LINDY FRALIN PICKUPS
Call you tell us about the first hot-rod
pickup you encountered?
Well, I do remember when I bought my
first hot pickup—it was a Duncan. It had to
be around 1981 or so, and it made a huge
difference in my Strat. It was a Strat bridge
pickup; that was a pickup I thought was
too weak. The other two pickups sounded
great to me. They sounded like Hendrix,
but the bridge was so trebly and thin it
hurt my ears, you know?
I remember that all three pickups were
about 5.7k. After about a year or two of that
pickup being in there—it was a 14k pickup—
it became too much. And I started thinking,
“There’s gotta be something in between
5.7k and 14k.” Luckily, I met a friend here in
Richmond who had been winding his own
pickups. He somehow stumbled on a roll
of wire, built himself something to spin the
pickups and had some success. And after I
wound two [pickups] on his, I made myself a
similar rig. And I just did that for a while; my
band didn’t play a whole lot. [laughs]
Comparing your pickups to the
standard fare for Stratocasters,
they’re a little more forward voiced,
a little more aggressive.
Well, I have always played my amp just on
the edge of distortion and rarely use pedals. That way with just how I hit the string,
I can go from distorted to clean. A cleaner
pickup lets me have really bright rhythms,
if that’s what I want to do, or I turn the
guitar down or play it softer. Likewise, I can
get as nasty as I want by turning the guitar
all the way up or changing my attack.
Your website mentions that the Strat is
one of your favorite guitars. What’s your
idea of a perfect Strat?
The perfect neck, the perfect frets and a
really versatile [pickup] set with a hotter
bridge. I guess my theory in Fenders is that
I want the loudest pickups I can possibly
have, but still have brilliant wound strings.
How do you achieve that?
It’s a different pickup for every guitar. And
that’s why we make a line with subtle varia-
tions between models, because every guitar
of mine needs a different amount of power
and high end to get what I’m looking for. In a
Fender, if you go too far, your wound strings
get clogged up. And that’s too much pickup.
I would take it back out and go weaker until
I got what I wanted. But basically in a Fender
I want the loudest pickup I can have that still
has brilliant wound strings. I love that sound.
Could you tell us about some of your
higher output models?
We use the term “high output” around our
shop for pickups wound with 43 gauge
wire instead of 42. Because the wire is one
gauge smaller, you can fit more turns on
a coil. Fender used mostly 42 gauge wire
on Strats and Teles; if you want to wind
something past a certain output on Strats
you have to use a finer gauge wire. So if
we use the term high output, we’re using
43 gauge wire. I can still vary the number
of turns, but it leaves you room for somewhere between 10 and 15 percent.
Who would you recommend those higher
output models for?
Our high outputs are for people who want
a thicker midrange and a stronger pickup.
It gives you a little longer sustain, a thicker
midrange and a little more grind in your
chords. The stronger the pickup, the more
the tube amp distorts with a chainsaw grind,
and that grind gets faster and faster. With
a weaker pickup, you can get it up loud
enough to distort the amp, but it’s like a
slower, bubbly grind… think of Hendrix hitting a big chord on a Strat’s neck pickup.
So if someone wants a thicker note—maybe
they do a lot of single notes, or maybe all of
their other guitars are humbuckers and they
have a Fender—it’s more appropriate for
them to have stronger pickups.
I know you handwind each pickup, but do
you do custom builds? Or are customers
limited to your established models?
We will build anything a customer can
think of, with the parts available to us. An
incredibly high percentage of our stuff is
custom wound for somebody. They look
at all of our models and still say they want
something in between two specific models.
What is hot-rodding a guitar to you?
It’s making a guitar better in any way. To
one guy, it might be bigger frets. The first
time I put big frets on one of my Fenders,
I was the happiest guy in the world. When
you narrow it down to pickups, it’s just
getting them to do what you’re hearing in
your head. There isn’t a perfect pickup for
everybody; with us, it involves having a lot
of options, listening to people and finding
what they’re looking for.