Louis Electric

December 2014
more... Builder ProfileGearDecember 2008Lollar

Jason Lollar: The Pickup Artist

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The Pickup Artist
P-90 Soapbar with clear top for display
The other fallacy is making people believe you wind each pickup for each individual player, i.e. a different design and wind for everyone. In practice, if you think about it, you can imagine what a tall claim that is. First, how would you know what a pickup would sound like before it was made if every one was unique? And every guitar player sounds different; you can’t predict what their attack is like, how they sustain the tone or what their approach is. I watch the same guitar and amp combo being used by hundreds of players and I’m amazed at the different results each player gets. You can’t guess how the individual is going to affect this by the type of wood used in the guitar or by what kind of music they play. Even if you hear a recording of the player, you can really only generalize about the results. In the end the player is the biggest unknown factor.

The Pickup Artist
P-90 Soapbar with clear top for display
What’s in the future for your business? Are you growing? Have you reached a nice stasis point?

My business has been growing from the start; I have tried to limit it to a level where I can keep on top of the jobs I do take and keep the quality and personal service at top level. But I am not the kind of person that will sit back and ride on my past accomplishments. Expect to see more stock designs available, new design families and unusual offerings. I will probably be going out to more vintage shows, so be looking to see me around more.

At this point I have a really good crew and have learned a lot of hard lessons about what types of people I want working with me and how to pull everyone together as a cohesive unit. I have always been cautious about claiming that I have made my mark, but a couple of years ago I finally had to admit that all that hard work has paid off. I’m doing something I like, on my own terms and that’s a great place to be.

You did attend Roberto Venn and graduated in 1975, and there are even some guitars featured on your website. Is there a part of you that would secretly like to be known as a guitar builder, instead of a pickup expert?

Oh, I like to build guitars but I would be a fool to wish for something different at this point. I could stop making pickups and transition into building more guitars but I have so much time invested in pickup making now that it wouldn’t make sense. I feel my experience as a guitar builder gives me a different perspective than I would have without it – that and the time I spent gigging. I have a whole set of experiences I draw on that a lot of other pickup makers don’t have.

Anymore, I only build one guitar a year and I am going to end any official guitar commissions at my next website redesign. I will have a gallery where you can see the guitars I have made. Who knows – maybe down the line I will get back into it. But at this point it’s just a part of my background rather than a focal point.

It really comes down to this: if I’m going to make pickups to a higher level of quality and consistency, I won’t have time to build guitars and vice versa. If I’m going to build guitars to that level, I won’t have time left over to devote to pickups.

What’s your view of the guitar industry today?

Like I said previously, I think that guitar, amp and related accessories are at an all-time high, as far as selection and quality for the consumer. As more people enter into manufacturing, even on a one piece at a time basis, it will increase competition among manufacturers, and eventually if we get more offerings than the consumer will support, you’ll see those businesses that have some weakness in their product or service are going to drop out. At this point it looks easy to get in the game. But I have seen so many people start up and drop out within a year or two. There are plenty of guys that have struggled and not made it. You really have to have both the hands-on, artistic side and the practical business sense, and as more people enter it will be harder to get established. Those that work hard and make good choices can do well, but there is going to be a shake-up eventually where only the best will come through the other side. The good news is the quality will be better than ever on the premium products.

We are already seeing companies selling Korean and Chinese products and calling them “boutique quality” or designed in the USA with USA materials (meaning made in Korea). I like being competitive, and even though Korean guitars are multiple times better than they were 30 years ago, I am confident that USA workers can out-do them. I keep my eye on what other people do. Right now there is a push for high-quality USA companies to have a lower-priced line made overseas – it’s the nature of the business climate right now – but I have enough on my hands to do, and I am committed to the people that work in my shop here in the USA.


Jason Lollar Pickups & Custom Guitars
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