© 2014, Springer Basel. Shear zones in outcrops and core drillings on active faults commonly reveal two scales of localization, with centimeter to tens of meters thick deformation zones embedding much narrower zones of mm-scale to cm-scale. The narrow zones are often attributed to some form of fast instability such as earthquakes or slow slip events. Surprisingly, the double localisation phenomenon seem to be independent of the mode of failure, as it is observed in brittle cataclastic fault zones as well as ductile mylonitic shear zones. In both, a very thin layer of chemically altered, ultra fine grained ultracataclasite or ultramylonite is noted. We present an extension to the classical solid mechanical theory where both length scales emerge as part of the same evolutionary process of shearing the host rock. We highlight the important role of any type of solid-fluid phase transitions that govern the second degree localisation process in the core of the shear zone. In both brittle and ductile shear zones, chemistry stops the localisation process caused by a multiphysics feedback loop leading to an unstable slip. The microstructural evolutionary processes govern the time-scale of the transition between slow background shear and fast, intermittent instabilities in the fault zone core. The fast cataclastic fragmentation processes are limiting the rates of forming the ultracataclasites in the brittle domain, while the slow dynamic recrystallisation prolongs the transition to ultramylonites into a slow slip instability in the ductile realm.