Guitarist Joe Trohman doesn’t believe in idols.
“People always ask who mine are,” the 23-year-old said in a recent interview. “But that phrase, ‘I’m only human’ — it’s there for a reason.”
In the past seven years, Trohman’s band — Fall Out Boy — has exploded from an underground sensation to an internationally recognized pop-punk powerhouse, hitting number one on the Billboard charts and performing at the MTV Video Music Awards last September.
For some fans, his success and talent makes Trohman a rock-and-roll idol himself. But he won’t have it, he says. And, speaking with BLAST, Trohman insisted that the name of his new line of custom electric guitars had no special meaning — called the Joe Trohman Washburn Idol.
Designed by Trohman and manufactured by Washburn Guitars last year, the Idol is aesthetically simple: available in black or white, with a classic binding — cream around the black model, and black on the white. The neck is wide and thin, the solid basswood body is thin and light and there are just four adjustment knobs.
“I have guitars that have a lot of weird modes, and tons of switches and stuff,” Trohman said. Those are fun, but as the guitar player for Fall Out Boy … I don’t have a bunch of effects. I just have a guitar, and it needs to be able to do its job.”
Maybe the flashiest physical feature of the guitar are its inlays on the fret board, shaped like Fall Out Boy’s keyhole logo.
“I’m very into design, and I like modern stuff,” Trohman says. “I like the simplistic value of it.”
Inspired by some of Trohman’s favorite vintage guitars — his black Les Paul Custom and white Les Paul Studio — his model hides a couple of innovative features beneath its basic surface. In particular, its Voice Contour Control (VCC) coil-splitting system allows for a dirty tone, combining single-coil pick-up sounds and humbucking, without the usual hum of a single-coil, according to the retailer’s website, empireoftherepublic.com.
“I think it’s really cool, and it works for me when I’m flicking between two amps,” Trohman says. The result, he says, is a dirty sound that roars out smooth.
When Trohman was approached by Washburn by last year, he had minor deals with some retailers, he says, but no actual endorsement. Part of the package, he says, was getting to design a guitar all his own.
“I pretty much couldn’t turn it down,” he says. “It’s pretty hard for any guitarist, no matter how good they are, to make a signature guitar. I jumped on it — it was a once in a lifetime opportunity.”
Now, the Idol is a mainstay for the lead guitarist, and has knocked his 1969 Les Paul Custom out of the top spot for favorite guitar.
“It’s the first time I got to make one,” he says. “And it’s a very comfortable relationship I have with the guitar, because I was able to … put it together and make it to my standards.”
Trohman has been playing guitar for nearly 14 years, he says, and has a collection of about 30 guitars in his Chicago home. He’d love to add another of his own creations to the line-up.
“That all depends on the demand for the guitar, honestly,” he said.
The guitar has seen a spike in online orders recently. “The fact that people want to buy my guitar blind, without ever playing it, is really cool,” he said.
In about four months, Sam Ash locations nationwide will start carrying the Idol. For now, they’re available online exclusively, at empireoftherepublic.com — a name invented when Trohman mashed together a couple of terms from the Star Wars series.
The guitar sells for $420.
“It’s inexpensive,” he said, “but the craftmanship great. For a beginner who wants to start out with a decent guitar, or for an advanced player who doesn’t have a lot of money but wants a nice guitar — it covers everyone.”
Fall Out Boy has been on tour for about six or seven years straight, and last week the band flew to Moscow to perform at a private engagement.
Later this year they’ll start recording their next album record with some of the 50 songs they’ve got floating around, Trohman said.
“But right now, we’ll just do one-off shows here and there,” he says. “And we’ll work on individual things — like sitting around, enjoying being home.”