[interview] Black Arts Toneworks: Mark Wentz

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.

Black Arts ToneworksWhere do the name and logo come from?

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.

How do you name your pedals?Black Arts Toneworks Pharaoh

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.

Black Arts Toneworks Black ForrestHow important is the look of your pedals?

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.

Black Arts Toneworks LSTRWho uses your pedals and for which genres?

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.

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