Tosin Abasi and Ernie Ball have announced they have some “exciting and progressive” updates for its collaborative build, the Kaizen, while unveiling two new model-exclusive finishes.
Speaking at NAMM 2024 to reveal the finishes, the Animals As Leaders guitarist and Ernie Ball CEO Brian Ball spoke about their creation and the benefits of working together on the guitar.
The first new finish is what Abasi describes as a “pretty insane” black burst metallic finish. It’s the result of a new chrome painting system that Ernie Ball has been refining in recent years, for which the Kaizen became a prime test subject. Ball said Abasi was “the perfect artist” to work with on perfecting the finish.
A distressed, patina-like metallic finish is the Kaizen’s other new ‘paint job.’ Whilst it doesn’t currently have a name, it was described by one audience member at the Q&A/demo as looking like “metal that’s been rained on for 10 years.”
Interestingly, the finish is actually what many Music Man guitars look like in their intermediary stage. Having visited the factory, Abasi saw a guitar during that stage and it immediately jumped out at him.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like this on a guitar,” he says. “It’s almost like an artifact from an ancient technological civilization.”
While there was confirmation that a left-handed model is not currently in development, Abasi said an eight-string model is something the pair have “chatted about.”
Ball, meanwhile, insists: “We've got some really exciting ideas for the Kaizen that are progressive,” which we’ll hear about later this year.
First launched at NAMM 2022, the Kaizen continues Music Man’s legacy of bold, atypically shaped signature guitars. It’s the firm’s first collaboration with Abasi, a luthier in his own right with Abasi Concepts.
Ball says he’s an admirer of Abasi’s ingenuity as a player as well as his business acumen. Ultimately, he didn’t see his guitar-building exploits with Abasi Concepts as a stumbling block.
“I looked at him having Abasi Concepts as a benefit,” he says. “We [Music Man] wanna push the instrument forward. When you work with someone like Tosin or [fellow Music Man endorsee] John Petrucci and they have an idea, it pushes the company and our engineers forward. It makes us better and it’s a rewarding process. There’s not one stock part on this guitar!”
Abasi admits to being a Music Man fan “for the longest time.” He tracked much of Animals as Leaders' 2009 self-titled debut album on a JP15 belonging to Periphery’s Misha Mansoor - who last month launched the Horizon Devices Clarity Compressor.
“Music Man has always been known for its build quality and the innovation and boldness of its design,” Abasi believes. “It’s not afraid to go in directions others are too afraid to go in, and that really appealed to me as a creative.
“When I visited the facility and I saw the amount of engineering at their disposal, I couldn't say no [to collaboration]. I knew I could execute anything.
“With the infinite radius on the fingerboard and the Steinberger gearless locking tuners, which I’ve never seen before, they brought a lot of stuff to the table. It was the perfect balance of innovation and engineering with my willingness to create a guitar that didn't already exist.”
The infinity radius necks, which are paired with ebony fretboards, are designed to increase player comfort and enhance the visibility of the board, regardless of playing style. It does this through what the brand calls a “strategically crafted conical radius,” which utilizes uniquely placed dot inlays.
The Steinberger tuners, meanwhile, place the tuning pegs at the back of the guitar’s headstock. This helps minimize tuning discrepancies when accidentally knocking the guitar, as well as neatening up its overall aesthetic.
It’s been an action-packed start to the year for Music Man. The company has already revealed its first two signature builds with Rabea Massaad, and the final installment in the Joe Dart Artist Series, which sold out in seconds. In wider Ernie Ball release news (one of 2024’s more surprising gear stories, overall, mind) it’s even put air core technology in a guitar strap.
For more information, head to Music Man.