The unthinkable has happened: four years on from initial rumblings, My Bloody Valentine have finally announced reissues of Isn’t Anything and Loveless, as well as a compilation of early EPs. The Irish noisemakers’ brief career gave the world a masterclass in carefully-produced dream pop and spawned a legion of imitators in their wake. A large part of the band’s sound was down to Kevin Shields’s meticulous approach to recording and sound manipulation, not to mention their ear-splitting live volume levels. The amount of gear the band actually used is quite, quite ridiculous, so I’ll just aim to give a rough overview.
Anyone who is even vaguely aware of Kevin Shields will know that he is synonymous with Fender Jaguars and Jazzmasters, so much so that the latter of which featured on the cover of MBV’s seminal 1991 album Loveless. Kevin’s use of the tremolo arm proved incredibly influential on an entire generation of alt-rock guitarists, creating a hypnotic, jarring detuned effect which reinforced the band’s dream-like soundscapes. He also made use of an Ibanez Talman Jazzmaster copy in MBV’s early years.
Back in the Loveless days, Kevin ran two Marshall JCM800 heads, but for the band’s 2008 reunion shows, he also used what looks to be a Vox AC30 head, JMI and Hiwatt heads, as well as a Fender Tone-Master and Divided by 13 stack. He switched between each of these amps using channel switchers located on his pedalboard. Here‘s a good shot of his reunion-era amp rig.
If you thought Kevin’s amp rig was excessive, you’d better brace yourself for the pedalboards (plural). The shots below all come courtesy of the Guitar Player Gear Guide blog. While Loveless-era shows predominantly relied on a number of different parametric and graphic EQs, the ProCo Rat and Boss PN-2 Tremolo/Pan pedals, Kevin has obviously picked up a few more effects over the years.
This first pedalboard features a variety of Devi Ever fuzz pedals (Truly Beautiful Torn’s Peaker, Godzilla, Dream Mangler), plus a Boss TU-2, Ernie Ball volume pedal, Pete Cornish Kevin Shields fuzz, Roger Mayer Octavia, Z.Vex Johnny Octave, Catalinbread Ottava Magus, a heavily-modified white Dunlop Cry Baby, Digitech Whammy, Roger Mayer Axis Fuzz and Morley wah. There’s a lot of fuzz basically.
Thankfully, the second pedalboard is significantly smaller. This one only features an ultra-rare Lovetone Meatball envelope filter, MG Effects That’s Echo Folks, Z.Vex Lo-Fi Loop Junky, ANOTHER Digitech Whammy and Death By Audio Octave Clang.
Finally, there comes this beast of a ‘board. Yes, I’m going to give it a shot and try to name them all, one row at a time. Starting from the top-left then: Vox Tone Bender, HBE Power Screamer, Boss DD-6, Boss TW-1, SIB Nick Nitro, Roger Mayer Voodoo Vibe, Digitech JamMan, Cornish SS-3, Boss AW-3, Cornish ST-2, Death By Audio Supersonic Fuzz Gun, MXR Six-Band EQ, Boss GE-7, Boss PN-2, Devi Ever White Spider, Boss DD-7, Z.Vex Box of Rock, Ibanez AD9 (modded), Dr. Scientist Tremoloessence, vintage Electro-Harmonix Big Muff, Electro-Harmonix Little Big Muff, Boss FT-2, Boss AC-3, Roger Mayer Voodoo Vibe, Shere Sound Whirligig, Roger Mayer Mongoose X, another Boss GE-7, Vorg Warp Sound, Devi Ever Shoe Gazer (appropriately enough), Boss PS-5 and finally a Malekko Echo 600 Dark.
God knows when or how Kevin actually managed to use all of these in a set, but it’s certainly impressive. In fact, it’s even more impressive than my ability to name them all with minimal Googling. And at that I’ll leave it for another week. Until next time.