PHOTO: Lyle A. Waisman / Getty Images / Fender Illustration
Iconic Mods: How the Flaming Lips Tamed a ’67 Jazzmaster
The story behind Steven Drozd’s pickup switch-up.
By Mike Duffy
One of the key components of the Flaming Lips’ psych-pop sound is multi-instrumentalist Steven Drozd’s 1967 Jazzmaster.
But its most infamous modification probably wouldn’t have happened if not for the daring of frontman Wayne Coyne, who brazenly replaced the stock bridge pickup with a Seymour Duncan Hot Rails pickup.
As the story goes, Drozd was in Oklahoma around 1993, when the Flaming Lips had just broken through with the single “She Don’t Use Jelly” from the 1993 album Transmissions from the Satellite Heart. The multi-instrumentalist–who was actually the band’s drummer at the time–walked in to a local, Oklahoma City music store called Horn Trader, where the weathered Jazzmaster sang out to him from the wall.
As they were preparing to head out on tour in 1994, Drozd let Coyne borrow the guitar for a few days, but he didn’t get it back in the same shape, as Coyne made the switch unbeknownst to Drozd.
While he was initially pretty ticked off, Drozd eventually came around to the high-output single-coil, especially as the Flaming Lips’ sound evolved.
“He came over to the house and was like, ‘I hope you don’t mind, I put a (Seymour Duncan) Hot Rails in it,’” Drozd recalled in an interview with Ultimate Guitar. “I’m like, ‘What the f--k, man? What are you doing?"
But the switch turned out to be a saving grace as the Hot Rail could better handle the noise of his complicated setup. “A lot of the guitars, especially at the volumes we play, they just get so unwieldy to me. You have six different effects going; you’ve got a phase, you’ve got delay, you’ve got two different types of distortion, you’ve got wah, and the noise levels on those things get so bad. So he put that Hot Rail in, and I was mad for a couple of days.”
Drozd eventually came around and his ’67 Jazzmaster is a staple during the Flaming Lips’ live show, where fans might get an up-close look at the cartoon character drawn on the white pickguard and the colored tape he places over the strap locks.
And that’s not to mention the Hot Rails pickup that sits so conspicuously in the Jazzmaster’s offset body.