This is a guitar that I'd wanted for a while. I grew up playing Ibanez & Yamaha Super-strats. After a break from playing I ended up with a pair of Gibson's, a Les Paul Classic & SG Standard. then after joining a two guitar band in the mid noughties. I realised I needed an instrument with more clarity & bite.
After a fruitless search of various Tele's of US & Japanese flavours. I saw an article on the Kotzen Tele & ordered one in April 2005. As Ishibashi were out of stock. I ended up with a shop soiled one, it had a tiny paint mark at the neck body join the size of a fingernail. I guess the Japanese consumer is a bit less forgiving than most. At this point it was 211 Yen to the pound. So a deal was done & from 2005-2015. My main guitar was the Kotzen Tele. I recorded the Heroes Of Switzerland album with her doing 70% of my parts & the rest my Les Paul Classic.
Id pretty much given up on ever buying a Kotzen Strat as the exchange rate has been quite unforgiving to grey import guitars from Japan. When I saw this had now become a limited FSR run by Fender into Europe. I jumped at the chanceI'
First off the price. On Ishibashi the Kotzen Strat & Tele are exactly the same price, around £1370. But Ishibashi are now banned from exporting new Fender Japan guitars. So to see a new Strat on the market for around a grand was too tempting an opportunity to miss. Normally thats the price of a used grey import.
The body is 3 pieces of Ash with a laminated maple cap. Its not a light body, I keep hearing mentions of swamp ash, but I think its japanese Sen Ash. It reminds me a little of a friends 90's Levinson Blade. its a medium weight guitar, not too heavy. maybe a little more squarer cut than a vintage reissue.
The colour is something you either love or hate. Plus the gold hardware & pearloid pick-guard. All a bit Liberace for me....I bought a gold anodised pickguard from Regent Sound for £39 & changed it on the second day of owning it. I now like to think it has a Gilmour 0001/ Mary Kaye type vibe.
The guitar comes fitted with 009-042 strings. I changed these to 009-046 with minimal adjustment.
The neck is 1 piece maple, rosewood strip on the back & I suspect the truss rod is in a plastic tube. The profile is Large C. with 12" radius & 6100 fretwire. The quality of the fit & finish is as good as any US Standard or AVRI Ive played recently. The neck is that modern silky sealed bare looking maple. But it plays very well. Im surprised Fender don't do more vintage style neck profiles with monster frets & modern radius boards. I get playing fatigue with Modern C & I know Im not the only one.
Much is made of the Kotzen's Tele's beefy neck. But although the same profile, the neck on this Strat is simply not as deep as its Telecaster sibling. Ive found it quite easy to go from one guitar to another. So if your put off by the Tele's big neck, this might not be so bad.
One of my biggest surprises is how well cut the nut is. Despite my dislike of traditional Strat trems, tuning is really rather good. It returns to pitch without any real issues. Which coming from a Floyd Rose fan like me is a huge compliment. The Gotoh machines are compact & efficient. Although the pearled buttons are another "Liberace" touch.
Electronics are normal Strat. 3 single coils, 1 volume & 2 tones, 5 way blade etc. but the Dimarzio's are custom spec'd to Mr Kotzen. After doing some digging on the net. The best I can gather is that they are DiMarzio HS-2's without the stacked coil underneath. They are medium gained & very articulate playing with lots of distortion. Clean, I think maybe they lack the punch & bite of other Strat pickups, Id go so far to say slightly lacking in character? This is dissapointing as I think the electronics on the Kotzen Tele work superbly.
Tonally it does all the Strat things a Strat can do, perhaps with slightly less snap than some other vintage reissues Ive heard.
Minor quibbles aside, this is a great all round Strat for someone who can't stretch to Custom Shop, but wants a mixture of vintage & modern features, but doesn't like the ubiquitous "Modern C" neck profile. If you can live with the gold hardware & unnecessary bling that is.https://c2.staticflickr.com/8/7512/27090718465_911f8d4ccb_c.jpg