Shortly after releasing Glow, the hot hot pink cable from our LUME colourway, I was subconsciously on the hunt for anything pink or neon! My eyes scanned the feeds and grids of Instagram and I was up and down the house finding anything pink or complimentary to use as a prop.
We had people messaging us, simply with the word PINK!, either in support of what we were doing or in desperation to get their hands on one. And then, a post by Vulk Audio caught my attention, a pink Percolator! It wasn’t long before we’d started a chat and agreed to trade said pedal for a bunch of pink cables. Result!
A year or so on and our many chats about gear, music and life got us thinking about working together on a project and Kjetil suggested that Loaded for Bear should try out, with his support, a small run of pedals. It didn’t take much convincing and following lots of messing around (on my part) and fun designing the enclosures etc, they’re finally ready to be released to the world on December 1st. Let’s see where it takes us…
Q: Please introduce yourself and Vulk Audio?
A: My name is Kjetil. I’m 41 years of age and I live in the middle of Norway with my wife and 2 kids. I run this part time project I call Vulk Audio from a small room in the basement of my home. For me it’s a hobby, and a bit of extra income and I want to keep it that way. I have no intention of ever doing this full time.
Q: Can you give us a little bit of history? Why and when did you start to build effects pedals?
A: Vulk Audio started out as a product of me coming out of a long relationship and suddenly having a lot of free time on my hands. In addition to this we were putting the band back together again after a 7 year long break as all the members kids were starting to grow up and we had time for playing together again.
I have a day job and an education in electronics / automation and have always been a gear-head, buying tons of pedals all the time. I have always played with the thought of making something myself, but 10 -15 years ago there was not able to find that much info available on the web about the subject.
So I did a bit of googling about 5 years ago. After we had gotten the band back together I was in need of some fx for my guitar rig of course. I ordered some kits from eBay, built those, it was fun and all but…
I then discovered http://tagboardeffects.blogspot.com/. This site changed everything for me and I have learned sooo much from this page and the people in this community.
I spent the first year building everything, I seriously think I have tried almost every vero layout on this page, haha!, and after a year or so I discovered the fun In tweaking these circuits, and how big a difference this made in how the fx worked for me and how I (we) played music.
My ‘creations’ are definitely driven by what I need myself and what I want to use on my own board. I make mainly boosts, drives and fuzz units simply because of the part count in them and because it’s in the drive section your tone and ability to express something with your instrument truly lives IMO (right after the player of course).
Q: We’ve recently collaborated on a couple of effects pedals that are being released under the Loaded for Bear brand. Can you talk about where that idea came from and what the process has been like?
A: It all started in just a bit of chatting didn’t it? And becoming friends because of common interest and related craft.
I came up with a suggestion after a while that I could draw up some LFB pcb’s of some circuits, so that you could tweak it around a bit and play with some values yourselves, make it yours.
In this I have had no part and it’s been fun to get updates and see how LFB has created something so far away from what my take on these are (at least when it comes to the design on the exterior of the pedals, but a bit in the component selection too from what I have learned).
Both the boost and the fuzz looks absolutely stunning and they sound great too.
The fuzz is based on a one transistor Darlington design which gives you a rich and fat modern drive tone with a synth like texture in the background. It’s a mighty tool for heavy riffing (think metal genre here..) and a screaming full lead tone for blues or more traditional rock players (it works well on bass too).
The boost is a mosfet design that many pedal builders have used as their inspiration for a boost and for good reason, it’s the best one around. Everyone needs a good boost!
‘working together’ on this has been fun. There have been some questions along the way from LFB but for the most part this is LFB’s product and creation and I think he has done a great job. I would love to make more PCB designs for LFB in the future!
Q: You sell mainly through direct messaging with your customers. Do you have any plans to expand this to an online store or marketplace or does this just work for you as is?
I make my pedals usually in small batches, often around 10 units and to be honest I kind of like it like this. The day this starts to feel like ‘work’ I think I might quit the entire pedalbuilding thing. This is something I do for recreation and as a sidegig, something I want to enjoy doing, so at the moment I don’t feel any need for a website/shop to be honest. I’m small and happy with it.
Q: Go on, tell us why you like our cables? 🙂
A: The most important thing about guitar cables is that they are sturdy and durable and LFB cables check this box.
They look absolutely stunning in all their colours and they sound great. Whats not to like? Top quality product.
But at first it was absolutely the design and the beautiful colours that caught my attention.
Q: What are your musical influences?
A: Oh my god, it started out with some classic rock early on: KISS, Scorpions, Poison, Europe, GNR etc, then moved into more heavy stuff in my teens like early Metallica, Pantera, Sepultura and so on.
Then came the grunge wave which I think made the biggest impact with Nirvana opening a lot of doors for bands like Alice in Chains, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam and Sone Temple Pilots. I was really into that for a long time and still am I think in a way. Eventhough grunge is dead now, I still look back quite often to those days.
Then I became older and got more into more mainstream things like U2, Coldplay and kind of rock that crossed into pop music more.
These days I still listen to a lot of those bands too, but I now like my music a bit on the soft side. I’m getting old (Gregory Alan Isakov for example is a great artist, Nathaniell Ratheliff, Thomas Dybdahl too and Asgeir from Iceland, I love his work, as well as a bit of slow going pop/blues like Gary Clark jr and Ariel Posen).
On top of this, or maybe more parallel to this, I have worked quite a bit as a DJ on weekends, so I’m no stranger to house music. No genre of music makes people move like EDM and I am fascinated by that, the energy it holds and the effect it has on humans!
Q: You play in a band right? Tell us more and where can folk find your stuff to listen to?
A: Yeah. This too is also more of a hobby thing. We are all grown up men with families and homes to maintain. We will never become rockstars or touring artists, but we love to play and create new music.
We rehearse once a week and it gives us a reason to meet each other and to be a bit social too, which is also a big part of why we put the band back together: friendship!
We try to record a bit and do some live shows every now and then in the area around where we live, but like I said, I don’t see us becoming working artists any day.
You can find us on Spotify or where you stream your music from under the name ‘STILLORGAN’
Q: Which other pedal makers and brands are currently doing good stuff, in your opinion?
A: I always recommend people go check out Expresso FX for boutique / authentic stuff. He has been a great friend and mentor to me and makes some of the best drives you can buy for money in this world. True vintage mojo.
A Norwegian brand called Fjord Fuzz also makes great things, maybe a bit more of a modern take on some circuits but very much vintage inspired. They’re unique looking too!
BOSS. Buy BOSS! There is a good reason why they are the biggest company doing this in the world.
And get the Honey Pot Fuzz from TC electronic. That thing is 30 bucks and is one of the best sounding silicon fuzzes I have ever owned.
Fender is also killing it with their new line of pedals like The Pelt Fuzz for example, a really versatile fuzz.
Q: Can you give us an insight into the guitar world in Norway? Who’s hot? Who should folk check out if they’re not already familiar with Norwegian music?
A: I have a couple of heroes (and I’m proud to say quite a few of them use Vulk pedals!)
– Øystein Greni – guitar and vocal in the band ‘BIGBANG’
– Fay Wildhagen – singer songwriter
– Tommy Kristiansen – great guitar player for a lot of big names (Cristel Alsos, Kurt Nilsen, Fay Wildhagen and Alan Walker is maybe the biggest one)
– Vidar Busk – Blues virtuoso, fantastic player
It’s been really cool getting to Kjetil and his amazing enthusiasm and passion for talking pedals has meant that he’s been available around the clock to talk through designs and answer my many questions. His knowledge of electronics and experience in tracing faults are truly what have got our two new pedals off the ground!
A massive thanks to Kjetil for his time as a mentor and for giving us more of an insight to the life of a successful pedal hobbyest. Go check out his work and say hi on Instagram @vulk_audio