For many, the golden age of rock n’ roll was whatever captured your imagination as a youth. If you grew up in the late-80s to early-90s in the UK, shoegaze just might have been your thing. That is, unless you were Mick, who was blissfully locked away by himself strumming along to Stevie Ray Vaughan! No matter how you define the genre of shoegaze rock—think My Bloody Valentine, The Jesus and Mary Chain, and Sonic Youth—Mick hit on one of its fundamental qualities. In a very basic way, these bands came at a time that embodied a simple creative ideal, that “you could just get a guitar and make noise.” Perhaps it’s no surprise that fuzz is the quintessential effect of the shoegaze sound. In addition to a wall of fuzz, Dan observed the importance of ambience as part of the almost trance effect of the shoegaze style: “everything was swimming in reverb.”
This week on TPS Dan & Mick get out of their comfort zone and tackle the classic combo of Electro-Harmonix Big Muff style fuzz pedals with some modern reverbs. The line-up of fuzzy suspects in the episode includes: EarthQuaker Devices Cloven Hoof, Way Huge Russian Pickle, Big Tone Music Brewery Royal Beaver, Stone Deaf Fig Fumb, and a 1974 Colorsound Tone Bender. These are paired with some expertly crafted modulated reverbs found in the Neunaber Immerse and Keeley Caverns pedals. In their tour through these shoegazey combos, Dan & Mick offer insights into tone that apply even to the shoegaze averse and pedal tips that just might have you buying your first fuzz or adding to your library of Big Muffs.
Arguably part of the lasting legacy of the Big Muff style fuzz pedals—and their appeal to shoegazers in particular—is due to their sculpted EQ that has a cut mid-range. As Dan commented, “Why the Big Muff worked so well was because you get this massive wall of sound. But with that scooped mid thing you can have these lilted vocals over the top of that and there’s a chance that you’ll still hear them [in the mix].” On the TPS board this week, the EarthQuaker Devices Cloven Hoof played-off of this quality in a unique way. On this stompbox you’ll find a Shift knob that, as described by Dan, “changes the center frequency.” This allows the guitarist to accentuate the mid scoop in either direction through deeper mid cuts or heightened boosts, which makes the Muff-like sound more versatile to various playing situations.
If the strength of the Cloven Hoof was in its ability to toy with the orientation of EQ, the Russian Pickle’s asset was in its sweeping tone control. With the twist of a knob the effect can change from that dark fuzz sound synonymous with the early Elecro-Harmonix Russian built pedals to a textured fuzz that has that NYC edge. In short, the army green Way Huge fuzz retains the classic mid scoop but allows the player to package this in a spectrum of tones. After experimenting with the sounds of the Way Huge pedal, Dan, our TPS resident fuzz-aholic stated, “I love the Russian Pickle for ‘that’ sound. You know, it’s very simple and its sounds awesome.”
Finally, the Fig Fumb from Stone Deaf pedals proved its worth on more than a few fronts. With a carefully conceived noise-gate that, in the words of Dan, “is designed specifically for that pedal,” the Fig Fumb offers up a desirable edifice of fuzz without risking teetering over into unwanted hum or buzz when you scale back the string attack. Additionally, akin to the Cloven Hoof’s added features for tweakability, Mick was impressed that the onboard parametric EQ options of the Fig Fumb meant “you can really get it to where you want it in terms of cut or not.”
That’s just a few moments worthy of honorable mention from this week’s TPS episode. Yet this one is a must watch for many others—including Dan & Mick jamming out with power chords in full out wigs and at least one instance where the two can’t collect themselves from laughing and have to cut scene (all of these are indeed rarities in the TPS catalogue!). Added to that, is a shout out to our own Joe Leach (he deserves a horn honk, right?). So be sure to check this one out, and if you’re looking to kill more bandwidth on TPS click over to previous episodes on various iterations and generations of Big Muff pedals (https://youtu.be/_4M77EdYur0) and different options for reverb (https://youtu.be/QaYnqm-RxqU).
If you fancy a bit of shoegaze, Riff City has you covered on all things fuzz, reverb, and modern offset guitars in the new Fender American Professional lineup. And don’t forget to keep TPS on the air by stopping in at www.thatpedalshowstore.com and www.patreon.com/thatpedalshow.
Gear used in this episode:
Pedals: EarthQuaker Devices Cloven Hoof; Way Huge Russian Pickle; Big Tone Music Brewery Royal Beaver; Stone Deaf Fig Fumb; 1974 Colorsound Tone Bender; Neunaber Immerse Reverb; Keeley Caverns Reverb.Amps: Marshall Plexi 1987 XL (50 watt), 4x12 Marshall cabinet; Fender Hot Rod Deluxe.