[interview] Analog Alien: Jack Napoli

Here's FXDB's interview with Jack Napoli of Analog Alien.

Analog Alien is run by brothers Jack and Joe Napoli. The company is located on Long Island, just 50 minutes outside of New York City.

How did Analog Alien start?

Joe and I own and operate a recording studio called "Cloud 9 Recording". We have several effects pedals in our collection. Although we like many of them, we were never 100% satisfied with the way that they sounded - so we stared modding them. This eventually led to devising our own designs, the first of which was the FuzzBubble-45 - a dual effects pedal. We started using the FB-45 prototype in the studio and a lot of the guitar players really liked it. They asked if we would build them one and that led us to make custom pedals. It wasn't long before we decided to market them ourselves.

We have never received any help in the design of our pedals. The design and inspiration for them came from us and our needs in the recording studio. Working with so many guitarists on a daily basis is a great advantage and gives us insight when it comes to understanding what they're looking for in a guitar pedal, as well as what we need to have in the studio in order to satisfy that need. We did get some help when it came time to mass produce the pedal. Up until then, we were manufacturing pedals in small quantities and only taking custom orders. We were etching our own boards! Obviously, we couldn't keep doing that - not if we wanted to mass produce the pedals. So we called up our good friend Glenn Coleman of "Coleman Audio". Glenn maintains our 24 track MCI analog recording deck. In fact, back in the day, he was the one who built it! Glenn makes high end audio gear and I knew that he had to get circuit boards mass produced. He told me how to go about getting circuit boards made up and that was a big help. Another person who helped us get started was Andrew Roberts from "Purple Audio". Andrew showed us ways of making the pedal easier to assemble, without sacrificing quality. That helped a great deal when a lot of pedals need to be put together in a short amount of time. The quality of our pedals, and having control over that quality, was very important to us. Glenn and Andrew helped us make sure that we could meet those standards.

Analog AlienWhere do the name and logo come from?

The pedals we design are analog in nature. We wanted a catchy name for our pedals that had the word "analog" in it - a name that people would remember. We tried several different words after "Analog" until we came up with "Alien". Joe and I have always loved comic books, super heroes, and science fiction. It all fell into place from there.

The logo is "Chip", the "Analog Alien". He comes from Blip Tone. We wanted to design a logo that everyone would identify with and recognize easily. Since I have a background in graphic arts, I started sketching different drawings until we both felt that we found what we were looking for. We also wanted the symbol for the company to be retro.

What sets Analog Alien apart from other builders?

Our art work and the way we package our pedals is unique. We like to use dome decal stickers and we include some quality swag with each pedal. To us both the sound as well as the look of the pedal are equally important. We build prototypes of our pedals first and then we test them by using them in various recording sessions. So they undergo a lot of practical usage first, in a real live situation, before we decide to introduce them to the market. I really feel that it's this process that separates us from so many other builders out there.

How do you start on a new pedal?

Our pedals are designed to fill the need we have for a certain sound we need in a recording session. So they are conceived in the recording studio first. After that a prototype is built and tested in the studio. Only when we are satisfied with the results do we go into production. This whole process can take up to a year.

How do you name your pedals?

There is an entire story on our website about "Chip" the Analog Alien and how he came to earth. As far as the names of the pedals, the FuzzBubble-45 came about because of the 45 record adapter that Chip wears on his shirt… and the Alien Twister was a nod to the Texas Tornado himself.Analog Alien FuzzBubble-45

Can you tell us something about the production process?

All of our pedals are built in-house by Joe and myself.

Our circuit boards are professionally manufactured for us. We perform all of the hard wiring by hand. We use standard size enclosures that are professionally powder coated and silk screened. As a special touch, we like to add a custom domed decal of our logo to the face of the pedal.

How important is the look of your pedals?

The look is very important. It's just as important as the sound of the pedal. We believe that the look of our pedals should set us apart from other pedals on the market. The look of the pedal should make you aware of all the attention to detail that went into making it . If it looks as good as it sounds and sounds as good as it looks, then you have a winner.

Is parts selection important?

Yes, most definitely! We use the highest quality parts that are available today. All of our resistors have a tolerance of 1%. We don't use stock transistors that come from eBay. All of our transistors are made for us to our specifications.

Which of your pedals makes you most proud?

Currently, we only have two pedals that are available, the FuzzBubble-45 and the Alien Twister, but we are equally proud of both. We were able to build something to fill a need we had in the recording studio and at the same time market it to the public.

Analog Alien Alien TwisterWhich of your pedals was your toughest build?

They both presented a challenge when it came to designing and building them, but I'd have to say that the FuzzBubble-45 was the toughest only because it was the first one we ever did. The first time you do anything can be tough.

Which of your pedals is the most popular?

Both are popular and are enjoying a lot of success. Neither one stands out over the other.

Who uses your pedals and for which genres?

We make pedals that we would like to have ourselves. We don't target any one group or genre of music.

We currently have three artists who are endorsing or pedals - Tony Pasko, Dougie Needles and Wes Gear:

Tony Pasko is an independent artist/guitars who is currently signed to Down Boys Records. He has a CD out call "Noise" and he used the FuzzBubble-45 on almost every track on the CD. Tony was the first artist to approach us about becoming and endorsee. The FuzzBubble-45 and the Alien Twister now have a permanent place on Tony's pedal board.

Dougie Needles is the guitarist for Joan Jett and the Black Hearts. Dougie used the FB-45 while recording Joan's new CD.

Wes Gear is the touring guitarist for the rock group Korn and he is our most recent endorsee. Wes liked the old school tone of the FuzzBubble-45, but he also feels that the sound of the pedal is not totally rooted in the past. He's looking forward to checking out an Alien Twister.

Quotes From the artists:

"You can spend a lot more for a lot less than you get with the Fuzzbubble-45" - Tony Pasko

"You guys nailed down the classic Townshend/Who sound! For me it's a great thing to have a pedal that delivers that sound. You can never go wrong with a sound like that." - Dougie Needles

"The fuzz bubble is legit! It delivers a sick vintage fuzz as promised! I've had great results with it in front of my amp as well as my 'in the box' guitar tones." - Wes Geer

Are you working on any new products?

We let the recording studio tell us what pedals we should come up with. We are currently working on two new pedal designs and our goal is to have the first one completed by the fall of 2012.  We also hope to have at least a prototype of the second pedal completed by the winter of 2013. We will be attending the winter NAMM show next year and we would like to have two new pedals available by then.

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