[interview] Gammatronics: Angelo Marruzzi

Here's FXDB's interview with Angelo Marruzzi of Gammatronics:

How did Gammatronics start?

I started tinkering around with pedals/amps and electronics back in the early-80's, trying to fix and mod broken wah pedals and fuzztones and such, to see if I could make them sound better, or different.

I also had access to alot of NOS parts such as transistors, caps etc, so I started cloning classic pedals such as the Vox Tonebender, Fuzzface, and certain Colorsound pedals like the Overdriver and their tonebenders, as gifts for friends and other musicians.

Around 1995 was when I took it seriously and started making runs of pedals.

I learned everything from trial and error and screwing up a lot of stuff in the process! I was the only person doing what I was doing that I knew of... there was no "booteek" stuff yet and no internet forums to teach everybody everything.

I did sell a great-sounding Ibanez TS-808 to Jeorge Tripps around 1990 or so that he loved and I think he used it to model his pedal after. Although he prolly doesn't remember, he and I both used to bring our own fuzz designs down to Voltage Guitars at Gardener/Sunset in Hollywood for this guy Steve Bishop, who used to work there, to test out.

I also remember getting a call from Geoffrey Teese around 1995 when he was living out here in CA, before he started his business, and we swapped a couple of wah mod ideas that everyone in the universe now knows.

Where do the name and logo come from?

Gammatronics comes from my initials... Guerric Angelo Marruzzi, though I go by my middle name, Angelo.

For the logo I used the atom symbol, just for fun.

What sets Gammatronics apart from other builders?

I tried to really cherry pick my parts and put a lot of time and effort into making my pedals sound just like the original it was cloned after... I have some choice examples of these classic pedals that I always used for a benchmark, and always did an AB comparison before I let a pedal go to somebody.

I also wanted all of my own designs to be different than anything that was already around, and not just another clone of a classic pedal like what happened much later.

How do you start on a new pedal?

Of the pedals I make that are my own design, such as the G-Spot Overdrive, it was simply for the reason that I was always looking for an overdrive to sound a certain way that no commercial overdrive was able to give me. So out of necessity.

How do you name your pedals?

"Derangemaster"...was bloody obvious to me from the get-go.

G-spot... hmmm... never mind! :)

Can you tell us something about the production process?

I've built all my pedals by either handwiring them on perfboard or by drawing/etching them by hand. WAY too much work for most folks to wanna do nowadays. I always built them in house with no help from anyone. Had one friend help me with some soldering/assembly when I was taking lots of Derangemaster orders.

I mostly used to just highly polish/buff my boxes because I thought it looked cool that way. I did do some more elaborate paint jobs in the beginning but it was too time-consuming for me.

How important is the look of your pedals?

It wasn't very important because a lot of my clients simply wanted them put in polished boxes with no logos so nobody would know what they were using. A secret weapon as they would put it! 

Some would want them so I used simple decals... I was too lazy to go beyond that, it was always more important that the pedal sounded amazing and that it would turn people's heads when they stepped on it.

How important is parts selection?

I always used NOS transistors, caps, pots, when I could get them... as I always try to do when I repair, restore a pedal/amp. I like to keep them stock and I found that I could get way closer to the original sound of a pedal when I used these parts.

Tho, there are folks who will disagree with that, which is moot now since those parts aren't as available as they used to be.

Everything is important, but when you sum all the NOS parts together I could always nail the sound I was trying to duplicate. I was doing that from the very beginning, and some guys still do it now. I was making clones of the Solasound Pro MK II with OC81D's and NOS caps/resistors over 15 years ago.

Which of your pedals makes you most proud?

I'm sure I'm the first person to clone and sell the Rangemaster Treble Booster. I got one when I was on tour in Europe around 1994 or so. I then went back to Europe to get the Mullard OC44 transistors so I could make them! You don't have to do that now.

I originally just wanted to make one to give to one of my idols, Rory Gallagher, because he said he missed his original that was long lost... but I didn't get a chance to give it to him because sadly he died soon thereafter. 

Brian May from Queen was the first famous user to get my Derangemaster.

Which of your pedals was your toughest build?

Hand-drawing/etching a board for some of the Colorsound pedals was kinda tricky!

Which of your pedals is the most popular?

I still make my Derangemaster and I think it sounds exactly like a good original, but now there's so many clones of that pedal its not funny, so its not that big of a deal anymore. And with all the DIY sites anybody can buy a kit anyways.

I'm really proud of my G-Spot overdrive... I was approached by a well-known Japanese company around 1990 that I won't mention, who wanted to buy that circuit, but I declined for various reasons. 

People always liked my version of the Octavia because it had a more pronounced octave and it can do the Jimi Band of Gypsys kettledrum thing really well.

Who uses your pedals and for which genres?

Brian May from Queen, Tony Iommi from Black Sabbath, KK Downing and Glen Tipton from Judas Priest, Ritchie Blackmore, and Slash, all have my Derangemaster.

Actor/musician Steven Seagal has one of them too, as well as my G-Spot Overdrive. I used to work for him, and manage his collection of guitars, amps and pedals for a couple of years.

Sid McGinnis from Letterman's band has one of my Octavias and I think a Fuzzface too.

I've also repaired/modded pedals/amps for lots of other rock and studio guys, but alot of them didn't and don't want anybody to know, so I'll stop there.

Tony Iommi wanted me to try to voice a Derangemaster to sound like the Dallas Rangemaster he used to have in the old days, which sounded somewhat thicker than most original examples I've seen, or repaired.

So with transistor selection by ear, and by using a bigger/certain type input cap, he said he loved it, that it sounded exactly as he remembered, and said he would use it in the studio and not take it out on the road, so nothing would happen to it.

I tried to get one to Clapton, but his people were difficult to deal with and it wasn't worth it.

My Derangemaster really got around to a lot of the public, but I've always been in the Los Angeles studio/music scene, so alot of famous and studio personalities have my pedals.

Also had a lot of access because I worked in, and fixed alot of vintage gear for most of the vintage guitar shops that used to be on "guitar row", Sunset and Gardener in Hollywood.

I could write a book about all the cool experiences I've had with people for the last 25 years that I've been living in L.A. Building, modding, repairing/restoring all along the way.

What does the future of Gammatronics look like?

I don't really have time to build pedals anymore because I'm a guitarist/composer/producer first, and am way too busy. Though I've always had the pedal/amp thing going on the side and always took it very seriously.

Once in awhile however, I'll build a fuzztone, octavia, or Derangemaster for somebody in a studio or for a friend, etc. I also still like to repair/restore/mod vintage pedals and tube amps on the side when I have time.

I was just contacted to be a part of the pedal/amp building program that GIT at Musicians Institute in Hollywood is planning... very excited about that.

Are you working on any new products?

Not currently, no. But you never know what can happen!

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