If you are in the St. Louis area, you know we are in full summer melt down! July 4th is just around the corner, pool parties are in full swing, and summer NAMM just ended this weekend, coming a bit early this year. Since I've been tethered to the shop lately, I have been getting my latest NAMM reports, probably like some of you, via the internet. The last thing I need is more gear, and I've owned more than my share over the years, but something keeps me coming back for more! That itch that makes a person want, no need to have that new overdrive, or that cool, low wattage, tube combo, or...the new Converse shoes with the built in wah wah? I mean, J Mascis is playing it in their demo video, so it must be cool, right?
This market is saturated beyond full capacity, probably because we continue to fuel it, and what's wrong with that? I mean, there are worse things we could be spending our time, energy, and money on. It's fun to live vicariously though cool gear and the killer players that use it, (or at least demo it). Deep down, I know I won't sound like Mason Stoops does in that Vertex Dynamic Distortion demo, but who cares? It's a fun adventure, and we can't take ourselves too seriously in this continued quest for tone. That's probably why I get more enamored with the simple things that are with in my budget - things like effect pedals, weird cheap gear, fixer uppers, and of course, pickups.
Never before have there been so many choices of pickups, and so many custom options. Hand wound, scatter wound, degaussed magnets, specific number of turns, the list goes on and on. But not only do we have options, we have the ability to really discuss with these custom pickup builders what we are truly striving for, tonally speaking. And if you live in a metropolitan area, chances are you have one or more of these tone alchemists residing in your own city. One of the up and coming winders in the St. Louis area is Brian Goez of Goez Custom Pickups.
Brian started down the tone path early in life with the help of his uncle, Skip Goez. Goez Instrument Repair has had a long standing reputation as one of the premier stringed instrument repair shops in the St. Louis area. Skip helped Brian build his first guitar 20 years ago and has mentored him ever since. As Brian puts it, " Skip taught me all I know when it comes to good setups, good sounds, and good guitars."
Brian began to notice that the pickups that Skip had wound for his guitars had a special quality that he didn't hear in other guitars. Being busy, as any good repair person is, Skip taught Brian the foundation of pickup winding, as apposed to doing the work for him. Soon, Brian was on his way, winding his own pickups! "I have been winding pickups for more than a few years now and I really got the hang of Stratocaster pickups fairly quickly. I use the highest quality parts I can find, and apply some secret techniques to get the sounds I want."
Whatever those secret techniques are, they definitely are working! These are some of the specs that Brian is willing to share about his pickups. "I use alnico 3, 5, and 8 magnets in various lengths and diameters. I use 42 and 43 awg wire in both heavy form var, plain enamel, and modern enamel for various sets. Flat work I have made by several vendors here in the USA, and I have recently started using a single source vendor in Chicago for my magnets." Brian also credits Jon Ferber (JF Guitarworks / Goez Instrument Repair) for his ears and input in helping him refine and voice his pickups.
I personally have wound my own pickups, and though I had positive results, I found it way too time consuming to refine them to the point of making a consistent product. Luckily, Brian has the ambition and drive to continually raise the bar on his pickups and thankfully so. The set I used installed in the strat which was used in the demo video above were Brian's "Show Me Blues" set. Having a clear, bell like tone and a warmth to them, yet still retaining their signature vintage strat sound, the pickups were articulate and extremely touch responsive. I particularly enjoyed going back and forth between drive and clean settings and hearing how the pickups retained a really nice tone. I was able to coax the note into a vocal-like, feed back with the vibrato bar. If you have been thinking of changing out your pickups, I strongly suggest giving Goez Custom a look. Though currently, production is limited to single coil strat and tele pickups, Brian plans to offer P-90 and hum bucker models in the near future.