Full steam ahead in Bodan's instrument factory
Heis the synthesizer who became "Big in Japan".
Thisis the slightly improbable story of how Johan Berglundfrom Bodan, Skellefteå, took his hobby all the wayfrom the basement to the coronation of King Charles .
At Johan's home in Bodan, a mile outside Skellefteå, the idyll is almost total. Next to the red house with white knots, sheep graze in the fields. A few outbuildings, a gravel road and lush surroundings. There's not much to tell you what's inside the walls - an instrument factory whose idiosyncratic synthesizer hybrids have achieved worldwide success.
Let's take it from the top.
- I've always had music and instruments as a hobby, and I've always been a synthesizer person. I had an instrument called an EWI, or electronic wind instrument, a mixture of a saxophone and a synthesizer. Around 2016, I got involved in programming and then hatched the idea that you should be able to build your own," says Johan.
That's what he said and did. He built a prototype and posted the result on some forums for electronics enthusiasts. After getting in touch with a player of the sister instrument, the trumpet-like EVI (electronic valve instrument) which was no longer available anywhere, the project developed in that direction and finally he had a finished product - a new EVI.
- "Many people contacted me and were interested in getting their hands on one. I quickly realized that someone would have to build it, and then I thought: It must be me!
Among others, the original inventor, the legendary Nyle Steiner from the US, got in touch.
- He was delighted that someone was taking his stuff further.
Johan first focused on the trumpet version, and a little later he started building the saxophone. Since then it has, in his own words, "taken off".
- "The saxophone version is the real big seller now. Somewhere along the way I was contacted by a guy in Japan who had seen what I had done. He became my agent there. Now they produce the saxophone version under license in Japan.
Around 2018, Johan decided to quit his job as a computer technician in Skellefteå and start the company Berglund Instruments. A big step, he says.
- "I've always been a security person and found it comfortable to be employed. But this was the chance of a lifetime to do something I'm passionate about. So it was just to take the bull by the horns and find out how to start your own business. There, resources such as LTU Business and Nyföretagarcentrum in Skellefteå have been gold, he says.
The main workshop itself, where he solders and assembles, is down in the basement in a former hobby room. In an outbuilding there is a printing room with a 3D printer and a laser cutter. Metalwork is done in the garage, and upstairs Johan tests instruments in his music room.
- "I basically do everything myself. With soldering and such, I sometimes get help from my mother, who is retired. And a friend in Huddinge, John Stäck, helps me with programming. Then I try to find a balance between building instruments and developing new products.
He describes his new life as an instrument maker as 'surreal'.
- "I've been lucky enough to get early attention from people who are great musicians on these instruments. This has made more people want them. They make the instruments sound great! Then other people want them too.
The journey with the company has also been a personal journey.
- "I used to have trouble talking on the phone and things like that, but I had to stop that. Now I no longer have any problems calling customers, and I'm very happy about that.
And what about the coronation of King Charles?
- Lionel Richie played at the coronation concert, and his saxophone player is one of my customers. I got a message one morning that my instrument had been seen by a billion people around the world. It was crazy! I went on Youtube and saw the BBC clip of that. For me it felt incredibly big," says Johan.
Name: Johan Berglund
Age: 50 years old.
Family: Wife Sara and three bonus children.
Interests: Music is the biggest interest. Electronics and computers, TV and movies.