Caught by the fuzz – or how I learned to stop battering my cranium and start loving germanium

I’m not sure when it happened. Some time between chaining a few distortion pedals and a graphic EQ together for pure evil Dimebag Darrell tone when I was 16, and my 27th birthday or thereabouts, I started to hear the call. Quiet at first, maybe a little distant and muffled, but definitely there. It got louder over the years, and increasingly raspier and sharper. Then before I knew it, there it was:

Fuzz.

I’m not sure why I hadn’t thought of it before. Maybe it was because I spent my teens in an era where amp distortion was king, and even pedal distortion was relatively frowned upon as being synthetic. Maybe it was because I thought of fuzz as, to paraphrase Dethklok, ‘grandpa’s distortion.’ But whatever mental roadblock was coming between me and glorious fuzz gradually started to shift, and now I can’t get enough of those little germanium or silicon-chipped wonders.

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NAMM 2010: Way Huge Aqua-Puss, Dunlop Volume Pedal, Heavy Core Strings

Remember my recent post about the new stuff from Jim Dunlop/MXR? Well here’s a little more info direct from the company themselves, including some more info about the awesome new Way Huge Aqua-Puss MkII analog delay. John Mayer’s all about this pedal and it sounded great at NAMM. Before we get to the Dunlop info, check out this video from Premier Guitar at NAMM, which includes Uli Jon Roth giving the Aqua-Puss a run-through at the booth.

WAY HUGE RELEASES THE AQUA PUSS MKII ANALOG DELAY

The Aqua-Puss MkII is making its triumphant return, ready to bathe a tone thirsty world in gorgeously smooth delay. One twist of the Delay knob takes you from a tight 20ms delay to a cavernous 300ms. The Feedback control regulates delay duration and intensity. But watch out. Extreme settings can send the Aqua-Puss MkII into self-oscillating psycho-freak-out mode! Meanwhile the Blend knob lets you set a balance between dry and delayed signal—from mild to wild. The Aqua-Puss MkII delivers all the spooky mystery of vintage analog delay and tape-based echo, with none of the hassle of creaky, ancient gear.

INTRODUCING DUNLOP’S REVOLUTIONARY VOLUME PEDAL

Control your volume levels with exacting precision with the new Dunlop Volume Pedal. The Dunlop Volume Pedal features a patent pending Steel Band Drive that creates a low-friction environment with no strings or ratchet gears attached – allowing you to achieve thick, luscious volume swells in one smooth motion without the fear of breaking. With fully adjustable tension and high-quality low-noise electronic components, the sound is as clean and transparent as the feel is smooth. Housed in a lightweight but durable aluminum chassis, the pedal features a rocker pedal that is slightly curved for ergonomics, with an aggressive non-slip tread that keeps your foot firmly in place. Great features, smooth, hassle-free performance and crystalline tone make the Dunlop Volume Pedal the smart choice for every musician.

DUNLOP INTRODUCES HEAVY CORE GUITAR STRINGS FOR DROP TUNING

Heavy Core® Strings are uniquely designed for the player that enjoys higher tension at standard tuning or normal tension at dropped tunings. Our proprietary core-to-wrap ratios are meticulously calculated so the player can really “dig in” while retaining sound fundamentals. Heavy Core® Strings, like all Dunlop Strings are manufactured with the highest quality of materials and engineered for great tone, balance, and feel.

NAMM 2010: Way Huge Aqua-Puss MKII

Here’s something cool from the Dunlop blog: the official announcement of the Way Huge Aqua-Puss MKII analog delay pedal. This one caused a bit of a frenzy on Twitter a few weeks ago when John Mayer tweeted about it – he’s long been a fan of the original Aqua-Puss – and I got to hear it in person at NAMM last week. It sounds more subtle and soft to my ears compared to the excellent MXR Carbon Copy analog delay (which has a very proud place on my pedalboard). It’s really a gorgeous sounding delay and although I’m still in the US at the moment and my guitars are half a world away back home in Australia, I can already hear in my head just how awesome this pedal would be in combination with my Ibanez Talman.

Here’s some info from the Dunlop blog:

The Aqua-Puss MkII is making its triumphant return, ready to bathe a tone thirsty world in gorgeously smooth delay. One twist of the Delay knob takes you from a tight 20ms delay to a cavernous 300ms. The Feedback control regulates delay duration and intensity. But watch out. Extreme settings can send the Aqua-Puss MkII into self-oscillating psycho-freak-out mode! Meanwhile the Blend knob lets you set a balance between dry and delayed signal—from mild to wild. The Aqua-Puss MkII delivers all the spooky mystery of vintage analog delay and tape-based echo, with none of the hassle of creaky, ancient gear.


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.

LINKS:
Way Huge
Jim Dunlop
Australasian Music Supplies

NEWS: Way Huge Angry Troll

In this blog post, Jim Dunlop has introduced the Way Huge Angry Troll pedal. Now, if there’s one thing I know well, it’s being an angry troll. If there’s anything else I know, it’s that Way Huge pedals kick ass. I’ve been really digging the Way Huge Swollen Pickle Mk II fuzz pedal recently (look for a review next week). In addition to that and the new Angry Troll, the Way Huge range is currently rounded out by the Fat Sandwich and the Pork Loin, the latter of which blew my mind out when I checked out the sound clips recently.

Anyway, here’s what they have to say about it on the Dunlop blog:

The mighty Angry Troll from Way Huge Electronics serves up gorgeous portions of volume and gain to pummel the input of your amp with up to +50dB of gain. It adds bite and punch while transforming your mild mannered tone into a beastly sonic onslaught!

The Angry Troll’s two controls interact like a vintage mic pre amp. The Anger knob—a rotary switch with six Fists of Fury positions—adjusts the amount of gain created by the Troll’s op-amp, while the Volume knob regulates the overall output level. High grade components are used for a precisely tuned circuit that works like an extension of your amp. Another tone monster from the mind of Mr. Huge!

· Delivers up to +50dB of boost
· Precisely tuned to work like an extension of your amp
· Adds a little dirt at higher settings
· Heavy duty foot switch with quiet relay based true bypass
· High grade components for low noise operation

Speaking of Dunlop stuff, I’ve been checking out the new Ultex Sharp picks. More on that on Monday!

FEATURE: Gear names that make me blush

I’d like to think that I’m a mature adult with a sophisticated sense of humour. I’d like to think that. But sometimes I’m flicking through a guitar magazine and I stumble across a piece of gear that makes me snicker like a school kid.

Way Huge Swollen Pickle


It’s one of the most revered fuzz pedals of the modern age but there’s nothing about the name ‘Way Huge Swollen Pickle’ (except maybe the word ‘way’) that doesn’t make me feel a little dirty. I swear, if I had one of these pedals back when I was a teenager, I probably would have put duct tape over the words because I was easily embarrassed back them. Today I just think it’s hilarious and I would proudly wear a shirt with ‘Way Huge Swollen Pickle – Step On One Today’ emblazoned across it.
Oh wait. Way. As in ‘going all the way.’ Hehe. That’s rude!

 

Electro-Harmonix Big Muff PI

I can clearly remember the first time I read about the existence of this pedal. I was reading a guitar magazine in the lounge room when I was about 13 and I came across the words ‘Big Muff’ and I’m pretty sure I was so embarrassed that I covered the word with my coffee cup (yeah, I was jacked up on caffeine even when I was 13. No wonder I play guitar so freaking fast sometimes). Not only is this pedal a ‘muff,’ it’s a ‘big muff.’ And if that’s not risqué enough for ya, there’s also the Double Muff. I’ve heard of people being born with an extra finger or toe, but really? Really?

 

Gibson Dirty Fingers

The name of this otherwise respectable Gibson pickup gets a mention here because it reminds me of that cheesy old fake Confucius proverb about the man going to sleep with an itchy bum. Ahem.

 

BC Rich Bich
C’mon, that’s just uncalled for. Even though the BC Rich Bich was unquestionably cool in the hands of Dave Mustaine back in his Metallica days, and had the stamp of approval of metal diva Lita Ford, I’m still kinda surprised that this model name has survived. There’s even a model (pictured) called the Double Neck Bich. I guess it’s designed to be plugged into the Electro-Harmonix Double Muff (and maybe into a Fender Twin to keep the whole ‘double’ thing going, though that’s not particularly naughty unless you’re all like, “Ooh, Swedish twins” or something).

 

Metasonix $&#^ing $&#^er
Ok, this one isn’t work safe, so I’ve blurred it out for you, and there’s nothing subtle or sly about the name. It’s right there for everyone to see in black and white. Or black and yellow, as it were. Metasonix has a history of being as anarchic and offensive in their marketing as their gear is in its sound, but as Trent Reznor will attest (If you have a keen eye you might spot a Metasonix Butt Probe pedal on the floor in the video for Nine Inch Nails’ ‘The Hand That Feeds’), those sounds can be pretty bitchen in the right context. 

Flangers in general

No matter way you pronounce it (‘flang-er,’ ‘flange-er’), it has the same vague aura of naughtiness around it as words like ‘muckluck.’

NEWS: Dunlop revives Way Huge Electronics

Not content with reviving MXR and the Crybaby wah wah pedal, Jim Dunlop is now bringing back pedal company Way Huge Electronics. Sa-weet! Now guitarists won’t have to scour the internet to find a used Way Huge Swollen Pickle and risk a very confronting list of search results.

Here’s the press release:

Guitar players—your wish is finally answered: Way Huge is back! Effects guru Jeorge Tripps—creator of the coveted Aqua-Puss Analog Delay, Green Rhino Overdrive II, and Swollen Pickle Jumbo Fuzz-is working with premier accessory manufacturer Dunlop, maker of the legendary Crybaby and MXR pedals, to bring you a new series of Way Huge pedals.

Dunlop’s 30 years of meticulous attention to detail and Jeorge Tripps’ spectacular creations is a winning team. The Pork Loin Soft Clip Injection Overdrive, Swollen Pickle MKII Jumbo Fuzz, and the Fat Sandwich Harmonic Saturator Distortion are the first pedals out of Mr. Huge’s workshop.

For more information visit: http://www.wayhuge.com/

Way Huge Electronics will be available only through a select dealer network worldwide.

For more information, visit their web site at www.jimdunlop.com.