If you were to walk into Seymour’s home, one of the first things you’d see would be a platinum disc, proudly displayed on the wall in the foyer. It’s a disc that commemorates Somewhere In Time – Iron Maiden’s first platinum album–and it was given to Seymour as a gift by Michael Kenney, Maiden’s bass tech and live keyboardist.
Iron Maiden’s relationship with Seymour Duncan began in the mid 80s when Michael asked the Custom Shop to make a pickup that would make all four of Steve Harris’ Precision basses sound the same as his favourite, so that his tone would stay consistent throughout the guitar swaps during a gig. He shipped all four basses to Santa Barbara, and the pickup in the favourite guitar was analyzed.
Not much later, Michael and Steve were visiting a trade show in Frankfurt – the first time Michael had convinced Steve to attend one. When they got to Seymour’s stand, Seymour and Steve met for the first time. At this point, Seymour said, “I’ve got something for you,” and produced a plastic bag containing new pickups for the three other basses.
“When I had a chance to put them all in,” says Michael, “damned if they didn’t all sound the same!” You can now get these pickups as the Steve Harris Signature P-Bass SPB-4.
Seymour Duncan and Iron Maiden have had a long and successful relationship since then, and you will now see many guitars equipped with Duncan pickups on stage on the current North American tour.
Janick Gers, whose ideal guitar is a stock Strat, plays the JB Jr pickup in the neck and bridge positions to counteract the hum that results from playing huge stages, and for the punched-up tone that it gives. He has a Hot Rails pickup in the middle position.
Dave Murray uses a Strat with Hot Rails pickups in the neck and bridge positions and a JB Jr. in the middle. These single-coil-sized humbucking pickups are ideal for various reasons: they cancel hum, they give increased output, and they can be dropped straight into a stock Strat without any modifications at all. This means that in a pinch, a tech can walk into a guitar shop at lunchtime, buy a Strat off the shelf, and have a stage-ready Iron Maiden tone machine ready for that night’s show. You can now get this set as the Dave Murray Loaded Pickguard for Stratocaster or installed in Dave’s new Fender Dave Murray California Stratocaster (which you can see in this post).
The next time Michael saw Seymour, they were at a gig in LA with another band (who will remain nameless). The guitarist of the other band was bragging about their most recent quintuple-platinum album, and said he would get one for Seymour. Having had a few beers, and just gone platinum for the first time with Somewhere In Time, Michael offered to do the same. The difference was, Michael actually followed through on the promise. Seymour had been promised platinum and gold discs in the past but this was the first time anyone actually came through with the goods – hence the pride of place in Seymour’s home.
The Hot Rails pickup in particular instantly brings that classic Iron Maiden sound to mind when plugging it in. Do you have a “signature sound”, and how do you achieve it?