If ever a guitarist was worthy of putting his name to the Electro-Harmonix Big Muff Pi it would be J Mascis.
The Dinosaur Jr. (opens in new tab) frontman is already synonymous with these silicon dirtboxes and is given a huge amount of credit for helping repopularise the classic EHX fuzz during the pre-grunge era and beyond.
"That's my sound. The Muff is always on," explains Mascis (opens in new tab). "All distorted sounds begin with the Muff.
“That's what I grew up playing so it's kind of amazing to have my own signature one."
Commonly referred to as a fuzz pedal, Electro-Harmonix describes the Big Muff Pi (opens in new tab) as a “fuzz/distortion/sustainer”.
Transistorized fuzz pedals first hit the market in 1962 with the Maestro FZ-1 (opens in new tab) Fuzz-Tone and rapidly gained popularity in the mid-‘60s.
In ‘67, Hendrix released his fuzz-laden debut, Are You Experienced (opens in new tab), and Mosrite rebranded their Fuzzrite pedal made for Guild as the Foxey Lady (opens in new tab) (after the song Foxy Lady).
By the following year, Mike Matthews had taken over Foxey Lady production for Guild and formed Electro-Harmonix.
In ’69, EHX brought out the two-transistor Muff Fuzz, followed by the four-transistor Big Muff Pi.
Appearing in a metallic finish with black graphics, these early iterations are referred to as ‘triangle’ Big Muffs on account of their triangular knob layout.
“Jimi Hendrix used a Big Muff in 1969,” Matthews told Guitarist. “Manny’s [of New York] was the first store I sold Big Muffs to and he bought one of the first ones from there.”
The ‘rams head’ Big Muffs appeared in ’73 and feature red, blue, purple or black graphics (including the so-called ram's head in the bottom-right corner). The new J Mascis signature Big Muff Pi is based on this version.
The more common red/black graphics appeared in ’76 (as per the current production standard units (opens in new tab)).
Head on over to the EHX website (opens in new tab) for more information.