Mike Mushok is best known as the guitarist for multi-platinum metallers Staind and, more recently, modern-rock supergroup Saint Asonia.
But in addition to playing great guitar, Mushok is also interested in building them. In his college days, he earned a degree in electrical engineering, and he went on to work for a time at Ovation Guitars.
More recently, he got turned onto Kevin Michael Clark’s high-end acoustics and began using them with Saint Asonia. Now he and Clark have teamed up to start building acoustics of their own.
Mushok checked in with Guitar World to discuss his latest endeavor and provide updates on Saint Asonia and Staind.
GUITAR WORLD: How did you hook up with Kevin?
I met with Kevin through a mutual friend. He had been telling me about his guitars for a long time and finally brought me over to his shop and I was blown away by what he was making. Their guitars that are visually stunning and sound better than they look. His designs are very unique, player friendly and well thought out.
Have you been playing his guitars for a while?
I really only started playing his guitars as I became partners in K Michael Clark Guitars. He recently built a guitar for me and one for [Saint Asonia singer] Adam Gontier, and we've been using them at all our acoustic performances. We actually were in the studio with them yesterday tracking some acoustic versions of our songs. They really sounded amazing in that environment, which was great.
Which model(s) do you use?
I'm playing a Brazilian rosewood Banas Slope, which is a very unique design specific to K Michael Clark Guitars. It has an elongated body with a slope shoulder and an extreme cutaway, which really allows for very easy access to the upper frets. It’s unlike any acoustic I've ever played. The guitar also has a very nice subtle arm bevel that creates greater comfort in playing and does not affect the sound at all. And one thing that is very unique to a K Michael Clark guitar is the keyway string over the bridge system. It makes string changing much quicker and easier as it is a pin-less bridge system, which also enhances the overall tone of the guitar. And then Adam’s guitar has Jacaranda back and sides and a Sitka spruce top.
What led you to want to collaborate on guitars with Kevin?
We got to talking the first time I met him and realized we shared a love for the design of acoustic guitars. I love woodworking and working with my hands, and Kevin is a true master luthier. We spoke of opening a shop and trying to spread the word of K Michael Clark Guitars, and here we are.
You have a history with Ovation Guitars. Can you discuss that a bit?
I have a degree in electrical engineering, and my yearlong senior project was the design and analysis of acoustic guitar resonant frequencies. Ovation gave me various models of their guitars and I conducted frequency analysis of all the models to determine where the resonant frequencies of the guitars were. We were trying to determine what different bracings and composite materials did to the resonant frequency response of the guitars.
Can you discuss the guitars you’ve designed with Kevin?
This is something we are just getting into now, as my association with Kevin is fairly new. There are a few things we are looking at doing moving forward to help improve designs and continue our advancement in making beautiful sounding instruments.
Are these custom models or are they available for retail purchase?
There aren't any available for retail purchase. To purchase a K Michael Clark Guitar, you have to go through the web site, KevinMichaelClarkGuitars.com, and contact us. We go over the complete design of the guitar with each customer, building exactly what they want. Of course, we have our models but Kevin is always open to switching things up a bit if the customer wants something special.
Are they hand built?
Yes, everything about the guitars is hand made—right down to the Earth headstock logo, where each continent is cut out by hand. Each guitar is truly a work of art and unique onto itself.
Anything you are looking to do as far as acoustic guitar design in the future?
Yes, we are always exploring different options. One thing that is very unique to Kevin is the double-neck acoustics that he makes. He's made 6/12 string double necks, six-string double necks for guys that do a lot of tapping, seven-string double necks… If you can dream it up, he can make it. One thing Kevin is passionate about is the James Ashborn Parlor Guitar, as Kevin was born in the same town as James and is trying to keep the legacy alive. Kevin has built a couple of these and they're really beautiful instruments.
Kevin has made guitars from all different kinds of materials. Customers have even picked out their own wood and sent it to him for him to build a guitar out of. He's working on a beautiful Koa guitar and a 6/6 double neck Cocobolo guitar.
Another unique design is Kevin's A-Wedge, which is a combination of a lute and an acoustic guitar with a braceless back, which adds to the ergonomics and strength of the guitar. The A-Wedge is a very unique instrument that really has an amazing sound all its own.
What's going on with Saint Asonia?
We are on tour with Seether and then we go to Europe to tour with Motley Crue and Alice Cooper. We will be closing out the year doing some radio festivals here in the States. We’re also getting ready to drop the second single and I'm sure there will be more touring next year. If anyone’s interested in checking out the band, just go to saintasonia.com and all the information is there.
Are you surprised at how well the band has been received?
It's always tough starting a new band… especially a rock band these days. I think one thing we're all very fortunate to that we have great fans. I've said it since day one—if it wasn't for the fans we obviously wouldn't be able to do what we love. For that, we are all very grateful. So hopefully we can keep growing Saint Asonia by touring and putting out the best music that we possibly can.
Is there anything on the horizon with Staind?
Currently there are no plans for Staind. But last I spoke with Aaron [Lewis, singer] he said there will be another Staind record at some point.