Here's FXDB's interview with Mark Wentz of Black Arts Toneworks.
Black Arts Toneworks is run by Mark Wentz. The company is located in Chattanooga, TN. USA.
How did Black Arts Toneworks start?
I was a tweaker, and always repaired or modded my own stuff. It just grew from that. I tweaked a muff circuit for a few months, was happy with where I got it, and others started offering to buy one from me..That's how it started.
I didn't get any help initially, was just a small hobby type thing. As it started to turn into a legitimate business, I have had some help and inspiration from a few people.
I had the name "Pharaoh" for the pedal I was going to sell a few of. I thought, "Well..I need a name"... I was listening to Black Sabbath at the time; brainstorming a name it just hit me and seemed to fit. Sabbath, Africans, Egyptian culture,...
The logo: I have a couple of artists I work with and I leave it up to them. I like to leave stuff to those who are good at it... let the artists do their thing.
What sets Black Arts Toneworks apart from other builders?
I don't really think of myself that way. Tone is so subjective, there are soo many good pedals available. It seems that a small segment of that market found me.
How do you start on a new pedal?
Well, it has been that I have an idea of how to modify a circuit, try it out. Tweak on it a bit to get it to fit my taste. Get Jason working on a graphic.
It has been about a 3-4 month process getting some new designs together from conception through prototyping and then production.
Pharaoh, the leader. I got the name from Rev. Al Sharpton's book which I was reading at the time I needed a name for this circuit.
LSTR, who me?
Black Forest was built for Scott Wino Weinrich, he has a song "Black Flower" and I was hiking the day the name hit me... "Black Forest"...
Can you tell us something about the production process?
We do all in house. I have a guy who does the PCB layout and generates files to get the PCB's made. I allow my artist Jason to pretty much handle the visual/graphic end of things. 2 Builders in house, printer graphics guy and PCB designer are sub contract status.
We do handwired, true bypass designs, hand populated PCB's in house.
We buy various enclosure from a few suppliers, some powder coated, some plated. Jason at Gr8Scott Graphics does all enclosure design and screen printing with epoxy ink.
I like things to be clean and graphically strong. My dude Jason feels the same, and I really just leave it up to him. I totally trust his eye and abilities. So, it is important, but I let him obsess over it.Which of your pedals makes you most proud?
Pharaoh is the ruler of Black Arts. It has gained a lot of fans, including some great musicians whom I personally listened to before they adopted a Pharaoh.
Which of your pedals was your toughest build?
I do a double Pharaoh/LSTR which is a tough build, a lot in one box.
Which of your pedals is the most popular?
Pharaoh has been huge for us. Pharaoh has a very usable gain structure, enough without too much, fuzz with a bit of clarity if dialed in that way.
Fixed mids to stand out always, just a very usable tool that the world has responded very well to.
Not intentionally. I think good tone is good tone, regardless of genre or playing style. I try to instill good tone. I do like a guitar sound that is thick, yet present. For that reason, I think the stoner/doom guys have responded to my stuff. Those guys typically play through great amps, and I believe that they like that I offer sounds that don't mangle the sound of their rigs.
I have famous users, but I don't kiss and tell.
What does the future of Black Arts Toneworks look like?
We are expanding our lineup, have a lot of new things coming up, and many ideas to explore.
Are you working on any new products?
New pedals will be out soon, summer 2012.