Jeff Scheetz: The guitarist bringing technical brilliance to the heavy metal genre

Thursday 1st August 1991

Heavy metal isn't all groups with leather-lung-ed vocalists. Dave Williams tracked down one of America's leading instrumentalists JEFF SCHEETZ.

Jeff Scheetz
Jeff Scheetz

The 1980's saw the emergence of a new breed of heavy metal guitar hero who, by their fretboard dexterity alone, can hold captive the ears of any discerning metal fan. Following closely on the heels of secular heroes Steve Vai, Joe Satriani and Vinnie Moore comes Christian alternative Jeff Scheetz, whose amazing speed and astonishing technique will, without doubt, set the pace for the future.

Jeff, endorsed by guitar giant Yamaha since 1987, regularly travels the USA performing clinics with the sole purpose of selling the company product. His shows leave those in the industry with no doubt as to the future of this innovative young man and sows the seed of ambition in the hearts of gobsmacked young guitar buyers. Jeff first recorded a demo back in 1988 called 'Warp Speed'. It was this demo that attracted Yamaha and set Jeff on the road to a recording contract with Re-Flexx Records, a relatively small Christian label. Unfortunately, due to the snail's pace set by British labels to import quality American music, the solo album 'Woodpecker Stomp' is only available from specialist suppliers of imported Christian albums such as Dual Edge Records in London. However, you can hear the "Woodpecker Stomp" track on the Star Song compilation, 'Ultimate Metal 2' via Word.

Jeff not only plays the USA club scene as a headlining artist in his own right, but he also opens for many national acts. It is these concerts and guitar clinics that have many aspiring musicians turning to Jeff for professional instruction in both basic and advanced theory to help them on the ever-hopeful path to stardom. Jeff writes regularly in national musical publications and his monthly columns prove again that he is one of the finest exponents of interviews and reviews, the music of Jeff Scheetz has been described as everything from 'masterful' to 'bridging the gap between progressive guitar instrumentals and vocal-orientated hard rock'.

Voted best guitarist in Kansas City in 1989 by the Banzai reader's poll, Jeff will be performing in the UK for the first time in November at the annual white metal teaching conference 'Metal Meltdown'. In anticipation of this event I approached Jeff with a few questions concerning his music and ministry.

Jeff, how and when did you become a Christian?

"I guess my testimony is that I have been a Christian for about three years and prior to that time I was agnostic. I did a lot of searching for answers, never really finding anything. This left a void where the spiritual part of me was concerned. I had been looking for a long time and I had also been trying to be a musician for many years but I realised that filling that void was really the most important thing in my life at that time. Henceforth I started reading books on subjects related to religion and science and all that kinda stuff. I went to bed one night after reading many books and during the night the message of the gospel hit me and I accepted Christ and things have been wonderful ever since, the spiritual void was filled and my career and every aspect of my life took a turn for the better. It is amazing how finding Jesus really affects every part of your life."

You are employed by Yamaha as a 'guitar clinician'. Explain how ' this came about?

"At that particular time, about three years ago, I was sending out demo tapes and things trying to get something happening with guitar companies, maybe some endorsements. I had been waiting on Yamaha for about six months to let me know what they thought of my tape and about a week after I accepted Christ, they called and said that they wanted me to do some stuff with them. I have been doing clinics ever since. I basically go into stores and do a clinic or a seminar and talk about the products and guitar-playing in general. It is exciting, I have performed all over the United States - a real fun thing to do."

Do you play your music for pure entertainment, or do you feel that there is an aspect of 'ministry' in what you play?

"It is kinda strange; since I do instrumental stuff it is hard to call it a ministry: it is more difficult than some who can blatantly sing about Jesus. However, I believe you lead by example and that's what I try to get across more. I firmly believe that God is working through me and He is giving me this music. I am not capable of coming up with this stuff on my own. I hope people can hear the inspiration from the Lord when they hear my music. It is not a direct ministry like that of other artists, but I hope that it has that quality. You know I want to change the world as much as anybody."

Is there any specific meaning behind the songs on your album and do you really stomp on woodpeckers?

"I guess they all have some meaning to me in different ways, but there is no outstanding deep meaning behind what I write. No, I don't have anything against woodpeckers, I just love cartoons and that's how the whole thing came about - with Woody Woodpecker, you know."

Any news about future albums?

"The way it looks right now I am planning on recording the next album in September. Most of the material is already written. The album will be given better support by the label and the distribution people. Yamaha are also excited about the new project and I will see support from them in certain areas. I'm really excited about it. It probably won't be released until the New Year, such are the slow wheels of the record industry, but anyway I'm fired up about that right now and most of my time goes into the pre-production work."

How do you view the Christian metal scene?

"My views on the Christian metal scene may be a little strange, I have not been involved in Christian music for that long. I see a lot of people in bands who are basically building walls around themselves, by firstly, not being aware of what is going on in the secular scene and that indeed is the mainstream market right now. How can you compete with that if you don't listen to it and be aware of new production techniques and so forth? A lot of music in the Christian industry is a bit dated-sounding. There is too much closed mindedness concerning Christian bands playing secular bars or with secular bands. I believe that they should. Jesus sets the perfect example; he was with the tax collectors and prostitutes rather than only speaking to his followers. He found the sinners and mixed with them. Sometimes he was subtle with his message, you don't have to go right in there with the Bible and start preaching. Christian bands need to learn to ply with the circumstance. Having said that, I think that the Christian scene has an amazing potential; it has a lot of talent with great musicians and songwriters. It is obviously growing. I think we need more crossover bands like Stryper and Amy Grant, this will give Christian artists more recognition and acceptance." CR

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.
About Dave Williams
Long-time mentor of UK Christian metal and hard music, Dave Williams runs Meltdown Ministries.


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