As Jimi Hendrix’s right-hand man in the studio during the recording of 1967’s Axis: Bold As Love, Roger Mayer knows what it means to be at the cutting edge of studio effects.
Shortly after Roger’s 21st birthday, the pair hit it off while discussing guitar pedals. “I introduced the Octavia to Jimi back in early 1967,” recalls Roger. “We were both into new and innovative sounds and I mentioned I’d helped out Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page with some of my stuff for their hit records. Jimi asked me if I had anything new and I told him about this new pedal – the Octavia.
“He asked me to bring it along to a gig he was playing at Chislehurst Caves [in Kent] and he tried it out through a practice amp in the dressing room. He said, ‘I know what I can use this for. Come down to the Ricky Tick Club gig next week; we’re going to Olympic Studios after the show to record the overdubs for Purple Haze and Fire.’ Jimi ended up using a Telecaster to record those solos with, and that’s how he discovered the Octavia.”
The pedal that Jimi used to record Purple Haze with uniquely featured a hand-wound ferrite transformer, and for the ﬁrst time this all-important component has been incorporated into an ofﬁcial Octavia design, the Purple Haze Octavia.
“It’s also the first time since then that I’ve made an Octavia in a wedge-shaped enclosure,” points out Roger.
“But this one doesn’t just use a battery; it also takes nine to 24 volts DC. The higher the voltage, the greater the headroom or output capacity – the signal distorts. So you can get the perfect Octavia sound and boost it with a higher output, which makes it much more usable in the studio. When I was in the studio with Jimi, we had access to a variable power supply, so we could ﬁne-tune the sound of the Octavia.”
With collectors hot on the trail, a mere 100 of these Roger Mayer-signed Purple Haze Octavias have been made available to musicians, engineers and producers worldwide, priced at £1,440 (approx $2,000). “They also make a nice gift and they’re a good investment, too,” says Roger.
Although the Octavia is often lumped into the category of fuzz pedals, Roger considers this too generic a label. “It’s more about wave shaping,” he explains. “The sound of an Octavia is about mirror imaging; you’ve got twice as many [wave] peaks as you would normally have, and that’s what gives the frequency doubling effect.
“It sounds alien, but it also sounds human. It was made for making hit records and it debuted on arguably Jimi Hendrix’s most famous record – Purple Haze. It’s got an impeccable heritage. If you want a genuine Octavia tone, you need to buy a genuine pedal. Some of my early pedals go for a lot more money; the original Band of Gypsys Octavia just went for $70,400!”