Pedals And Effects hitting hard with another installment of Pedals And Effects 5, and this week's column features Ryan Ratajski of Fuzzrocious. I can't remember the first time I met Ryan but I know the last time I saw him was at this year's winter NAMM with his wife Shannon. Ryan has many fans from his commitment to fuzz (duh!) but he also has great ideas on music, running a family business and currently plays in two bands Cavale and Plutonian.
1. What is your number one/go-to pedal on your pedalboard and why?
The pedal that I land on the most for dirt/drive/distoriton/whatever is a Fuzzrocious Rat Tail. It has remained the longest running anything on my pedalboard for my work in Cavale and Plutonian. I know exactly how to dial it for the grind I want. I love the midrange clank I get from running the distortion around 11:00. It's not too much and not too subtle.
If I am doing something weird and making noise, I always go to the Moog Freqbox. This is one their less popular products, but for me, it has been my go-to filter/sweep/crowd annoyer for many years. With an expression pedal hooked to the envelope, I can sweep through the filter like one would on the wheel of a synth. It tracks and follows your initial note, so one's bass sounds like a Moog synth.
2. What is your favorite combination of pedals? It can be a combination of 2 pedals or multiple pedals!
The MXR Bass Octave Deluxe -> Moog Freqbox (w/ expression pedal) -> Fuzzrocious Heliotropic is my combination for rattling a crowd's bowels. The grit and grind of the MXR provides the lows that the Moog wants to synthesize. Throwing that into the Heliotropic creates a deep and subby, yet saturated fuzz that hits just right in the low mids to be felt as well as heard. As previously mentioned, the Freqbox is not the most popular product Moog has made, so when I use this combination of effects, I know that the listener is hearing something new and hopefully inspiring.
3. When did you realize a pedal(s) could evolve your playing/sound and what pedal(s) was it?
On Cave In's "Big Riff," Caleb Scofield uses (and I could be wrong) an EHX Bass Micro Synthesizer that makes this triggered downward sweep. It was the first time that I thought and felt clearly, "I want that sound." I found a big box EHX Bass Micro Synth and went to town. The pedal is a total beast! That cascading filter is just amazing.
This is an effect that allows a bass to sound completely different in a band mix and guitarists cannot compete with it. With that said, it must be used sparingly...unless you live in outer space.
4. In the future, what would you like to see pedal builders create (from scratch) or modify on an existing standard?
I would love to see a Roland Jet Phaser re-purposed in a smaller enclosure than the original with expression control for the speed rather than a fast/slow speed switch. I have bought this effect two or three times and think about it often. It's a real oddball, but phasers never really work for me in a band mix. I am not a funk dude, per say, but regardless of what style you like to play, I suggest checking out Larry Graham demoing his Roland Jet Phaser.
5. What advice can you give to musicians who are trying to expand their musical horizons with pedals and effects?
Please keep an open mind with effects that you try and buy. It may not fit right now in your band or project, but it might come in handy when your taste changes (and it will change). Please consider holding onto negative comments on an effect until you've truly had time to digest it because your words hold power on the internet. Your negative comments could put someone off and they may never get to try an effect that could work well in their setup. No two bassists use the same bass, pickups, amp, cabinet/speakers, and settings, so what doesn't work for you doesn't mean it won't for someone else. Be positive and keep an open mind, if not for yourself, then for others around the world.