I recently installed a set of Bare Knuckle PG Blues pickups into one of my Les Pauls.
I've always been somewhat fascinated by this pickup company because their pickups are produced close to where I grew up in Devon, England. The company was founded in 2003, which was around the time I started playing guitar.
I've never really had the opportunity own a set of these pickups because I've always played vintage instruments and preferred to keep them stock. That was until recently, when I bought a 1991 Les Paul Studio as a touring guitar. Although this guitar sounded good with the stock pickups, I couldn't resist the opportunity to install a set of Bare Knuckles and find out how good they sounded.
There was no doubt in my mind this was the brand I wanted, especially after reading on their website that Gary Moore and John Sykes (two of my favorite guitar players) used these pickups. All I had to decide was which model I should go for.
I emailed the guys at the company, who told me Moore used the PG Blues model in two of his live guitars. Moore fans will know Peter Green was a huge influence on his playing. According to their website, the PG Blues pickups are "designed to replicate the tones of Peter Green's famous '59 Les Paul." This is the same Les Paul he gave to Moore in 1972. Even though I'm more of a hard rock/heavy metal player, I liked the idea of a 59 PAF-sounding pickup set for my touring guitar.
I prefer lower, "vintage"-output pickups because they are much more sensitive to my pick attack and dynamics. This is further complimented by my choice of amplifiers — early '80s JCM 800 2204's. These amps are very sensitive to your picking dynamics. With the gain on max, you can produce clean notes by picking gently. At the same time, if you dig in hard with the pick you will sound aggressive and powerful. I've incorporated these sounds into my playing and now heavily rely on them when soloing.
So last week, I installed the pickups and the improvement in tone was instantly noticeable. They are very touch sensitive, even with a highly saturated signal from an overdrive pedal. They also have a very nice bright high end that never sounds shrill. Another great feature is they don't lose much of their brightness when you roll down your volume knob.
To demonstrate, I've recorded a quick demo to try and highlight the pickups' tonal qualities. I should point out that while they are great for hard rock, they are probably best suited for cleaner, blues-style players.
For this demo, I'm going through a Marshall JCM 800 with an Ibenez Tube Screamer. The beginning is the neck pickup through the amp without the pedal. Then for main riff I use the bridge pickup with the Tube Screamer on low. For the solo, I increase the gain on the pedal for full saturation. Cheers!
Will Wallner is a guitarist from England who now lives in Los Angeles. He recently signed a solo deal with Polish record label Metal Mind Productions for the release of his debut album, which features influential musicians from hard rock and heavy metal. He also is the lead guitarist for White Wizzard (Earache Records) and toured Japan, the US and Canada in 2012. Follow Will on Facebook and Twitter.