Despite a year of non-stop touring with Chicago pop-punk sensation Fall Out Boy, Joe Trohman still managed to work with Washburn to create a new signature model guitar, the Joe Trohman Washburn Idol. Joe took some time while in Moscow performing a private gig to fill in GuitarVibe readers on the process.
Q: Fall Out Boy has come a long way in the last couple of years. Did you think one day you'd have your own signature guitar?
Joe: Having a signature guitar is something that few guitarists get a chance to make in a lifetime. Even some of the greats. Five or six years ago I didn’t think making my own guitar would ever be in the cards. I remember years ago just being concerned with maybe one day getting a free guitar, so in case I smashed one I would have a back-up.
Q: How did you get involved with Washburn?
Joe: At the time I was playing various guitars, mostly ones I had paid for myself --Les Pauls at first, then Les Paul Jrs., and then Telecasters. Dave Karon from Washburn came to me, interested in signing me on and making guitars together. I couldn’t say no. I knew Washburn guitars were awesome and would be perfect for what I do.
Q: What was your goal with this guitar? Is there a particular sound or style you're trying to focus on?
Joe: Well my first goal was to make something bare bones: no locking tuners, no active pick-ups, no self-tuning systems, no frills, just something that could get the job done for almost anyone at any skill level. I have always had the mindset of, "Ok, no broken or missing strings, the input jack works, the pick-ups work, it’s good to go". I’ve grown since those times, but I still always do things guerilla style. I needed it to have a slightly wide neck, something that felt nice in the palm of my hand, and a lighter body for the amount of spazzing I do on stage. I alternate between a thick and warm distortion and a half distorted clean sound. I A/B a Bogner Uberschall and a Orange Rock-o-Verb 30, so I need to make sure that I would not compromise the tone by playing a thinner body than I was used to, but it worked. I also wanted to be playing the same guitar people would see in stores. I think that’s a really cool aspect for kids out there.
Q: How did you decide on the various hardware components? How would you compare the WB pickups to classic Seymour Duncans?
Joe: I had told them that I wanted solid hardware that wouldn’t need replacing, and to set it up with lower action off the bat. I wanted it very standard. I did however want to make sure my pick-ups had similarities to the Duncan Distortions, for that warm rock tone. I basically pushed to keep it simplistic without selling out the quality.
Q: Most tone controls on electric guitars are pretty useless. The VCC is a different approach. How do you use it in your music?
Joe: I agree on that first part. I used to just keep the tone cranked up all the time. Now when I A/B from my Bogner to my Orange, I actually use the tone control to achieve the sound I want.
I thought the VCC controls were an amazing way to get some use from the tone knobs. With the VCC I can get a traditional humbucker tone for heavier parts (through my Bogner), and then still get a single coil tone for half distorted parts and cleaner tones (through my Orange). It’s truly amazing. It’s made my concentrate on a knob I never even thought about using. How’s that for a sexual innuendo?
Q: No Buzz Feiten tuning system?
Joe: I hate tuning systems. The Buzz Feiten system is great, but I hate relying on anything accept back up guitars and a trusty tech. I’m not bending enough notes to go out all the time. When we play a song or two where I have been bending a lot of notes, I just switch out guitars. Plus Grover tuners do their job real well.
I play my custom Idols, and that’s basically it. Right now the A/B with the two amp heads and the VCC on my guitars covers the sound I want to achieve live. But who knows. In the new record could be that I add some more tones. But my focus is keep it live, no frills.
You can find out more about the forthcoming Joe Trohman Washburn Idol go to www.empireoftherepublic.com. The guitar is available for pre-order for $419. Check out the links below for more information on Fall Out Boy and their music.