Dan & Mick’s American road trip this week included a stop at Analog Man headquarters in Connecticut. Mike Piera, the mastermind behind the brand, provided a guided tour through Analog Man’s shop, pseudo-museum of classic effects, and took the time to tell our TPS anchormen some of his story in the gear industry.
As a two-part episode series, this week’s blog focuses on the man behind the pedals with some nods to where the story will develop in and upcoming episode on, you guessed it, fuzz, fuzz, fuzz!
Mike’s Story: The Inception of Analog Man
Mike’s story as a gear builder includes tales of sourcing impossible to find components, flipping gear in Japan, and modding stompboxes for some of the world’s most respected guitarists. As they darkened the door of Analog Man, Dan & Mick were already thrown into the heritage of this story. Tucked in alongside stacks of paperwork on an unassuming shelf was an army of Tube Screamers. Mike commented, “That’s just some old Tube Screamers from random people: Scott Henderson, Kenny Wayne Sheppard.” Just another day at the office at Analog Man.
As Dan and Mike continued their conversation, the story of Analog Man’s beginnings was told. While the company became a full-time gig in 2000, in the mid-1990s Mike’s handiwork on solo-designs and pedal mods was gaining notoriety among guitarists and at gear shows. “We started off as Analog Man Vintage Guitar Effects. I would buy and sell vintage pedals and sell them at the big pedal shows.” In a pre-internet era, this was the premier place for both show and tell as well as buy and sell.
Mike’s move into vintage gear started in the late 1980s in Japan. As an engineer working overseas in that time, he noticed the major American vintage guitar dealers targeting the Japanese markets and making money hand over fist doing it. “The Japanese dealers would pretty much buy everything they had. So I started doing the same thing…and then it started catching on in [America].” After this trend to root back home, Mike turned his attention to sourcing out rare and vintage pedals.
Soon this trend too would pick up stateside. “It started getting big and when I could no longer find the pedals—I was buying and selling and fixing them, learning how they worked—I realized, ‘Why don’t I just build these things rather than try to find them?’”
In a very real way, then, Analog Man was there at the beginning, even before, the guitar pedal gear universe exploded.
The Museum of Analog Man: Decades of Gear from All Sides of the Ocean
The biggest production challenge for Mick on this week’s episode was repeatedly helping Dan pick his jaw off the floor. At every turn in the Analog Man headquarters were stompboxes with stories to tell and showcases full of remarkable and rare effects. From relics of Mike’s collecting days, to trade-ins, to personal acquisitions, Analog Man’s headquarters felt like a Hard Rock Café of gear culture.
In a few American and British vintage cases Mike revealed a surprising range of effects, such as a four-knob Fender Blender and extensive family of Tone Benders. As Mike looked down at the bottom shelf he noted, “I think all the Mutrons are down there,” referring to the line-up of psychedelic and unmistakable synth-like guitar pedals from the 1980s. Over in a Japanese build display case, there was enough vintage Boss and Ibanez effects to overwhelm Dan within moments. As Dan confessed, “It’s just too much, there’s just something around every corner?!” Just breathe Steinhardt, breathe.
Tailor-Made Pedals Meant to Be Played: The Intentionality of Analog Man’s Stompboxes
With a name like Analog Man, you can’t skimp on components. Even when those components are a nightmare to source. In front of a wall of pedal parts, Dan noted “The meticulous detail that goes into the pedals is also apparent with the way you source the components.” For Mike, a capacitor is not just a capacitor. The type, era, and construction are the details that matter for tone.
Here Mike’s design approach intersects with a philosophy of gear. At bottom, his pedals are about enhancing and extending a guitar tone you already know, love, and took years to cultivate. “If you don’t like your guitar tone or your amp tone, don’t buy our pedals, because it’s not going to change it. I want to preserve those things…[That’s why] we just try to use the absolute best [components] we can get, so long as we can get them.”
Not only are Mike’s pedals intentionally built with curated components, everything is field-tested in live band situations. In many cases, the sound lab is Mike’s own house shows and jam sessions. As Dan noted, “It’s why so many pro players use your stuff because they’re using it in the mix, in a band, and it always manages to sound amazing.”
It’s that pro-level, real-life situation that matters at Analog Man—the pedals were meant to be played. Mike reflected, “Sometimes I’ll have something in the shop that sounds pretty good but I get it out there [in a band] and I can’t really hear it, it’s just not really working…Some people will get [a pedal] in their bedroom with their amp on two and they’ll send it back because it doesn’t sound good. And I agree, it probably won’t sound good, but that’s not what we designed the pedal for.”
Analog Man Fuzz: To Be Continued…
As Dan noted, “There’s probably nobody else on the planet who knows more about dialing in a perfect fuzz sound than Mike.” In fact, there’s so much more fuzz to be had at Analog Man that Dan & Mick had to save it for part 2. So stay-tuned for a fuzz-erocious experience with Mike on an upcoming episode. For a preview of the sounds and pedals featured in the follow-up, fast-forward to 46:10 where Mick takes a run at the arsenal of Analog Man fuzzes.
In the meantime, if you’re in the market for a bit of Analog Man, head over to Riff City for a range of Mike’s designs.Pedals in this episode: Analog Man Envelope Filter, Analog Man Bi-Comp (rev 5), Analog Man Prince Of Tone, Analog Man Bi-Chorus, Analog Man ARDX20 Delay, Analog Man Astro Tone Fuzz, Analog Man Boss DS-1/Pro With Midrange, Analog Man Bad Bob Boost, Analog Man Beano Boost.