It’s impossible to overstate the influence that Slash has had on the world of guitar. When Guns N’ Roses first hit the big time, hard rock players generally favored pointy guitars with Floyd Roses and bright, flashy paint jobs. In contrast, Slash adopted more of a ‘classic rock’ vibe with his choice of Les Pauls and earthy, Marshall-driven tones. Slash’s pickup of choice has been the APH-1 Alnico II Pro humbucker for many years. As Slash explains, “Something people don’t know about my introduction to Seymour Duncan pickups is that I worked in a music store in the early ’80s. I learned about most of the popular brands of pickups at that time. Right around then, Seymour Duncan pickups came out – or at least I was exposed to them for the first time. From working in a music store and having them replace pickups all the time, I discovered that Seymour Duncan made the best pickups. So when I got the Les Paul with the Seymour Duncans in it, I knew that those pickups were going to be killer. It was just this particular model – the Alnico II Pro – that I wasn’t familiar with. But they’ve been the main pickups in my Les Pauls ever since.”
A few years ago, Slash’s then-tech Chet Huan contacted us to let us know that Gibson was planning to release a signature Les Paul based on Slash’s main guitar: a handmade Les Paul replica made by late luthier Kris Derrig. Over the years we’ve had many players bring us two similar guitars and ask us to make them sound the same, and that was the case with the Slash pickups. As most people know, Slash used the APH-1 Alnico II Pro humbuckers in his Derrig Les Paul for decades, and recorded all of the Guns N Roses albums with that pickup. So when he did his signature deal with Gibson, he logically had them load APH’s into the prototypes. But these guitars ended up sounding quite different to the Appetite guitar. They were a little brighter and thinner sounding, so Slash asked us if we could ‘tweak’ the APH pickup for his new guitars in order to make them sound like his Derrig, a guitar with a bigger, punchier sound than any of Slash’s stage guitars. The challenge was to create a pickup that Slash could use in his Gibson Les Pauls that would make them sound like the Derrig, and that’s what we did with the APH-2 Slash set.
So the APH-2 model started with a regular APH-1 model tweaked with increased windings until it sounded right. We also used some “throw-back” appointments that made it more similar to the APH pickups that were built back in 1986, the year that Guns N’ Roses’ classic debut album Appetite For Destruction was released. Those appointments include single-conductor cable, a long-legged bottom plate and a wooden spacer. People have asked if it is simply an APH humbucker with Slash’s name on it, and the answer is absolutely not. We would never do that. The APH-2 is overwound and sounds noticeably beefier than the APH-1, and we felt it was a big enough difference to make it a new model.
So which pickup do you go for if you’re looking for the ‘Slash’ sound? The way we like to recommend it is, if you have an older Les Paul – something heavier and not weight relieved or chambered – then you want the APH-1, because that is more like Slash’s Derrig. If you have a newer Les Paul, which tend to be chambered in a variety of different ways, you want the APH-2, because that is more like Slash’s new signature Les Pauls.
By the way, speaking of Slash’s ‘Appetite’ guitar, it still has the original Alnico II Pro pickups in it. In 2014 it dropped by for a visit with Uncle Seymour.