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. Throughout the years Slash has used many different Les Pauls - and released a number of signature models with Gibson - but for all the different finishes and appointments, one spec has remained consistent: the use of Seymour Duncan pickups.
Slash's pickup of choice has been the APH-1 Alnico II Pro humbucker for many years. As he explained to Seymour Duncan, “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.” That guitar went on to become famous as Slash’s main recording axe and the centrepiece of his tone.
Slash’s signature Les Paul models have always included Alnico II Pro humbuckers, but the Slash Les Paul Appetite in 2010 came a new model, the APH-2 Alnico II Pro Slash signature pickup. “Later on, whenever I put a guitar together - like I ended up getting these two Les Paul Standards in 1988 - I put those same Seymour Duncan Alnico IIs in it, and it’s been my main pickup ever since,” Slash said. “But I’ve never had a Slash model pickup because I really couldn’t conceive of anything to do to the Seymour Duncan Alnico II design to expand on that. So I never did a Slash model until just recently. I had the idea of going in and re-inventing the original Alnico II from 1986, because everything evolves over time, and now they’re using a couple of different components and what-not,” he said. “So we put together these old-school Alnico IIs, and that became the Slash model, which are really, really great.”
Former Seymour Duncan Vice President Evan Skopp takes up the story: "At the time, I was head of product development and artist relations,” he says. “The challenge was that he was so closely identified with the APH-1, what could we do to create a different product that was associated with him that still remained true to his signature tone?" Several years before, a series of prototypes were designed to appeal to Slash's tonal preferences, but eventually, after a number of pickups went back and forth for evaluation, Slash felt that he had already found his tone with the Alnico II Pro. But that wasn’t the end of the story.
A few years later, Slash's then-tech Chet Huan contacted Evan to tell him that Gibson was planning to release a signature Les Paul based on Slash's Appetite For Destruction guitar. At that point the goal became clear: design a pickup which would make Slash’s new guitars and other modern Les Pauls sound like the Appetite axe. So the APH-2 model started with a regular APH-1 model tweaked with extra output until it sounded right, especially when used with modern weight-relieved Les Pauls. The ’86-style appointments Slash referred to included single-conductor cable, a long-legged bottom plate and a wooden spacer. The result is a pickup unique enough and different enough from the regular Alnico II Pro that it deserved to be its own model, and which would also capture Slash’s signature tone in modern more shoulder-friendly Les Pauls. And this is the pickup you’ll find in models like the Vermillion Les Paul and the Slash Les Paul Rosso Corsa.
For further reading:
The Wisdom of Slash