Although it’s a well-worn cliché, it’s only
appropriate to say that Roger Mayer has
seen it all. Yes, he’s been there—
hanging out with Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page and
Big Jim Sullivan in the studio, soldering
together brand new circuits, innovating
and designing solutions for the earliest of
tone chasers. He’s done that—watching
Jimi Hendrix plug in his new prototype
during a late night Olympic Studio session
and laying down solos that would launch
the dreams and careers of thousands of
guitarists to come. Mayer has seen it all,
because odds are he created it. His drive
to innovate has made him a larger-than-life personality among guitarists, popping
up at numerous junctions of music and
gear history. He has made a life practice
of always pushing forward, and rarely
them, we were obviously interested in
the sound of the guitars on the American
records, which were quite hard to come
by. We had a really big interest in the different guitar tones that they were producing in America.
We just called it what it did—it’s a treble
booster, you know?
Were you hearing other fuzz tones
What guitar tones were you trying to
Well, you know, like some of the Elvis
records, the Ricky Nelson records back in
the sixties, and so forth. We were kind of
interested in that, and the first pedal that
I built was a treble booster, actually. And
looking at the circuit of the Rangemaster,
it looks virtually identical to the ones I
built back then, you know? [laughs]
No, no. The first fuzz boxes that Page and
I really became aware of, I think, were on
the record by the Ventures called “The
2,000 Pound Bee”. That was the first time
we thought, “Oh, wow! What is that?”
Obviously we had a few contacts in the
States, and they said that was a fuzz box.
And I asked, “What’s that?” And they said
it was basically an overdriven transistor.
Did you like that sound? Or did you like
your treble boosters more?
The early ones—especially like the early
Gibson Maestros that were
featured on “Satisfaction,”
which was after Page started
using them—didn’t have an
awful lot of sustain. They
were quite percussive in
nature. So I never actu-
ally… I don’t think I’ve ever
actually played through a
Gibson Maestro; I’ve never
even bothered with one.
I kind of heard what they
sounded like on the record,
and thought, maybe we
could do something a little
similar, but with a little
more sustain and make it
Which, of course, makes
an interview with Mayer
a bit of a challenge.
While he acknowledges
that everyone wants
to talk about Page and
Beck and Hendrix—and is
perfectly happy to revisit
those stories—there’s a
part of Mayer that seems
indifferent to the nostalgia. He was there; he’s
told that story before.
And even though his company, Roger Mayer Guitar
Effects, largely exists to
dole out the effects that
Hendrix made famous, they
have not remained static.
The company’s Vision Wah
features a uniquely ergonomic profile and a treadle
made of carbon fiber; he estimates that
R&D costs for the project came in at over
$150,000. Bread and butter effects like
the Octavia and the Axis Fuzz are continually refined and re-engineered, because
to Mayer it’s a simple equation: evolve or
Left to Right: Roger, Mitch Mitchell,
Jimi Hendrix,and Noel Redding
You were tweaking on
all of these early proto-
types in the studio. Do you still
enjoy being in that environment?
Did you have any examples, like the
Rangemaster, to look at while you were
designing these circuits?
Oh, definitely. I’m much happier in the studio.
Well, the Rangemaster actually came out
after I built mine—they were after the fact.
We were able to spend some time with
Roger Mayer, to talk about both the past
and the present, about his days tinkering
in Olympic Studios, and the future of guitar effects.
I don’t know anyone that was building
them back then.
Did you have a name for your invention
at the time?
You started experimenting with pedal
designs while you were hanging out with
guys like Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck,
We didn’t call them anything, they were
all prototypes! They weren’t in production,
you know. I really didn’t start producing
commercial units until about the eighties.
Yeah, basically. Going way back when I
first started, when I was hanging out with
So you just called it a treble booster?
I like the studio because it’s probably the
ultimate creative environment. You have
control over so many more things than you
would in, say, a live performance. You’ve
got control of echo; you’ve got control of
pan. You’ve got multiple tracking, you’ve
got all kinds of things you can do in the
studio that can paint a very interesting
sonic picture that you can’t do live. Listen
to Hendrix on Axis: Bold as Love. Of
course Jimi’s good live, but at the same
time we obviously knew playing live you’re
probably only going to use three or four
sounds. And you’re obviously going to get
completely saddled with the acoustics of
the room, aren’t you? If the room’s got a