[interview] Analog Man: Mike Piera

Here's FXDB's interview with Mike Piera of Analog Man:

How did Analog Man start?

I became interested in Vintage Guitars when I worked in Japan for almost a year in 1985 and saw the great vintage guitar shops (and prices!) in Japan. I worked in Japan as a software engineer on transistor test systems in Tachikawa and visited Tokyo often, where my girlfriend lived.

I was able to find many vintage guitars in the northeast USA before vintage guitars got as popular in the USA as they were in Japan. After the vintage guitar boom in the USA, effects were still relatively easy to find so I started concentrating on effects. I studied them for several years, while finding and selling vintage effects, but the popular ones (Fuzzfaces, TS-808s, etc) were VERY hard to find and super expensive. And it was interesting that some old pedals sounded great while other identical examples were lousy... a lot of studying resulted. Soon I started making some of these myself, to meet the demand for vintage pedals at a better price and higher quality than the originals. Most of the Analog Man pedals were first built to meet the demand for these vintage icons when there were no alternatives available (TS9/808, Clone chorus, Comprossor, etc).

In the 1990s, I learned about the tube screamer history, and studied the circuits and learned how to modify a TS9 into a TS-808. I finally found some of the JRC4558D chips in Akihabara, Tokyo at one of the small electronics shacks near the train station. They were 50 Yen each so I bought as many as I could afford. When I got back to the USA I modified TS9 pedals for friends, and a few people on this new thing called the INTERNET. Everyone was crazy about the sounds and a market was born for the modified ts9/808, as Ibanez had just reissued the TS9. Since this modification market was created by me many people have jumped on the bandwagon and there are all sorts of mods being performed now all over the world.

I started about the 3rd web site in the world with guitar effects, while there were only a handful of guitar sites at that time and none from the major manufacturers.

In 2000 I started full time with Analog Man, and soon got a working relationship with Dave Fox of Foxrox Electronics. Together we perfected Dave's creation of the Captain Coconut. In 1998 we worked with Alfonso Hermida and RG Keen on our Chorus and Comprossor pedals.

Where do the name and logo come from?

Rush had some songs on the SIGNALS album, called "The Analog Kid" and "Digital Man". I preferred to stay true to Analog.

The sunface logos came about randomly as I thought they looked cool.

What sets Analog Man apart from other builders?

Analog Man has been around for a long time and has worked hard to get a reputation of quality effects with high resale and excellent tone and features, and excellent service and support.

How do you start on a new pedal?

We have always been customer driven, and build pedals to meet the needs of our customers. From recreating long lost vintage effects, to coming up with new effects that meet a market need, we don't copy what the other guy is doing like so many new effects makers.

Some pedals can be ready for production in well under a year but we don't want to rush things and send out pedals with bugs, so we usually take a few years to perfect the pedal with demo versions before we sell them.

Can you tell us something about the production process?

We make our pedals in every way imaginable, from point to point (Beano Boost) to factory produced (ARDX20 delay) but all are hand wired and hand soldered. We tried wave soldering by machine but I did not like the results.

Sun Faces are drilled, stamped, and built in house by one builder, while some Bicomps made by a contractor and others are made in house with boards made by a contractor or in house. 

We work with Analog Man Asia T. Ohbayashi who lives in Japan and works in China a lot, on many pedals and mods, especially the Analog Delay. He found a small company in China and selected a few of their best assemblers to hand build our pedals to his specs.

Enclosures are powdercoated off site as paint is not suitable for a box that you step on. We use silk screening on some pedals and hand stamped graphics on others. We also found decals unsuitable, we used them on Beano Boosts for a while and Sun Lions and that was one reason we stopped making the Sun Lion pedals.

How important is the look of your pedals?

We try to make our pedals have a family semblance but it's tough to make a pedal stand out.

How important is parts selection?

We try to use NOS parts whenever possible but that is getting tough. We had to end the NKT275 option on the SunFace as all parts we got in the last several years were bad sounding fakes. We can't even get the good fakes anymore. EVERY part of the circuit matters, we don't cut corners anywhere. We spend a lot of time sourcing components and then matching them for the circuit.

Which of your pedals makes you most proud?

The King of Tone dual overdrive pedal is still as popular as ever and we still have a long waiting list though we are getting production going much more efficiently now. We are proud to have everyone from Aerosmith to ZZ Top as an Analog Man user.

Which of your pedals was your toughest build?

All pedals have their tough points. Finding the time to design a new pedal is the hardest, after a 12 hour work day it's tough to think about something new.

Which of your pedals is most popular?

At the moment the Astro Tone Fuzz is really popular and we can't keep up with the demand. It's just a great sounding fuzz that's easy to use, unlike a fuzz face.

Who uses your pedals and for which genres?

I make pedals that I like to play in my classic rock bands. I like classic rock, blues, progressive rock and hard rock and want pedals to make those tones.

Are you working on any new products?


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