Whilst the man standing at the front of the stage hogs the limelight, there’s often an essential brain hidden away behind the scenes, keeping the cogs turning. Behind revered artists like Jimi Hendrix, Bob Marley, and Jimmy Page stood the extraordinary pedal maker Roger Mayer.
Since the late ‘60s, Mayer has striven for excellence. His studio and guitar equipment has been featured on some of the bestselling albums of all time. We sat down with Roger to discuss his backstory, how his friendship with Hendrix began, and where his work is today.
You began your working career at the Admiralty Research Laboratory (ARL). What inspired you to start building guitar effects, and who took first interest in your designs?
I grew up listening to U.S. R&B records from an early age, as my sister went to art school and was ahead of the curve when it came to new underground breaking artists. My local bands featured guitarists Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page, and on weekends, we met and listened to the latest underground U.S. music at JP’s house in Epsom with Jeff.
The U.S. records began to feature distortion and, encouraged by them, it inspired me to design my first fuzz boxes that immediately were featured on U.K. hit records by Jimmy and Jeff as their careers took off.
How did you meet Hendrix?
I first met Jimi a few days after my 21st birthday, after one of his shows at the Bag O’Nails club in Soho, London. After being blown away by his live show, I introduced myself backstage and instantly got lost in conversation about tone and how I wanted to create something completely different.
He invited me along to a gig the following week, which is where he first listened to the Octavia backstage on a small amp. He was so impressed and excited with the new sounds he invited me along to the Olympic Studio later that week to overdub the solos on his second release—"Purple Haze"—and "Fire."