Appetite For Destruction: Seymour Duncan Pickups & Guns N’ Roses
“Paradise City.” “Sweet Child O’Mine.” “Welcome To The Jungle.” “November Rain.” The list reads like the soundtrack of my early adolescence, like it does for so many. And for just as many, it’s also the list that inspired them to pick up a bass or guitar and play along with their heroes in Guns N’ Roses. Once we learned the songs, we lusted after the iconic tone that made up some of the most important albums of the post-“classic rock” era. How does Slash get that sweet warm sound? How does Duff McKagan get that booming clarity? Gilby Clarke’s tone? And for newer fans, how does DJ Ashba get his Les Paul to sound like that?
Many components and factors go into how a player gets their tone, and you’ll never sound exactly like anyone else, but a great bit of information to know is that almost all of the guitarists and bass players in Guns N’ Roses have at some point used Seymour Duncan pickups. Let’s have a look at how those pickups have shaped the sound of one of the most memorable bands of the 1980s and 1990s.
It’s no secret that Seymour Duncans are Slash’s go to pickups. In an earlier interview, Slash goes into detail about how he found Seymour Duncan pickups and why he chose them above all the others available to him at the time. In fact, he has his own signature pickup, the Alnico II Pro APH-2 Slash model, which can be heard and seen in the videos below, featuring Slash himself, and fellow Seymour Duncan artists Stephen Chesney and Danny Young. We have also interviewed Slash’s guitar tech Ace Bergman about his entire rig, and you can read exactly what goes into Slash’s tone in Richard Iron’s article. Slash has pretty much used one very special Les Paul in all of his recordings since 1986, and the signature pickup is based on the same pickup that he has in that Les Paul – with just enough boosted output to give Slash’s other Les Pauls that sustain and crunch that that legendary guitar is best known for. Slash’s Appetite For Destruction guitar has paid a visit to the Seymour Duncan headquarters. For a full tour of the guitar and its story, check out the video!
Gilby’s guitar sound has been powered by various Seymour Duncan pickups over the years, including the 59, the JB, and some custom models. The pickups gave Gilby the ability to seamlessly fit into a band that had to replace a rhythm guitarist at the height of their fame and still maintain a relatively recognizable tone. Clarke was able to carve out his own niche sound in Guns N’ Roses with the help of some customized pickups, and recently he’s also been using the Vapor Trail Analog Delay.
Duff McKagan has “always used Seymour Duncan pickups.” From the very first Fender Precision bass he purchased all theway to the current rig with The Walking Papers, the Seymour Duncan STK-J2 Hot Stack for Bass pickup has been the star of his bass setup. And he uses the JB and Jazz frequently when he plays guitar in Loaded (check out “Dead Skin” below if you haven’t checked out Duff’s post-G’n’R work). McKagan goes into detail about the how and why of that decision in an interview with our own Peter Hodgson.
It comes as no surprise that DJ Ashba selected the Alnico II Pro pickup in his signature Les Paul. Taking over the lead guitar parts from a legendary guitarist can be a daunting task, but the Alnico II Pro pickups allowed DJ Ashba to dial in tones with the same spirit as Slash was best known for during his tenure with the band.