Without much fanfare, Stomp Under Foot’s Matt Pasquerella has become one of the foremost Muff-clone specialists in the known universe. The Massachusetts-turned-Florida builder’s pedals certainly aren’t the flashiest. But if you ask just about any Muff freak about the “State of Fuzz,” Matt’s work is bound to become a focus of conversation.
SUF built its reputation on superb-sounding versions of Muffs that don't annihilate your savings account. In particular, the company’s Violet Ram’s Head and Civil War are revered among even the most cork-sniffing Big Muff cognoscenti for their combination of authenticity and value. The authentic sounds from Stomp Under Foot’s pedals are the product of Pasquerella’s insatiable appetite for poking around the guts of vintage Muffs. All that time under the hood has led Pasquerella to some very interesting conclusions about what makes a Muff a classic or a dud. And some of his more recent revelations have led to The Pi—a Muff clone that doesn’t strive to precisely replicate a known classic, but instead focuses on the interesting combination of attitude and civility shared by many Muffs from the ’70s and ’80s. The end result not only delivers a fuzz vehicle that’s perfect for everything from slick-and-dirty Ernie Isley lead tones to skanky Stooges riffage, but acknowledges the cool differences with the Muff circuit that make a definitive version so elusive.
With its gunmetal, metallic-flake paint and a Klingon-esque take on the Pi symbol, The Pi simultaneously acknowledges the custom- van-and-shag ’70s roots that loom large in Muff legend and declares that this is a Muff of slightly more sinister intent. Like all Stomp Under Foot pedals, it takes an economical approach to occupying pedalboard space (though a top-mounted AC jack would be nice) and the guts of the pedal are unfussy and well built. You get the feeling that Pasquerella is more focused on sound and reliability than the fetishistic touches that put some other pedals out of touch for working musicians. It’s refreshing to see Stomp Under Foot embrace this take-care-of-business approach. Elsewhere, The Pi is a classic Muff design— a volume knob, a sustain knob (which essentially controls fuzz content), and a tone knob.
Ready to Rip
Pasquerella tips his hat to post-punk and Seattle-school players a lot when talking about the development of The Pi. And indeed, there is a punky, slashing, rip-it-up irreverence that you can hear when you crank the sustain. If you ever ended up dissatisfied with a Muff because power chords sounded freaking glorious when you were alone in the practice space, but turned to mud once the rest of the band showed up, The Pi might be the fix. With a Stratocaster out front, sustain at around 3 o’clock, the volume back around noon, and tone at around 1 o’clock, The Pi transformed a classically squishy 5Y3 Deluxe-style circuit routed through a close-backed Fender 2x12 into an almost Marshall-like beast— bellowing with round, complex, chest-thumping, low-end content and a brilliant, high-mid growl that retained individual detail. lt’s a fantastic chording machine at these settings, with the buzz and menace to propel Ron Asheton-style savagery, detail, and response—enough to enable percussive hardcore and Ramones-style eighth-note chugging, and all the low end you need for Sabbath sludge. You can just as easily play folk-rock-style arpeggios with a little bump in the tone and loose nearly nothing in the way of string-to-string detail—a great recipe for heavy-duty power pop. Adding much in the way of volume past two o’clock will obscure a little detail in chords, at least in mid-power amps. But for players with high-headroom, 100-watt-plus rigs, that extra octane could be a ticket to heaven.
The very same qualities that make The Pi such a monstrous-but- refined chord machine make it a top-tier Muff for lead work. It retains much of the searing yet vocal identity that defines a good, vintage Ram ’s Head, but there’s also just a touch of Russian Muff-style low end. An unexpected surprise is the ease with which you can dial in buzzy, almost Fuzzrite-style lead tones by dialing back the volume, cranking the fuzz, and adjusting the tone to your amp and guitar.
Versatile and full of piss and vinegar, The Pi is a fuzz of many colors that can be a Muff in the classic sense, but has the range to move past those limitations. Players that obsess over the perfect Ram’s Head, Russian Muff, or op-amp tone will surely find deficiencies to nitpick. But more open-minded fuzz enthusiasts are bound to be impressed with how deftly The Pi can move from filthy to cultivated to buzzy to singing. And if you’re interested in cultivating your own brand of Muff tone, there’s plenty of fuzz acreage to explore and stake out as your own in this metal-flake menace.