In 1996, my Epi Strat copy was holed up in KL, and after a 3-year hiatus, my interest in guitar playing was rekindled. Fortuitously (and excellent timing, too), I saw this three-tone Squier Stratocaster at Sounds Live in Newcastle.

The Squier is from the Affinity series and is made in China. It is a 1996 make which means it has the Fender 50 year anniversary mark at the back of its headstock. I fell in love with it straight away. The maple neck felt really good for a budget Strat, and as for the solid basswood body I have to say its clean tones were pretty glassy. Not too sure about the high gain tone, though. I played it at a gig for the first time with Stomach Of Chaos at UNL in the Easter break of 1998.

Thereafter, it went through a complete makeover. Pickups were hotrodded, again, with Seymour Duncans (a Duncan Custom SSL-5 at the bridge and two vintage staggered SSL-1’s for the middle and neck). To top it off, the guys at Sheffield (namely at 27 Filey street) had a ‘Fender factory’, where we converted Squiers into Fenders![1] How did we make ‘Fenders’? By using decals on the headstock, of course. I remembered the guy at Wizard Guitars on London Road (not any more) calling up his main office for more decals and commented, “I think these guys are making Fenders…”. I did a half-assed job on the headstock though, as I merely scraped the original ‘Squier’ decal and replaced it with the ‘spaghetti’ 50’s-styled Fender decal. Unlike my more patient friends who sanded the headstock down, applied the Fender decal and applied lacquer over the superficially-modded headstock. As you can see, part of the Fender decal has come off. Oh, you’ve got to have fake cigarette burns (courtesy of a lighter), yeah.

As seen in the photo above, I first had the saddles changed to original vintage-styled Fenders but due to the slightly smaller body size of the Squier, note the saddles ‘fanning’ out. The saddle springs were also ill-fitting due to this ‘fanning’ and I had to make do with blu-tack to prevent them rattling. It wasn’t until a few years later that the saddles were filed to a smaller size to make them fit. As a final touch, I replaced the original white pickguard with a black one. It did look pretty SRV-like, although that was never my intention. The back of the guitar was a canvas for various stickers from my CD collection. If you look carefully, there’s even part of a lyric from a Pearl Jam song (I can’t remember which!). So punk rawk.

I initially called it the “’54”, although some of my friends begged to differ, thus the moniker ‘Xingxiao Strat’ coined by Firr. And the name stuck since. Since the mod, Xingxiao didn’t get gigged way until 2002, at the Malam Temasya Pria Mambo 2 gig in Sheffield. Xingxiao was used again at the 2006 Gig@Sheffield by my friend, Luc, when we opened as BANDung, a Sheffield-Manchester collaboration which churned out Foo Fighters and Arctic Monkeys covers.

A final modification was then done in the way of new Gotoh machine heads which I bought on eBay. But then, after all those years, Xingxiao had her original white pickguard back. As this is a budget instrument, she has her limitations due to her imperfections. Like her 50’s-styled pickguard yet the body has a 1960’s-styled three-tone sunburst. Despite her years, the solid basswood body (not ply unlike other budget guitars) hadn’t still ‘seasoned’ and to put it crassly, it’s kinda like having steel strings on a plank of wood.

I still love the guitar, though. And I will never ever let it go. C’mon, just listen to her. Heh.

Affinity® series Stratocaster
Body Material: Solid basswood
Body Shape: Stratocaster®
Neck Material: Maple (one-piece)
Scale Length: 25.5″ (648 mm)
Fingerboard Material: Rosewood
Fingerboard Radius: 9.5″ (241.3 mm)
Number of Frets: 22
Bridge Pickup: Seymour Duncan SSL-5 Custom Staggered
Middle Pickup: Seymour Duncan SSL-1 Vintage Staggered
Neck Pickup: Seymour Duncan SSL-1 Vintage Staggered
Controls: Master Volume, Tone 1. (Neck Pickup), Tone 2. (Middle Pickup)
Switching: 5-Position (Position 1. Bridge Pickup Position 2. Bridge and Middle Pickup Position 3. Middle Pickup Position 4. Middle and Neck Pickup Position 5. Neck Pickup)
Configuration: SSS
Bridge: Vintage-Style
Tuning Machines: Gotoh
Pickguard: Single Ply White
Control Knobs: Aged White Plastic
Neck Plate: 4-Bolt
Strings: D’Addario XL (.009-.046 Gauges)

[Post updated June 2020]

[1] In no way were we making fake Fender instruments for profit. At that point in time, we were merely too impoverished to afford quality instruments by Fender!]