[interview] Moollon: Andreas Roselund

Here's FXDB's interview with Andreas Roselund of Moollon:

How did Moollon start?

Moollon founder Young Joon Park began working on pedal designs in the early 1990s, while actively performing as a session guitarist while collecting vintage amplifiers and dirt boxes. As a recording musician, he had been trying to recreate the classic sounds of vintage recordings with recent-make boutique amplifiers and guitars for many years, yet discovered that nothing could hold a light up to the richness and "mojo" of early-production equipment.

The launch of the first Moollon effects pedals (Moollon Overdrive and Tremolo) happened simultaneously with the launch of the company in 2003, with himself and electronics engineer Hyungwoo Kim.

The foundational inspiration for nearly all Moollon pedals are the tones of the 1960s and 1970s, along with the early pedal designs that worked with vintage amplification to become the basis of classic rock as we know it. As an electronics expert, Hyungwoo had schooled Mr. Park in the ins and outs of circuit design and Mr. Park in turn worked to familiarize Hyungwoo with what made vintage tone what it was, and by the year 2000 the groundwork for company research was laid with their partnership. Pedal design was the product of reverse engineering of existing vintage dirtboxes and extensive testing with Mr. Parks' collection of guitars and amplifiers.

Where do the name and logo come from?

"Moollon" is a romanization of the Korean word for "of course" (물론).

Although Moollon doesn't have a single logo, the blooming lotus is one of the main symbols that have been used on not only a few pedals and former guitar models, but also in promotional literature and banners. This particular lotus logo is a rendering of a traditional Korean Buddhist temple lotus image, which reflects much of Moollon's usage of traditional Korean artwork. Mr. Park studied sculpting in college in the 1990s, and wanted to use etched images of traditional Korea art found in palaces, temples and houses to reflect the handmade quality of the pedals' internal designs. The result of etching is that no single pedal is exactly alike, each one having minuscule differences.

What sets Moollon apart from other builders?

Everything is handmade. From the enclosures to the wiring, Moollon intends to preserve an artistic quality to design. Also, Moollon VintAge pedals preserve vintage specifications, when others forego such details in the name of practicality.

The result of some of this is a niche that may seem as a point of weakness to those who do not understand vintage tones on early recordings from the 60s and 70s: The Moollon ReVibe, for example, is truly the ultimate Uni-Vibe clone in pedal form. Few people realize that the original was "always on", using an active bypass circuit that engage when the speed pedal was tipped forward, completely affecting what we'd term the "bypassed tone". Engaging the ReVibe (voltage internally bumped from 9V to the Uni-Vibe's 24V) turns the LED on, but the pedal was already "on". This bypass also drastically affects the engaged signal, and when paired with vintage-spec fuzz face and/or octavia and fuzz pedals, the Moollon ReVibe really shines with a fatter, throbbing low end than we've heard in contemporary vibe pedals, sounding as close to the two original Uni-Vibe units in our testing studio as we've yet to hear. That being said, the Moollon ReVibe's bypass is not one that may work so well in modern signal chains. In addition to the True Bypass VintAge Wah, Moollon also offers a Split Bypass as well, for its very different character when setup with vintage fuzz boxes.

As mentioned before, such aspects of Moollon pedals render them less practical for individuals who do not pursue such vintage tones.

How do you start on a new pedal?

We presently have in production pretty much the extent of where we'd like to go with pedal designs, although we're working hard to eventually put a Modern Player series into production, one that offers a little more gain and flexibility, without compromising vintage tones.

How do you name your pedals?

Like Johannes Brahms' rejection of Franz Liszt's flowery program music titles, whenever possible Moollon pedals are simply titled for what they do. That being said, the Class A Boost is named as such because it literally looks like a miniature amplifier on the inside, wired point-to-point without a PCB.

Can you tell us something about the production process?

From enclosure etching to handwiring of circuitry, all Moollon pedals are built in-house by the Moollon staff. Including Mr. Park, there are a total of three pedal builders.

Moollon BufferAge pedals are handwired by two of Moollon's three-member staff to PCBs. A number of the Moollon VintAge pedals are point-to-point handwired by Mr. Park himself, namely the Moollon Class A Boost.

The present line of Moollon pedals uses aluminium enclosures, with custom-designed sand-cast enclosures possibly to be used on future models (Modern Player series).

The purchased aluminium enclosures are polished, then etched with Moollon's signature images. Upon completion of the etching, each one is individually hand buffed, inked, and polished again for the final product.

How important is the look of your pedals?

All Mr. Park wanted to do from the beginning is create a line of pedals that looks as good on the outside as they are immaculately wired on the inside, and the artistic aspect is intended to simply be a reflection of the art that goes into one's pursuit of what substantiates vintage rock tones. The hand etching is an enormously laborious part of each pedal, yet like the whole of the product, is never compromised (many finished enclosures have to be discarded!).

Is parts selection important?

A number of discontinued Moollon VintAge series pedals (Limited Edition Treble Boost, Fuzz 32) were dependent upon NOS transistors, but now we work from dependable sources for components that have been proven to be well-matched. Cost is secondary, and each pedal is tested side-by-side with our earliest prototypes to ensure consistency.

Which of your pedals was your toughest build?

Although the point-to-point wired turret board Class A Boost is a sheer work of art to vintage amp lovers who appreciate what goes into such a pedal, the Lotus Octah was by far the most difficult pedal to complete. Just about anyone could do a octave fuzz pedal, but to sustain with such harmonics like the original Tychobrahe Octavia and not die out even at low guitar volume knob levels requires extensive testing of individual components. It seemed like years for us to find what would recreate the original tone, but the result is one that Mr. Park stands by. Former Anthrax guitarist Dan Spitz emailed us out of the blue with some very kind words about the Moollon Lotus Octah, reflecting much of its uniqueness among existing octave fuzzes.

Which of your pedals is the most popular?

The Moollon Overdrive is by far the best seller. A lot of mid-humped overdrives exist, but what we've heard from users that regularly use it is that the Moollon Overdrive simply has the most natural amp-like breakup of its type, with just enough of a mid-push to be present, without sounding contrived.

Who uses your pedals and for which genres?

Moollon pedals are geared towards vintage tones. For this matter, a strong focus (namely the Moollon VintAge series) is on accurately recreating pedals from the 1960s that are no longer in production. The BufferAge series does include more modern sounding pedals, but the focus is still to emphasize a guitar player's relationship with his/her amplifier, and to enhance it, instead of creating something altogether artificial.

Also, we feel that the "true bypass trend" that has been ablaze for the past two decades or so is just fine, but the compromise of cable length and addition of a volume pedal, among other factors, convinced Mr. Park in the mid 1990s that the inclusion of properly designed buffer is no compromise to maintain one's tone on the way to the amplifier. As a result stand by his GW109S buffer in every BufferAge pedal, and have found numerous musicians who include Moollon BufferAge series pedals in their signal chains (and leave them disengaged!), simply because of what the pedal does to support and maintain signal integrity...Not just volume, but the original signal's tone.

We also have a lot of famous users. Our most recent custom-spec pedals are the Strangefuzz and Wah Royale built for Kula Shaker's Crispian Mills, and are presently also in very limited production through the Kula Shaker website.

Years ago he passed on a few words about our fuzzes: "The vintage sound is loud and clear but it's no sleepy retro copy, these pedals are living, breathing fuzz magic, and handle like moon-crazed wild stallions charging across forbidden plains. My bandmates are still quivering with shock after a ten-hour rehearsal. Any guitarist out there searching for the next level should jack into Moollon right away."

What does the future of Moollon look like?

As the production of Moollon pedals is limited to just a handful of units per month, the goal of Moollon is to provide effects pedals to the few individuals who are pursuing nothing but vintage tone. We personally feel that Moollon pedals are hardly "effects pedals for the masses", and do not cater to that market. On the contrary, we've found that serious musicians who have sought out Moollon effects (as well as Mr. Park's guitars, for that matter) tend to already have a sound and tonal mindset that Moollon pedals accomodate, and Moollon will continue to maintain a "vintage" stance on what works to create early-production guitar tones.

Are you working on any new products?

We've been working on four pedals for the aforementioned Modern Player series for years now, and hope to have them wrapped up soon. The compromise of having a non-etched enclosure is no small deal for us, as we really want to maintain all of the vibe of our classic Moollon pedals yet provide a fantastic value that still looks just as great. The circuitry is all done, but it remains to be seen how soon we can finalize the exteriors.

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