For years, one of the mainstays of Australian multi-instrumentalist Warren Ellis’ pedalboard has been this mysterious, shabby looking black thing nobody knew what was exactly. Much discussed among fans, but never fully revealed.
The story is, the black box was built by Warren Ellis’ brother Murray from old radio parts, in an attempt to make an Octavia pedal, but coming out as something weird and evil sounding: The Muzz effect.
In the spring of 2015 I got the chance to meet up with Warren Ellis here in Copenhagen, where he told me about this little box of wonders, and of his desire to get a back-up pedal. Previous attempts to copy it never sounding right. I said, I’d be happy to check it out, and promised to make an exact 1:1 clone, no matter how exotic the components in the original pedal would turn out to be.
Warren Ellis’ original pedal arrived at my shop in the fall of 2015, and in addition to cloning it, Warren Ellis and I discussed several ideas for pairing it up with other elements of his pedal set-up, inspired by the twin-pedal concept of the Reuss Rowland S. Howard model. We ended up with the Muzzbomb, adding a loud clean boost to the Muzz effect.
The booster is based on the gain control of vintage mixing desks. The boost level is preset via a trimmer control at the left side of the pedal, and the booster can be used independently of the Muzz effect. It’s a very clean and strong sounding boost, capable of raising your sound level up to 60 times the input level. Kick it on, when you need to cut through!
The Muzz effect itself is based on a 1970s Octavia circuit, with some departures from the vintage design, adding an extra mean and evil character to the already excentric sounds and behaviors of the old classic. The Muzzbomb can be used in much of the same applications as an Octavia. Basically it’s an octave-up fuzz effect with some ring modulation going on too..
The Muzz likes to have a fuzz or an overdrive in front of it as well as after. It’s a tool for experimentation, and the only rule is “no rules”. Warren Ellis generally uses a boutique overdrive before the Muzz, which gives a fatter sound. Putting a dirt pedal after the Muzzbomb will usually emphasize the octave-up effect.
The Muzz part of the Muzzbomb features two controls. The ‘INTENSITY’ knob controls the amount of fuzz-noise and general sonic mayhem. The octave effect is present from the control dialed all the way back. With the INTENSITY cranked, the Muzz will compress the attack and give a swelling sustain, easily pushing your guitar into beautifully textured feedback tones. The ‘LEVEL’ control sets the output level of the Muzz effect. It gets very loud in itself, and kicking in the booster on top of the Muzz, makes for a VERY loud and brutal sound. Rolling off your guitar's output volume will make the ring modulation and octave effect of the Muzz cleaner and clearer.
Warren Ellis is using the Muzz effect with both violin and his trademark tenor guitars, which is why we are calling the input of the pedal “VIOLIN/TENOR” - but you can use it with an electric guitar too, of course.
The Reuss WE-01 Muzzbomb is handmade in the European Union. Only 150 pedals made.
- All clips features my friend Fzat playing a Fender Jazzmaster through his 1980s 100W Marshall Super Lead amp
Download the WE-01 Muzzbomb manual here
The Muzzbomb is pretty on the inside too:
Here's a demo of the Muzzbomb recorded in the Reuss workshop, performed by Manoj Ramdas (Childrenn, Spektr, Sort Sol, ex-The Raveonettes):
Warren Ellis' solo on this recording (coming in at about 1:10) is the black DIY Muzz with an overdrive in front:
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