Interview:Meet Floyd Rose
By Scott Tribble
If you're looking for an indicator of Floyd Rose's impact on the guitar world, look no further than the instrument's lexicon. Whereas guitar players once spoke of "gentle vibrato," now they speak of "dive-bombs."
By no means did Floyd Rose invent the dive-bomb, but his groundbreaking locking tremolo system, which debuted in the late-1970s, gave guitar players full license to maim, injure, and generally speak ill of their guitars with no risk of falling out of tune. Thanks to Rose's innovation, players no longer paid a steep price for employing aggressive whammy bar action. One could easily make the argument that Rose represents the guitar's greatest innovator since Les Paul and Leo Fender themselves.
Not one to rest on his laurels, Rose is at it again. His new SpeedLoader guitars and bridges allow players to change an entire set of strings in under a minute—look ma, no wrenches. Guitar.com is pleased to bring you a wide-ranging conversation with the man himself, where he reveals the thought process leading up to the invention of his tremolo system, discusses in detail its evolution over time, as well as muses on the future of music and guitars.
Guitar.com: At what age did you first start playing guitar?
Floyd Rose: I was 15.
Guitar.com: Do you remember your first guitar?
Rose: Yeah, it was a Harmony, and I had an old tweed Fender amp.
Guitar.com: Did the Harmony have a tremolo arm?
Rose: Nah, I didn't even know what a tremolo was. It was a dual pickup.
Guitar.com: When did you get your first guitar with a tremolo arm?
Rose: The next year ... .It was a Fender Jazzmaster.
Guitar.com: What year Jazzmaster?
Rose: It was 1964, probably. I started playing in 1963.
Guitar.com: When did you first start playing in bands?
Rose: When I got my first guitar, I was in Durango, Colorado. The next school year, we moved to Reno, Nevada—that's when I started playing with other guys and started forming bands. That was in 1964 when I started doing that.
Guitar.com: Who were some of your musical influences?
Rose: When I started, I was listening to the Beach Boys and Beatles. And, in the very early days, the Ventures—they were my first influence. As we went into the 1960s, all the '60s bands—Cream, Kinks—just about anything in that era—that was my favorite era looking back on it. When we go into the [late-1960s and 1970s], Deep Purple was probably my biggest influence, and Ritchie Blackmore was probably the guitarist I emulated most. That's when I started using a lot of whammy bar and breaking the bars of my Strats. The first modification I made actually was to replace the thin Fender bar with a quarter-inch steel bar that I couldn't break.
Guitar.com: Were there any seminal recordings or live performances with whammy action that stood out for you?
Rose: The biggest ones would be Hendrix albums and Deep Purple albums—any of them, basically, because they used the bar the most. They were my biggest influences—Hendrix and Ritchie Blackmore.
The Woodstock performance by Hendrix - that always kind of stuck out because of the dive bombs and all the effects. I mean, Blackmore did a lot of the same effects over and over, and I did see him in Sacramento—that really stuck in my head, that performance. But, yeah, it's been so long. I haven't really thought about it in years and years.
Guitar.com: So, you're in a band, and you're starting to get frustrated with the tremolo arm breaking and causing the guitar to go out of tune. What guitar are you playing at this point?
Rose: That was a Strat I had ... .I [usually] tell people it was a 1957 Strat because it's too complicated to tell them [the details] ... Actually, it was a 1963 Strat body ... a white one with a 1957 neck.
Guitar.com: Prior to this point, had you much interest in the design and parts of the guitar?
Rose: Actually, no. I [broke] the bars off because we played very aggressively in those days; everybody trying to outdo each other, throwing guitars around and stuff. That was actually the moment I started trying to do things to the guitar. I guess the only other thing before that would be the standard things, like learning how to intonate the guitar, which was a big deal. But that was really the first time I started thinking about trying to modify to get what I wanted out of the instrument because I couldn't get the strings to dive bomb deep enough.
In those days, the Strat tremolos were attached to the bodies with six wood screws, if you remember. And then it had a bevel on the front of the faceplate that gave it room. When I changed the bar out, I also wanted to get more extreme bends, so I would loosen those screws up a little bit, so that it would go a little further forward. I could get deeper bends, but, then, of course, it starts to go out of tune more. But I used all the basic tricks that everybody knew about in the day: trying to line up the grooves and the nut to the tuning pegs, lubricating the nut, getting the break-over angle as shallow as possible, having as little string as possible wrapped around the tuning key. [The latter point] was something I kind of discovered later. I really started focusing on it more because I liked to start songs with whammy bar effects and stuff. That was because nobody did that. Usually, you'd use it for the lead break and limp to the end of the song on one note if you couldn't get it back in tune. I didn't like doing that, so I got very good at using an effect and getting it back in tune without actually having to touch the tuning keys. But, still, it was a constant annoyance.
Guitar.com: On the night of your discovery, you were just sitting around, watching TV and playing guitar. Had you been practicing with your band beforehand? Was it a particularly frustrating practice?
Rose: It was kind of the straw that broke the camel's back. It made me really focus on it. It was a little bit of an accident because I was kind of laid back on the couch, watching TV, and I had the nut up close to my face, where I could see it. I was just lounging around and playing. I just happened to look over, as I was going down with the bar, and saw the windings on the E-string kind of slide. It's not like I didn't know that happened, but I went, "Hmmmm ... You know, this is what's happening. It's gotta be this friction over the nut." I just started focusing on it. It really only took me about 15 seconds to think of the answer, but it took a long time to make it a reality because I knew nothing about milling machines or anything like that.
When I made the first nut and put it on that Strat and could see that it really worked, I knew I'd have to do it at the other end. So, then, I started the process of trying to get a prototype made, and I went to a machine shop and had the guy kind of design and make it. It cost like $600 to make one bridge and a locking nut. That was a fortune to me. Luckily, I got a little investment from my parents and made that first one. I knew there were a lot of people ... friends and stuff ... who were interested in this thing when I made that first one and showed them how it worked. Now, they were interested in getting one. So I thought, "Hmmm ... I could sell these things," but nobody could afford even what it cost me, so I started on a quest to manufacture them myself. I watched the machinist make the one and I said [to myself], "You know, that doesn't look that hard—I think I can figure that out." [laughs] So, I went and bought what they call a bench mill, which is a small milling machine, and started whittling them out in my basement.
Guitar.com: How would you describe yourself at this point? Were you confident about this venture or was it all nerve-racking?
Rose: It wasn't nerve-racking at all because it evolved into the product by watching other people's interests ... [Originally], I just wanted one for me—that was my only interest when I started because I just wanted to modify mine and make it work. Obviously, as time went on, I'm making it and thinking about it; other people see it and go, "Hey, I could use one." All my friends played the same kind of music, and they wanted to stay in tune too. It was a gradual thing that led me to think "Hey, I could make some money off this; this could be my day job." It was never stressful to me because I was making Indian turquoise jewelry inlays and stuff at the time for my day job while I was being a musician. That's how I made the first nut to test—it was on my lapidary equipment that I made stone and made jewelry with. As far as taking it to the next step and getting the machine, I guess I inherited mechanical inclination from my father, who was always working on cars and stuff. It didn't really scare me or anything to try. I was too dumb to know what was involved [laughs].
Guitar.com: Had you hopes of being a full-time musician?
Rose: Absolutely. I was like the actors that go to down to L.A; they're all actors but they're working at Denny's. To me, I was just a professional musician. I really tried to make money as fast as I could like when I would make jewelry -the reason I got into that was because, in two nights of working, I could make an entire months' pay for rent and other expenses and still have some [money] left over. That was a great gig, and, the rest of the time, all I did was play in my bands and write songs. I was really just a musician—this just kind of evolved into something that was a better way to make money. [laughs]
Guitar.com: As you became more successful with the tremolo system, was it difficult to give up the idea of being a full-time player?
Rose: Well, I never stopped playing. To me, my main thing was still to play. When I had time, I would go and make these bridges. It did get out of hand for a while when there were so many calls in the middle of the night from Australia and England—people waking me up, wanting one of these bridges. Randy Hansen did an article in Guitar Player, and my information got out on how to get one of these [systems]. I was deluged with people wanting them. I started focusing more attention and time on it, trying to fill the orders and stuff. Then, I hired a couple of guys to help because my focus was always to have as much free time as possible, so I could be a musician.
The tooling to do the first cast versions was the next phase; I went to the first NAMM show, and we got together with Fernandez Guitars. We were going to do a deal, but what they did was take the tooling I made for casting the bridges over to Japan; they started doing the casting and sending me the bridges finished—all I had to do was install them on guitars. They paid me for the ones they made over there. It was probably longer than it seemed like, but it was a fairly short transition because all of this happened all of a sudden, starting in 1979, which was when I made the first one that really was sellable and really worked. A friend of mine got the first one after me; Randy Hansen got the second one; Eddie Van Halen got the third one. It really happened fast because, at the next NAMM show, I made the deal with Kramer, and it just exploded. So, I was lucky that I didn't have to learn to be a businessman. Still haven't. [laughs] Other people who were professionals at that took that over early on for me.
Guitar.com: Can you recall the circumstances of your first demonstration/sales pitch?
Rose: I was in between bands at the time, so I wanted to make money doing something else. I met Randy [Hansen]—I forget how I met him. He was playing, and I went out to [see] him. I met his manager, and they were looking for a sound man. They were looking for crew to go out, so I said, "I can run sound." I did that one night and showed him what I could do. They hired me on the spot to run sound. So, I toured with Randy for a while. That's when I was still working on that first prototype. While I was out on the road with him - we were out maybe three months or so -I was working on different designs for what became the first one.
When we got back to town, I thought I had pretty much figured out how I wanted to do it, so I went down and did the first one, put it on a guitar, and took it over to rehearsal because we were going to go out again or do something, play around town—I forget now. I showed it to Randy and said, "Here's a guitar that even you can't put out of tune." He was crazy on the whammy bar. He said, "I'll bet you I can." He grabbed it and started doing the craziest things, throwing it on the floor, playing it with his foot. He [then] picked it up, grinned, held an E-chord, strummed it, expecting it to be completely out of tune, and it was perfectly tuned. He just went, "Oh, my God." He was completely floored. He said, "OK, I'll do it this time." He did it again, even more vigorously. Anyone who knows [my] tremolo knows you can't put it out of tune—you have to smash the guitar to pieces to put it out of tune. So, he was sold right away.
Shortly after that, I moved on, probably to do the Kramer thing, so I didn't run sound for him again and went back to playing. We made the deal with Kramer and then I was back, basically retired. All I did was play music again and produce bands.
Guitar.com: How did the industry respond to your system? I understand that you tried to talk to Fender, but didn't get very far.
Rose: I didn't really talk to them. What happened was that I probably mailed them a letter - I forget now, it was obviously before email—that said I had this invention that was something they should put on their guitars, as I'm having success with it. They basically sent a letter back that, more or less in attorney language, said that they had the best guitar engineers in the world and, if it really were a good idea, they probably already had thought of it. I did the same thing with Gibson. I got even less of a response, basically a "No thanks." So, it was a very short conversation with both of those companies. Even when I would take the prototype in and show people in stores, the guys in the stores would be blown away that it stayed in tune, but were very negative about it, thinking, "No one's going to use wrenches to clamp their strings down. You're crazy." I just knew I wanted one, and my whole sales pitch to guitar players was that I would just bring my guitar out, play the chords, dump the strings down until they were all hanging like spaghetti, let it come up, and play a perfectly tuned chord. Then, they were reaching for their wallets. It was pretty easy to sell them to guitar players [laughs].
Guitar.com: Floyd Rose has become a name-brand in the guitar industry; even players who don't use your bridge know your name. How did you market the product to get to this point?
Rose: There was no marketing—the articles that Guitar Player did on Randy Hansen and later on Eddie Van Halen where they mentioned [mine] was the tremolo they used - that was it. There was no other marketing until I got to Kramer. Then, of course, they started running ads, doing it all professional. That's when it all exploded—because of the marketing. I'm sure you've seen the ads. It was really easy to get endorsees.
Guitar.com: Who were some of your endorsees other than Eddie?
Rose: Neil Schon [Journey] was a big one. Brad Gillis [Ozzy Osbourne, Night Ranger]. Randy Hansen. Eddie Ojeda [Twisted Sister]. John McCurry with Cyndi Lauper's band. Jeff Golub with Billy Squier's band. Of course, Eddie was the biggest one. God, the list goes on, but I'm blanking.
Guitar.com: Do you have any favorite or particularly memorable recordings/live moments with players using your system?
Rose: A lot of people think that Eddie recorded his first album with it, but he didn't because he didn't have it then. I think he was touring actually on the second album—I'm not sure of the chronology—when I met him. Maybe the second—but, for sure, the third album is when I heard it on the radio. That definitely made me sit up and go, "Hey, that's cool." Oh, there was a moment when somebody—I'm trying to think who it was—I forget what band, but they were playing on Johnny Carson. Back then, Johnny Carson was as big as you could get, as far as exposure. Maybe it was Journey—I don't know if they ever played on it, but it was a band where the guitar player used the tremolo. When I saw it on there, it was a big thrill. It was always obviously fun to go see Eddie play on it, but I saw him so many times, it was just kind of expected.
Guitar.com: I guess you get used to it after a while ... .
Rose: Yeah, you kind of separate it from yourself. You don't really think of it like that. There was [another] moment that was kind of a thrill. The tremolo, when people used it on stage—from a distance, you didn't know what you were looking at; you wouldn't know if it was a Floyd Rose bridge or not. We showed a guitar that was a prototype for the SpeedLoader - the first Redmond series - to Richie Sambora, and he played it that night. When I was out in the audience, the backlight from the stage shined through the headstock - that was cool. It just highlighted it - you could really tell it was one of our guitars. I got the same feeling when I saw Aerosmith with it. You can recognize it right away because of the headstock. That's kind of a thrill.
Guitar.com: Can you walk us through the progression from your double-locking system on two posts to the fine-tuning version and, later, to the pro version?
Rose: Well, the very first one was just a nut made of brass. Where the clamps are now on the nut—the three large clamping surfaces—it was just little U's with a screw through it. The two strings per clamp was the original way I did it, but it was just too weak. I was on a crash course to learn how to make metal stuff - I actually went to work for a short time at a casting facility that cast brass. I wanted to learn how to cast parts because I figured that was the best way to make them. So, I made one that actually works like the old Jazzmaster tremolo, where the bridge post actually went into the guitar itself and rocked back and forth—the tremolo was in back of it - kind of like a Bigsby. So, the first version didn't actually work on the fulcrum—there's only one of those, and a friend of mine in Reno has it on a Les Paul.
The first fulcrum version was the next one. It was the one that cost me $600 to make, and that's when I discovered hardening steel. I had just put it on the guitar - it was just made out of a mild steel, and I thought that's all you would need. I played it—the first couple times I used it, it was great, but then it started going out of tune really fast. I took it apart and realized that the steel started to dent in and around where we made the sharp points to rock on. So, that was the first version, and that's when I came up with the knife-edge rocker points. That one worked differently on the saddles—the saddles were adjustable like a Tune O Matic Gibson bridge, but it was mounted on a rocking base-plate. The clamps on each bridge saddle were like the nut, only there was one per saddle with two small screws. It clamped the string right at the string—just like you would hold it with a pair of pliers. I found out real quick that was a bad way to do it because, as you tremoloed, it would be just like you wanted to break a piece of wire by holding it with pliers and wiggling back and forth. So, it broke strings really fast.
I knew I had to revise that and, when I was on the road with Randy Hansen, that's when I came up with the version that became like the one Randy got and with no fine-tuners. In fact, when I made those personally and clamped down the nut, you'd get in tune and clamp down the nut, and they were made so accurately that they wouldn't change tuning when you clamped down. When we started trying to mass-produce them and make more of them—by the hundreds instead of six of them at a time like I did—I couldn't hold that kind of tolerance. What would happen was that you would clamp down the E- and the A-clamp, and the A-string would go a little flat and the E-string would go a little sharp. So, I would teach people to tune the A-string a little sharp and the E-string a little flat—when you'd clamp it in, it would come into tune. That problem was what prompted me to come up with the fine-tuning version—I knew that wasn't going to last because I didn't want to do that.
So, that was the one I went to the show with and met Dennis Berardi at Kramer. That was the second or third show I went to—I forget now. That was the next evolution—the fine-tuner version. After that, three years later, I came up with the Pro to get the fine-tuners down and out of the way. In 1991, I started developing the double-bulleted strings. That took a long time to get and be able to make strings that accurately. I designed all the equipment that manufactured the strings, tested, and revised—it's really hard to make strings repeat in length two-thousandths of an inch. That's the tolerance you have to hold so that, when you snap in a new string, it's within like a half-turn of the fine tuner screw to being at the previous string's pitch. Those strings were designed for a different bridge than the SpeedLoader. It was made to go on a complete guitar that I tried to do with Akai and Tommy Moore, the guys who owned Jackson/Charvel. ... We were trying to develop the first Floyd Rose guitar with this bridge on it and a whole bunch of other things on it like moving pickups and pickups you plug in—they would move back and forth. A whole bunch of new inventions on that guitar. Then, that project went defunct, and I started coming up with the SpeedLoader versions. We showed the SpeedLoader version—not at the last [NAMM] show, but the January show in 2003. We showed the first SpeedLoader bridges and made two guitars to demonstrate them on; one of those guitars is the one that Richie Sambora has. Everybody liked the guitars so well that they wanted to buy the guitars with the bridge on it, so we spent the next year (2003), perfecting the design of the guitars and using the SpeedLoader. That kind of brings us up to date.
Guitar.com: What was the reaction to the SpeedLoader at NAMM? Given your track record, was the industry more receptive this time around?
Rose: It's funny—if you're just a guitar player, the reaction is really great. The more the guitar player was in the industry—whether the store owner or people who were buyers—they liked it, but, again they're skeptical because, when they look at it, they start analyzing them: "Can I sell these?" "Do you have to buy these strings?" "These strings are a little more expensive." But there's no one I ever met who didn't like the way the strings attached—it's always been in how the bridge works. It actually has a better feel than the original because I changed the geometry a bit—gives it a smoother feel. As a guitar player, I've never really seen anyone go, "Well, that sucks. I would never use that." It would be, "Well where am I going to get strings? Are the strings going to be available?" That's the biggest fear. There always will be [strings] because I own the equipment, and I'll always provide the strings, even if it's not a huge, huge success. It's just like the Steinberger's double-bullet strings—you can still get those even though there just aren't many guitars. I think there's already more guitars in the world with this bridge on it than Steinbergers.
Guitar.com: Can you elaborate on the concept of "convergent tuning," as it relates to the SpeedLoader?
Rose: That's a tough one to describe ... I don't know if this will help or make it more confusing. The way I actually came up with it was, when I used to put my fine-tuner Floyds on guitars in my basement, generally I didn't recess them. In other words, I didn't route out a recess—they were all top-mounted in the beginning. So, I would take and shim the neck up after I put the bridge on, so it could have enough up-pull ... If the action was too high, I would need to shim the neck [more]. So, to figure out whether I needed a shim or not, I pretty much had to have it up to full pitch to adjust the neck. I'd have it all clamped in, and I'd go, "Ah, I want to lower this action." So, what I would do was just turn the guitar over, pop three springs off it, pull the bridge out of the top, lay it on the counter, and, without unclamping the nut or anything, I would just unscrew the neck screws and put a little more shim under the neck. Then, I'd clamp the neck back on, re-attach the springs, put the bridge back on, and re-attach the screws. The guitar would always be back in tune.
At some point—I don't actually remember when it finally hit me—I realized that there's a relationship between the tension on the strings and the intonation point. If I moved that intonation point forward, I realized it would go flat; the intonation would change... It was interesting to me that, if I took the bridge out, put it back in, and the bass plate came back to the same position, the strings always came back to tune. When I was coming up with the new strings that had double bullets, I knew that, if I ever wanted to get rid of using wrenches, I had to have some kind of attachment method to each of the strings. Knowing what I know about what keeps a guitar from going out of tune, one of the most important factors is that, the less string there is from the point it touches the nut or the bridge back to where it's clamped, the better it will stay in tune. What I wanted to do was make strings basically the same length as clamped strings. If you look at a SpeedLoader, the amount of string that comes out of the bullet at the nut and then over the nut to where it actually passes the critical contact point (where string meets the nut)—it's just a little more than it was on the original Floyd. On the bridge, it's virtually the same distance. The problem is that, when I made the strings that short I couldn't get the strings on the guitar up to pitch; when they're on the guitar, intonated, they're stretched out quite a bit—more than I had thought. If I made them long like Steinberger did, then I could do it, but I knew that even that much length ... that was a tuning issue.
I started thinking about ways to make strings that short, but now bring them up to pitch from a lower pitch. So, I made a whole bunch of prototypes and threw them away until I actually came up with a bridge that would go well ... forward of the correct intonation length and pull the string up. Once I put a string in of 'x' length ... in the bridge and started pulling it up to pitch, at some point it would come up to pitch and I would stop, but it wouldn't necessarily be in the correct intonation. Then, I realized that all I had to do was cut the string a little shorter and, when I came up to pitch, the intonation point would be further forward. So, all I did was make a bridge that did that and kept adjusting the string lengths until, when I tuned it up to standard pitch, it was right in tune. I call it convergent tuning because the tension and the intonation position start at the wrong place and then converge together at the right intonation. And you can still adjust it on the SpeedLoader ... it's just like the old Floyd Rose bridge -you move the saddle forward for the intonation and use the range tuner screw on the SpeedLoaders to bring the string up to pitch.
There's a new fix to convergent bridges that will be out in a few months. It's being tooled up right now. What's cool about that—once you've done your initial setup for your intonation pressure—if you change tunings, the intonation changes on you, but let's say you change from a set of 9's to a set of 10's. When you put on the new set of 10's and tune the guitar, if you snap in the new 10's, they'll be too sharp, but, when you re-tune them, the intonation points [will] go to the proper position.
Guitar.com: What's your facility like nowadays?
Rose: It's a very small company really. Right now, we don't have a big enough facility to do paint - we don't paint [our guitars]. I have this guy that's always been a really well- known painter around here [Olympia, Washington] that paints them right now. When we started this, it was a machine shop with my two milling machines and a screw machine, and we really started to make the SpeedLoader bridges. We made like 130 of them here on my machines. We were cutting aluminum, brass, and stuff like that. Then, when people started wanting guitars, we switched it over to manufacture the wood. We're really high-tech ... .I do it all on a program called CATIA—it's the same program that they designed the new 777 Boeing jet on. It's very sophisticated software—I don't have all the modules that [Boeing has], but I have a lot. And I use a five-axis machine, which is the only one in the Northwest. So we're very efficient and computerized. That way, the guitars come out very precise every time.
We have like eight employees right now here, but I guess you'd have to count the people who do the painting, so there are like five or six [more] down in Olympia. But we're about to move into a larger facility where we can do our own painting—that will happen in two or three months.
Guitar.com: How many dealers do you have right now?
Rose: I'd say 19 in the U.S. right now, as of today, plus 15 Guitar Centers. We have a lot of them in Europe as well. We have reps for the whole country and the rest of the world., but, again, we've only really been selling guitars since January. So, most people are impressed with the number of stores we've picked up.
Guitar.com: Where do you see the guitar industry heading in the next 10-20 years?
Rose: For me, I probably am the wrong guy to ask because I'm not really a businessman. I can't predict where things will go. Obviously, the Asian manufacturers, the Indian manufacturers—they're going to get better at making guitars. One of the trends I see happening is that they get better and better at it, and the price [will be] so much less than what it's possible to make guitars [for] in the U.S. because labor rates are so different. You're probably going to see less and less U.S. manufacturers. We want to do it here because they still can't make a Floyd Rose American Redmond series guitar as well as we can make it. When we get our new factory, we can improve the quality from what we have, and it's already considered a very high-end guitar—excellent workmanship if you read the reviews. I think we can improve the quality even more, make it even more consistent, and lower the price because the only way we can really compete in the U.S. is to make guitars more perfect using automation, better machinery, and better-trained employees. We can't pay someone two, three, or five dollars a day to make guitars. There are smart people over there - they can run a buffing wheel and a sander just as well as someone in the U.S., and they do it for a lot less. The trend is even less-expensive guitars made; the quality will keep going up, and the deals will be even better for the musicians. My guitars are really for professional players ... .
As far as trends in the industry, I don't know what exactly you mean by it. If you mean "Are all guitar players in five years going to use 7-string guitars?" I don't know. Innovation is usually what drives markets to some other direction from the way they're going because, if you don't have innovation, all that happens is that you get commodification—everything becomes a commodity, and price is the only issue. If guitar manufacturers don't come up with new, cool things for guitars and on guitars like the SpeedLoader, it's just going to be left to all the Chinese manufacturers ... because they can make them the cheapest and can learn to make them as high quality as an American-made guitar -what's the point of making them anywhere else? They'll never run out of cheap workers, so I can see that as a general trend. The only way American manufacturers can do anything is to have innovation like the SpeedLoader—you can string your guitar in under a minute and be back playing ... You need to give the players something that's useful to them in some way ... You take the original tremolo—it allows you to do effects that you really couldn't get any other way. And it had the added benefit of keeping you from going out of tune. This new bridge -the SpeedLoader bridge—you can still do the same effects and stay in tune, but now you don't have to deal with wrenches and all that stuff ...
There's a whole bunch of other things I'll be coming out with in the next few years, so, to me, I think you have to drive the trends in the industry by innovation and stuff that can help [guitar players] make music in new ways or at least make the old ways easier to deal with and use. I was a guitar player all my life, and most of what guitar players want to do is focus on their playing and their writing ... The hardest thing, when I bought my first guitar, was changing strings the first time ... It's a daunting task when you're starting out. I never really liked to do it; it was a necessary evil, but I got really good at it, especially on my bridge.
Guitar.com: We like to give all of our interview subjects a moment to pontificate on the state of music and the music industry. You have the floor ...
Rose: I've really been out of it for many years because I went back to college and studied chemistry and things like that ... I was really out of the music scene for 15 years. When we started doing this project three years ago, I started listening to bands again and getting back into it. Now that I've been exposed to it again, I'm really optimistic for my kind of music that uses guitars and vocals.
The whole grunge thing, I really liked those bands, but, after that, it really moved so much into rap, boy bands, and Britney Spears-type bands that all the music and the types of bands that I liked went underground. I blame most of this on the record companies because they wanted these formulas. If one band had a hit, every other record label would find every other band that would play like that. They drove innovation out of the way people played. ... Since the bands have been underground for 10 years, a lot of new interesting bands are starting to come around. In fact, I just heard a band called The Mars Volta. I was really impressed with these guys, the first band that I've heard that takes me back to days of The Who, The Stones, and maybe Emerson, Lake, and Palmer and Yes. They're really different and really good. To me, I'm really optimistic about where the music is going. The Internet is really a drag—if everybody's going to steal all the music, it's going to lessen the amount of people who go into music because it's hard enough to make it in this industry anyway. I guess the flip side of that is that a lot of bands can get heard that have never been heard before. It's kind of a weird mix.
I'm pretty optimistic overall when I hear all these new artists. Another band that I thought was really good was Love 45. They just came to town recording—they're a new up-and-comer band that's really good. So I'm pretty optimistic about the music change; I haven't been for quite a while. I really like the fact that guitar bands are coming back.
Guitar.com: One final question, a somewhat offbeat one. We talked earlier about the influence of the "Star Spangled Banner" performance on you—have you ever indulged yourself in a daydream of Jimi using a Floyd Rose system?
Rose: Remember the guitar I told you about that had all the moving pickups? I met him down in San Diego—he saw that guitar and really liked it. In fact, he wanted it—I only had one at the time, and he wanted to take it, but I couldn't give it to him. We actually are giving him one of the new SpeedLoader guitars, as we speak. Hopefully, he'll like it. That's a big thrill—the fact that he liked the guitar. And he told me when I met him that he has guitars with my bridges in them and has used them before. He said that he likes to use them—[he's] just not known for it.
Guitar.com: Um, I think we're talking about different Jimi's ... .At least I hope so.
Rose: Oh, I'm sorry— I thought you meant Jimmy Page. You didn't know I had a connection to the beyond, did you? [laughs] That just reminded me ... speaking of Hendrix, one of the biggest thrills I ever got—I don't know if it was in Guitar Player—I suspect it was probably in there, since that was the one I read most back then—somebody was doing an article on Hendrix, and they mentioned that they thought, if he was alive today, he would play nothing but Floyd Rose bridges or something to that effect. That was really special to have my name mentioned in the same sentence as Jimi Hendrix.
Guitar.com: Floyd, thanks so much for the time today. It was an honor speaking with you. Keep up the innovation.
Rose: No problem. Thank you.