Josh Homme has many guitars, most of them odd choices, and plenty of chops. But what pickups does Josh Homme use to dial in his iconic guitar tone? Let’s find out…
Josh Homme basically invented dessert, stoner rock with his first band KYUSS. KYUSS then split over “creative differences” and Homme formed Queens of The Stone Age, and then something rare and beautiful happened: lightning struck twice. And this really is a testament to just how good a musician Homme is – most players never manage “do it” twice. Even immortals like Jimmy Page.
Since the early 1990s, Homme has been one of the important, visionary songwriters working in rock music. He has a slew of classic albums under his belt – Rated R, Songs For The Deaf, and the self-titled QOTSA album – and is currently said to be working on a follow up to 2017’s Villains with ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons, although the new album’s release date is currently unknown.
Part of Homme’s appeal – and enduring relevancy – is his guitar tone, his technique, and his approach to songwriting. Homme isn’t your average guitar geek though; he prefers smaller, more boutique guitar brands like Maton and Motor Ave, as well as his now-iconic Ovation Ultra GP. Homme also used an Epiphone Dot to record most of Songs For The Deaf – not its Gibson counterpart, the ES.
In total, it is believed that Josh Homme owns and uses around 35 guitars, including acoustics from Martin and a slew of hardbody and semi-hollow electric guitars. He also owns a Fender Telecaster which he can be seen playing in Noisey’s Guitar Moves video and a Gibson Marauder. Save for the Tele, the vast majority of Homme’s guitars are, like his playing, eccentric, eclectic, and very unique.
What Pickups Does Josh Homme Use?
The vast majority of Homme’s guitar collection – including his Maton and Motor Ave models – run some kind of humbucker pickup. Homme also uses Seymour Duncan pickups, a fact confirmed on the pickup maker’s official site. And those are the Seymour Duncan Hot Rails and the Seymour Duncan Custom Custom. Again, both are humbuckers designed to deliver a fat, warm tone and plenty of detail in the mids and highs.
Seymour Duncan Custom Custom
The Custom Custom by Seymour Duncan uses an alnico 2 bar magnet, nickel silver bottom plate, has a 4-conductor lead wire for multiple wiring options, and are vacuum wax potted for squeal-free performance. You can also get them in standard humbucker or Trembucker spacing. No one knows for sure which one Homme uses, though.
With medium-hot output combined and the warmth of an alnico 2 bar magnet, The Custom Custom (SH-11) humbucker pickup delivers a full, fat sound with singing highs and buttery lows.
Seymour Duncan Hot Rails
As for the Hot Rails by Seymour Duncan, they’re single coil ‘rails’ sized humbuckers designed to deliver high output signals, pack in loads of midrange – ideal when you’re tuned down to C Standard – and a very aggressive crunch. They’re also brilliant for lead and solo work. Again, we’re not sure which guitar Homme uses these in; most likely, it’d be his Fender Telecaster – but that’s just my best guess.
With all the feel and tone of a high output humbucker (SHR-1), this single coil sized humbucker is one of the most powerful passive pickups for Strat or Tele.
The “Josh Homme” Guitar Tone
Developing a tone like Josh Homme’s isn’t easy. In fact, his guitar tone and the overall sound is a closely guarded secret. There are entire forums dedicated to this subject alone – and 99.9% of it is pure speculation. Homme’s playing style, his choice of amps, and his recording techniques ALL play a huge role in his guitar tone – it’s not just a case of getting the right guitar and the right pickups.
Plus, Homme’s style of playing and tone is so unique, so proprietary, that if anyone did try and rip it off, it’d be immediately obvious. Homme’s playing is based on and inspired by ZZ Top, The Vaselines, and legendary punk bands like Black Flag and The Stooges. All of these bands played a huge role in inspiring his style. And like any instantly recognizable style, Homme’s is always totally refined and expertly executed.
But it is his riffs and ear for odd chord voicings and completely unique lead guitar parts that make Homme’s sound so, well… Josh Homme. There are hundreds of amazing guitars working today, but there are only a select few you can instantly recognize from just a few seconds of their playing. Homme is one of these guys; he is now very much one of the greats which is why I cannot wait to hear what he does next on the as-yet-unannounced new Queens of The Stone Age album.
RichardRichard has been playing guitar for over a decade and is a huge fan of metal, doom, sludge, and rock music in general – though mostly metal. Having played in bands and worked in studios since the early 2000s, Richard is a massive music production geek, a fan of minimalist recording techniques, and he really likes old-school guitars.
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