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© Larry DiMarzio 2013
On Animals As Leaders' recently released third album, The Joy Of Motion, Tosin Abasi and his longtime cohort Javier Reyes stun and amaze with daring feats of eight-string guitar wizardry. But the chops-a-plenty duo made a conscious effort to serve the songs first and keep the intentional showboating to an absolute minimum.
“I don't know if you call it maturity or just evolution," Abasi says. "I took a step back and made an honest statement about what each song needed rather than showing how many sweep patterns I could throw in. The new record's more lyrical. I think I’ve gotten to a place where I’m comfortable with my playing, and I don’t have to flaunt my ability."
Abasi approached his solos differently than in the past, downplaying the shred/djent elements in his playing and emphasizing melody, mood and emotion. “It all came down to ‘What are you saying? What do you want to convey?'’' Abasi explains. "I’ve been listening to a lot of R&B and gospel and sort of neo-soul guitar players, and they put me in a different mindset. I was never one to do a lot bending or blues-isms, but I’m doing more of that on this record. I’m playing the fewest amount of notes than I ever have. It feels right."
As an early teenager, Abasi developed his interest in guitar-oriented music by listening to bands such as The Smashing Pumpkins, Nirvana and Incubus. "That stuff was definitely cool and dynamic," he enthuses. "Even though they had vocals, the guitars were in the forefront. The focus of the bands' sounds came from what the guitarist was doing."
Next, Abasi fell under the spell of virtuosos like Yngwie Malmsteen, Greg Howe and John Petrucci. "Those guys really made a big impression on me,” he says. “They just seemed to cover it all at once: composition, melody, sound, and just total creativity and mastery of the instrument. Listening to them gave me a lot to work toward."
And wouldn't you know it? Malmsteen, Howe and Petrucci are all represented on the following pages as Abasi runs down his choices for 10 essential guitar albums.
To purchase Animals As Leaders' The Joy Of Motion, visit the Sumerian Records website, Amazon or iTunes. Photo of Tosin Abasi © Larry DiMarzio 2013. Check out the DiMarzio Ionizer 8 Pickup (designed for Tosin Abasi) here: neck, middle and bridge. Watch the video.