Pi in the Sky Pi in the Sky
Premier Guitar peeks inside the brain
of Electro-Harmonix founder
Mike Matthews—the man whose off-
the-wall stompboxes have generated
countless classic tones and changed
the guitar universe forever.
BY WALLACE MARX JR.
Among the multitudes of stompbox manufacturers to have come and gone over the
years, Electro-Harmonix is one of the longest
running and most prolific. They’ve also made
some of the most iconic pedals of all time,
including the Big Muff Pi, the Small Stone, and
the Deluxe Memory Man. The fact that this
company—founded by the enigmatic Mike
Matthews in 1968—was there when the fuzz
box craze started is amazing. The fact that it
has thrived during so many changes in popular
music is even more so. Today, certain EHX
pedals are must-haves for many players, and
the company’s influence has most assuredly
been a huge factor in the boutique stompbox
boom of the last two decades.
As you can imagine, based on the warped
sounds that emanate from so many EHX
devices, Matthews’ story and the saga of
Electro-Harmonix is a long, twisted tale that
could only happen in the world of rock ’n’ roll.
Sovteks and a Stogie: Mike Matthews leans on an Electro-Harmonix-designed Sovtek Bassov Blues Midget head in a room
full of Sovtek tubes and testing machines circa 2008.
From Kool-Aid Stands
to Guild Foxey Lady Fuzzes
Matthews’ tale begins in New York City.
“Ever since I was a kid, I was always into business—y’know, big money,” he says. “On the
street in the Bronx, my mother first set me up
with one of those stands to sell drinks. And
our drinks were better because she helped
me make real fresh juice as opposed to
Kool-Aid or . . . stuff out of the sewers. I
was just always into hustling and business
as a kid. I also started playing piano when
I was 5. It was classical, and I quit in the
PREMIER GUITAR NOVEMBER 2010 135