The Matrix Mindset of Gear (& Strat Pickup Info)
Remember The Matrix? It was one of those late-90′s/early 2000′s movie trilogies that was actually really cool, but everyone got sick of it because the pop-culture references to it began to choke the life out of us. I remember seeing commercials for credit cards trying to bum rides off The Matrix. Commercials for Aflac. Cars named themselves after it. We all got excited in high school algebra when we studied matrixes (well, technically, I think it’s ‘matrices’…..but that’s just not cool enough for 2000′s high school pop culture.) I saw 8 million movies trying to be it. I saw another 8 million movies try to spoof it. People even named their kids ‘Neo’ (well, not really). The worst are churches. We’re still calling our youth groups ‘The Matrix’ and the first movie came out almost 10 years ago now. Just one of those movies…… I used to love it……. then marketing did it’s thing of taking something cool and holding on for dear life until it has squeezed every last drop of coolness out of it.
This is a CGI rendering for some reason of Keanu Reeves, who uses his incredible Point-Break-esque acting skills to portray Neo in the Matrix movies. The best thing about him is that is that with CGI it is really hard to portray emotion. But since Keanu is incapable of portraying emotion, it makes the computer graphics guy’s job much easier.
See what I mean? This is Keanu trying to show emotion. ‘Whoa.’ ‘Where am I?’ ’Is this the Matrix?’ ‘Is the camera rolling yet?’ ‘Excellent!’……. wait…… that’s from this movie:
So anyway, there’s this line in the second Matrix movie (I think) where someone says to someone else, ‘You do not truly know someone until you fight them.’ Now truthfully, even before pop-culture killed this movie, I thought that line was kind of cheesy. Just one of those lines they put in movies so they have an excuse to have lots of fighting. ‘Wait, they just met, why are they already…… oh, wait….. they’re just getting to know each other.’
But for some reason, that dumb line stays in my mind every time I get a new piece of guitar gear. Because I just have to take it apart. And for the oddest reason ever, the line comes into my mind, ‘You never really know a piece of guitar gear until you take it apart’…………. or in my mind, until I fight it. Because it’s usually a fight for me to take apart and put gear back together. It’s like my motor skills didn’t quite develop properly or something. I suck at mechanical stuff…… but nevertheless, I’m just not happy until I take things apart.
So, yesterday, I changed out the pickups in my Melancon Strat.
(I do love this guitar…..more than I love many people.)
I love the sound of this guitar with the Lollar Blonde pickups that it came with from whomever I bought it from secondhand, but I have had to roll off on the tone knob for the bridge pickup to take away some treble that has a bit too much bite in my guitar. And that works, but it takes away just enough definition in the pickup to bother me. So, I read some reviews and such, and decided on a set of Lindy Fralin Blues with a bassplate on the bridge pickup.
Now, here’s where the getting to know your gear happens. I take apart the guitar and discover these things:
1. Sweet mercy, Gerard Melancon really takes pride in his work. I knew the wood would be good under the pickguard because the guitar is all one piece, but it’s even finished underneath the pickguard. And there are carefully carved out holes for the pickup screws to recess and pots to recess into. Just beautiful. And the wiring and solder work is top notch and extremely neat. Made changing out the pickups a cinch (hehe, ’90′s word). The last Strat I worked on was an ’81 Ibanez, and it was a nightmare underneath the pickguard. It took me all day to change out two pots and a switch. Melancon, props.
2. Jason Lollar also knows how to make his stuff. Very neat and particular.
3. Hmmm…..the pickups are clearly marked ‘Lollar Tweed.’
(Lollars are awesome…..just not what I’m looking for in an ash wood guitar right now…but in a Tele…..mmmm)
When I bought the guitar, it being an ash guitar, I did want to make sure the pickups weren’t too bright. And I thought from the ohm readings that Lollar Blondes would be cool. And hey, now I know, they might have been. But I have no idea…..because what I had been told from the seller were the darker sounding Blondes, were actually the brighter Tweeds. hehe Good times. No wonder it was bright.
And long story (I know, I have a problem with that) short, the Lindy Fralin’s are definitely fitting the bill in this guitar. I’m able to maintain the clarity and definition by keeping the tone knobs up, but also getting what is in my humble opinion killer Strat tone. The kind of Strat tone I like……not too quacky, but nice and mellow and warm, and ‘Straty’ when pushed with the treble pickup, without the treble tearing your head off. Lovin’ it.
So, when money finally comes in (meaning, check this blog 20 years from now for that), and I maybe get a second Strat with an alder body, I might try some Lollars in it. They’re great pickups, and have a certain sweetness to them. Their brightness might balance a bit with alder. And the dark Fralins seem to balance quite well in ash. Extremely well. They sound awesome.
Their sound can only be described in the words of the untold acting skills of Keanu Reeves:
hehehe…………..Keanu is funny (but does make much more money than I do),