MUSIKMESSE 2012: Roger Mayer TC Series Pedals

If you’re at Musikmesse this year, make sure you stop by Hall 4.0 booth B45 to check out Roger Mayer’s new Voodoo TC Series of pedals. The line includes the Axis, Spitfire, Voodoo Boost, Mongoose, Voodoo Bass, Voodoo Bass2, Voodoo-1, Voodoo Vibe TC and my personal favourite, the Octavia. In fact, I’m on a personal mission to make sure everyone realises how great the Octavia is and promptly adds one to their pedalboard.

The large knob on each TC series pedal can be adjusted by your foot while you play, and it also allows you to really, really zero in on the perfect setting for your particular musical situation. The two Soft Touch Small Diameter controls are Tone (with each one optimised for that particular pedal) and Output, which gives you a range from unit to the required level of boost. The colours are Cay Coral, Matador Red, Dusk Pearl, Coranado Yellow, Colonial Cream and Tropical Turquoise, and they – like the general visual design of the pedals themselves – are inspired by classic USA cars of the 1950s.

There’s plenty more info at Roger’s site.

COOL GEAR ALERT: Roger Mayer Vibe TC

One of my favourite pedals ever is the Roger Mayer Voodoo Vibe. It’s one of those pedals that has the uncanny ability to simply make everything sound better, and once you turn it on it’s hard to turn it off. Well the latest evolution of the Voodoo Vibe is the new Vibe TC, and it’s a very stylish little unit too. The press release is below, and make sure you check out Roger’s website and Facebook page.

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COOL GEAR ALERT: Roger Mayer Voodoo TC line

 The legendary Roger Mayer is gearing up to release a new line of pedals called the Voodoo TC line. Designed to meet a demand for smaller pedals (and with a very cool atomic-era design style that I just love), Roger’s added a very handy feature: the Drive control be controlled by foot. Over at the Roger Mayer Effectpedals Facebook page, you can have your say on which of the existing pedals should be relaesed in this new Voodoo TC enclosure.

Check out Roger’s site here and Australian distributors Guitar Toyz here.

REVIEW: Roger Mayer Voodoo-Axe

Roger Mayer’s Axis Fuzz pedal was developed in 1967 for one Jimi Hendrix, and was famously used on the title track of ‘Axis Bold As Love,’ as well as ‘Band Of Gypsies.’ One of its strengths is its ability to handle chords as brilliantly as single notes while retaining the guitar’s own voice. The Voodoo-Axe is based on the Axis but comes with several handy modifications and refinements which increase its tonal sculptability while making it more friendly to modern players’ gear needs.

The Voodoo-Axe has three controls: output, drive and fatness. The first two function much like the original Axis while the third gives you a huge range of control over the low end. There’s a sturdy stomp switch, eye-catching graphic, and a very handy sliding battery door. Like all pedals in the Voodoo series, Mayer has included several handy player-friendly features, one of the most revolutionary being the option of hardwire or buffered bypass. If you’ve seen my previous reviews of Mayer’s pedals you know the score: choose the hardwire bypass to completely switch the pedal out of the signal chain when you’re not using it (not recommended if you use long guitar cables), or select the buffered outputs (yes, there are two so you can drive two amps) to drive longer cable runs. You’ll notice a slightly fatter tone with more headroom in the buffered mode, no doubt as a result of the signal getting that extra dose of TLC from the buffering, versus the tone-sucking problem that builds up with every foot of guitar cable you add to your rig. You can’t use the hardwire and buffered outputs at the same time but there’s still lots of fun to be had with the twin buffered outs if you need to hear your guitar coming at you from multiple angles at once.

I tested the Voodoo-Axe with a couple of valve heads (my Marshall DSL50 50 and an Orange Dual Terror) through a Marshall 1960A cabinet with Celestion V30 speakers. I pretty quickly found two particularly great sounds lurking within the Voodoo-Axe. Interestingly, they were pretty much opposites of each other. Sometimes it’s hard to get one distinctive and sound-defining tone out of one pedal, so I was pretty psyched to find two in there that were so different yet so usable. The first was with the output level at around 5, then gain and fatness both at 4. At these settings chords took on a very musical softness, somewhat at odds with the angular, jagged edges one often expects when playing through a fuzz box as opposed to an overdrive or distortion pedal. I was able to play voicings with suspended fourths and major sixths without inducing a chaotic free-for-all of dissonance – no mean feat when you start introducing piles of gain. If you’ve ever heard Lyle Workman’s track ‘Inhale,’ that’s the type of tone I’m talking about (and I couldn’t resist running the fuzz through an analog delay to really take advantage of the warmth and expansiveness of the sound). Then, switching to single notes, the sound seemed to become cleaner and brighter, making it great for dry, vintage-toned single note riffage and solo work.

The other setting involved cranking both the gain and fatness controls up to 6 and pushing the output up to 8 (10 squashed the headroom too much). In this configuration the Voodoo-Axe took on a thick, sustaining, dominating lead tone which worked especially well with neck pickups for a big round growl. Using the output control to beef up the signal to the amp’s input no doubt played a part, but even reeling back the output to unity volume resulted in much of the same fatness and detail. By the way, on the bridge pickup I noticed that between the C note on the 3rd fret of the A string and the C on the 5th fret of the G string something quite unusual happened: The note would start with a kind of bassy, muffled attack before blossoming with treble and clarity. It was almost like stepping on a wah wah which, rather than sweeping from low to high, instead faded down one while fading up the other. If you don’t dig this effect it can be tamed somewhat by turning the gain down a touch, but it adds a huge amount of expression to what is already an extremely reactive pedal.

No matter where you set the controls (unless you crank them all the way and get some wild and not altogether un-useful squeals), the Voodoo-Axe responds to the input signal in a way that few fuzz pedals do. A very clear distinction was heard between different pickup selections, and the neck-plus-bridge single coil mode on my Ibanez Talman in particular sounded entertainingly quacky and strident despite layers of fuzz. The same goes for variations in picking and fretting techniques.

The Voodoo-Axe is particularly at home with lower tunings, so I tried it out both in drop D and with one of my Ibanez 7 strings. The results were thick and chewy, with some cool upper midrange squonk with the fatness control set at about 2 o’clock. With low tunings you could have an awful lot of fun using the Voodoo-Axe through two amps with one of them set for more gain than the other.

There are lots of pedals in Mayer’s Voodoo range, and the decision of which one is for you depends largely on what nuances you like. It’s almost like wine tasting. What I like most about the Voodoo-Axe is that it nicely balances some of Roger Mayer’s warmer, more sonorous tones with some of the ruder, brasher ones if you want to push it that far. It’s equally happy with chords and single notes, which makes it a great contender for the basis of your sound rather than an occasional effect.

GEAR REVIEW: Roger Mayer Concorde + Treble Booster

Ok, you’ve got your fuzz, your overdrive, your distortion and your clean boost. That’s all, right? Wrongo. The treble booster is an almost-forgotten member of the distortion family, and without it we wouldn’t have such classic tones as Black Sabbath’s ‘Paranoid,’ pretty much all of Led Zeppelin 1, and everything Brian May’s ever done. So what’s a treble booster and why is it different to just turning up the treble knob on the amp? Well not quite a fuzz, not quite an EQ, treble boosters were typically based on very simple circuits and they promoted the idea of boosting the strength of the signal to the amp while tailoring its tone curve to attain maximum tonal goodness.

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INTERVIEW: Roger Mayer on Jimi Hendrix

L-R: Roger Mayer, Mitch Mitchell, Jimi Hendrix, Noel Redding

The boutique pedal boom of today could very well be traced back to one man: Roger Mayer. Mayer was building unique pedals for players like Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck and Jimi Hendrix back when those venerable players were shaping the future of the guitar. Once upon a time his pedals were the exclusive domain of a select few. Now, though, Mayer’s pedals are readily available, and they build on the legacy and sound of his classic work, updating them for the future while still paying tribute to the past.

How did you meet Jimi Hendrix?

I met Jimi a few days after my 21st birthday at a club called the Bag of Nails in London. He was playing there and I went to him after the performance, introduced myself and said ‘I’ve got this new sound you might be interested in.’ I also told him I’d been working with Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck over the years and produced some very different fuzz boxes. Jimi was very interested and invited me to come down in a few weeks to a gig at the Chiselhurst Caves where he was performing, and that’s where I first showed him a prototype of the Octavia, which was the new sound. Jimi tried it out in the dressing room and was very interested in the new sound. He also mentioned he was going to be making a new single. He invited me down to another gig in about a week’s time, and he said that after the gig we were gonna go back to Olympic Studios. So that all happened and after the gig we went back to Olympic Studios and that’s when we recorded the solos to Purple Haze and Fire. After that we became close friends and started hanging out, and as they say, the rest is history!

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NEWS: My playing on – Roger Mayer pedal demo

Hey, here’s something you might wanna check out. While you’re over at listening to all the awesome sound clips and videos of James Ryan shredding up a storm through Roger Mayer pedals, look down in the corner of the X Series page and you’ll stumble across a clip of me playing the Mongoose X. It’s just a little demo I whipped up in the process of reviewing the pedal for Australian Guitar magazine. Thanks to Jay from Guitar Toyz for thinking enough of the clip to post it, and thanks of course to Roger for making awesome pedals!

Here’s the link:

There are also links to a whole bunch of my reviews for Roger Mayer pedals for Australian Guitar magazine. You can see those here.

REVIEW: Roger Mayer Metalloid

The idea of mixing entirely different sounds for the high and low end isn’t a new one – bass players have been doing it for years and Roger Mayer experimented with this technique on Jimi Hendrix recording sessions way back in the day.

Ever wanted to split your sound off into two distinct ranges with different distortion levels and EQ settings? Me too, and it’s something I sometimes mess about with in software amp sims. Oh how I wish something similar could be achieved with my real amp… well lo and behold, Roger Mayer to the rescue! The Metalloid gives you two separate distortions, one for the low end and the other the highs. Each distortion band has a drive control and an EQ control, while on the back of the pedal are mix and output controls – the former allows you to set the perfect blend between the two distortions, while the latter controls the pedal’s output level (which you can use to push a tube preamp into meltdown). There are a pair of buffered outputs for driving two amps, plus a true bypass output if you’re of the ‘everything must be true bypass’ persuasion. The great thing about including both here is that you can select the one that’s best for your needs. The true bypass out is great for short cable runs and minimal pedalboards, while the buffered outs maintain signal strength over long cable runs, and to my ears they just sound that little bit beefier.

The best way to start using the Metalloid is to turn the mix knob all the way in one direction, tweak that tone, turn it the other way, tweak that one, then find the ideal setting on the mix control and make any small adjustments as necessary.

Although this pedal is called the Metalloid, it’s not really a metal distortion as such. It’s a little too woolly for modern Bullet For My Valentine or Lamb of God styles, for instance. It works much better for more old-school gain styles from Sabbath through to 80s Megadeth, but it’s even better for fine-tuning the mix of bite and punch for low-gain country, blues and indie sounds. I actually found most of my favourite settings residing at this lower end of the gain range, using the output control to punish my Marshall’s tube preamp if I needed a little more distortion. Medium gain ranges sound great (especially with the high end gain around 6 with tone on full and the low end around 4 with tone around 6), but anything past 7 gets a bit woofy – a sound you could really use the hell out of for stoner rock or mid 90s grunge. Still, I can’t help feeling that the Metalloid’s greatest quality is subtlety rather than over-the-top distortion, and you’re missing out on a lot of what it has to offer if you just crank it up all the way. Roger Mayer’s pedals have always been about the small details anyway.

My favourite sound actually came from pairing the Metalloid on lower gain settings with my Marshall DSL50’s Lead channel, with the amp’s gain on 5 and the Metalloid’s output about halfway up. Normally in a situation like this I’d use a distortion or overdrive pedal with the volume cranked to work as a boost, but in this case it works great with a flat volume level. With the treble tone at around 6 and the bass tone at about 4, this is where the high notes really thickened up while keeping low notes tight and chunky. Reaching for my Ibanez Talman (which has Ibanez Super 58 PAF-style humbuckers), lead work with the neck pickup sounded three-dimensional, in a Brian May kinda way. The effect isn’t quite like double tracking but there’s a similar feeling of space and depth to that which you get from a slapback delay – minus the delay. Next I achieved a similar effect but a little more open and less compressed by using the Metalloid’s output control maxed out to put some hurt on the Crunch channel. Finally, disengaging the Crunch button on the Marshall and flipping to single coil mode brought out the SRV lurking within my amp – hairy fuzz on the high notes, and a tight whomp on the lower ones. I couldn’t resist turning up the reverb and fumbling through SRV’s ‘Rude Mood.’

While I kinda with the Metalloid had a thicker, more grindy distortion tone and perhaps the ability to tweak the midrange too, the lower gain settings in particular will appeal to a huge range of players, especially in the blues, country and indie realms, while the middle section of the gain range is great for classic rock and early metal styles.

Roger Mayer
Guitar Toyz (Australian distributor)