The Pickups Of Megadeth’s Dave Mustaine

Megadeth’s Dave Mustaine changed the path of metal rhythm guitar: the kinds of chords and riffs, the attack and aggression of the picking style, and the crunch and bite of the tone itself. For many years – until he developed his signature Dave Mustaine LW-MUST Livewire pickups with us – Dave used the JB and Jazz humbuckers (otherwise known as the Hot Rodded Humbucker Set). Pop some headphones on and listen to Countdown To Extinction or The System Has Failed for particularly great examples of the JB/Jazz tone. It’s interesting to note that these pickups are the same models found in the Tele-Gib that Seymour famously gave to Jeff Beck, and yet they continue to be relevant to new musical styles developed decades after their creation. And the Beck connection played a part in Dave’s initial pickup choice.

“There is no denying that Jeff Beck is one of the greatest guitar players to ever pick up a guitar,” Dave says. “Though I am not a big fan of his playing, I am certainly a great fan of his tone. So when I tried the JB it was just truly amazing, but again as an artist I kind made my own evaluation of it and found there was just a little bit of holes in it tone wise. I had known of Seymour and respected him tremendously and when the opportunity came along to talk to him about using the JB, he agreed and I felt like I had won the lottery. There are certain things that you get, they may be small but they are very important.”

The Hot Rodded Humbucker set – and the way it responds to different picking and phrasing choices – played an important role in Dave’s tone throughout many classic Megadeth albums, and these pickups served as the sonic basis for Dave’s LW-MUST Livewires; they’re based on the voicing of the JB and Jazz but with more power, no signal degradation over long cable runs, and super low noise. “The sound comes through the pickup – that’s the first electronic component in between my fingers and the strings and your ears – so it’s vital that it’s a strong and worthy component,” Dave says. “I didn’t make any changes because it was not a great pickup: there were just certain things I was doing with my tone and I thought, ‘Wow, it would be really cool to be able to address this before I even get into the signal processing’.”

Dave was known for using the passive JB and Jazz for so long that fans might have been surprised when he switched to actives. “I was not an active guy at all,” he says. “I had heard all these guys using EMGs and I just thought, ‘Y’know what? You all sound the same. You all got this Mesa Boogie sound that’s just totally identical.’ Everybody has got the same detuned sloppy, slappy, processed midrange kind of sound. And to me it couldn’t have been farther from the New Wave of British Heavy Metal when it came down to that classic English crunch sound. So when the idea of having active pickups came around I was like ‘no’.” But Dave decided to put his active-apprehension aside and give Seymour Duncan actives a try. And he was glad he did.

“When I heard them (LW-MUST) I was like, oh my god – this is amazing,” Dave said. “I had to make a little bit of adjustment in my head and sound-wise with our EQ, but if anything it simplified the process of getting great sound. When I was a kid and I first started playing I was using DiMarzio’s stuff and it was always cool pickups but they are kinda buzzy sounding and they had an unnecessary distortion to it. If you wanted to get a clean tone, it really wasn’t there. Nothing against DiMarzio because they were great when I was a kid but y’know, you always aspire for greatness and when I was able to make the move up to Seymour Duncan and when these active came in, I thought ‘this is serious business’.”

Dave Mustaine VMNT Seymour Duncan

Dave Mustaine LW-MUST Livewires are available in gold, nickel and black nickel, and they come with all of the include pots, mounting hardware, capacitors, battery clip, stereo output jack and wire needed for installation. You will also find them in Dave’s signature Dean guitars, including his latest, the Dean Guitars USA Holy Grail VMNT, which features the gold covers.

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