[interview] Metal Pedals: Dave Pantaleone

Here's FXDB's interview with Dave Pantaleone of Metal Pedals:

How did Metal Pedals start?

My situation is unique. I happen to have a very cool brother Mike, a savant with his musical ability for instruments and writing music totally by ear. Some people come into the world with gifts and Mike is one of them. He was into playing around with small circuits for fun, little voice recorders and small preamps. He worked in a radio room for the police department and gained lots of knowledge from his old school co-workers.

I on the other hand did the rock and roll scene for years with my band and had a good friend at the local music store who sold me all my gear. He would often suggest pedals to me but I had no interest, I like real amp distortion. On day I had a need for a solo boost pedal and he sold me on a clean boost, I brought it home and opened it up and said "wow, that's it?". So I said to Mike we can build a better one and of course the challenge was on. He wanted to build a distortion circuit so we did and I brought the first 3 prototype Screaming Whore pedals to the store and that night sold all 3 right there.

That's where the company really started. We have since come a long way in the tone quest and had another amazing moment when we stumbled on the right ingredients for our pedals. For me they have to sound and feel like a real amp distortion or overdrive and that's what we have. Together we craft our pedals from scratch and love doing it. It's not a business, it's a passion... I'm blessed...

We are very self absorbed I guess, we I don't have anyone in this field really to help us. We are like mad scientists in a lab, experimenting. I think that's more fun and creative anyway. We work on it till we are happy with it. I think that's why we have only spent time on overdrive and distortion circuits. It has taken us years to achieve the sound we get with our pedals. I'm always checking out other people's work and comparing our products to them but so far I'm feeling that we have captured what I'm looking for in an overdrive or distortion pedal.

Where do the name and logo come from?

Naming he company was not high on our list of priorities the day we did it. We sat at the computer and threw names out into the web to see what was not being used and we just said that will do... I guess more could have been put into it but we were really just thinking about getting our new pedals out into the hands of players.

We really could use a logo but I just chose a font and ran with it. We are very busy with so much other stuff that it always seems to be in the back of the list.

What sets Metal Pedals apart from other builders?

We are different from the first glance of our pedals to the inner workings of our product. Our circuits are not built in the conventional way like 90% of the pedals out there are. We have our own design and sound. We don't put price before the product, we invest in good stuff and it means we wait a little longer for the sale but the customer is happier with the purchase. You buy a pedal from us and we want you to love it. Our clients are very diverse and so far I have enjoyed every sale.

How do you start on a new pedal?

The coming about of any new pedal from us is usually a need that our previous pedals did not fill. for example the Raw Hide or the American overdrive pedal came about from customers who were looking for the lightest of overdrive tones so we filled that gap. Time frame is never on the table it's done when we feel it hits the mark and we can't make it any better. Those two pedals came together relatively quick about two months do to the fact of years of tinkering made it possible.

How do you name your pedals?

Many many many stories... We finished our first design and the pedal was a screaming circuit. I laugh to this day when I think of it. I wanted to get a look going so I could get our first proto out to some people. I said to mike what do you want to call this screaming pedal and he turned to me and said "it's a Screaming Whore that's what it is" and laughed. Then I look at him and said cool that's what it will be. At first he laughed and then said we can't do that and I said yes we can they are our pedals we name them what we want. We laughed again and I said well let me put together an image and in laughter I left. Of course to this day I get many lists from customer friends and other builders with name suggestions... Good stuff... this is a fun business for me I don't feel like I'm working I'm just having a good time.

Can you tell us something about the production process?

Everything is built in-house. We have no outside help here, Metal Pedals is a two man operation for the moment.

We are really a hand made product... We receive raw boxes and I prepare them: drilling, cleaning, priming, painting and applying the decals or hand writing. I populate each custom made board alongside Mike and assemble them into the boxes.

Nothing is sent out of the shop, we do the whole thing from start to finish. We use the best materials we can get to do the job. There are some imperfections here and there because of the process, being made by hand, but that's artwork.

How important is the look of your pedals?

Oh it's important but I never think about it to much, I just go with what my close people think... Probably not a good idea do to the fact they are pretty much crazy people...

Is parts selection important?

Well for us it's like baking a cake: all the ingredients are important and it something that does require consistency. So yes we order certain things to keep the product consistent.

Which of your pedals makes you most proud?

Our greatest achievement has to be the Hard Core XXX Distortion, that pedal took years to perfect. Mike created an amazing machine that can mimic almost any distortion pedals out there. It can do low gain to extreme high gain and it's the most labor intensive and expensive to produce but totally worth it.

We have another weapon that's unique to us and that is the noise reduction system for the hi-gain stuff. That really sets us apart, another wow moment in the company history. That was a very cool day when Mike stumbled on that trick.

Which of your pedals was your toughest build?

The Bomb Shell was hard because I was constantly tweaking it to get what I was looking for and in the end I was very pleased with the final design.

Which of your pedals is the most popular?

the Bomb Shell is our most sold pedal at the moment and I believe it's because it can do a lot of what the Hard Core XXX Distortion can, but for less money. Maybe it's the look or the simpler layout and controls. It has its own sound next to the Hard Core XXX Distortion, not as extreme in the high gain but Bomb Shell does get there. The 5 band EQ is really the factor, some people drool at the thought and some people run from it. Bomb Shell received a wonderful review and that has a lot to do with it.

Who uses your pedals and for which genres?

We build only clean boosters, overdrives, distortions and hi-gain distortions. This pedal line will cover everything from the lightest vintage sounding overdrives to the modern hi-gain distortions and everything in the middle.

We have famous users but I'm not about blasting that all over the place. I did put a few on the website but people shouldn't buy something just because celebs use them. A lot of celebs sell a lot of junk and unfortunately make it harder to find the good stuff. For example a fellow bought a Hard Core XXX Distortion at a show and a year later I find out this guy does horror movie sound tracks and used the Hard Core XXX Distortion on every track... That's cool stuff, chances are you have heard this pedal and don't even know it. Now the word of mouth from that guy holds a lot of weight to me.

What does the future of Metal Pedals look like?

We are happy where we are but always looking to grow, we would like to do other pedals in the future but until we can grow we have our hands full for the size we are now. I would like to see more awareness of our product and reach greater numbers of players out there. I really feel they are missing something in their pedal boards because they just never heard of us before. I want to make the pedals that people will be hunting down 25 years from now. I believe they will be the collectible pedals of tomorrow.

Our customers have been wonderful to us and that's the biggest kick for Mike and I. We are not in it for money or to sell off a company in the end. We are in it to hear some guy tell me that this pedal just replaced all his other high end pedals...

Are you working on any new products?

At the moment the two new pedals are the Raw Hide and the American Overdrive. We are just getting the word out now, they are cool overdrive pedals. The Raw Hide should be in the next issue of Vintage Guitar Magazine, thanks again to Sean O' Bryan, so that should be cool...

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