So I went home and made the first Luxury Drive for myself. It was not a clone of that pedal. That pedal was a FET based boost, the Luxury Drive is a simple NPN transistor based circuit.

Dave happened to be there when I was in the shop again, trying out an amp. He asked if he could try the pedal he was hearing me use. He tried it and liked it. He asked me what it was. I told him I made it. He said I should go into business, and that it was as good or better than other pedals he had tried. I initially thought he was just being kind, so I jokingly asked "how many do you want?" He said "let's start with 10". From there I contacted a friend of mine from college, Greg Koch. I always like Gregs tone, and wanted his opinion. I sent him the Luxury Drive. He loved it, and said it was "butane" in a pedal. Greg asked me about overdrives. He said he was using one, but it died. So he asked me to build him one. That pedal Greg named the "DGTM", short for "Diabolical Gristle Tone Manipulator". Greg then wanted a combination pedal of the Luxury Drive and DGTM in one box to save some room on his pedalboard. That was the birth of the "Gristle King".

With Greg's help, over the next 2 years, the word began to spread about the pedals. The pedals were reviewed favorably in Vintage Guitar (Oct 2004), Guitar Player (July 2005), Tone Quest Report (2006), Guitar Player (2007). It just spread 100% by word of mouth. I have never purchased any advertising of any kind. I've been lucky that a lot of reputable players have used my pedals from time to time. That list includes: Greg Koch, Roscoe Beck, Billy Sheehan, Buddy Whittington, Steve Vai, Jeff Kolman, Robben Ford, Josh Smith, and a whole host of others. These guys and all the people who have bought the pedals are my advertising, and they spread the word in the best way possible.

In early 2007, I was contacted by Peavey Electronics to be the lead designer for their new Custom Shop amp division. In July 2007 I stopped taking pedal orders, concentrated on my 1 year backlog of orders, and moved to Mississippi to work for Peavey. Long story short on that: I loved the work I did at Peavey, and I think the amps I designed sound great to this day. But I left late in 2010 due to the fact that the mentality of the company was such that a "Custom Shop" will never survive there. Peavey wanted a piece of a market that they refused to understand.

At this same time, since T. Jauernig Electronics no longer existed, I entered a agreement with T-Rex. T-Rex was to license the Luxury Drive, Gristle King, and DGTM for a period of 5 years. All was well for the first year of that agreement. Due to some unfortunate circumstances with T-Rex, I chose to legally end that agreement.

In 2010 I was back in Wisconsin, and renewed my business sellers permit, and resumed production of my pedals.

Where does the name come from?

It's my legal name.

What sets T. Jauernig Electronics apart from other builders?

I think it's that my pedals are a labor of neurotic love. I actually do build them by hand one at a time. I also have a philosophy that "if I wouldn't use it, I'm not going to sell it". I want the customer to be happy. I've had very few complaints over the years, and very few issues of any kind. I've got 8000+ pedals sold since 2004, and most of them are to repeat buyers. Out of all those, probably less than 50 have needed any sort of repair. I think that says my products stand up.

How do you start on a new pedal?

It varies greatly. A design can come from a request from a customer or client, or just something that I personally decide I would like to have.

Some pedals go quickly, a matter of hours from concept to where the circuit is finalized. Others a long time. Greg and I worked on the fuzz on and off for 6 years, sending various prototype pedals back and forth. There are some key elements of fuzz that can be a hurdle to overcome. Every time I'd get one Greg would like, duplicating it was the issue. You can't have every pedal going out the door sounding completely different from the last (unfortunately, that's what I hear with a lot of other builders fuzz pedals... no consistency of tone). It is true that due to component tolerance, there will be slight variance, but you can limit that by paying careful attention to certain components and issues.

How do you name your pedals?

Names are always difficult. I like mine to be a bit funny. This should be fun I think. So my names are usually whacky in some way. Greg usually names the pedals he has requested from me.

Can you tell us something about the production process?

It's all in house.

I design all the circuit board layouts myself. I populate the boards. I do all assembly and wiring, etc. I used to paint the enclosures by hand, but now I buy powder coated enclosures and just drill them to my needs. I do all the labeling myself.

How important is the look of your pedals?

They have to look good from a "built to last" standpoint for me. Artsy is OK, and I never want to go ugly, but music is something you listen to, not look at (or at least it should be, the current state of popular music differs).

These are pedals, they are meant to be stepped on. I hate it when somebody shows me one of my pedals they bought, claim they love it, and there are no chips in the paint. Use it, abuse it, make music with it. That's why I built it.

How important is parts selection?

Yes. Switches and jacks are always being changed by the manufactures and that has caused issues from time to time. Also capacitors are important. When RoHS was thrown into full effect, capacitor manufacturing techniques changed, so I had to change some brands I was using. (Note: 9V batteries changed as well. They don't make them like they used to. EJ is right, you can hear the difference) And of course op-amps and transistors are important. I do request samples from manufacturers if I get a revision notice from them.

Which of your pedals makes you most proud?

Luxury Drive... It just sounds good. Most players buy a second one because they never turn the first one off.

V3 of the Gristle King. It just sounds so damn good. It's all about the tone for me. If I could only have one pedal, this would be it.

The "F"-Bomb Fuzz. I think this one is going to change some minds on fuzz. It does for me. It's a fuzz for non-fuzz users.

Which of your pedals was your toughest build?

"F"-Bomb Fuzz. So few components, but because of the simple design and small component number, each one matters more. Especially the gain relationship between those two transistors. I match the transistors so the gain is right, and the sound is consistent.

Which of your pedals is the most popular?

Gristle King by far. Simply because it's versatile and sounds great. A great OD and a great boost in one box, and you can switch the order. What more do you need.

That order switch has caused one MAJOR boutique builder to hate me. He even jumped out in front of me at NAMM in 2005 a said "Who the fuck wants to put the boost pre or post OD? That's a stupid fucking thing to do". Then Guitar player reviews the Gristle King, states the clever "pre/post" switch in a review. Then this other builder puts out his next OD/boost combo with a pre/post switch. Stupid, I think not. What's stupid was that guy's design of not even being able to use the boost without first having to have the OD on.

Who uses your pedals and for which genres?

Greg Koch of course. And the others I mentioned before (Roscoe Beck, Billy Sheehan, Buddy Whittington, Steve Vai, Jeff Kolman, Robben Ford, Josh Smith,...).

I don't do "endorsements" per se. These guys use them as tools, and depending on the situation, the tool may change. Stage and studio are two different things, and you have to use what's right for the job.

Buddy Whittington has for a long time been one of my favorites, and he has used the Luxury Drive and Tremolo since the beginning. Buddy once told me "I can use the Luxury Drive into any backline crap amp they give me and I can get a decent sound". Buddy is NOT a pedal guy at all, so it's very high praise coming from him.

I've been very fortunate that all sorts of player from Jazz players to Death Metal players have used them.

What does the future of T. Jauernig Electronics look like?

I'm still a one man show. I like it that way. I tend to be a little, no a LOT fanatical about the products I build. I've tried contract manufacturing, and I get offers from other companies constantly. "Hey Tim, we'll take over your production. You just design new pedals, and we'll handle the rest". That may happen some day, but so far I haven't been happy with what I've seen from a lot of contract manufacturers.

There are a lot of the "boutique" builders out there who have gone with contract manufacturing for part or all of their build process. This reduces their cost substantially, yet they still charge "boutique" prices. Personally, if I plop down $200+ for a pedal, there better be something special about it. But a lot of these guys claim "hand built". I've worked in the electronics industry from the consumer electronics end of it, industrial, and the MI industry. I know what a machine populated CKT board looks like. I use PCB's in my designs, I design the boards, populate them myself, wire them myself, test them, and ship them myself. If you buy one of my pedals, I made it. It's as simple as that. I think my customers and dealers like it this way.

Since starting up again, there have been a few new things. The new "F"-Bomb Fuzz is killer. It's another one for Greg Koch. Personally I have not been a fuzz fan ever in the 30 years I've played guitar. But I can gig with this pedal and never turn it off. It reacts so well to the guitar volume control, and your touch, that it covers a whole territory of filth from nearly clean to slightly OD-ish, to full on atrocity! I'm very happy with it.

I also revamped the Luxury Twin Rate Tremolo per request of Josh Smith. That pedal is currently offered by myself, as well as a signature product from Rockett Pedals, the Josh Smith Dual Trem.

The Gristle King has been revamped into Rev 3, which is a new OD circuit from the original. Which does sound better, and gives a lot more versatility. When I first contacted Greg about changing it, he was reluctant. After he heard it, he said "the original recipe is great, but I can't go back". The original circuit sounds great with single coils, but I was never happy with it with humbuckers. The V3 has no discrimination towards any pickups and sounds great.

Right now, I plan to continue as a one man show so to speak. The current state of the economy has reduced sales substantially. Also, I do not have as many dealers as I once had. I don't want to get a year behind again. So for now, I prefer to keep it small. But, if the absolute right situation were to present itself, who knows.

Are you working on any new products?

Always. A delay should be out in the near future.

OD's are always on the workbench, and at my gigs being tested. I'm still searching for the sound in my head. You know the one that's almost drowned out by the voices... just kidding.

A small wattage amp may be on the horizon.

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