Here's FXDB's interview with Mitsuteru "Mitch" Takaki of Mt'Lab:
How did Mt'Lab start?
I was working in the product development section of a guitar manufacturer, and was involved in developing new pedals. This led to forming my own company in 1997.
When starting this company, a new retail shop called Ebisu-Gang opened and helped market the pedals.
Where do the name and logo come from?
M & T are the founder’s (my) initials, and “Lab” came from the ongoing desire to always be experimenting and developing improvements.
The initials MT are also the abbreviation for Mountain, so we took the envelope often seen on synthesizer parameters and put in the shape of a mountain.
What sets Mt'Lab apart from other builders?
Our goal is to avoid the standard sounds produced by and for instruments while also avoiding overly complicated circuity.
In addition to product creation, we also repair equipment (ours or others) and have learned a lot from repairs that we can apply to our new products.
How do you start on a new pedal?
First we use a breadboard to finalize the circuitry while actually measuring the sound. As a result, even our prototypes are very similar to final pedals for sale.
New product development often takes longer than one year to complete. This could be reduced to 2-3 months if the sole focus, but since I handle every aspect of the company, time must be allocated to them all appropriately. Taking time away from only new product development allows me a “fresh ear” to use on those new products.
How do you name your pedals?
We enjoy naming products! We are always thinking of product names, and keep a notebook of intriguing names for future creations.
- Humster was a combination of the Humbucking pickup and “hamster”.
- Supar-Fuzz was a mix of Marshall Supa-Fuzz and Univox Super-Fuzz
We also put a lot of thought and effort into the Japanese (kanji) names, and Katanasound is known for its interesting naming.
Can you tell us something about the production process?
Case drilling and printing are outsourced. I'm currently the only builder involved.
- Circuit's PCB are designed and built by hand
- For the enclosures privately available enclosures are used and modified. They are not painted, only silk-screened and labeled.
How important is the look of your pedals?
We prefer a simple, minimalist look and sound-focused pedal.
Is parts selection important?
Vintage parts sound great, but few working parts are available to make new product. We therefore find new, high-quality parts that we can reliably make produce similar nuances to the vintages ones. We also are very discerning about color, shape, etc.
Which of your pedals makes you most proud?
The Humster because this was the original mt’Lab developed and produced, and became the face of the company..
Which of your pedals was your toughest build?
The uFace. Pedals using the Hammond 1590A are common now, but when uFace was sold in 1998 there were none that we know of. It was very difficult to fit everything (including battery) in a 3.64x1.52x1.06” case.
Which of your pedals is the most popular?
The Classic Sustainer-Fuzz. It reproduces the vintage Big Muff pedal in a compact pedal. Famous musicians have used this, leading to wide appeal among other musicians.
What does the future of Mt'Lab look like?
Katanasound has become the brand for standard production pedals, and mt’Lab is the brand for experimental and customized pedals.
Are you working on any new products?
Not at the moment. (Although some new items were released recently.)