Gus G. requires a huge range of tones to cover his gigs with Ozzy Osbourne and Firewind, and he needs something with organic warmth and detail, but with enough output for modern metal styles too. Enter the Gus G FIRE Blackouts System. This pickup set features the BMP-1s Blackouts Modular Preamp and a set of custom-wound, Alnico V-based, low output passive humbuckers voiced to Gus’s specs and topped off with his distinctive ‘Evil G’ logo. “This system combines the massive tone, kick, and distortion of Blackouts with the rich tone and expressive feel of my favorite passive pickups,” Gus says. “It responds perfectly to all my picking techniques, and more of my personality comes through than with any active pickup I’ve tried.”
The BMP-1s replaces your existing volume pot and allows you to get a high gain active guitar sound from any passive four-conductor pickup, and of course it works especially well with the Gus’s pickups. The set comes with one BMP-1s as well as a stereo output jack, a battery clip and three 25k pots (compared to the 250k or 500k commonly used with passive pickups) with corresponding capacitors, so you can wire up compatible volume and tone controls for anything from a single volume knob up to two volumes and two tones, as you wish.
I installed the system in an old Ibanez RG370 with two humbuckers and a single coil, leaving the single unconnected and using a three-way pickup selector switch. Installation was easy enough, although my guitar’s electronics cavity didn’t quite have enough room to fit everything in, so I decided to do without a tone control. If your guitar is already routed for a battery or if you have more electronics cavity space than my guitar, you’ll find this a lot less work. The BMP-1s uses Seymour Duncan’s Liberator solderless connection system, so once you’ve soldered it into your guitar, you can change out pickups at will without soldering.
The first thing I noticed was that these pickups have a huge amount of output. Even though I was going direct into my amp’s overdrive channel, the overall sound was similar to if the preamp had been given an extra kick with an overdrive pedal. Backing the amp gain off a little revealed a sweet spot where the set suddenly came alive. The bridge pickup has a smooth attack with a fat body – again, similar to running some kind of overdrive pedal in conjunction with a distorted amp channel, but with lower noise levels. In fact, background noise is conspicuous in its absence. The bass frequencies are full but tight, and the treble is restrained enough to remain musical and harmonically rich without being too buzzy – a crucial element in keeping the warm, organic feel Gus was going for. Combined with a thick midrange, power chords sounded almost oversized, which is a great sound for single guitar bands but equally suitable for creating huge doubled guitar parts in the studio.
Single notes have plenty of harmonic overtone content, especially around the 9th to 15th frets, while pinch harmonics are easy to achieve, which I guess is pretty important when Gus plays Zakk Wylde-era Ozzy material live.
The neck pickup’s tone is full and thick, rather than the noodly, more single coil-like voice that some neck humbuckers have, and it balances particularly well with the bridge, both in terms of tone and in perceived output. When I switch to the neck pickup it feels like what it is: getting a different sound out of the same guitar, rather than switching to something totally different altogether. Big bluesy or Euro-metal-inspired bends slice through the mix clearly, while fast alternate-picked lead lines, string-skipping and sweep-picking licks are compressed and smoothed out in a really satisfying way. You can open up this dynamic response a lot by lowering the guitar’s volume control though – in fact, think of the volume pot as a gain control rather than a volume one, and suddenly the lower dynamic range at full volume starts to make a lot of sense.
I guess the only thing working against the Gus G. FIRE set is its distinctive look – either you dig that logo or you don’t. But if you play a HH guitar, or if you can live without a middle pickup, there’s plenty of flexibility and tone available here, especially within the hard rock/metal realm.
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