[interview] PepTone: Matt Peppercorn

Here's FXDB's interview with Matt Peppercorn of PepTone:

How did PepTone start?

I started building years and years ago because I was sick of buying pedals over and over again and never finding enough of the "right tone". Got sick of only finding out everything was a TS Overdrive replication. Another thing I noticed was there were a lot of "good sounding" pedals but were very generic and didn't have a unique tone or unique character. So I started modding and building my own pedals to suit my taste. Then I started receiving requests locally for reproductions and from there, I took off.

I launched the company (officially) in 2007.

I was inspired to build and mod by not finding the tone I wanted. My inspiration was listening to the records which carry and hold the guitar tone that is unmistakable in tone, articulation and most important, character.

Where do the name and logo come from?

We wanted a name the invokes the focus of what makes the sound of a musician; that being "tone" and the idea that we put "Pep" that tone. Outcome, PepTone.

We just revamped our logo. We wanted a clean, crisp and no fuss logo. Something that appears unique but isn't cluttered. Similar to the "Fender" or "Gibson" logo. These are recognized not by a picture or a large design but more with how the name is uniquely put together. This is why we did not include a picture and we didn't just want a plain text/font. We uniquely designed the letter "P" to stand alone or to be included in the actual name PepTone. This way, our brand can be recognized with the stand alone "P" or the full brand name "PepTone".

What sets PepTone apart from other builders?

As a company, we love our customers loving our product. Never "telling" them what has to sound good or better; we let our pedals do the talking. That's why we have a no hassle return policy to allow the customer to try the pedal with their setup without the risk of having to deal with restocking fees or us questioning their ear (we get told some horror stories). If the pedal is not liked within their setup and they want to return the pedal, no problem. At the end of the day tone is an opinion and will never be anything else. We have NO restocking fees and we refund the whole purchase price if someone isn't digging their new PepTone product within 2 weeks of receiving.

Our pedals are set apart from others by developing our mods and Custom Guitar Pedals on true "life" settings. They were all tested in the studio, at a live show and in a home to make sure the pedal operates as we intended it to. I was a musician that used all of the potential scenarios so I know what it was like to have a Fuzz pedal work great at home and then take it to a live show and it gets buried in the mix. This is how we developed things like our Big Muff Fuzz mod. With the bypass toggle and mids knob you can make small tweaks to adapt to the new scenario you are put into. We feel we a unique because we don't just build and mod guitar effects all on "hypothetical" builds and mods. It has to sound good and sound different with great character and work with the user. All pedals are built and modded to not just sound "Good" or just "Hi-Fi" but need to sound unique and top shelf.

We hear our customers repeatedly compare our mods when compared to others and are always nice surprise. This we feel is because we do not just simply Hi-Fi the modifications. There are plenty out there that do that. We create what we think the pedal SHOULD do and actually create toggles and changes that allow the musician to fine tune the pedal to different scenarios. The idea is to NOT have a pedal be a one trick pony. Welcome to pedals that can be fully tuned to the musicians specific setup.

How do you start on a new pedal?

The way a new PepTone pedal comes is from a desire in our own hearts and minds. If we can't find something out there that does what we want... then we dig in. This is how we came up with modifications for pedals that have been repeatedly modified by many other company's and we were still able to come up with a mod that stands alone and are different. Modifications that change the pedals capabilities to work better with specific setups to allow the musician to fine tune their setup through our pedals.

Can you tell us something about the production process?

Everything is built 100% in Columbus OH by PepTone Electronics.

Circuits are Handwired PCBs by PepTone.

Enclosures are purchased here in the United States. We use a variety of colors. We are set to introduce a handpainted line of our own PepTone pedals (including our soon to come fuzz pedal) but we also use decals for the standard pedals.

A large part of what we do is modifications, so for those we use Boss, Cry Baby, Vox, Ibanez Tube Screames and Big Muff pedals.

Is parts selection important?

We use NOS transistors for fuzzes.

We use the highest quality for resistors (metal film) and Capacitors at ALL times. We don't order from China or any other country other than the USA. We do this to support our fellow home country workers and to assure through the process there is dedication and communication for the best results.

Which of your pedals makes you most proud?

I love our BD-2 mod. I am proud of this because this pedal has been modified in so many ways by others but this PepTone mod stands alone. We LOVE the added qualities that we changed which makes ours stand alone from all the other mods out there. Much more musical pedal that has a better range in gain, better beefy and thickness and much better dynamics.

Which of your pedals was your toughest build?

Our soon to be PepTone "Fuzzolux". This pedal has been built to make the most musical fuzz we have played. I personally have been working on it for over a year through several changes and now I feel it is finally ready to put into production. It's a fuzz pedal that can have a Tone knob along with a mids knob to blend the PERFECT tone. Those two knobs can be bypassed in the circuit to give the pedal about a 6db boost. In addition, it's a VERY responsive fuzz that distorts amps with a very musical fuzz sustain structure.

Which of your pedals is the most popular?

Our Boss DS-1 mod. The dual toggle is VERY unique and allows the musician to fine tune the gain and EQ structure to the musicians setup. Gearmanndude said it best: "These toggles actually do something!". This is a VERY musical pedal and makes many kick their overdrive AND distortion pedal off the board as this one covers so much ground. The PepTone Boss DS-1 mod seems to be the pedal that spans over such a large group of musicians and genres. We know guitarists love it but we have heard much from Bass players that love this pedal too!

Who uses your pedals and for which genres?

We see more blues, indie and rock guitarists. I grew up playing the blues and rock 'n' roll as well as currently playing in an indie rock band (The Whiles) so I guess it's right up my alley. We do see quite a few session players that play a range of music so it's pretty diverse. We didn't make pedals for one genre so we do see a diverse group of musicians.

A recent artist we made pedals for was John Spiker (session player: Beck, Filter, Tenacious D, Jonas Brothers, Steve Earle) and the band Big Talk (The Killers). The lead guitarist for Big Talk kicked off his trusty "fuzz" pedal that has been on his board for some time. This fuzz pedal he kicked off (won't mention by name) is a popular modern fuzz pedal that was kicked off the board and replaced by our Big Muff mod. We have heard much love from them about this pedal among our other pedals.

What does the future of PepTone look like?

We have a new fuzz pedal coming out soon. It is inspired by our current Big Muff Fuzz mod but really builds on it and takes it to a completely new pedal.

Are you working on any new products?

Our PepTone Fuzzolux is coming soon. This is a scary good fuzz to our ears. It has been developed through a fuzz pedal that is reliable, can change on the fly, works in home settings, live settings and recording settings without any difficulties. Very versatile and organic fuzz that gives you a fine tuning option to get the pedal to really work in your setup. Imagine that, a fuzz that works with the musician. You can expect this pedal by end of 2011.

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