Personalities | Kevin Shields | My Bloody Genius | Guitar Heroes

Alternative-rock guitarist Kevin Shields (b. 1963) was born in Queens, New York. When he was 10, the family relocated to Dublin, where he learned guitar as a teenager with Johnny Ramone as his role model.

My Bloody Valentine came together in 1984. The band moved to Holland and then Berlin, where they recorded the mini-album This Is Your Bloody Valentine (1985). They reconvened in London the following year, going on to make three EPs, influenced by The Cramps and The Birthday Party. With Bilinda Butcher recruited as main vocalist, they made other recordings, but it was not until My Bloody Valentine signed to Creation Records in 1988 that they were allowed sufficient studio time to realize their vision.

After eight months of recording, the band produced ‘You Made Me Realise’, an EP that brought them to wider attention and acclaim. The band followed up with Isn’t Anything (1988). Influenced by The Jesus And Mary Chain, Dinosaur Jr. and The Cocteau Twins, the album defined My Bloody Valentine’s idiosyncratic approach and established them as a major force in the British indie scene. Shields’ onslaught of meticulously layered guitars was demonstrated on the single ‘Feed Me With Your Kiss’. The band’s wall of noise was complemented by a dreamy melodicism. Shields was a perfectionist in the studio, painstakingly assembling Loveless (1991), which consolidated their position as a leading indie band and inspired outfits like Ride, Chapterhouse, Slowdive and the short-lived shoegazing trend. Shields continued to work as a producer, remixer and composer, as well as recording occasionally, until My Bloody Valentine reformed in 2007. A new album, m b v, was released in 2013.

Shields has customized the tremolo arms of his Fender Jaguar and Jazzmaster guitars to achieve his trademark sound. The process involves extending the tremolo arm, so that it sits high on the guitar for ease of operation and to allow for chord bending. This produces a warping effect, which initially caused some buyers of Loveless to return their vinyl copies. The thickness of his sound is achieved by using a reverse reverb effect. He plays at extremely high volume, but does not make extensive use of effects pedals.

Essential Recordings

My Bloody Valentine: Isn’t Anything

My Bloody Valentine: Loveless

with Patti Smith: The Coral Sea

My Bloody Valentine: m b v

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