[interview] Oxfuzz: Ken Baluke

Here's FXDB's interview with Ken Baluke of Oxfuzz:

How did Oxfuzz start?

After years of buying hundreds of fuzz pedals, I thought to myself, why don`t I just build my own. That`s really how it started. And then, I gave some pedals to my friends and they were floored. They all said I should start doing this for real. And so I did. I think I started for real in 2009. I had saved a bit of money from my previous job, which I quit, to focus on OXFUZZ FX full time.

I got help from my friend Preston, who builds his own pedals, Wounded Paw. He made my first run of PCB`s. The rest I just did on my own.

Where do the name and logo come from?

I have a side project called OX, which is heavy, ambient space drone. So I thought Oxfuzz would be a killer name.

I already had a cool logo. I just dug the font, it looks like crop circles.

What sets Oxfuzz apart from other builders?

Warm, Fat, and Smooth is my philosophy. Tone is first and foremost my main priority. Not money or numbers... Tone!

I`m not "the light comes on and there`s sound, it must be finished" type of builder. I meticulously test each pedal to get the proper tones. I don`t care how long it takes, if it doesn`t sound good, it doesn`t ship. And I can always tell when a pedal sounds right, cuz I can`t stop playing it. A true test. Numbers don`t have ears. I like to use vintage germanium transistors and components to get pure vintage tones. My pedals are clean and built to the highest standards I know of. I also keep my prices down where people can afford them. We all know what it costs to make a pedal.

How do you start on a new pedal?

It`s like anything you create, you have an idea and you make it come to life by any means possible.

There is no time table, it happens when it happens. When it sounds right....then it`s showtime.

How do you name your pedals?

No. I don`t use cute, fancy names for my pedals. This is about tone... not silly names. I`m not into gimmicks.

Can you tell us something about the production process?

This is a one man operation. All pedals are built at my home, and then tested loud at my studio.

Circuits are all hand-wired by me on PCB`s. I like to use old school style parts for true vintage tones. All enclosures are bought and power coated with silk-screen logo.

How important is the look of your pedals?

Looks are always important.... but tone comes first. I like my pedals to look sharp and clean. Very plain and straight forward. Less is More school.

How important is parts selection?

Important for sure... especially when it come to germanium transistors. I like to use the best parts out there. I find that`s where you get the best overall tone. No cutting corners on parts.

Which of your pedals makes you most proud?

I`m proud of all my babies. I`m not re-inventing the wheel here, I have good ears and some good ideas.

I do have a couple of top Blues players using my pedals, which is always a treat.

Which of your pedals was your toughest build?

The Oxfuzz Bass was tough. I put a clean blend on a fuzz face, so the bass wouldn`t drop out. This pedals has three times the parts and takes a bit longer to make. Bass players dig`em.

Which of your pedals is the most popular?

I guess the original Oxfuzz is my best seller. Since it was the first, people seem to want that version more right now.

Who uses your pedals and for which genres?

No specific genres. My pedals can be used from Blues to DOOM and everything in between. They`re heavy anyway you want them. Since I`m into the blues and my band is pretty heavy, cats who know of us want that type of sound. Warm, Fat, and Smooth.

I do have a few professional blues artists using my pedals. Philip Sayce, Lance Lopez, Chris Duarte, Wes Jeans, Virgil McManhon, Tallan Latz, just to name a few. Some heavy DOOM bands also like Slomatics, Skull, Unearthly Trance, and Sons of OTIS.

What does the future of Oxfuzz look like?

Just to keep on keepin` on, and to buy all the germanium transistors I come across.

Always looking for more dealers to get the fuzz out there. Spread the Gospel.

Are you working on any new products?

I have nothing new planed at the moment. I like to work with what I know and use. I`m a fuzz guy, so I`ll just keep fine tuning the fuzz right now.

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