Josh Smith Impulse Interview
30th March 2017
Josh Smith Talks About the Impulse
Whilst perusing Twitter this week we spotted that Josh from Northlane had posted an interview he had done with Australian website, AustralianMusician.com.au. The interview had focused on gear, and it would be rude not to discuss his Bare Knuckle signature Impulse humbucker!
Let’s get stuck straight into your gear. UK company Bare Knuckle Pickups have honoured you with a signature set of pickups. How did you connect with Bare Knuckle initially?
"I’ve been using Bare Knuckles for about the last eight years or something. I’ve tried almost all of them and then joined their artist program. They’re actually the first endorsement I have got. I joined the artist program when Northlane started touring full-time and built up a really great relationship with the guys of that company. They are a very DIY operation and very contactable people. You can call them up or email them with any question you might have, and they’ll get back to you straightaway with tips, advice or whatever you need to know.
"I’ve got [Impulse] installed in all my touring guitars and have been getting a lot of fantastic feedback from a lot of players who are starting to get them into their guitars now." Josh Smith, Northlane.
I really love their philosophy as well, making everything by hand and whatnot. Anyway, 18 months ago, I was approached by the managing director, Tim Mills, to design a signature pickup set with him, which was pretty surprising. It was hard as well because I was using a model called the Black Hawk before I started developing a prototype set with him. And I was so happy with how they sounded and it was hard to imagine how to improve them. But we worked from the ground up to create a pretty unique and interesting set. And I’m so happy with them. I’ve got them installed in all my touring guitars and have been getting a lot of fantastic feedback from a lot of players who are starting to get them into their guitars now."
How do they differ from the Black Hawks?
"They’re a little lower in output. The bridge pickup has got a very flat response to it, which is important because I play baritone guitars with really big strings on them. I found if you had a pickup that accentuated any sort of frequency in the mid-range, it was really easy for it to sound honky in the wrong guitar or not interact well with the scale lengths or the woods the guitar is made out of. So we went for a really flat, mid-range, and much more of a rolled-off top end and a lot less lower mid than the Black Hawk.
It’s a flatter-sounding pickup. It’s about as compressed as the Black Hawk but it’s a little lower in output. So you can push your amp a bit harder, a bit more gain, while maintaining a more similar level of clarity and really get those big low notes and chords to sound huge, which is something that is really important with my style of playing … that there’s still enough mid-range for the guitar to not get lost behind the effects I like to use. For the neck humbucker, we used the VH2 for inspiration and it’s a lower output. It’s only about 8k ohms resistance. And it’s an asymmetric line. So it’s got almost a single coil characteristic to it. My preference is actually to use a single coil in the neck of my guitars. There were a lot of aspects of the single coils. We did one of those as well. It’ll come out soon.
The aspects of it that I really like are the clarity of the really low notes and the articulation that you get from a single coil. Tim managed to wind something that maintained all of those aspects of the single coil that I really like but into a humbucker and it still sounds like a humbucker. It’s a really interesting pickup and proving to be really popular. So I’m really happy with how it turned out."