Among the many legendary pedal designers to pay Dan & Mick a visit, one in particular has remained off-the-grid for TPS: the mythical Jeorge Tripps. At last, Tripps was on the right side of the pond to make the connection. This week, he stopped in to chat with Dan & Mick about his experience in the pedal game as well as some of the more recent builds in his current brands.
Tripps in the Early Days and Golden Age of Pedals
These days, you’ll find Tripps directing the product development of the Jim Dunlop pedal brands. At present, this family includes Cry Baby, MXR, and Way Huge. Not a bad position to find yourself in, even as Tripps remarked tongue-in-cheek, “I’m really not a pedal guy!”
While Tripps has called Dunlop for twelve years now, that is only the most recent chapter in his journey with guitar gear. His initial experimentation with pedals started in the early 1990s. As Dan remarked, “you were certainly one of the early boutique builders.” Tripps recalled that back then he and Mike Pierra of Analog Man “used to trade schematics by mail, there was a little bit of email, but literally we would mail stuff.” Around this time when interest in guitar rack systems was on the decline, brands such as Analog Man, Full Tone, ZVEX, Voodoo Lab, and Tripps’ own, Way Huge were on the rise.
Like many others, Tripps began tinkering after reading Craig Anderton’s Electronic Projects for Musicians. It started with a talk box build and then, out of necessity, a repair and eventual clone of his delicate Fox Tone Machine. As the builds continued Tripps thought, “I’ll just call this stuff ‘Way Huge’ and started noodling around.”
After developing a cult following and then going full time, Tripps found himself on the other end of a phone call inviting him to join the Line 6 team in the late 1990s. With an opportunity too good to pass up, he folded shop on Way Huge. While his Way Huge pedals already became classics, they were not destined to be relics. After a chance meeting with Jim Dunlop years later, the eminent guitar gear tycoon expressed an interest in acquiring the dormant Way Huge brand and bringing it (and Tripps) into the family. With that, Way Huge came back for an unexpected round two, and Tripps history of innovation continued under new management.
Tripps’ Role in Some Iconic Delay Pedals
With a backstory like this, its no surprise to find Tripps’ engineering and design influence all over the place. Yet if you track some key typologies of delay pedals, Tripps’ fingerprints are all over the place. Digital, analog, tape, he’s worked on it.
Let’s start with the Aqua Puss, which Tripps recalls being shocked that the original design actually worked! As Dan noted, “and that’s a classic now and [the originals] fetch crazy money!” With a famed list of users including Brad Paisley, John Mayer, Keith Richards, and Jeff Beck, it’s no surprise Dunlop recommissioned Tripps’ design. His most recent achievement in analog includes the MXR Carbon Copy Deluxe, which leverages the best of both the Carbon Copy and Carbon Copy Bright with added features such as tap tempo control and echo subdivisions.
If you’re into digital, the Line 6 DL4 was a key product that Tripps worked on during his tenure there. “That shipped in October of 1999, and they’re still made and sold.” As Mick remarked, “That is astonishing to think that a digital product that was designed in 1998, and presumably hasn’t changed that much, and it’s still sold.”
Finally, for fans of tape delay sounds in the room, Tripps has you covered. The most recent entry in his resume of delay designs is the MXR Echoplex, which provides a remarkably accurate yet streamlined rendition of the vintage tape delay sounds of the big box effect its named after.
Highlights from the Current Catalogue of Dunlop Fuzz and Overdrive Designs
Tripps, however, has been toiling over more than delay lately. This past year saw the release of a number of overdrive and fuzz pedals, a few of which were featured on the TPS board of the week.
The Way Huge (Geisha) Drive pedal is a limited edition stomp box, which draws some inspiration from the classic sounds of a Maxon Sonic Distortion. As Mick remarked, “it’s got that really nice, almost fuzzy, top end.” As Tripps responded, this edginess is there when you want it on full gain but “if you roll the volume back it starts to smooth out. Then if you need to hammer it, just turn your volume up.”
At NAMM 2018, MXR released small format designs of two pedals: the Classic 108 Fuzz and Sugar Drive. As Mick clarified, “The 108 is from the BC 108, silicon based, Fuzz Face-type circuit.” One of the new features of this shrunk down version is the added buffer switch. Tripps commented, “We did that for a number of reasons, but it just changes the way it sounds. Some people really like that sound. But [one reason] is that most Fuzz Faces don’t work easily with a wah.” With the added buffer option onboard, the Classic 108 can be set in various positions in the chain and promises to behave. If you’re in the market for a less aggressive overdrive sound that keeps your guitar tone in tact with a dose of transparent drive, be sure to check out the Sugar Drive.
Inspired by some of the story and sounds of this week’s episode? Be sure to stop in online or in store at Riff City for all of your MXR, Jim Dunlop, and Way Huge pedal needs.
TPS Rig Rundown
Guitars: Fender Custom Shop 1963 Telecaster, Fender American Vintage 1962 Stratocaster, Gibson Memphis 1958 ES-335.
Amps: Fender Super Reverb (reissue), Marshall 1987x with 2061x 2×12 cabinet.
Pedals: D’Addario Pedal Tuner, Way Huge (Geisha) Drive, MXR Classic 108 Fuzz Mini, MXR Sugar Drive, Way Huge Russian Pickle Fuzz MkIII, Way Huge Blue Hippo Analog Chorus MkIII, Way Huge Aqua Puss Analog Delay MkIII, MXR Carbon Copy Deluxe, Way Huge Echo Puss.