STOMP UNDER FOOT RED MENACE
BY CHARLES SAUFLEY
Though they’re a minority in the bizarre community of Big Muff nuts, some
consider Mike Matthews’ early Sovtek
creations the finest Muffs of all time. The
perception is no doubt fueled by David
Gilmour’s use of an early Sovtek Big Muff
to power his leads on Pink Floyd’s ’ 94 tour
and much-adored Pulse DVD. But they
are, by any measure, great fuzz boxes.
Gilmour’s Pulse Muff is nicknamed the
Civil War model (for its blue and grey
enclosure) and fuzz nerds consider it the
first and best of all Sovtek Muffs. But the
truth is that the very first Sovtek Muff
wasn’t a Muff at all—it was an almost
identical pedal, misleadingly named the
Red Army Overdrive.
It’s little surprise that Stomp Under
Foot, one of the foremost specialists in
Muff clones, used this footnote in Big Muff
history as the basis for the Red Menace.
But what’s cool about their effort to tackle
this rare and subtly—but significantly—
different circuit is that it results in one of
the most well-rounded Big Muff clones on
In terms of controls and construction,
there isn’t a whole lot to a Muff-style pedal,
and anyone who has ever used a fuzz will
know how to navigate the Red Menace.
There’s a knob for Volume, one for Tone,
and another for Sustain, which is essentially the fuzz control.
Boasting an uncluttered interior, the
pedal is beautifully built and flawlessly
wired. And while the candy apple red
enclosure doesn’t have the visual allure of
a Sovtek original (what does?), it looms
boldly on a cluttered pedalboard—almost
daring you to tussle, like a MiG prowling
the edge of international airspace.
Eastern Bloc Rock Because of minor variations in transistor values, the Sovtek Red Army Overdrive tends to have a little more scuzz to its fuzz and more midrange kick than a Civil War. These are the qualities that Stomp Under Foot emphasized in the Red Menace. The difference is critical, because while the big, round, and smooth low end of a Civil War may sound like Lava Lamp drops from heaven in a spacious arrangement, it can go missing in a rag- ing stoner-rock maelstrom. I played the Red Menace alongside a Stomp Under Foot Civil War using a Fender Vibroverb and Ampeg Super Jet, as well as a humbucker-equipped Telecaster Custom, a Rickenbacker 330, and an E-series Stratocaster. With Gilmour’s more searing tones in my thoughts, I put he Red Menace between the Stratocaster and the Ampeg. Running through the funk section of Pink Floyd’s “Echoes,” the additional midrange edge and Fuzz Face/ Triangle Muff-style rasp was plainly—and
you’re equally in love with Sovtek Big Muffs
and early Electro-Harmonix versions, but
can’t figure out which way to turn.
you think fuzz should buzz like a hornet.
Stomp Under Foot
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clips of this pedal at
delightfully—audible. The extra presence
comes with little sacrifice in the low-end
muscle. And while the Red Menace isn’t
nearly as wooly as the Civil War at identical settings, the low end is fat and smooth
enough for sweet sustained bends and
droning, growling power chords alike.
Playing the super-resonant Rickenbacker
showcased the Red Menace’s capacity for
note definition in a distorted context,
and the pedal remained surprisingly clear
during fast arpeggio work. Meanwhile,
languid, elastic Sabbath-blues bends on the
Telecaster’s neck humbucker were a perfect
match for the Red Menace’s enhanced
midrange and classic, harmonic-rich, and
almost octave-like Muff voice.
If you’ve ever longed for a Big Muff or
Muff clone but wondered whether you’re
a member of the round, wooly, and singing Sovtek camp or the original brutal and
buzzier Electro-Harmonix tone family, the
Stomp Under Foot Red Menace inhabits
an interesting middle ground. While it’s
clearly more closely related to the former,
you can dial in plenty of high-mid content
to achieve the aims of the latter. There
are few builders quite as well versed in
Muffery as Stomp Under Foot. And in
reinterpreting this lost stepchild of the
Big Muff family, Stomp Under Foot has
crafted a fuzz that’s likely to find fans in
less Muff-like contexts too.