Kevin Shields – “blend-strumental one”

Kevin Shields – “blend-strumental one”

Quite an eventful week last week for fans of My Bloody Valentine, particularly those who sling guitars themselves. No, they didn’t finally release the new music they’ve been promising since… fuck, who even remembers. At least not in the conventional sense…

So to begin with, Kevin Shields finally announced he and the legendary guitar manufacturer Fender were collaborating on a piece of signature gear, but rather than the Fender Jazzmaster that he’s synonymous with, it was the Fender Blender fuzz pedal. A dirt box long discontinued that’s not even part of his current live setup, but was apparently leaned on enough during the Loveless sessions that he saw fit to put his name on a customized version.

Said Shields:

I really enjoyed the experience. I’ve been using it a lot recently in the studio, it’s been great, I’m looking forward to hearing how other people use it. It’s kind of pretty extreme but also very interesting when it’s set up in a subtle way.

Kevin Shields
Fender Launches New, Limited-Edition ‘Shields Blender Pedal’ honoring My Bloody Valentine’s frontman and Alt Rock pioneer @ Fender

And the news came with an extended video interview with Shields, who certainly looks and sounds like a man actively recording music.

The Blender is also part of a new, career-spanning interview with Shields at Mixdown that is well worth reading by everyone. But to keep it relevant to the topic at hand, he describes how the Fender collaboration came about:

“[Laughs] No, no. Basically, I mean, my connection to the Fender Blender was that I bought one years ago, and nobody was using them and then I got known for using one, in the 80s. Then in around 2018. I was over in America touring, and I was at the Fender offices, and one of the guys that works with people like us, Jason, said, are there any pedals, or any sounds that you don’t have that you would like? Basically, are there any ideas you’ve got that haven’t been done? And I said yes. And then a year or two later, they just were like, oh, yeah, so we’re thinking of re-issuing the Fender Blender, but we were talking about some ideas that you have – would you be interested in incorporating them? And I was like, yes, definitely, you know, that’d be really cool. Basically me and a guy called Stan, the designer, used the Fender Blender as the template and then added things.”

Kevin Shields
Gear Talks: An interview with Kevin Shields of My Bloody Valentine @ Mixdown

The Guitar Magazine has also posted a new interview with Shields that focuses much more on the pedal itself, and how it came to be – including why this is the first piece of signature MBV gear out there:

Y’know, weirdly enough, I haven’t really had loads of offers!” he tells us, almost apologetically. “I’m trying to think – have I? Not really, no. Y’know people are weird – they’ve made pedals that are literally copying what we do, but then they don’t even contact us or anything. I guess people feel like they’d have to pay money if they do that, so maybe that’s why!

Kevin Shields
Kevin Shields: Fender were the first brand to ever really ask me to do a signature pedal @ Guitar

And a later interview with Guitar World finds Shields explaining how those USB clips came about:

“Fender originally said to me, ‘Could you make a 30-second pedal demo or something?’ I’m not really capable of doing things like that – all I can do is make up tunes, and play music. That little tune, or whatever you want to call it, is just me using the pedal, but they were surprised it was an actual little tune as opposed to some sort of noise demo thing. I just made it up on the spot one evening.

“I find it very difficult to make music without a melodic basis, if there’s no ‘song’, for want of a better word, or chord progression, or something interesting that keeps me going. Then the sound thing becomes really fun, as opposed to just making sound for the sake of sound. That’s fun as well, but…”

Kevin Shields
“That otherworldliness comes from very tight rhythm playing”: Kevin Shields on hiding music inside his new Fender pedal, his Jazzmaster setup secrets and what guitarists overlook about his technique @ Guitar World

Of course fans were excited, until they got to the fine print that a) put the list price at $499 USD, and b) limited the release to only 700 units, an increasingly common practice amongst the guitar pedal market that has become overrun with speculators and profiteers. Obviously the pedals sold out almost instantly, only to reappear on resale sites at grossly inflated prices, so that’s far from the most interesting part of this news cycle.

No, what’s most interesting is that 100 of the 700 editions of the pedal came with USB thumb drives in them, and on these drives were NEW MUSIC FROM KEVIN SHIELDS. They were accompanied with a note reading:

For intended effect, please play at 80 dB and above on speakers

Kevin Shields.

So far, two of the USBs have been uploaded to YouTube – from units 21 and 80 – and the two pieces, clocking in at about two and a half minutes, are different so that begs the question – are there 100 different tracks out there? Almost four hours of new My Bloody Valentine-adjacent music? Doesn’t seem so, the one that remains up – which apparently came with the name “Blend-Strumental One” – is the same one that some other golden ticket winners have found. But definitely seems to be more than one.

In any case, I’m sure that with time, the specifics of all the easter egg tracks will be revealed, and compiled by some super-fan, but for now… let’s exult. Or not, because #21 has already been cease-and-desisted by a copyright claim from MBV, so maybe these will have to remain the thing of myth and the dark web… I’ll update if anything else turns up.

And while we’re on the topic of Kevin Shields doing stuff with Fender, here’s a two-part video interview with him by them about his affection for the Jazzmaster.

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