by Trent Salter
In our first, but certainly not last "Builder Profile" on a high end bass luthier, Musicians Hotline is proud to celebrate the 30 year anniversary with Mike Pedulla, of Pedulla Basses. Pedulla basses have been providing the bottom end thump to so many famous players tone for three decades. Beautiful hand crafted basses, exceptional playability, and the tone of the big bottom.And who doesn't like a big bottom? In an exclusive with Musicians Hotline, here is what Mike Pedulla shared with us regarding the 30 year anniversary of Pedulla Basses.
MH: Mike, as the company celebrates the 30th year anniversary of Pedulla Guitars, tell us how you first got your start in this business?
MP: I always had an interest in music and instruments, and a driving need to work with my hands. With the approach of my college graduation, I decided to earn a living making guitars. I have since poured my heart and soul, used all my resources and all my time to make that dream come true.
MH: Many people might be surprised to hear that some of your earliest building ventures were prototypes of acoustic guitars, and even banjos. Tell us a it about the early prototypes, and where these instruments might be today?
MP: My earliest building experience was a banjo, as I was interested in learning to play. Having done woodworking as a kid and loved projects that involved making things, it was a natural thing for me to try. Soon after the banjo, I made some acoustic guitars, both steel string and classical, which naturally led to making an electric guitar. I also did repair work, which gave me a lot of experience with all different kinds of instruments and how they worked (and how they "didn't work" ). This experience played a major role when it came to designing and building instruments. It wasn't until about a year later that I started building basses.
MH: Your love and specialty has always been with building high quality basses. Tell us about your product line, the models that are available and describe each.
MP: The bass line started with the MVP and Buzz basses, the Buzz being our fretless version of the MVP. The neck- thru design and all maple construction with plated brass hardware and Bartolini pickups gives this model a very even response from lows to highs. The Buzz (with coated ebony fingerboard) instantly became one of our best selling basses and remains so today. The Thunderbass was then designed with a more generic body shape employing a variety of woods for a deeper and hotter sound. Bill Bartolini makes special proprietary electronics for us which allowed for a smooth warm finger sound and a biting full body slap sound without changing the control settings. The Thunderbass is exceptionally responsive to how it's played. To round out the line, I designed the Thunderbolt; a bolt-on bass that covers a lot of ground for the working musician looking for a more vintage sound. The latest design is the Rapture bass, also bolt-on neck, and is available with a single soapbar pickup in the "sweet spot", two "J" pickups for a vintage jazz bass sound, or a PJ combination for more a versatile mix of usable vintage sounds. All the basses are available in 4, 5, 6, and 8 string basses, (with the exception of the Rapture bass, available in 4 or 5 string only) and all are available in fretted or fretless.
MH: Many famous players rely on Pedulla to provide them with the look, tone and playability they expect. Can you recall an initial player or endorser that contributed to building the brand equity early on?
MP: The two most influential players that contributed in the early years were Mark Egan (then playing with Pat Metheney) and Tim Landers (with Al Dimeola). Both have very different styles, both played Pedulla basses and contributed to the evolution from the early prototypes.
MH: Pedulla basses are 100% American made basses that require an intense amount of handwork and set up. I know that you have never considered an import line. Give us your thoughts on keeping your basses American made.
MP: We will always be American made. I have no intention of diluting the line by having an offshore copy made. It is tempting, because it could be a profitable venture, but it would no longer be a Pedulla bass. It has become difficult and expensive to make a quality product in the U.S. as the pressure of the consumer is for less expensive product (and our government rewards those that look overseas to cheap labor, while turning its back to those that make products here in the U.S.), which is why so many manufacturing jobs are now in other countries.
We are in a time when the majority of basses are coming from factories offshore. Regardless of the shape or the name, they are all built with the same machinery in massive quantities. But they can never deliver the sound, the feel, the soul of a handmade instrument .
MH: Pedulla basses have never been mass produced using computer controlled machinery. What do you feel is unique to your style that is reflected in the quality of your instruments.
MP: There are many inexpensive yet decent sounding basses that are produced by computer controlled machinery, however, it has always been my premise that we make more than "basses". They are instruments in the true sense of the word, that is, the player is able to impart some his own signature character and "soul" through his music, as expressed on the instrument. If you put a Stradivarius violin in the hands of five different masters, you would have a difficult time believing it is the same instrument being played by all five. The way it sounds is a reflection of the players own interpretation, his technique, his individual character, his soul. An "instrument" is responsive to this. It also has a "feel" in your hands that just makes you want to play better. These qualities have never been imparted in mass production., or by machines alone. Tools, skilled hands, technique, knowledge, and a good helping of whatever it is that makes us individuals, will always build the best instruments. Just as it is those same qualities that build great musicians and artists.
MH: At a time not so long ago, when Pedulla seemed to be growing very quickly, your approach now is more on a smaller more controllable nature. Is it the quality over quantity?
MP: It has always been quality over quantity. What led me to downsize was the fact I was no longer doing what I loved to do: Making basses. As we grew, I did less in the shop, and more in the business end of things. I lost enthusiasm for what I was doing and wasn't sure why. My best friend pointed it out and suggested sizing down so I could resume my passion for building. So I did. I now work on every instrument from the woodshop through finish and set up.
MH: Give us your thoughts on the high end bass boutique market, and how you have seen it change and evolve over the years.
MP: I have noticed that in today's market, people often confuse "high price" with "high end", and it is disturbing to see these basses enter the "boutique" market. On the other side of that, just because a bass is "handmade" does not automatically validate it's place in the high-end market. Bass players must today must be able to distinguish, putting aside costs or names, and concentrate on the important factors that will allow the player to maintain or make his place in the profession; ie. does it record well in a studio, is it reliable, does it perform up to the players capability, does it inspire him to play better?
There are some companies that exist by giving away basses to high profile players. The message is that if you buy this bass you'll sound like one of these guys. We are proud to say that we do not give any basses away, all those in our artist program purchase their Pedulla basses. They play them because they want to. Our bass is a tool which allows the player to express himself to the fullest, a tool that meets the most challenging professional situations. We believe most people who make it in the industry want to sound like themselves, which is a prerequisite for success in any endeavor.
MH: What do you feel has contributed to your incredible success over the past 30 years.
MP: "Success" is a subjective term. In my mind, it is to do what you set out to do. Each and every day. Judged not by the past, but by what you do today. It includes finding your talent (we all have them), having integrity, the will to succeed, the humility to listen. Success includes hard work, long hours, and a passion for what you do.
Placed on our Web site with permission from Musicians Hotline