Hello Kitty Strat: Not for Pussies!

Would this be anything less than awesome? I think not.

As I gloated last week, Jane Wiedlin gave me her Hello Kitty Stratocaster  — the most bitchin’ $99 guitar ever conceived! I finally had a chance to destroy/customize it yesterday, in what will no doubt be the first of many desecrations/enhancements.

I’d ordered one of those Synyster Gates Duncan Invaders with the pretty white pole pieces for the guitar, but just couldn’t wait to experiment, so I browsed through the ol’ pickup collection, and found a nice Duncan Phat Cat I’d used in a Les Paul experiment some months ago.

I don’t generally recommend choosing pickups because of their names, but come on! Kitty + Cat? How could I resist?

Turns out it was a lucky choice. I hadn’t planned to install a pickup that was actually lower in output than the stock humbucker, but it lets me get nicer clean sounds, and coughs up more than enough crunch when goosed with distortion. Speaking of which: the other custom feature is a built-in-distortion circuit activated via push-pull pot (I took lots of pics of the process for a DIY built-in-effects tutorial I’ll be posting very soon.)

View the carnage in this little video. Thanks, Jane Weidlin! Sorry, Stevie Nicks!

FYI, the onboard distortion is the only overdrive you hear — when the tone is crunchy, it’s on, and when it’s clean, it’s off. The other pedals are homemade delay, trem, and reverb boxes. The looper is my trusty Boomerang III. The amp is a Divided by 13 CJ11. The mic is a Royer R-121 (which, sharp-eyed viewers will notice, has tipped over at a cockamamie angle, though it still sounds pretty good).

Some observations:

  • This is further evidence — as if any more were needed — that the pickup is usually the weakest link in low-budget guitars.
  • The guitar plays better than you might expect. The frets are a bit rough, but I’ve encountered much worse on more expensive axes. The intonation is surprisingly solid. Granted, parts of my demo are howlingly out of tune, but that’s a result of fresh strings and my overenthusiastic bashing, not the neck itself.
  • Hey moms and dads — this would totally make a great beginners guitar. (Especially paired with a  $4,499 Diezel Herbert amp.)
  • This would also make a great guitar for learning DIY skills — a point I’ll revisit in that upcoming onboard effects tutorial!

Every day is Christmas when you have one of these!

Finally, this experience is a reminder that, however much we love geeking out about gear, it’s not the bottom line in music-making. Yeah, this $200 instrument ($99 for the guitar, and a C-note for a nice pickup and the DIY electronics parts) isn’t the the most stellar guitar in my collection. But for better or worse, when I pick it up and play it, it sounds like me.

(I’m starting a new paragraph here, because I don’t want to give the impression that I’m comparing myself to the two musicians I’m about to cite.)

It’s like the famous Jazz at Massey Hall concert, where Charlie Parker played a cheap plastic Grafton saxophone, but still turned in an immortal performance. And if Jimi Hendrix had rocked the Fillmore with a Hello Kitty Strat, do you suppose for an instant that it would be anything less than awesome?

24 comments to Hello Kitty Strat: Not for Pussies!

  • Bear

    Is the fuzz getting an octave down? Those are some ridiculously heavy sounds.

  • joe

    Nope, it’s just a garden-variety overdrive, sort of a tricked-out variant on the DIY club Bulk Fuzz project. I’ve got the amp’s bass knob turned up more than usual, though, and of course, the low E string is dropped to D.

  • zyon

    That tone is almost s nasty as the tone you got in the Eels “If I was your girlfriend.”  

  • JH

         Haha your a nut sometimes. Looks like your having fun tho! As long as it doesnt turn in to your main axe.  I bought a mexican squire fat strat in like 96 or 97. I actually tried a standard mex and one of those california series strats (I guess same as the highway 1 today). Now I wouldnt have put it on par with an amer strat but it beat the other ones to bits. Had vintage frets that I love and a thin maple neck that I sanded down to raw wood! Man that thing was awesome. After replacing the hardware and pickups it was on par with an amer strat.  Go figure!

  • Peter

    arggh… reading this convinced me that I need a $99 Hello Kitty strat… only to find they have been discontinued!

    • joe

      There are a lot of used ones here:satansmoking:

      • Peter

        Sadly no. Those are all kittyfree pink 3/4 size strats. Apparently you now have a rare collectable guitar. There’s even one on ebay with a “buy it now” price of $650.

        • joe

          Sshhh — don’t tell anyone that’s my EBay ad. I’ve been investing in Hello Kitty Strats for years, and this whole blog is simply a crude pretext for drumming up demand. You should definitely get that $650 one, ’cause next week I’m raising the price to $1300. 😉

  • Dickdog

    Hi there. That was fun! I have a Hello kitty. Yours must have had a real good set up along the way, casue mine dosnt respond all that well to serious attempts to play it .
    I think the Phat Cat is a great choice  for the gathis body now that you mention it!

    • joe

      I have a sneaking suspicion that Jane’s tech for the Go-Gos gave it a going over. But all the parts were original — until today. 

      Oh, great. I just ruined a collectible. Oh well — won’t be the first time. Or the last.  :satansmoking:

  • MNMagnus

    This is just outstanding Joe! Can’t wait to hear it with the Invader.

  • Brent

    That is a great demo, but you really should have had a pink tie and pink shoes to complete the “look” with that guitar

  • Oinkus

    Just saw one on CL for $275 , the world is a crazy place !

  • Ardiril

    Great song choice. I will give this a few more listens just for the music.

  • Hey Joe,

    A hello kitty strat popped up on Craigslist in Pacifica. I smell a contest prize brewing! Snap it up!
    I can’t seem to paste the link but if you do a search it’s there! Good luck! I pasted the link in the website field.

  • MarkAdam

    Brother Joe….get this tuneage onto iTunes POSTHASTE…you put together a winna, and you need to be made famous….

  • Noel

    That’s an awesome noise you make 🙂
    Thanks for the Tone Fiend videos & DIY projects. Sometimes you go panning for gold and find rocks. Sometimes you go panning for gold and find… gold! 
    PS: I never thought I’d ever say this to a man but I think I liked you best with lipstick.

  • A hello kitty strat popped up on Craigslist in Pacifica. I smell a contest prize brewing! Snap it up! I can t seem to paste the link but if you do a search it s there! Good luck! I pasted the link in the website field.

    • joe

      I approved your spam post because it’s so fascinating! Your link leads to a sex toy shop, but your text is strangely content-appropriate. Are you a guitar geek who also has a stake in a vibrator store? Or are you a viral marketer who actually goes from site to site, writing relevant posts while adding an irrelevant link? That seems incredibly inefficient! Both scenarios are equally weird.

  • Eric

    How they hell could you call the stock pickup in this guitar a ‘weak link’? I run mine through a JCM 2000 and it’s Van Halen I.

    • joe

      Cool! If you pour on enough gain, I can see how you’d get a good low-pass filter effect. (Which is sort of what Eddie was attempting with the ultra-long guitar cables he used in the early days.)

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