Ryan and Shannon Ratajski met, fell in love, and got married in 2006. Both were out of college and pursuing Master’s Degrees in Education. Shannon had just gotten a degree in Fine Arts at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia and would attend The College of New Jersey, while Ryan was continuing his education at UNE. It’s a warm-hearted story of two like-minded folks supporting each other in the completion of their higher education to, in turn, use that education to teach young children. Ryan, however, was also a musician, a bass player no less, who developed a passion for experimenting with effects and would eventually start building them. But it was Shannon who would give the pedals their artistic identity and continuity. Yes, this is a very cool story indeed.
Ryan’s band buddy, Lukas McCutcheon, had lots of pedals, a crap-load of them, apparently. Ryan, of course, started dinking around with them and developed an affinity for the Big Muff’s gnarly, fuzzy tone that transformed his bass into a low end monster. He wanted one, but his friend encouraged him to build one and pointed Ryan to the General Guitar Gadget kit for building a Big Muff. (Insert “light bulb moment” here.) Ryan was hooked, but he thought it could be improved upon, especially for bass. So after talking to and getting feedback from other musicians, Ryan started tinkering around with adding oscillation and tone bypass on his version. The end result kicked ass. Fellow musicians freaked out and asked Ryan to build pedals for them. Word of mouth spread, particularly with a huge boost from bass players on TalkBass forums. Soon, Ryan had orders for about 30 pedals.
Here, already married two and a half years, Ryan and Shannon had to make a decision: build the pedals and be done or take the plunge and start a legitimate pedal company, making it work with the already hectic schedule they shared. They decided to make it work. And so “Fuzzrocious Pedals,” (the name combining the “Fuzz” focus of the company and “Ferocious” after the family’s two pitbulls,) was born. The pedal was called the “Grey Stache” and the orders were filled. Ryan wanted the pedals to have a unique and artistic unity to the look of his new creation, so Shannon put her talents to work and designed the image. Soon, demand for other sonic choices led Ryan to start experimenting with new designs.
Next up was a beefed up and tweaked with take on the vintage ProCo Rat pedal. Made more bass-friendly and tonally flexible with different clipping options: silicon, no diodes, and LED modes. Quickly, the “Rat Tail” was becoming their most popular pedal and players began asking for even more options and flexibility. Necessity, being the mother of invention, led Ryan in the direction of expanding the Rat Tail’s vision and housing the guts in a larger box with mods galore. And so, the “Rat King” was born. And again, players freaked out and demand increased. Through the whole process of designing and building new models, Shannon has kept up the artistic side with distinctive and consistent hand-painted boxes for all pedals, most of which are pictured with the review of the Rat King.
Here’s what the Rat King is as described by Fuzzrocious:
“It’s suped-up version of the Rat Tail. The idea behind this monster is to save some board space by kicking a couple of other pedals off of your board! This is three pedals in one: a RAT TAIL, a second RAT TAIL (through the 2nd distortion setting), and a momentary feedback loop. The middle footswitch lets you jump between 2 distortion settings (ex. – low gain/high gain) and it has an LED indicator so you know the 2nd setting is active. The momentary feedback loop is adjustable (we can make this latching for you noise junkies out there). The diode knob (Di) blends between LEDs and silicon diodes AND you can use the toggle to bypass the diodes (great for bassists or for a more ‘open’ sound). The double resistor mod found on our RAT TAIL is also included to allow you to fine tune your sound and control how the circuit clips by clipping more on just the highs, just the lows, or anything in between.”
I’ve included a helpful diagram of the Rat King with at-a-glance descriptions of the feature set.
Plugging in, I decided to set everything pretty much at “12 o’clock,” with “Distortion” and “Feedback Loop” switches engaged and kick the thing on. HELLO! That’ll wake you up in the morning. A face peeling, fuzzy shriek got my attention and I quickly reeled in the Rat King a bit. After getting the hang of the feature set, I found myself spending a good bit of time exploring the “Tone Filter,” “Feedback,” and “Clipping” knobs. The Rat King possesses a massive range of voicings with just these controls, so when I got around to twiddling the “Volume” and “Distortion” controls, as well as messing around with blending and toggling between diode modes, I was pretty blown away. It runs the gamut from subtle to synth-y to severe, so I can totally see where other pedals could be unseated by the addition of the Rat King to a board.
Fuzzrocious is a pedal company on an upward trajectory. Both Ryan and Shannon are constantly keeping the name in the spotlight through regular postings on social media and music forums. The crazy thing is that both Ryan and Shannon are busy with day jobs and raising two kids: Kaeden (4) and Raeven (2). The kids even contribute on “Kid Painted” versions of their pedals. Amazingly, Fuzzrocious is something they’ve been able to grow on their “free time.” Ryan points out that it’s totally an in-house, Mom-n-Pop company, operated with a robust work ethic and desire to create pedals he would use on a daily basis. And he’s grateful that so many other players would use his pedals too.
So that’s the story up to now. It’s a love story, really. Not only between two people who love each other, but also their love of combining their artistic talents to create some truly amazing devices. I bet their wedding kicked ass.
About the author:
“I created BassEFX.com because the bass community clearly needed a place that would consolidate all the best effects pedals in one place. BassEFX.com gives bass players – and only bass players – a resource that showcases what’s available, offers the best advice and gets you the right effect. My background: I co-founded Bass Northwest, the world’s largest bass-only retail operation, and ran it for 15 years, (1994-2009.) In 30 years as a bass player, I’ve seen, heard, and played just about every amplifier, bass, cabinet and effect pedal imaginable.”