Jack Grassel Discusses His New Trident Triple-Neck Axe
Posted by Michael Mueller on January 30, 2013 at 5:51 PM
Jack Grassel is one of the more adventurous jazz guitarists you'll come across, and as a result, he's also one who's developed his own unmistakable voice on the instrument. Not surprisingly, Grassel recognizes that his sort of musical exploration sometimes requires a different set of tools. After years of playing archtops, Les Pauls, and Explorers, Grassel developed the SuperAx, an instrument that allowed him to electronically lower strings 5–6 a full octave, to play guitar and bass at the same time. Next, he developed a seven-string guitar on which the neck was divided into three sections: quarter tone, normal, and fretless. And now, he's gone yet another step further with his latest invention.
Inspired by a guitar/mandolin double-neck he'd recently purchased, Grassel designed the Trident, a triple-neck instrument comprising a four-string bass, a six-string guitar, and a mandolin. It was constructed by Wade's Guitar Shop, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. We caught up with Jack while on a gigging vacation in Mexico, to talk about his newest brainchild.
What inspired you to include a mandolin?
From 1970–82, I was a studio and pit musician, and there was a lot of work (and money) for me as a mandolinist. But since 1982, my mandolin has been hanging on a wall gathering dust, as most of my work has been on a standard guitar. I've missed playing it.
Does the Trident have multiple outputs, and do you use separate amps?
The Trident has only one output. The pickup heights have all been adjusted so that the volume from all three necks is uniform. By having a single output, the whole thing can go through one channel of a 2-channel Claris head, which I share with vocalist Jill Jensen. As a result, we get consistent sound in each venue.
What kind of pickups are used for the three instruments?
The bass has the original Ibanez factory pickups, which have wonderful upright bass–style growl—perfect for the music I play. The neck position on the guitar is a Seymour Duncan Distortion, which adds the edge needed with the reliably clean, solid-state Claris head. The guitar bridge pickup, which I only use for playing solos with harmonics, is from a Fender HH Strat. The mandolin pickup is whatever was stock on it. I tried upgrading to a Duncan single-coil, but that didn't "cut" the same way.
You use a looper to create a rich backdrop for Ms. Jensen's vocals. Which one do you use?
I use a Boss RC3. On our 2012 Mexico tour, every guitar player was using one, and I learned from them. There is no delay when switching on a loop, it's very reliable, and fits in my guitar gig bag.
Finally, that thing must weigh a ton!
Well, the Trident was originally going to be a four-neck instrument with an added ukulele, but as it is, it's already 17 pounds, which is heavy enough!