Jeff took some time to talk to Tone Report (requires an Adroid or iOS device to read & is FREE).
How did Jeff become a music fan:
…(I) grew up with Kiss around the house. My dad took my brother to see Kiss in 1977 at the forum on the Love Gun Tour. I was 3 but I remember my mom and I staying up waiting for my brothger to come home and him coming home with posters and the tour book and t-shirts and the whole deal. We shared a room growing up and there were Kiss posters everywhere….
When did you actually pick up the guitar:
I got one when I was 7 or 8 and just kind of made noise and learned a few chords… Then when I was 12 or 13 started taking lessons weekly and started to taking it seriously…I had a really good exposure to different styles of playing
How did you get hooked up with Smashing Pumpkins:
A friend…actually knew someone who worked at their managment and he called me one day and said, ‘hey, my friend messaged me and said Pumpkins are getting back togeher. James isn’t coming back, they’re going to be looking for a new guitar player and bass player and I think you’d be perfect for it.’
I was a big fan of the Pumpkins and loved the band a and followed the band. I saw them many times; I saw Zwan, I saw Billy’s solo tour and was familiar with his work so I would have loved the opportunity to play with him…. I got together and played with Jimmy a bunch of times and then Billy came down. It was more of a relationship that evolved over a few months. They tried out other people and wanted to get to know people, because obviously to be with these people all the time-but I ended up being the one and that was it.
What have you learned from playing with Billy, Mike, & Nicole:
It’s endless. I mean-what I’ve been exposed to as a musician on a daily basis has just been immense and– playing with Jimmy (Chamberlin) would have to be part of that because he’s just really up there in terms of drummers. You have the classic rock guys, Bonham, Keith Moon and those guys– and I think he’s of the next generation; he’s one that is in that conversation, that level of good. Having to try, to just attempt to keep up with him every night? That was the first thing that forced me to improve– just having to keep up with him. Then just watching Billy and watching the way he approaches music and art, in the studio, the songwriting, the sound check-it’s just endless, things that I never ever even thought of. It’s been really great. And now with Mike and Nicole we’re in a different era and I’ve told this to other people but the four of us are so different. We’re like the four most different people you could find! But in some weird way, it totally works. So I think we learn from each other musically but we also learn from each other in terms of friendship and camaraderie, which is just as important as getting along musically. In a band, it’s great if you can get along musically but I mean, the majority of the battle is getting along in the car ride to and from the gig! (laughter).
What guitar rig changes did you have to implement to start working in Pumpkins:
Before Pumpkins, I always played Fenders, either Strats, Teles, Jazzmasters- I never even owned a Gibson. Ever. But then in Pumpkins, (I) show up the first day and it’s like– okay you have to play Les Pauls. If you know the difference, a Fender and a Les Paul are polar opposites. Totally different beasts. So that was a major, significant change having to incorporate Gibsons into my playing style. Actually, for me to become comfortable
with it and actually enjoy it has taken a long time. It’s only within the last year or so that
I’ve gotten a couple of Les Pauls that really I’ve really connected with and now I kind of get it on a different level….
Amp wise I used to use Fender-in Lassie, I used a blackface Bandmaster with 2xl2 cabinet which actually sounds amazing. But in Pumpkins I started using half stacks. I had used 4xl2 cabinets in the past but playing a lot of really high gain modern amps? That was pretty new to me. I used to use pedals for distortion in the shoegaze stuff, but in Pumpkins it’s all mostly amp distortion.
What amps are you running:
Right now I’m using a few diff things. I’m using Orange 4xl2 cabs onstage and those sound henomenal. They have Vintage 30s and I was using Marshall cabinets with Vintage 30s – but these are just a little warmer and rounder on the low end, a little heavier construction…. I also use the Randall MTS system- they’ve all been highly modified by a guy in the Czech Republic called Salvation Mods. If you go to the website you can see his work-it’s phenomenal. He actually came to Chicago earlier this year and did a bunch of custom modules for Billy that he is using. He did a few custom modules for me as well but they’re slightly modified versions of stuff he already does. The stuff that Billy had made is completely unique, really weird amps….
What are you currently reading:
Yeah, I have it right here, I’m reading The Rest is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century by Alex Ross. It’s about 20th century classical music, 20th centmy avant garde classical music cause I’ve been listening to a lot more of that so having the context and the history is actually really helping. That’s what I’m reading now, but I actually read a lot of fiction. This Alex Ross book is great. He’s a writer for the New Yorker, he’s kind of their classical music writer where I guess Sasha Frere Jones does more the pop music.
Lastly,… What do you know for sure?
Um, nothing! I know nothing! (laughs)