Fuzzrocious: People Behind The Pedals

People Behind The Pedals

Interview with Ryan Ratajski of
Fuzzrocious Pedals

In the first of a new ‘People Behind The Pedals’ blog series, we delve a little deeper into the brains behind the businesses, the memories of the manufacturers and the expertise of the effects pedal aficionados!

Today we welcome Ryan Ratajski, owner of Fuzzrocious Pedals, to share the story behind his success so far…

“In the summer of 2008, my Dad taught me how to solder on a General Guitar Gadgets BMP. My wife painted the enclosure for me and I immediately fell in love with making effects pedals. I reached out to all of my friends with whom I used to tour with, about making them effects and things snowballed from there. We had a shop on MySpace and a growing following on Talkbass. We lived on pure word of mouth and it helped that we stood out in a crowd — there was no other brand making hand-painted effects, one by one, for each customer and customising mods to suit their needs.

“Having two children, teaching full time in Camden, New Jersey and running Fuzzrocious full time on the side was a big ask; in June 2014, Shannon left teaching to paint full time! In March 2015, I left teaching too. It came to a point where we had to either focus on being parents and teachers, or parents and pedal makers.

It was a MAJOR struggle month to month to afford private benefits for a family of four plus pets, and it worked out that Shannon missed teaching, so she went back to teaching and I have stayed home to grow Fuzzrocious.

“The minutia of involving the kids with our business is pretty easy. If customers commission them to paint, they get to paint whatever they dream up with no restrictions. The kids don’t get burned out…we leave that to Shannon for her custom orders!

What was the first pedal you ever built? When it comes to developing new pedals, where do you draw inspiration from – both in terms of sound and visual appearance?

The first pedal I made from a kit was the GGG BMP (muff style fuzz). After I stopped building from kits, I worked on veroboard and brought Grey Stache and Rat Tail (now Cat Tail) to the line-up.

When developing a new pedal, inspiration comes from anywhere and everywhere. Ideas usually come to me in the bathtub and develop on the breadboard! For visuals, Shannon and I discuss any art ideas/wants and a name for the pedal. For example, we were designing CROAK, an expressive dual filter fuzz, that sounded like a frog. Shannon loves frogs, so here we are!

What makes your pedals different from other brands / similar models?

To this day, there are no other brand at, above, or near our level that offer the hand-painted work and custom modifications for both stock and custom jobs like we do. We look different and try to sound different. In terms of sound, if a pedal derives from another circuit, it’s not enough to just clone it and slap a new name on it; it has to be improved upon and modded to be considered something new or better.

For original designs, if you look at something like M.O.T.H., no-one else was mixing oscillators in parallel with drive/distortion/fuzz. If you’re making something original, that too has to stand out in some way.

What’s in the pipeline for Fuzzrocious? What are your business goals/ hopes for the future?

We have a new pedal  dropping on October 14! (Editor update on 14/10: It’s the Electric Ocean – very exciting!)

If you want to know more subscribe to Guitar FX Direct’ and Fuzzrocious’ newsletters and social media accounts. Other new band and brand collaborations are in the works, but we can’t be more specific on that.

In terms of goals, I just want to be able to build pedals for people for as long as I can! The market is beyond oversaturated with new faces, fun ideas, crappy clones, and race-to-the-bottom brands. On top of that COVID has yielded some awful results in not only production and stock of parts, but also in pricing. It’s VERY hard to watch one’s hard-earned, small profit margin keep shrinking. One thing I want to do for Fuzzrocious is to keep pricing as low as we can for as long as we can! I’ll take a pay cut so our customers can benefit from fair pricing in a market where others are raising prices.

What is your Fuzzrocious career highlight to date? Have you had a ‘pinch me’ moment?

Collaborations with bands and brands is the icing on the cake for running Fuzzrocious. Getting to work with bands we love to make pedals their fans will love is SO rewarding. Cross-pollination with brands like MXR or Electro-Faustus (just to name a couple) is both a learning tool to learn how to think differently AND an amazing opportunity to make something more out of an idea. Collaboration is the spice of life.

As for “pinch me” moments, we’ve had A LOT of them and it’s incredible to reminisce on how many special moments we’ve been fortunate enough to have, but if I have to share just one, it would be a phone call from Troy van Leeuwen (Failure, Queens of the Stone Age, etc.) very early on in our career after we made Heliotropic. We started as strangers and it grew into a friendship.

Personal favourite of all your pedals?

It depends on the cycle of the moon and day of the week…building our newest upcoming release is a chore, but getting to test and play it is a DREAM.

I can’t wait for people to see what we’ve made!

Excluding your own brand, what’s the one pedal you wish you had created yourself, any why?

Roland AP-7 Jet Phaser tied with Moog Freqbox. The voicing and unique weirdness of these pedals are PERFECT.

They continue to inspire me! For the Freqbox, I wanted my pedal to sound like synth. The expression out for all of the pots makes this pedal a workhorse. The Jet Phaser hooked me from the moment I watched the Larry Graham video on YouTube. How could a funk guy be so spacey and doomy?! I can’t get enough of it.

What’s the guitar riff/song you immediately play when picking up a guitar?

I don’t really get the chance to play or pick up guitar these days, far too focused on making pedals and on my family 😊

With our thanks to Ryan for taking time out from an incredibly busy schedule to talk to Guitar FX Direct

 We shall have a number of the soon-to-be-announced new arrival from Fuzzrocious Pedals launching on 14th October, so 

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