I recently had the opportunity to sit down (virtually) with Mike Pereira of MP Ukuleles. I learned of Mike’s instruments from one of my favorite Ukulele related forums at Ukulele Underground. Someone was complimenting his ukuleles, so I had to go check out his site. The next day I called him and started the process of ordering a custom instrument. UAS, thou hath an unnatural hold on thee.
Julie: How did you originally become interested in the ukulele?
Mike: I ran the wood shop at National Reso-Phonic Guitars, and we would make parts for other companies. Two of those companies were two major ukulele makers in Hawaii, so I was making about 400 ukulele necks a month. That got me intrigued with the instrument. I started doing some ukulele research on the Internet and came across a video of Jake playing Crosscurrent on Midnight Ukulele Disco…needless to say I was blown away. That was the first time I really saw the capabilities of this unassuming little instrument.
Julie: What prompted you to start MP Ukuleles?
Mike: MP Ukulele was originally going to be MP Custom Guitars, then on a trip to Hawaii I wanted to buy a nice high-end ukulele. As I was looking around my girlfriend kept telling me…”You work in a guitar shop, instead of spending all that money why don’t you just build one” So I finally gave in, I came home and built a mahogany/zebrawood concert, It came out looking pretty enough…but sounded totally dead. That set me on a mission to build a “good sounding” ukulele. It took about a half a dozen more tries before I was able to dial in a design…wood thicknesses, bracing etc. By then I was totally hooked. At that point I have pretty much abandoned the guitar…playing and building.
Julie: When did you start MP Ukuleles?
Mike: I sold my first instrument in July 2004. A wenge/redwood pineapple concert.
Julie: How many ukes have you built to date?
Mike: Yours is #081…but altogether from the first try I’ve build 94 ukes.
Julie: FYI: you can see my brand new MP ukulele in the image above. It’s the right most ukulele in the top row. Click the picture to see the full sized image. Mike built and finished it in less than 2 weeks! Now that’s what I call fast work
Julie: What are your favorite woods to use in your instruments?
Mike: Redwood is my favorite soundboard wood, I love the warm, dark tone. It’s hard to say with back & side tonewoods…but you cant beat koa for both tone and beauty.
Julie: Do you know of any famous or notable people that own and play one of your instruments?
Mike: I’m a relatively new and unknown luthier, so I don’t know of any famous people who own an MP…but to me, everyone who owns one is notable
Julie: Including your own personal MP ukuleles, how many ukes are in your collection right now?
Mike: I think I have about 15 or 20 ukes, mostly beaters and wall hangers, including a few old vintage no name ukes…all the good ones get sold.
Julie: What is your favorite uke to play?
Mike: My favorite right now is a mahogany/redwood tenor I just built to put up for sale on my website, but I like it so much I dont think it will make it to the website…not yet anyway.
Julie: Do you also play other instruments?
Mike: I played trumpet from the 4th grade up until I got into high school, then I found the guitar. I also like to play piano. I’m not really good at any instrument, but I can entertain myself and our dogs.
Julie: Besides building ukuleles, what are your other hobbies/interests?
Mike: I like to get to the Islands a couple times a year to surf and hang out, check out some uke shows…I much prefer the warm tropical Hawaiian water to the cold California surf. Other than that I pretty much spend my spare time restoring old houses. In fact, I just bought an old house that was build in 1900…so I’ve got my work cut out for a while. This will will be the new home of the MP ukulele wood shop, so I’m excited about that.
Julie: Thank you so much for the interview Mike! I’m really looking forward to receiving my new custom MP Ukulele
Here’s Mike in his work shop breaking in my new ukulele.