In the depths below the Best Buy stage, our guide leads us through a labyrinth of passageways populated by flight cases, half assembled gear, merch boxes, and musicians intently focused on warm up techniques. Ink punctuates flesh, an unspoken uniform.
We cross the main stage, piles of drum kits in one corner, wall of amplifiers stacked in a rock slide of potential noise stage center. To our right opens the pit, a clearing of open floor, shadowy form of the sound man backlit against work lights.
Stage left is a rack of gear labeled: MISHA MANSOOR.
We pass by. Getting close.
The 'Blue Zone' is a further maze of dressing rooms, band names printed neatly on each door: Periphery, Animals As Leaders, The Ocean, Norma Jean, Cattle Decapitation.
My brain registers polyrhythmic bursts of percussion from semi-darkness, played with an almost inhuman metronomic skill. Matt Garska, drummer for AAL, looks up from his practice pad, recognizes me, comes over to catch up and check out Misha's guitar.
I guess word has spread.
I want to try a Rick Toone, but his body woods always look like he got them from a barn that was recently on fire. I have to say this is probably the best looking Toone that I've seen, even though they're all a bit ugly imho. I love the silver color and the body shape and hardware color makes it seem a bit more subdued than some of his other creations. (Joe Heisler)
Zero txt reception in the bowels of the city, but at some point, Misha steps out of the dark. His form is unmistakable, although we've never met. A function of the lives we lead, where so many images online make anonymity impossible. At least in certain circles.
Rock star presence. Boyish excitement. A handshake and hug, gesture toward the SKB iSeries waterproof case: "I guess this is the machine?"
There is much to be done.
We launch into the simplicity of string changes. Test the action. Install different string gauges. Play through a Roland Cube, then his full rig (in-ear monitors). Explore alternate tunings: "The attack is amazing. This guitar will solve my tuning issues with 'Scarlet'. I'm going to play it tonight."
Take a moment to appreciate that statement.
Something like an eleven band lineup. Onstage live in a few hours. No sound check. Totally unfamiliar guitar.
Honestly I have never played anything like this before, in some ways I feel like this is Guitar 2.0. Everything about the guitar, from its shape to hardware and control placement is very deliberate. A truly ergonomic guitar, and thanks to the Swamp Ash body and fully Aluminum (Element™) Neck, it has this insane attack to it.
The pickups were custom made for the instrument by Steve Blucher from Dimarzio, as the Aluminum neck gives the guitar certain tonal properties that are different from a wood necked guitar.
Very excited to keep using this on tour, it really is something else!
— Misha Mansoor
It was sweet to see you play it the other night in Toronto man! I yelled out Rick Toone before the show too lol
— Zac Tiessen
Steve Blucher is backstage. Another unmistakable figure, long gray ponytail tied back, bag of tools under his arm. He has been working on Javier Reyes' guitar.
I'm glad we get a chance to catch up. Steve deserves equal praise for the sound of this guitar — after evaluation, it was my decision to give the guitar to Misha with the custom DiMarzios installed. In all fairness, it is difficult to compete with a pickup system that has been designed specifically for a new type of guitar.
Another risk I took. Just like surprising Misha with an instrument he had truly never seen before. The lead up photos you have seen on this website are exactly as much information as I had given him during the build.
I like him already. He's cool, and chill, open, but focused. A social intelligence combined with business acumen. And more technically aware of guitar design nuances than almost any other musician I have met. It felt good — and honoring — for the effort we have invested into the S2 to be really understood and appreciated.
Misha, thank you.
We pledge allegiance to the Alien species that instructed Rick on making this... (Angriburdz Rulz)
I, for one, welcome our new alien overlord. (Christian Simons)
Best whatever it is I've ever seen. No doubt. (Luigi Beatrice)