A Smashing Fuzz

Posted: April 2, 2013 in Uncategorized

Welcome fuzz lovers

Apologies for the length of time it has taken me to do my second post. As promised, this post is going to focus around my new custom ‘Made By Mike ’78 IC Muff’ which I have affectionately come to call my ‘Stellar Fuzz’ (Zeitgeist era pumpkins fans will get that one)

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Hand made in Bristol, these pedals have become synonymous throughout the internet as one of the most accurate clones of Billy Corgan‘s late 70′s Big Muff which was used extensively on the Smashing Pumpkins’ ’93 masterpiece album, ‘Siamese Dream‘. Master builder, Mike Livesley, recently moved to Bristol and as a proud Bristolian myself, I was eager to have a little slice of home sitting on my pedalboard. Extra bits i had added were my own custom finish ideas(Credit to Jordan Huxtable of Swansea rock band, Heavy On The Ride for bringing the artwork alive), a mids control and a tone bypass switch, two ideas implemented into Mike’s design to make a truly versatile fuzz.

Whilst I strive to attain new, individual ways of using my effects, I find that with most pedals, starting with trying to obtain tones you know normally leads to more experimentation. Here are three of my favourite, artist based settings that I found. I used a Fender HSS strat into a Laney LC15 for all of my tests.

Billy Corgan 

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Instantly, I dialed up the Smashing Pumpkins’ settings which I understand to be: Sustain: full, Tone: Bypassed, Mids: 12 o clock, Volume: 1 ‘o clock. Straight away, I blasted into ‘Quiet’ from Siamese Dream.

Now, I love the sound of a neck single coil on a strat, but my god! The fatness of the neck pickup was unreal! This pedal almost seemed to turn strat pickup stereotypes on their heads, resulting in a fat neck pickup sound as apposed to the thinner ‘chime’ that we all know and love. The secret was in the tone bypass circuit. By removing the tone circuit completely, the big muff clone added far more beef than the big muff PI ever could. Any power chord based riffs i did with this setting just roared. Not only did ‘Quiet’ sound completely accurate, other Pumpkins classics such as ‘Jellybelly’ and ‘Mayonaise’ were also achieved with great accuracy.

Jack White

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After re-engaging the tone circuit, I figured I should try some other fuzz based riffs out. I adjusted the settings (Sustain: 1, Tone: 1, Mids: 11, Volume:1) and thought some Jack White Riffs may be appropriate. I shifted my focus to the bridge hum-bucker this time (as Jack often does) and tried a multitude of riffs from The White Stripes (Dead Leaves on the Dirty Ground, You Have No Faith in Medicine, Fell In Love With A Girl) and the Raconteurs (Salute Your Solution, Consolers of the Lonely, Attention). With all of these riffs, the fuzz tone remained clear and with some bite whilst still retaining the whistling like tone of the neck. This fuzz was made to sound fat and leads followed that tradition. After all,  You wouldn’t send a muff to do a fuzz face’s job. Needless to say, the man in red and white would have been proud of the recreation.

Josh Homme

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Finally, I wanted to see how this pedal would manage with the pushing of the mids knob. I did some research and managed to concoct a ‘Josh Homme’ style sound by backing off the treble and sustain whilst boosting the mids to new levels (Sustain: 3, Tone: 1, Mids: 3, Volume: 2) Voila! Instant Homme tone. No One Knows was a particular stand out for this setting as it was still clear enough to hear the individual notes in the opening riff. When I engaged the tone bypass, riffs like Songs for the Dead and Little Sister became accesible as well. Result!

Interesting Combinations

So half the fun of having more than one pedal is discovering how they sound together, so here’s a couple of ideas I found based off of the above artists. Remember, you don’t have to have these pedals to recreate these. Simply having access to these types of effects via pedals or modelling software will get you in the ball park

1.MBM Fuzz + Phaser = Cherub Rock: Smashing Pumpkins

2. MBM Fuzz + Distortion before = Smashing Pumpkins Siamese Dream Lead Tone  (Billy used an MXR Distortion+ but I found good results with my TC Electronic Dark Matter so try any distortion)

3. MBM Fuzz + Octaver = Queens of the Stoneage: Little Sister (Josh Homme uses a Fulltone Ultimate Octave for the lead parts in this song, I found extremely passable results with a POG + 2 oct or a whammy +1 oct. You could even rachet back the gain on the fuzz with this and get a Hendrix ‘Purple Haze’ lead tone.)

4. MBM Fuzz + Whammy (-1 Oct) + Envelope Filter = Muse: Hysteria Bass intro (Even without the filter, it’s a pretty good recreation. If you’re a bass player, you could loose the octaver too. I mainly put this up there for the rock guitarists to shut up their bass players at rehearsals. Fight fire with fire and capture the tone better!)

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Summary

Fuzzes are very selective things. Distortions and Overdrives all tend to do similar sounds with enough tweaking but each fuzz can sound completely different. The MadeByMike website spoiled me for choice. I could’ve had a Green Muff, Ram’s head muff, Sovtek Muff and that’s just entirely contrasting versions of the same pedal, we haven’t even looked into Fuzz Faces yet!

I wanted a fuzz that was warm and gave me a huge rhythm tone and capabilities for good octavia-esque sound. It’s not perfect, It is messy, there’s stacks of gain but when do you ever hear of a clean fuzz? it’s well customisable, sounds great and I was allowed to custom the look of it so that it’s completely personalised. If I had to nitpick, the decalling could have been better as there was some slight bubbling in the finish but as for sound, top notch!

Keep it here for reviews of some mods by Pedalmods UK of Stoke-On-Trent as well as an update on my masterboard project

Check out the MadeByMike Website here:

http://www.madebymike.co.uk/

Also, check out Heavy On The Ride

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