Björn Juhl isn’t only an effects guru – he also knows all there is to know about valve amplifiers. He gave us in-depth information about the special way that Dumble- and Trainwreck-amplifiers are designed (Björn has personal ties to the latter brand). He has had long discussions with the late Ken Fischer on guitar sounds and amplifier architecture. Some of the ideas the two men had shared have found their way into the Mad Professor amplifier range. Not as straight copies, but rather as a tribute to Ken.

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Björn’s Underdrive-pedal really generated a lot of interest among the audience. Granted, he is known for creating legendary effects, but the idea behind this new pedal was as ingenious as it was simple. The Underdrive cleans up your overdriven/distorted tone in a similar way to turning down the volume control on your guitar. Actually, the pedal gives you a much better tone than touching the volume knob would. The pedal’s tone controls prevent the sound from getting brittle, if used, for example, in front of a fuzz-pedal. If you want to use a single-channel valve amp, but you need ultimate tonal flexibility and great clean sounds, the Underdrive is a real dream come true. If you hate having to fiddle with your volume control on stage, here’s the solution for you!

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Having Björn as a guest and clinician at Custom Sounds was one of the highlights of my professional life. This almost mystical person was finally back where the story had once started. I was a little worried he might blow us away by playing very loudly. Luckily, one of his main objectives is to achieve a larger-than-life guitar sound at small volume. Björn also spoke a lot about the importance of dynamics, while he introduced us to his newest creations. Björn’s not a man for reminiscing on glories past. Even though we had put a gleaming – and well-equipped – Mad Professor-pedalboard at his feet for the occasion, he didn’t even acknowledge its existence. Instead, he focussed solely on his three brand-new pedal effects: A fuzz, an octave-fuzz and a special pedal, named Model D.

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“Custom

Some people have the gift to experience sounds and pitches as colours. During his visit to Finland, Björn told us of a painting that represents all his effect pedals as colours. He said he had it put up on his workshop wall. I wasn’t quite sure whether he was pulling my leg, but when I went to visit him in Sweden he showed me this painting. After looking at the picture for a while in quiet contemplation, I asked Björn to tell me all about the different creatures assembled on the canvas.

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Custom Boards

Our customers are always overjoyed when they receive their finished pedalboard. It’s heart-warming to watch, how a happy guitarist seems to float a couple of feet above the ground, once he’s taken delivery of his dream ‘board. Buying your pedalboard at Custom Boards is like leasing a car: If it gets knocked around a bit on tour, you can simply drop the ‘board off for a once-over at our workshop. Should a pedal become loose, we will attach it back onto the ‘board, free of charge. If there’s a problem with a certain effect, we can swap it for something else. If you want a change in the order of the effects, we can do this as well. We will keep your pedalboard running, so that you can concentrate on making music. It’s a great way of doing things, isn’t it?

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The final testing stage is the third phase that sees two technicians at work. The other two are the planning phase and the first testing stage. The finished ‘board has to withstand a stringent test protocol. It’s listened to, and fiddled with. We look for dodgy plugs and patch cables, as well as anything remotely loose. In some cases a little dirt may have gotten stuck to the plugs. If there’s anything at all amiss, we will notice it at the latest, when the signal generator is feeding its signals into the ‘board. Once we are finally satisfied that the system lives up to our exacting standards – and only then – will we sign off on the pedalboard, and give it our Custom Boards seal of approval.

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Attaching all the cabling to the pedalboard frame is the most demanding, and most fiddly, phase in a project. But it’s also the most rewarding! It’s kind of addictive to fiddle around with the adhesive cable-retaining clips. I’ve been making my ‘boards in this way for years. Each finished project is like a little piece of art, and easily recognisable as the work of one specific maker. Sometimes I stare at a finished ‘board for several minutes, before deciding to try and change the position of one of the clips. Sometimes I even change it back to the way it was. To me attaching the cables is a spiritual thing, like imbuing the pedalboard with the best possible kind of feng shui.

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From October 2005 to January 2011 I clocked up more than 500 gigs as a guitar tech. I went through my personal notes to find all the bigger calamities that have happened on my watch. I counted 15 instances of serious gear troubles during these shows. These situations add a bit of perspective to the job of guitar technician, and serve as good examples of what can go wrong during a show. Gigging truly is a risky business…

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