Signal Mastication in NYC
Gazing into the white, hungry eyes of the Killer Fuzz primes one for a primal aural onslaught. New-blood Brooklyn pedal company TomKat Pedals has used the super-rare Sam Ash Fuzz-Stainer as a development platform for this beastly versatile silicon fuzz circuit. Like a hungry wolf in a whiteout, the Killer Fuzz can adapt to a wide range of tonal conditions, digest any level of signal source and excrete blats of buttery splutter, wooly warmth or even gritty clean fuzz-overdrive with the guitar volume backed off.
The Killer Fuzz can shape shift from Tone Bender-ish clear kerrang, to thick Fuzz Face heft, and then transform into Big Muff-like sizzle with some clever tone knob twisting. In fact, the EQ shift of the tone knob is very similar in operation to my old tall font Russian Big Muff. At midnight, the EQ is fairly flat, revealing the guitar pickup characteristics in the most accurate manor. Edging to the left, the tone becomes brighter and leaner until a needlepoint piercing fuzz-tone is achieved. This reminded me of James Williamson’s incendiary tones on Iggy and the Stooges’ Raw Power. Going clockwise from noon on the Tone control does precisely the opposite—the midrange shifts, while the tone becomes pregnant with lower-mid girth that bottoms out to bludgeon with each power chord swing. This wrecking ball of vintage fuzzy goodness is like having a mongrel mix of vintage silicon lineage in one Hammond enclosure.
Looks That Kill
I don’t usually bang on about the looks of a pedal unless it truly is a part of the experience. The laser-etched imagery on the Killer Fuzz is courtesy of Liam Sparkes. At times, his style reminds me a bit of Raymond Pettibon (who is most famous for Black Flag imagery) though; his perverse and often irreverent depictions wouldn’t look out of place in a Roald Dahl book. It’s no wonder I love Sparke’s images, because he cites my three favorite artists (Albrecht Durer, Aubrey Beardsley and Harry Clarke) as influences. The way he and Tomkat pedal builder Tom Kogut collaborate with emblazoned eyes throughout the pedal range is ingenious. Oh, and those creamy fluted mirror capped knobs are super styling as well.
What we like: The Tomkat Killer Fuzz is everything we want in a boutique fuzz pedal. Simple-yet-versatile tone dialing, touch and volume sensitivity, searing and smearing lead tones, crunchy ragged out rhythms and everything in-between. It wouldn’t be a proper ripper if it didn’t have some sort of “secret” NOS Ukrainian transistors, and that is exactly what lies under the hood, biased for a full-on fuzz assault. The tone is rich raw and wholly unneutered. If Tomkat keeps strutting pedals out of the back alley that look and sound this good, they may just mark their territory permanently in this crowded boutique tone jungle.
Concerns: Some may grumble at the fact that there isn’t a battery operation option, particularly those that subscribe to the “batteries sound better” fuzz philosophy. I personally don’t (at least not with silicon-based fuzz circuits) so this is a non-issue for me. Plus, from an environmental standpoint, the ol’ adapter is the more responsible way to go. The only other concern I have now is whether I should buy this awesome fuzz, or spend my dough on a train ticket to London to get tatted up by Liam Sparkes.