[interview] Knarzbox: Sebastian Grimberg

Here's FXDB's interview with Sebastian Grimberg of Knarzbox.

Knarzbox was run by Sebastian Grimberg. The company moved a few times, from Berlin to Bochum to Paderborn, all in Germany.

How did Knarzbox start?

I couldn't afford an MXR Blue Box back then (2005), so I figured I had to build one myself (after countless hours of browsing DIY websites).

So I started cloning other gear for myself and my band mates and finally got into f*cking around with electronics and doing custom jobs for friends. That took about three years.

So, basically, it was just one guy learning things by doing them and finally coming up with his own little boxes.

KnarzboxWhere does the name come from?

Actually, a friend from France came up with that while I was deliberately trying to come up with a name for my pedals.

"Knarz" is an onomatopoetic description of harsh sounds in general and "box" is quite clear :) It also sounds very 'krautish' and not too tongue-in-cheek. imagine the guys from Kraftwerk saying that.

What sets Knarzbox apart from other builders?

This is a very personal one-man-business. This means: direct support, almost always 100% customized products, NO insane prices (which seems to be important if you look at the market).

That, and... well, fill in the blanks ;)

How do you start on a new pedal?

I usually get a call or mail from a friend who wants some crazy sort of doomsday-device, so I sit down and figure how that could possibly come to life. Coming up with a new pedal is not THAT hard if you have some kind of a "modular" approach, so I try to do that on paper (not in detail, though) and then figure out these single parts on their own, combine them, do a little tweak here and there and perhaps I have a new pedal after a couple of hours/days. If it doesn't go up in flames after a week of testing here and there, we have a new pedal.

How do you name your pedals?

They just pop up and are used right away. Sometimes they have a funny connotation though. Most of the times, I guess. Sometimes I just listen to the sound of these things and the name appears automatically.

Can you tell us something about the production process?

It's just me in my room and sometimes the basement.

Circuits are either hand-etched (which used to happen for "the Schmuzz") or plain and simple perf- or veroboards. It always depends ;)

Enclosures are standard Hammond boxes which are then painted to taste; sometimes people want a sticker, sometimes they want a stencil, sometimes they let me do my worst.

How important is the look of your pedals?Knarzbox The Schmuzz

I guess not too important, since customers come up with their own ideas concerning their custom-pedals. Used to stick to a c.i. back in the beginnings, though. You never know ;)

Is parts selection important?

The only things I really care about are jacks, pots and switches. These things have to LAST. Since I don't have a huge amount of parts in stock, I always experiment with what I have around. If it works, I'll order more.

Which of your pedals makes you most proud?

  1. The Schmuzz, because it was the first small-batch-run I ever did PLUS the first useful design I ever came up with myself.

  2. Some weird suboctaver prototype (fuzz + 2 or 3 octaves down (as a synthy squarewave) + frequency-relative stutter-option) called "m.o.m." (because yo mama's so fat... not) which never made it beyond #2 (so if you've got one that's still working - be glad).

  3. aaaaaaaaand a ridiculously tweaked, hotrodded and perverted silicon fuzzface (with octave-up) I built for a friend (three times for his whole band after they heard the first one). It's called the "Buzzooka".

Which of your pedals was your toughest build?

I never seem to get any bigmuff-like things working properly. It's ridiculous, but 3 out of 5 behave in an odd way. Looks like a curse.

Which of your pedals is the most popular?

Popular? No way :)

Who uses your pedals and for which genres?

I mainly build pedals for noisy-afficionados; many of my customers have a sludge/post-hc/shoegaze/experimental-background. so do I. It's always nice to cause a big fuzz (ha-ha) utilizing strange and messy sounds. That got me started in the first place. So, always playing in bands helped me a lot to get some customers with the right attitude towards sound.

The bass player in Alpinist uses a customized fuzz for bass that I made, which is really badass. I don't know if he uses it in Alpinist, though.

Are you working on any new products?

Nothing much going on right now since I'm too busy with my other efforts; from time to time I conduct workshops that show you how to build your own pedals. Contact me for more info ;)

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