In the early '90's, the Hohner brand - better known for its sales of quality harmonicas and student recorders - re-launched itself into the guitar market with a series of radically-designed budget solid-bodies, manufactured in Czechoslovakia and assembled in a purpose-built facility in South Wales in the UK. Adopting a Custom-Shop philosophy, the standard models were supplemented by special orders tailored to clients' individual needs, which were put together by a talented electronics design engineer called Alan Entwistle.
Having been impressed with the Hohner stand at the Wembley Guitar Show in November 1992, I contacted Alan and requested a guitar that I considered would best suit my home studio requirements. I'd been working on some music for BBC Television and had bought a digital guitar processor, a Korg A2, which could reproduce a huge range of guitar sounds directly to tape without the need for an amplifier and neighbour-annoying speakers. But I really wanted one instrument that could cope with any style I chose to play in, from heavy metal histrionics to cool jazz and all points in-between, and one that would be most compatible with the A2. The specs would include a 24-fret neck with high but speedy frets, a humbucking pickup at the bridge, a Strat-style single-coil at the neck and an efficient tremolo system that would return to pitch no matter what I did with it.
All were delivered, plus some extras. Rather than a humbucker at the bridge, Entwistle installed two single-coils of his own design, wired figure-of-eight style, that can be split individually, giving the guitar four pickups in total. A micro-switch gives access to three separate wiring configurations and the master tone control is a push-pull Omni-Pot offering two passive tone filter options. A standard 5-way switch selects the pickups, providing a huge menu of sounds to choose from. The sturdy Wilkinson tremolo system works very well, though the roller nut it came with buzzes like an agitated bee.
I'm pretty sure the body is constructed from 3 pieces of basswood, and at 1¾" thick it's pretty heavy. The neck is maple with a rosewood fingerboard, and the fret work is quite superb. Unfortunately, the neck is so shallow that playing becomes very uncomfortable after a while, and is set way too low for my liking. I've placed a shim inside the neck pocket to raise it slightly. Though its sustaining properties are actually not bad, the woodwork lets the guitar down sound-wise; however, it wasn't expensive and used in conjunction with a decent processor, that hardly matters.
Some have described this instrument as the ugliest guitar ever made, but looks-wise - I really like it! And the red marbling effect really suits it. I very rarely play it nowadays, but it was fun for a while, and extremely good value for money.
Recording debut: Oldham Up!, BBC North Television music, April 1993
Features on: Live Red Balloon charity show with the Band du Lac, London, March 1993