Kleuck’s Interview – A Guitar Effects Craftsman

When I first contacted Kleuck, it was 2 weeks ago, and I was intrigued by some videos of effects pedals bearing weird and exotic names such as Screaming Red Toad, Black Coffee & Cream,… As I’ve never heard about these, I asked him. That’s how I got into the work of this DIYer who actually was quite experienced in the making of guitar effects.

His effects sounds rather good, the guy seems quite impassioned and he was dreaming about moving to the next level, to exist in the market of the boutiques effects pedals for guitarists! And actually, he might  be closer than ever to his goal, thanks to 2 video reviews made by Doc Loco, a user who felt in love with the Trouble Booster…

Highlights on Kleuck…

– Hi Kleuck, tell us a little bit about your journey in the effects world.

I started about 25 years ago when I dismantled an MXR Disto+ pedal (I still have the chassis that I used to build my own Trouble Booster). I figured out that a pedal mainly relies on an inexpensive component and I decided to understand how this was working. By that time I didn’t realized that the cost of a pedal was mainly due to the chassis/jacks/potentiometers and knobs rather than the electronic components.

So I started to study electronic and to fiddle with my first pedals.  Later, I started to build pedals for my own use first because it was less expensive , but mainly because most of the pedals I’ve tried were unsatisfying to me (I’m not as good guitarist as I would be, but I am very exigent with tone).

I found a lot of help in the Craig Anderton‘s book Electronics Projects for Musician .

– What are your guidelines when you start a new pedal project?

That’s an interesting question. I have three main guidelines. I want to build a tool, not a gadget. I want it to be easy to use and I don’t want it to be a tone sucker. In other words the less knobs it has, the better it will be.

Of course, a function requires a certain number of controls to be usable, so I will never suppress a control just to be minimalist. My approach is to find the optimal number of controls. For example, in my opinion a treble booster requires a filter control. This means that it has to have one additional potentiometer compared with the majority of the treble boosters in the market. Contrarily, a Fuzz Face doesn’t require as many controls as it is generally the case. I don’t want to criticize the boutique Fuzz Face pedals, but I think that building a pedal with one potentiometer per resistance is silly. It’s just a way for the to let the user optimize the pedal, while I think it’s the maker’s job. Less is more should be an asset.

Anyway, I always aim to reduce the number of potentiometers and to improve the efficiency of their operating range. Last but not the least, I want my pedals to respect the tone characteristics of the instrument. That’s what lead me to favor components over integrated circuits that always tend to reduce the dynamic range (when accumulated).  I also favor circuits using a minimum gain stages to preserve the overall dynamic, and the minimum capacitors on the signal path to minimize the unwanted coloration of the sound.

– How many pedals have you already made?

I’ve already built dozens of pedals and tools, but for now, I am planning to produce a dozen.

The first ones I can easily realize are the Trouble Booster and the Screamin’ Red Toad (a very dynamic overdrive witch I like to think of as the best distortion pedal ever). The Screamin’ Red Toad has been completed faster than expected thanks to Mikka who owns the first model and uses it on stage. I also will make the Black Coffee & Cream overdrive and  the Mojo Hand which is an optical compressor.

Still in project but soon to be finished : the Green Anoli tubes screamer; several buffers/mixers/splitters and a microphone simulator. And I have a lot of other projects for the future.

– So, you are soon moving to a professional production?

Well I think I don’t have the choice now.

– A last word?

I’ll have several : I want to thank all the people who believed in my projects, Mikka was the first one, Doc Loco for his videos and all the people who took the plunge and ordered a pedal. Last I want to thank you for the work on this site.

Well thank you for answering my questions and I wish you all the best with your projects… And maybe we will have a lot of users reviews of your effects, who knows?

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