[interview] MWFX: Matthew Warren

Here's FXDB's interview with Matthew Warren of MWFX:

How did MWFX start?

I got into pedals whilst trying to make new sounds for myself, the idea was to play original music with our own original DIY effects. At gigs other guitarist would ask me to build pedals and the music never panned out so all of these effects I'd devised were going to waste. It stared out as just me, then my Dad came on board to help with building enclosures, now there's me, my girlfriend Nadine and anyone else we can get in to help.

There's a ton of info on the internet, loads of electronic resources, synth sites, noise makers, DIY pedals. I can't list all the names of people who've inspired me but Charlie Watkins and Jonny Greenwood have for entirely separate reasons.

Where do the name and logo come from?

My initials!

The logo is just something I came up with one day. I wanted to mix Bauhaus style type for something quite modern and clean. The continuous link between the letters was meant to represent a linearity/analogue/circuit type feel and the "f" was left big to represent a 'forte' notation symbol (it means loud!!!).

What sets MWFX apart from other builders?

The emphasis on new or lesser explored designs/effects. And they're made from wood.

How do you start on a new pedal?

Not really sure, there's a bank of ideas in my notebook and on breadboard.

It takes a couple of months from the point where I decide they're right for the market till they go on sale.

How do you name your pedals?

The Judder comes from a 90's Metz advert. It had the bloke from the Mighty Boosh wearing an eye patch in it. It's on YouTube now. All the others are quite literal to their sounds.

Can you tell us something about the production process?

All aspects are done in house, we even make/alter some of the components for our own needs. There's two of us, but my Dad sometimes helps with the woodwork.

Circuits are hand wired, point to point on perfboard. Solid core wiring. No SMT, although we have no great aversion to that.

Enclosures are hand made, carved from whole solid pieces of oak timber. They are then sanded and treated for longevity (sealed/waterproofed) and noise shielded with nickel spray paint.

When painting, we now use lino cut/block printing for colour and transfer the small text and black outlines with decals. Some aspects of the design are hand painted and silver foils are added depending on the design. This is then sealed and about 7/8 coats lacquer are applied before the finishing and buffing process.

The circuit gets housed and tested and the rubber bottom is applied to the wood. It adds considerable weight and grips really well, so there's no danger of them moving when the ergonomic footswitch is pressed.

How important is the look of your pedals?

Not as important as the sound, but very important!

Is parts selection important?

The important areas like switches, sockets, 'audio path' components, wood, lacquer, tools etc we really spend out on. But, we want to keep our pedals affordable and make rational decisions to maximize value for money.

We very recently started using a new old stock (NOS) British military transistor in the Buzzby. It's marked "valve" on the packaging and was a stroke of luck finding it as they don't manufacture them anymore. It gives a rich saturation, full of even order harmonics and 'octave up'. And the Russki uses NOS Russian germaniums, they're hand picked for HFE etc. The Tape's components are tested for suitability and arranged carefully. Special attention goes on all of them though.

Which of your pedals makes you most proud?

The Auto Sync is cool because it's got lots of capabilities and could be adapted to funk, rock, psychedelia, electronica or whatever. Also the Tap Trem's and Pitch Trem's take on a classic effect is something I'm proud of, they're clean/transparent as can be. The Pitch Trem also does awesome clean octave down by modulating amplitude at a rate related to your note (dividing the pitch).

The 8 Bit started it all, and does the most square wave guitar fuzz I've heard, whilst the Judder is very popular in Japan.

Which of your pedals was your toughest build?

The Judder's momentary switching was tricky to get right and is complex. The Tape pedal's saturation took a lot of hours/months to perfect - there's a weird mix of clipping stages, and as for the wave shaping in the Wave Machine... it took ages to perfect and has evolved into an entirely new and neat technique to solve an old synth problem.

Which of your pedals is the most popular?

The 8 Bit was, but it's changing to the Judder. I think they both do fun things that you don't often come across.

Who uses your pedals and for which genres?

We make pedals for any genre, the idea is they sound different from other effects so that musicians can come to us to further their own sounds and maybe even innovate new genres. Admittedly the pedals are quite quirky, but we're proud of that. We don't want to get into the fuzz replica market, I personally don't really agree with too much pastiche in music. We're trying to attract everyone - guitarists, bassists, DJ's, electronic artists, etc.

The Tape pedal is something that Dan Carey bought in the early days and has since got the updated version, he's worked under Lee Scratch Perry and is currently one of the hottest UK producers of the moment. He emailed about the Tape a few weeks after receiving it, he sounded excited and said it was "GREAT!... Gibson EB2 - Tape - Ampeg SB12 sounds amazing". I was happy enough that something I made was sandwiched between these two beasts of vintage gear, let alone on a proper recording that millions would hear (my 'life goal' as a teenager).

Perhaps most exciting though was when Wire (one of my favorite bands ever!) contacted us to make pedals for them, they currently have a Bitrate and Pitch Trem and want a Tap Trem to use as a foot based CV controller for other effects.

What does the future of MWFX look like?

Currently still small and like it that way, however some expansion into wholesale is underway in UK/Europe and Japan, with US shops stocking pedals in 2012.

Are you working on any new products?

There's lots that I don't really wanna reveal yet because they might be a long way off.

But a pedal called the Retreat (which is a kind of homage to the Morley Pik a Wah) is an attack/decay pedal which triggers the ADSR by grounding your metal plectrum on the guitar string. I wanted to get over the triggering issue with other attack decay pedals which use input volume as the trigger - this means that it's hard to put pedals in front without reconfiguring the input sensitivity. It also inverts the response for decay mode, kind of 'anti sustain' for banjo sounds. It should be out in 2012, depending on whether people actually want a plectrum on a wire or not!

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