The Big Muff π Page
The Definitive Big Muff Resource and History


The J Mascis Interview - Part 3

KR: Do you combine the Big Muff with other pedals live?

JM: I combine it with some other things sometimes. I usually have the Big Muff on, even if there is another fuzz on. Like a Super Fuzz (a clone made by MC FX in Australia) and the Big Muff. I have been using sometimes this (Dr Scientist) Frazz Dazzler, have you tried it? Yeah, with the Big Muff, or you know, like a Range Master with the Big Muff (J uses the Sun Lion - a Range Master treble booster clone comboed with a Sunface fuzz, built by Analogman. Many times when you hear an over the top solo tone in J's live shows, he is running the Big Muff with another fuzz pedal).

J Mascis PedalsJ Mascis PedalsJ Mascis Pedals

Shown above: J knows his fuzz. Here is what is on his 2011 pedal board, left to right: Dr. Scientist Frazz Dazzler, Z. Vex Double Rock (custom Box of Rock combo), Analogman Sunlion (Range Master/Sunface combo), and the MC-FX Super Fuzz clone. The three on the left show J's preferred settings. J keeps the Super Fuzz knobs set around 11:00.

KR: You are like most Big Muff users then, because many of us like to blend them in conjunction with other fuzz or overdrive pedals. How did the Tym Guitars replica of your Ram’s Head, the Fuzz Munchkin, come to be?

JM: He (Tim) just was talking about it you know, and he was always a helpful guy in Australia when we were there. He was interested in trying it. He thought it might be interesting to see what was different about it, by looking at the circuit.

KR: How did the replica sound compare to the original?

JM: Pretty good. You know, it’s not exact but it’s closer than anything else I have. I like it better than most things I could use instead. You know, the first time he tried it, it wasn’t quite loud enough or something. Then the second one sounded a lot more like it.

KR: Have you had the chance to use it with your live rig yet?

JM: No, not yet. I’ve used the DAM and the Hairpie live before. They both worked well.

KR: I understand the art on the Fuzz Munchkin was created by you?

JM: Yeah, Tim just sent me stuff that his friend had done. I didn’t quite like it you know, so I just…I haven’t progressed much in art since second grade. I still have the same taste I guess.

KR: As soon as I saw the art, it just said ‘this is J’s pedal” to me. The art on Tim’s custom pedals looks very cool, but it’s good that the Munchkin has a different look.

J Mascis Pedals

The Fuzz Munchkin pedal art features J's own munchkin art, and the same Arnold Böcklin typface used on the version 2 Big Muffs from the 1970s (art © J Mascis)

JM: Have you ever met Tim?

KR: I had seen his website with his line of custom made pedals, including his V3 clone, a long while ago, then one day he emailed me. He seems like a nice guy. He contacted me after finding the website, my Big Muff users section, where I had a few photos of one of your pedal boards. He sent me a few photos of your Ram’s Head, from when he repaired it for you, and we have talked a lot about the replica since then.

J Mascis PedalsJ Mascis Pedals

J's favorite Ram's Head Big Muff on the operating table in Tim's workshop at Tym Guitars. J's Big Muff has had many modifications made over the years, prior to Tim's repair work. The circuit is all original with the exception that a power supply jack with DC filtering has been added, all three pots have been replaced, the pcb has been mounted securely on posts (extra post screws can be seen on top of the enclosure), the on/off switch has been replaced, and the original Daka-Ware knobs have been replaced with chicked head knobs. The circuit itself features many component values common to BMP circuits from EHX, circa 1976-79. J's tone pot is no longer attached upside down as the original EHX Big Muffs were. The replacement pot is right side up, in the common position found on modern pedals. J sets the tone at 11:00, but the pot is wired in the reverse of a standard Big Muff, so bass and treble sides are reversed. J keeps the volume and sustain set to maximum, for full saturation. Tim has a blog about making the replica here. (Photos © Tym Guitars)

JM: Oh, yeah. What is your favorite copy of the Big Muff?

KR: Hmmm, mine changes about every six months because I try so many of them. Hard to say. Not really many I don’t like. They are all different. I really like the clone Stomp Under Foot made of my ’73 Ram’s Head, my BYOC Large Beaver, Cornish P-1, an old Hohner Tri Dirty Booster I just found, the Foxey Fuzz. Lots of good ones (KR - J promptly got online and ordered the Stomp Under Foot Violet Ram's Head and 73 Ram's Head as soon as this interview was over. Shortly thereafter he also sent SUF his favorite Ram's Head Big Muff, eventually ordering 3 clones made in smaller enclosures than the Tym Guitars version).

JM: Who makes that?

KR: A company called MJM makes the Foxey Fuzz. There is another one called the Royal Beaver I have been using a lot, which is from Big Tone Music Brewery, the same guys that do the Build Your Own Clone effects as I recall. It’s like a Big Muff tone lab, with three separate gain stages in a row, so you can tailor the gain, mid tones, EQ. You can customize each stage so you can almost get any Big Muff type sound from it. Almost. Not quite the full range, and it's ugly, but it’s a lot of fun.

JM: Oh yeah?

KR: There are so many of them out there to choose from now that it gets confusing, so many boutique makers doing it. The Big Muff is like the Fuzz Face now. How many Fuzz Face type pedal are there? Everyone has made one at some point, and it’s the same with the Big Muff. But they all sound slightly different, just like the originals did because all these guys are tracing various different circuits, or adding their own tweaks. There are a lot of new versions with mids knobs, and a new trend I have seen is to split the traditional tone control into two knobs, sort of like a treble and bass. That seems to be the latest thing. It gives some unique tones, but kind of looses the traditional Big Muff tone control mid scoop sound. Loses some of the character.

JM: Yeah, that doesn’t sound right. I am always looking for something to carry around that’s smaller and more durable.

KR: When does the Fuzz Munchkin come out?

JM: I’m not sure. I know Tim is not going to make many of them. He makes them all by himself.

KR: I think there will only be 300 made (Tim has already sold out of the first batch at the time of this interview).

JM: Right.

J Mascis Big MuffJ Mascis Pedals

Shown above, left to right: Tim of Tym Guitars Fuzz Munchkin prototype, J's original Big Muff, and the final limited edition replica from Tym Guitars, featuring J's artwork. The fuzz Munchkin was created so J could have a copy of his favorite Big Muff in a smaller enclosure, but Tim talked J into letting him make a small run of them for sale to the public. They will be made in small batches and sold through the Tym Guitars website. Only 300 units will be made. Tim told me that J originally wanted his clone to not have a gain or volume control, since he just sets them on full. Tim thought it would be hard to sell without them, so the replica includes them for more versatility (Photos © Tym Guitars)

J Describes what makes his Ram's Head sound different than others: "It seems like a bit clearer, like its really easy to play rhythm. It's like my main distortion for rhythm sounds and lead. Some Big Muffs kind of get really mushy when you are playing rhythm. It's hard to articulate the notes. That's I guess the main thing I notice about it." J Mascis from 2012

KR: Hasn’t Tim fixed a few of your amps and pedals?

JM: Yeah. I always have stuff breaking everywhere, so in Australia he has fixed some stuff.

KR: You have also used Mike at AnalogMan for some work before too. I know he has worked on a lot of your Electro-Harmonix pedals.

J Mascis Big Muff...J Mascis Big Muff

Shown above, left to right: A few of J's Big Muffs being worked in the Analog Man shop in 2003, and later in 2009. Mike at Analog man mentioned J's Big Muff collection to the producers of the Fuzz documentary film, promting them to interview J for the movie and show off his collection in 2007 (Photos © AnalogMan)

............Mistress Mystery Page. .... . .

JM: Right. Do you know who the best Big Muff repairman is?

KR: Some of the better guys are the ones making the clones, but they want to make their own pedals, not fix broken Big Muffs. It’s no fun tracing through a circuit to find bad caps or other components. I fix what I can myself, but I would rather just grab one off the shelf that works and play than spend time fixing. I’m still looking for the best fixit guy out there.

JM: Roger Mayer made me a clone once that was pretty cool.

KR: Really?

JM: I think I lost it, but yeah it was a spaceship one. It had two knobs. I think he ignored the volume knob. He figured I would just keep it up. (Roger is known for his custom fuzz effects sound design work with Jimi Hendrix, most notably for his Octavia pedal. Many of his later hand made pedals came in a space ship shaped enclosure)

Shown above: J's missing Roger Mayer custom Big Muff? Actually this is a Roger Mayer Octavia, built into the same style spaceship enclosure that Roger used for J's custom Big Muff (photo © Roger Mayer)

KR: Very cool. So you don’t have it anymore?

JM: I think I lost it. I often look for some of these pedals that I see are over a thousand dollars on ebay now. I’m like, where in the hell is that? I know I had that.

KR: Even for vintage Big Muffs, the prices have gone very high now. I have seen a few Triangles sell for well over two $2000 on ebay. Just recently a Ram’s Head sold for over $2000.

JM: I saw a blue one sell for a lot recently. Like $1600 or something.

KR: the one on ebay?

JM: Yeah.

KR: I think that same guy emailed me asking what it was worth before he put it up. I told him the range they were selling. But it’s really only worth what someone is willing to pay. I never pay that much because you will always find a better deal if you just wait.

JM: Oh, I know, yeah. I think I paid like $500 for an all red one.

KR: $500 to $600 seems to be an average for an old Ram’s Head right now, but it's up and down.

JM: Yeah, I won one with the little circle on the bottom, but it was all red, like the purple or blues ones.

KR: That’s rare to see the circle logo in red. Since purple is your favorite color, I assume you have collected quite a few of those purple circle logo Ram’s Heads?

J Mascis Big Muffs

Shown above: A portion of J's vintage Big Muff collection featuring some of his early version 2 Big Muffs with rare circle Ram Head logos, circa 1973-74. The example with red ink is extremely rare. The chicken head knobs shown above-right are not original, but all of the other knobs are actual Electro-Harmonix production knobs. EHX used a wide variety of knob types before settling on the familiar black Daka-Ware knobs shown on the left (Photo © J Mascis)

JM: No, I only have two. I have seen a couple of others I should have bought. I have seen maybe four, and bought two.

KR: They are very rare. Maybe twice a year I see them turn up on ebay or the gear forums.

JM: Which forums?

KR: I browse several. The Gear Page is one. I have seen some nice stuff for trade on the DAM forum (DAM Stompboxes) in the UK. And the EHX forums. Every now and then some big collector will turn up on a forum or will email me who is selling an entire collection. The majority I find on ebay.

JM: Yeah. So how many of the first ones (Triangle Big Muffs) do you have with the rotary control instead of the on off switch?

KR: Right now…I have owned two of those. Most of the Triangles I own now have the on/off switch. The early ones I had did not have printed circuit boards. They were hand wired on perf board and some point-to-point wiring.

JM: Yeah.

KR: Some of those have a really different sound, some so-so.

JM: Yeah, I have one of those. I can’t even remember what it sounded like.

KR: Ten years ago you could find those first editions for a few hundred, but now it’s hard to find any below a thousand dollars. Very scarce.

JM: A friend of mine had one, and I was always trying to buy it off him. I’m not really looking for any now, unless they are cheap purple ones. Unless there are some that I don’t know about that I should have.

KR: I’ll keep my eyes peeled for you. Well, J, thanks for letting me bug you with all of these questions. I appreciate the time very much and I think your fans will enjoy the read. Keep up the great work.

JM: All right. Cool. See ya.

J Mascis Pedals

An image of J from FUZZ: The Sound that Revolutionized the World. DVD available from Brink. Image © Brink Films, Inc.

J Mascis Official Website

Dinosaur jr. Official Website

Thanks to Amy at Red Light Management. Thanks to T for proofing. Article written in 2011








© Kit Rae. This page is not authorized, affiliated, or associated with Electro Harmonix in any way

Website and contents ©2007 and ©2010 Kit Rae. All rights reserved. Linking to this website is allowed, but copying the text content is strictly prohibited without prior authorization. No part of this work may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any other form, or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, computer networking, or otherwise without prior permission in writing from the copyright holder(s).


Kit’s Secret Guitar, Gear, and Music Page
Guitar stuff, gear stuff, soundclips, videos, Gilmour/Pink Floyd stuff, photos and other goodies.
Copyright Kit Rae.