Jeff Scheetz: Kansas rock guitar virtuoso always makes great music

Peter Timmis traces the fascinating career of one of Christendom’s great guitarists, JEFF SCHEETZ

Jeff Scheetz

Jeff Scheetz is truly a musician whose name may not be widely used by the hoi polloi but whose dazzling guitar work has for years earned him a reputation among connoisseurs as one of the greatest rock guitarists in the world. world. He has been around the world demonstrating his amazing technique for Yamaha guitars, he has contributed to many albums over the years (most recently he made an unexpected appearance on the hip-hop album “Converted: The Biography ”of Detroit rapper Elohin) and enjoyed accolades for his occasional solo instrumental albums and two CDs with the band Jeff Scheetz. And if all that wasn’t enough, Jeff has occasionally found time to produce projects for others, his most recent being the debut album by British metal band Conduit, due for release in April.

Tony Cummings of Cross Rhythms met the ax hero last year and started off by asking Jeff where faith went into his music. “When I did several instrumental albums it was always a question. It’s funny because it was never a question for me; Christ, hopefully, is in everything I do. I’m making music or walking my dog ​​- whatever it is – Christ should be there, and that should be obvious to people around me. I like to think I’m playing music that somewhere has the work of God. a religious angle for it, “because then, for me, you’re making it, as opposed to just doing what it is and who you are. In the new things we do, it’s not what a lot of people call your normal Christian – sayings type – it’s not your praise the Lord kind of sayings. But I write all the lyrics, and the feelings are my point of view. I’m a Christian, so this is my worldview, this is how I see it. It’s not all sinful and happy, certainly not a praise and worship kind of thing, it’s more the point of view of someone who has to live in the world and have relationships with other people who are not Christians. “

Jeff began playing guitar around 1980 after an unsuccessful attempt to play the cornet at school in Iowa, in the US Midwest. “I sucked and didn’t like him that much,” Jeff told guitargearheads.com. “Most people would have said I didn’t have a lot of natural abilities, I guess. But when I started playing guitar, it was like I had found my voice. everything I did. So like everything, if you put in the time, you get the payoff. ”

The hard work quickly paid off, as Jeff’s playing impressed the guitar maker Yamaha so much that he offered him a top-level position as a clinician. The role took Scheetz to guitar shows all over the United States. “It was very helpful – once you get your foot in the door it’s a lot easier to get people to listen to you,” the guitarist told Grace And Fury.

Jeff Scheetz: Kansas rock guitar virtuoso always makes great music

In 1988 Jeff started recording a demo which was later released as the instrumental album “Warp Speed”. He said, “I always thought you could either sit there and wait for someone to come and ‘make it’ for you – which happens on occasion – or, while you’re waiting for that, you can trying to ‘make it happen’ on your own, so I’ve always tried to move the process forward. ”

The demo attracted enough attention that US label Re-Flexx released their first official album in 1990. “Woodpecker Stomp” contained a few re-recorded “Warp Speed” tracks and the title track became the first instrumental to hit the charts. 10 of the CCM’s rock charts. Capitalizing on this early success, Jeff recorded the much-loved “Dig! LP, released in 1992. Like ‘Woodpecker Stomp’, the album was produced by the late Jon Mathias (who has also worked with artists such as KISS and Mariah Carey) and featured the rock radio hit “Thrillseeker”.

Jeff’s first project with a singer took the form of the 1996 album “Disengage” by Christian band Sign Of The Times on which he produced, played guitar, and composed most of the songs. “I’ve always written a lot of songs with lyrics – but it’s really hard to find the right singer for the job. So I ended up doing a lot of instrumental songs because I love them too,” Jeff commented. The collaboration with Sign Of The Times did not end well, however – Mark Powell of the Encyclopedia Of Contemporary Christian Music quotes Jeff: “The singer stripped himself, stole two of my guitars and sold them to a lender. on pledges. ” After this experience, it is no surprise that Scheetz’s next album will be a solo instrumental project released in 1997 titled “Pawn Shop”! The cover playfully depicted Jeff standing in front of a pawnshop with a guitar on display in his display case. More eclectic than his previous work, the record featured the acoustic track “Lakota”, the only instrumental among the top winners of that year’s John Lennon songwriting competition.

In 2000, a somewhat unexpected Christmas album, ‘Christmas. . . Finally’. “I’ve always wanted to make a Christmas album,” Scheetz told Tony Cummings. “More than that, my wife always wanted me to make a Christmas album. She always said, ‘You should do those Christmas carols.’ It’s difficult, because there are only so many days in a year. , so to speak, and you’re working on this project, so you want to do this – you’ve got 27 irons in the fire. So it’s hard to fit every project. But I finally made the Christmas album. was a lot of fun. ”

Jeff Scheetz: Kansas rock guitar virtuoso always makes great music

Some of the other irons Jeff had in the fire included a guitarist advice column for HM magazine, composing music for TV commercials, holding drug seminars in schools where he delivers “a much needed message.” on positive life choices ”and, strangest of all, a 2007 world record for the most guitarists playing together at the same time! The event was held at the Community America Ballpark in Jeff’s hometown, Kansas City. He recalls: “It was quite an event, we had 1,700 guitarists playing on that baseball field; I led them and we played [Deep
Purple’s] ‘Smoke on the water’. It was a good thing to hear. There was a great atmosphere, lots of families, there were moms and dads and little kids all playing together. I believe the record is now broken. We will therefore have to bring our people together again! ”

When not fighting for the Guinness Book of Records, Jeff has also found time to produce albums for groups such as Lament, Idle Cure and more recently Conduit. So how did the Scheetzs come to get involved with British steelworkers? “Ian, the guitarist, had been in another band when I was playing at the Meltdown conference. I kind of knew him from there. Then Dave Williams. [of
Meltdown Ministries] suggested that these guys contact me to spend some time with them while I was here. Since I was here to do this, it went well. “

When asked if his reputation as one of the greatest guitarists in the world intimidated the young bands he worked with, Jeff replied, “I guess it could. It shouldn’t. I myself was a young band once. “Do – whether they play guitar or they don’t play at all. Music is what I try to focus on. And for me, the guitar has just been my thing, my voice, I hope this is not the case “do not intimidate anyone.”

In 2003, the guitar genius was again ready to record with a singer. “My voice is not what you would really want to hear too much, so I needed a singer. We had auditioned for singers, and it was an adventure trying to find the right person. were just sitting there playing BB King’s “The Thrill Is Gone” and said to the bassist (Matt Waddill), “Just strap him on.” He said, “I can’t really do it”.
[I repeated] “You just have to complete the first line”. And he did. We all stopped and said, “You’re the singer, then”. The new project, “Beggars, Rogues & Thieves,” credited to the Jeff Scheetz Band, also included Kent Burnham on drums and Ted Gardner on organ. the weather was more bluesy and melodic; critics noted a Stevie Ray Vaughn influence. “Oh, that’s definitely an SRV feeling. . . The way I see it is that I, or anyone else, can never be Stevie because HE was Stevie – so you have to come together and go your own way and be the best YOU you can, ”Scheetz commented.

The most recent offering from the Jeff Scheetz Band is possibly the guitar maestro’s best work to date. Released in 2009, “Behind The Mask” again presents the winning combination of Jeff’s powerful guitar work and the gritty voice of Matt Waddill that made “Beggars”. . . ‘ such a pleasant listening. According to the group ‘Behind The Mask’ “is music that has the vibe of the great albums of the 70s, when Hendrix and Zeppelin put their hearts into it and played for the good of the music.”

When asked if it was a challenge to write lyrics that are meaningful to a non-Christian in which believers can find spiritual benchmarks, Jeff replied, “Absolutely. Sometimes it’s such a challenge that it’s almost impossible to do both without repeating yourself or being redundant. I want to write something that is meaningful to me at the time, but I like to think about the lyrics. It’s good when someone else says, “I really got it. I read your lyrics, and it made sense to me. Because sometimes you can’t; sometimes as an artist, what you write is so personal that it is difficult for others to understand it, to understand it. Without being you, they don’t know exactly what you mean. The first song on file [‘Behind The Mask’], ‘Welcome home’ is just being gone, being on the road – anywhere, being on vacation, on vacation – and coming home. There is nothing like it. Someone says, ‘Welcome home,’ and that’s a great feeling. It’s not exclusively Christian, but it’s a good thing, and it can certainly be interpreted as something spiritual. “

So what’s next for Jeff Scheetz? Tony asked the Christian guitar hero if he had any ambitions left to achieve, maybe a Wes Montgomery type album? “It’s interesting because I like jazz a lot. I like good country players. I like blues stuff. I think some of my records hint at it. single record from Moving West, I’m not sure I like to play that way, but I don’t know if that’s really what I am, and I think the key with musicians is to play what’s in your heart – what is it really that you do? Reduce it to: “This is who I am as a musician”. RC

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those of Cross Rhythms. All opinions expressed were correct at the time of posting, but may or may not reflect the opinions of those affected at a later date.

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