REVIEW: Way Huge Swollen Pickle Jumbo Fuzz MkII
Launched in 1992 by Jorge Tripps, Way Huge Electronics kickstarted the boutique pedal craze, but weren’t around long enough to really enjoy the acclaim. After just a few short years the company folded, and now the original Way Huge Swollen Pickle fuzz goes for a pretty penny on eBay – if one even pops up for sale. Thankfully in 2008 Jim Dunlop revived the brand and promptly released a trio of pedals: reworked versions of the Swollen Pickle Jumbo Fuzz and Fat Sandwich Harmonic Saturator, and a new design in the Pork Loin Soft Clip Injection. More recently the line-up has been joined by the Angry Troll Linear Boost Amplifier.
So what exactly is reworked about the Swollen Pickle Jumbo Fuzz MkII? Well, before we get to that, all the original features are still there: The same enclosure with easy-access battery door, the same brushed metallic green colour, the same fat knobs and psychedelic fonts are once again present. In fact, you’d be forgiven for thinking this was a straight-up reissue at first glance. The footswitch is smooth yet sturdy in operation, with ultra-quiet relay-based true bypass. Look a little closer though and you’ll see a pair of additional controls. We’ve still got the same Loudness, Filter and Sustain pots (think of ‘em as volume, tone and gain), but they’re joined by tiny little controls labelled Scoop and Crunch which dip out the midrange and vary the compression, respectively. But wait, there’s more! Unscrew the base of the pedal and inside you’ll find two more adjustable pots: Voice and Clip. Voice sets the intensity of the Scoop control (which really lets you fine-tune exactly how much midrange you zap out), and Clip varies between a smoother, rounder fuzz sound and a more open, buzzy one.
So how does it sound? Well like the originals the MkII kind of starts in the same territory as a certain other fuzz pedal with a guffaw-inducing name. But the level of control, the quality of the components and the level of detail really set it apart. Start with high settings on the Sustain and Filter knobs and you’ll get a chunky, grindy fuzz with huge bottom end. By sweeping the Crunch knob you can find either a sharp, trebly staccato feel or a smoother, fatter vibe. Reel back the Filter control and push the Crunch pot into super-compression territory for awesome ‘American Woman’ tones, or go easy on the Crunch for a great Strat lead sound which takes on a decidedly vintage feel when you lower the Sustain. Or how about this: Set the Filter control about halfway, compress the heck out of everything with the Crunch knob and use Scoop to banish the mids to hell for a great Smashing Pumpkins sound.
I spent a good deal of time messing around with the internal pots to find my ideal setting. I found that I was quite happy with the Voice control set right where it comes from the factory, while Clip suited my style best when I set it to a ratio of about 70% smooth and 30% open. This all depends on what you ultimately want to get out of your fuzz pedal though, and I highly recommend that if you get your hands on one of these pedals, you really should get tweakin’. It really does open up a whole new dimension to the sound.
The Way Huge Swollen Pickle is so many fuzz pedals in one that it’s almost a shame that because it’s all analog there’s no kind of digital control for storing presets. There are at least four sounds in there that I would be happy to use regularly (I call them Light Fuzz, Heavy Buzzy Chunk, Reedy Smooth Lead and Scooped Pumpkin Tone) and my only real beef with the pedal is that it does so many things so well that it’s a hassle leaning down to change the controls from one killer tone to another. I guess the only real thing to consider is whether fuzz – as opposed to overdrive or distortion – is really for you. Me, I really like using fuzz in a blues-rock context, and I love using it for shred and metal lead tones, where it’s really unexpected. So even if you’re not usually a Friend of the Fuzz, you should still give this pedal a spin because you never know what it can do for your tone until you try.