The dream of getting this particular guitar began back in April of last year as a mash up of my desire to get an ESP Custom Shop guitar as well as my keen interest on MAMIch… I mean, the eponymous MAMI Fender American HSS Strat with the artwork by Radical Brats. The plan evolved through the months, obviously tailored by financial reasons. If I had gone through the ESP route, I’d probably go all out and make it a neck thru. I really don’t know if that’ll work, though. Heh. Once I decided to go for the ESP LTD route + bespoke artwork done in the UK, I had to make an order for the guitar at my local ESP/LTD guitar shop as the stocks had run out worldwide. I finally got the guitar just before the Christmas of 2013 before embarking on search for quotes, finally settling with the people at Aerograffiti. A couple of visits to Steve’s workshop in Manchester – マミカスタ (MAMIKASUTA / MAMIcaster) was finally ready to be picked up yesterday.

And man, was I happy with the final result.

Just to recap, マミカスタ is essentially an HSS Strat-styled[1] guitar by ESP LTD. She has an alder body and maple neck, and is quiet heavy for a Strat. Why not Fender, or Squier if I wanted a cheaper option? ESP/LTD guitars tend to have fast necks – I like the idea of the thin U neck contour and just love Jumbo frets. In fact, マミカスタ has Xtra Jumbo frets on her. It saves me money on going for a Warmoth body + custom Fender neck option. As alluded in an earlier blog post, I didn’t really have that many complaints with her tone and playability when it came straight out of the box. I sent the body off to Aerograffiti in Bournemouth in March and got her back late April. Waited for two weeks for the lacquer to harden proper and within a week after sending it back to Steve, all was done. A year and bit, it was.

The mods I did were pickup replacements with coil-splitting of the bridge humbuckers (with a push-push pot), having a reverse-wound middle bridge pickup, locking Gotoh machine heads, black 3-ply pickguard, black knobs/pickup selector and Schaller strap locks. To round it off, I bought a Gator hard case in vintage brown from Thomann and a white leather strap with musical notes by Perri’s Leathers[2].

マミカスタ’s first notes after the full mod was just sweet. I didn’t have much time to try her out fully at Steve’s workshop but plugged her in straight into the 100-watter Marshall Valvestate, and I have to say this is the nicest sub-£300 guitar I’ve ever played. The single coil tone on the JB trembucker after depressing the pot imparted a glassier tone albeit somewhat subtle. Positions 2 and 4 on clean were a tad subdued, and my favourite clean sounds were on the middle and neck positions (the Vintage and Alnico Pro 2, respectively). Mellow fatness with retained snappiness especially with the neck APS-2. Yum. And, umm… enjoy this piss poor attempt at playing “jazz”. ごめんなさい。

For an overview of all the pickups:

Overdriven and distorted tones were, well, pretty much same-ish with my other guitars, and I daresay very similar to my pricier guitars. Pinch harmonics were easy and rang sweet with マミカスタ, thanks to the high output nature of the JB pup. I think this guitar is somewhat versatile enough for my liking.

The damage? Have a butcher’s at the following breakdown[3]. I was actually quite surprised with the final total:

ESP LTD ST213 HSS M £262.00
Seymour Duncan TB-4 JB Trembucker £45.00
Seymour Duncan SSL-2 RWRP £39.05
Seymour Duncan APS-2 £33.04
Schaller strap lock £8.90
ESP steel neck plate £9.99
Seymour Duncan black pup covers x2 £7.98
Black pup switch tip £0.99
Black trem arm tip £3.25
Fender black control knobs £6.95
Gotoh Magnum locking machine heads (SG381 MG-T) £36.07
Gator vintage deluxe case £58.41
Custom paint job at Aerograffiti £488.00
Pro setup, fabrication of black pickguard, fitting of push-push pot/TB-4 coil splitting, new jack/5-way switch, and fret dressing by Steve Robinson £120
FINAL TOTAL £1119.63

This still beats buying an American Fender Strat + artwork, let alone an ESP Custom Shop. I would like to think this is a custom job anyway – if you think about it! Not far off, eh.

I love all my guitars but I have a feeling I will love this one the most.

[1]I’d rather not use the term ‘copy’ here.
[2]The same one MAMIchan uses. I wanted to buy one at the Shibuya branch of Ishibashi but it was not a Perri’s. Disappointed.
[3]Sequence of events:
Order arrived at Richtone Music:
eBay mania – getting her parts:
Dismantling, installation of Gotohs and fret dressing:
Artwork in progress:
Pickup wiring schematics: