Back in June, Fender announced a signature product for My Bloody Valentine’s sonic architect, Kevin Shields – and while it wasn’t the Jazzmaster we were all quietly hoping for, the Shields Blender was a genuinely exciting release: not only was it Fender’s first-ever signature fuzz pedal, it also revived the bonkers ’70s classic with a wealth of Shields-approved tweaks.
Despite a $499 price point, the pedal’s initial 700 units sold out within days (and to their surprise, early purchasers found themselves with new music from Kevin Shields hidden on a USB stick inside the stompbox).
Suffice to say, a lot of players were left wanting. But thankfully, Fender has seen fit to release the Shields Blender as a non-limited, production-line pedal – and with a sizeable discount, to boot.
Sonically and practically, the new version of the Shields Blender appears to be the same. But these won’t be numbered, limited-edition units built in the USA. Rather, these are made-in-China, production-line pedals, and the $299 price tag – a hefty $200 discount on the original – reflects that.
That buys you a lot of retro-flavored fuzz. The Shields Blender starts with a Fender Blender circuit based around Kevin Shields’ original pedal, but adds an octave-up footswitch for increased flexibility.
Two footswitchable channels offer choice of the fuzz voice blended with the clean signal, or the fuzz blended with a monophonic sub octave fuzz.
The feature Shields is most excited about, however, is the sag circuit, which adjusts the pedal’s fuzz to your playing dynamics by starving transistors of power. It’s a unique effect quite unlike anything else.
“With the sag control, that's when it becomes something that's really expressive,” Shields told Guitar World. “If you play a certain way, it's more or less exactly like an amplifier, where you have that kind of classic, just-about-overdriven sound that you can back off and it's clean, and then play harder and it's quite overdriven. So the pedal has that quality.”
Elsewhere, there are knobs to adjust the Blend, Fuzz and Octave, as well as the usual Tone and Sustain controls.
As for what the Shields Blender sounds like… hoo boy, does Fender have a treat for you. The company has uploaded a 31-minute video of nonstop fuzz pedal tinkering by Shields, accompanied by his stunt guitarist and longtime pal, J Mascis of Dinosaur Jr.
Mascis simply does not stop soloing for the entire demo’s duration, enabling Shields to really dig into the wealth of tones available from the unit. It is psychedelic, discordant and noodly to the extreme. A more ‘out-there’ pedal demo you will not find. And we love it.
For a slightly more polished demonstration of the Shields Blender’s capabilities, Fender has also put together its own official demo, which gives you an idea of how it works in less apocalyptically toned scenarios.
Shields discussed what first drew him to the Fender Blender in our interview with the MBV legend earlier this year.
“I was able to do something weird when I played, something unusual that I couldn't do with anything else,” he explained. “I think it's the way certain pedals break up. I don't mean break up in a distortion way, but I mean when you push past what's reasonable, and you're playing very hard.
"Sometimes you get the odd pedal that changes its character in a really different way to others... It was fuzzier, warmer, and for want of a better word, more touch-sensitive. It could have just been that I picked up a ’60s pedal in the late ’80s. The sound you get from those components could have well been part of the revelation, when you're used to hearing modern stuff."
Now a wider range of players will be able to get their hands on Shields’ particular brand of “weird”.
The Shields Blender is available now for $299. See Fender.com for more details.