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INSIDE: MERIS PEDALS
Meris might be new to the industry, but Terry Burton and Angelo Mazzocco are not. Composed of the former Strymon co-founder and Line6 DSP expert, respectively, as well as Creative Director Jinna Kim, Meris reflects a veteran mindset, packing their effects with features designed to unfold over a period of use. That’s not to say they’re difficult to use. Rather, it’s just the opposite. Meris makes effects that encourage users to craft personal relationships with their products, offering a multi-layered effects experience that functions like a long-term journey into a specially-constructed and spacious world of sound, rewarding exploration and demanding spirited creativity.
We asked Terry and Angelo just how this world is made, where they find the inspiration for its architecture, and how they arrived at designing some of the most beautifully intricate effects on the market.
What is Meris?
Terry: At the core of it we're a small team that started with 3 people designing and building music gear in Los Angeles. Jinna and I started with a seed of an idea about uniting art and engineering and created an art blog called 7 Electrons. That came about because of Jinna's background in the arts and mine in engineering. We met some really inspiring artists through 7 Electrons. Uniting art and engineering eventually became the foundation of Meris.
Who is Meris?
Terry: It’s Jinna Kim (creative director), Angelo Mazzocco (DSP Engineer) and me (Hardware Engineer). Jinna came from the LA VFX & commercial arts worlds. Angelo was the top DSP guy at Line6. He and I met at Line6 where I was a hardware engineer there, myself. I left in 2007 and formed Strymon. Jinna also did all of the artwork on the early Strymon products. After I left Strymon in 2013, I reached out to Angelo to ask him if he wanted to try something new.
Angelo: At Line 6, Terry and I bonded over music gear and comedians, but more than that I admired his engineering designs. Terry brought something thoughtful and special to each design, going beyond the original goal called for. Working with Jinna, I’ve found that along with her obvious visual design talent, Jinna is a deep conceptual thinker which elevates all of her work. I was honored when Terry reached out to join up; I just knew that the three of us could make something special.
How did you get started building effects?
Terry: It started with playing guitar and being just as interested in gear and recording as the music. I read books like Electronic Projects for Musicians and was building little distortion pedals or simple mic pres...things like that. Then I begged a local repair technician, Pat Buley, for a job at his shop and he gave me one. That really opened up a world of schematics and how many different manufacturers made things. I found out what failed and what never failed in the field. Later I thankfully scored a job at Line6, which was also nearby, and that exposed me to seasoned engineers and design practices. That was a super amazing place to learn.
Angelo: Growing up as a guitar playing kid in the 80’s, I was obsessed with the unobtainable and mystical rack gear that was popular at the time. I did everything I could to understand how those devices and their algorithms worked. Which lead me to study digital signal processing in college, always with the aim of some day working in the music industry. When not in class, I was helping out as a research assistant for a professor studying the physics behind optical computing. This gave me access to an electronics lab and machine shop were I built my first pedals after hours.
When and how did Meris begin?
Terry: Meris started when I had just left Strymon. I had ideas to do some pro audio products and I was lucky that Jinna was willing to help and be part of the company. We also had this idea of uniting art and engineering from our work on 7 Electrons and based the ethos of the brand on that. Once Angelo was on board, that opened up the possibility that we could incorporate DSP into our designs and so that took us on a more interesting and expanded path.
Angelo: Before Meris, I had been working so long on other people’s product designs that I was aching to flesh out the product visions I had only been able to dream about before. From the beginning, it was extremely fulfilling to finally bring some of those ideas to life.
What inspired you to begin and what inspires you continue?
Terry: It was always music and still is. I'm still constantly on the hunt for new music and new musicians. I get inspired by visual art too because it makes your brain work in a different way. It causes a different sort of motion and emotional response.
Angelo: I agree. Music is the main motivator, and coupled with that is the desire to expand my own toolbox for creating sounds. It’s a satisfying feedback loop. I’ll find myself imagining a new sound or texture while I am playing guitar and then that spark finds its way into our work.
How would you describe Meris effects to someone new to the brand?
Terry: Others describe us as outside of the box, different, beautiful, wild...unexpected. I humbly hope we can spark creativity with the sounds that you can make with our boxes.
Angelo: In his demo, Knobs described our initial trio of pedals as “brimming with treats,” which is by design on our part for everything we make. Our effects are multi-layered instruments that closely interact with you as a musician and slowly reveal themselves to you. The more you interact with them, the more “treats”, sounds, and capabilities you will discover.
How is a Meris effect constructed from start to finish?
Terry: After the lengthy design and engineering phases are over, we bring in materials from all over California and elsewhere to our factory. Then the pedals are built from the ground up with a combination of sophisticated machinery and hand-finishing in Southern California.
Angelo: It is impossible to pin an exact start date and timeline for the inspiration and the development for any one specific idea. For example, the work that became the Enzo predates the Ottobit Jr., but the Ottobit Jr. was released first. We are tirelessly working and always have concepts being fleshed out, refined, and perfected.
What components, designs, techniques etc. make Meris unique?
Terry: I think the products reflect the personalities and work put in by the three designers. They are authentic in that way because we're all grateful to have the freedom to work only on the things we really want to. From Angelo comes the actual sound and feel of the effect since he's doing all of the DSP work. He really puts his soul into it. Jinna crafts the look of the pedal graphics, photography, packaging and video. She searches out the perfect artists to work with on every aspect of each new release. I work hard to bring solid, reliable, low-noise and high performance hardware that our customers can depend on at gigs and in the studio.
Angelo: You can find all three of our identities embedded in our designs. This direct-from-the-heart approach is what lends each of our creations their own unique voice. I’m much more satisfied creating something new and personal instead of recreating existing designs.
What inspires your creative process?
Terry: Usually we start with a concept as a seed of an idea and go from there. For example the Mercury7 was all about capturing the vibe of the reverb sounds on Vangelis' Bladerunner soundtrack. The concept kind of grows naturally during development with us discussing it and even becomes part of the photography and back story of the effect.
Angelo: Inspiration comes from everywhere: movies, video games, and art in general. Terry and I recently visited The Met museum, and I was nearly speechless at every turn and exhibit. I’m also inspired by watching the evolving ways musicians are using their gear to drive their art, especially now with so many incredibly talented people posting close-up videos giving a sneak peak of the unique ways they craft their sounds in real time.
What is the spirit of Meris?
Terry: I’d hope that we can help musicians to be unboundedly creative.
Angelo: I agree. I’ve always felt that music has unlimited horizons just waiting to be discovered. We design our effects as instruments to help you navigate into the unknown.
Where does Meris go from here?
Terry: We’ll keep moving forward as long as players allow us to by supporting us. We have no shortage of ideas for weird devices.
Angelo: There is so much more that we want to do! This is our dream job, and we are humbled and encouraged by the support that lets us keep going.
For truly open-ended sound that’s as creative and collaborative as you are, Meris is the choice. Embedded with the signatures of three of the industry’s most progressive minds, Meris pedals and rack-mounted effects are equal parts functionality, artistic expression, and expressive art, designed to stimulate the mind just as much as the ears and eyes for a multi-sensory experience that transcends the typical user-device relationship, making instead something almost metaphysical: a small metal box brimming with life, full of questions that have no answer.
Shop Meris’s complete line of effects here and check out our product demos. You can also call or stop in our Lincoln Avenue showroom to see the “beautiful, wild and unexpected” for yourself. What you see is only a shadow of what you get.