Fender has unveiled a stunning new limited edition Fender Stratocaster for legendary session guitarist Michael Landau. The Michael Landau Coma Stratocaster is based on the guitar the Los Angeles based guitarist bought when he just 16, and modded beyond recognition in the years that followed.
Those years have found Landau collaborating with the likes of Stevie Nicks, Rod Stewart, David Bowie and more, the guitar evolving as the gigs kept coming, and in turn what Landau needed from from his guitar changed.
Artist signature guitars are always an interesting proposition for the insights they offer into the professional player’s mind set, and the sounds and features they may want from their instrument. But they are especially fascinating when that instrument is a signature model for a session player.
Models such as the Fender Brent Mason Telecaster – also in the Stories Collection with this Coma Strat – are a great example of how one of the most practical designs in the history of the electric guitar can be modified to be even more useful, pressed into work for players whose livelihoods rest upon their ability to access a particular tone on command, to play the part right.
The Michael Landau Coma Stratocaster is constructed in a similar spirit, and offers a supremely versatile platform for all manner of styles, but it is also the story of a modding journey, too.
There’s nothing quite like it in the Fender catalogue. It has a ’59 body that was rerouted to accommodate a Floyd Rose vibrato unit, but in its present state on this limited edition USA model, the Coma Strat has a standard vintage-style Strat vibrato with bent-steel saddles, which according to Landau gives it a particular resonance.
“With the cutout, it has a resonant sound akin to a Thinline guitar,” said Landau. “The sound, the weight and the body contours of that ’59 Strat fit me like a glove. That guitar's always been home to me.”
Vintage guitar enthusiasts might want to look away now. The thought of a 1959 model undergoing dramatic surgery over the years is the sort of thing to give them the heebie-jeebies. But as Landau explains, the guitar had already been modded by the time he got his hands on it. That was all the permission he needed
“I instantly had a good feeling about the guitar when I brought it home,” he said. “Since it had already been modified, I felt it was alright to modify it even more. I certainly did so many times over the years – different pickups, bridges and even necks. Really the only thing that stayed constant over the years was that resonant ’59 body.”
That ’59 body is alder, the colour a pleasing, washed out red-pink that is described as Coma Red Satin. It has been given a lick of nitro to make the grain pop. It looks like Candy Apple Red that’s been under the sun too long, and it pairs nicely with the aged white of the pickup covers and whammy bar tip, and the four-ply tortoiseshell pickguard. The black control knobs and and the noticeable routing underneath the vibrato lend it the look of a guitar that has been Frankenstein’d into existence.
The fundamentals remain old-school, with the slab rosewood fingerboard in a 7.25” radius, and 21 narrow tall frets, the traditional 25.5” scale length and a bone nut. The neck is carved into a custom C profile as per Landau’s preference.
There is a custom CuNiFe Wide Range humbucker at the bridge position, with two custom-designed ML Ultra Noiseless Strat single-coils at the middle and neck. A five-position pickup selector puts a number of core tones on the menu even before you address the two tone and volume knobs.
With this version of the Coma Strat, the option is yours whether you want to put the ‘Coma’ graphic on the upper horn. It is included in sticker form on the deluxe hard-shell guitar case. You’ll also find a booklet written by Landau, a matching Coma guitar strap, limited edition guitar picks and a roll of PTFE tape.
The Michael Landau Coma Stratocaster is available now, £2,659 / $2,799. See Fender for more details.