If you are playing alot of blues then try out a fat strat. The hum in the bridge should give you a pretty good tone for rock and 99% of the time blues sound great on a strat. Epiphone Explorer or Epiphone Les Paul? I would go with the LP just because i'm not such a big fan of the explorer. You should definatly head down to Swee Lee and try out some of the gear there.
Yea, for some guitars it is so. But i think the Jap instruments are really top notch in terms of quality, on par or even better than some american made fenders, for example. As for mexican strats, hmm, with some mods here and there and they'll sound as good as their american and jap brothers. On the whole, i feel mexicans are good, but the japs really produce fine fenders.
i used to have a likewise opinion but i differ now. mex/ jap/ US are simply countries of origin, yes they do dictate to a certain degree the level of production quality but it's not absolute. the current mex '70s re-issue strat would easily outplay an Am Series strat. the fit & finish is also superb which reflects the level of discipline @ the mex plant.
Jimmie Vaughan did a factory tour & subsequently insisted that all his signature guitars be made there. he's impressed. we can't be there to embrace such trust in the production standard but we know the abovementioned '70s strat (among others) reflect the current no-nonsense philosophy at the mex factory.
the chinese Epi LPs i tried were more than decent but they could've been better. don't dismiss chinese production just yet, they are getting better by the minute, at least i speak from the Ibanez perspective 8)