Jeff Schroeder has been a member of the Smashing Pumpkins since replacing longtime guitarist James Iha in 2007. Prior to that he one of the founding members of the Lassie Foundation, who’ve released four albums and six EPs. He’s also been involved in a side project called The Beat Concerto.
Jeff is using three main guitars with the Pumpkins -a Jackson King V, a Les Paul and a Fender Strat. One thing they all have in common is, of course, Seymour Duncan pickups. I had a chance to ask Jeff a few questions about the Pumpkins gig, and which Duncan pickups he was using – some in interesting applications – and why.
You’ve passed the five-year mark in the band. Do you feel you’ve settled in your role?
I really feel like Smashing Pumpkins is my musical home. Being a two-guitar band, it’s taken a while for Billy and I to find an authentic style together. Playing the catalog material is pretty simple: you play what’s there. But newer music is a little trickier. So on a personal level, I’ve worked pretty hard at finding a way to play like me but within the context of the Smashing Pumpkins. It’s a much different position to be in than if it was my own band from day one. All that being said, I love being able to play guitar with Billy Corgan every day. It’s a real dream come true.
I thought the recent SXSW rooftop video of “A Space Oddity” was awesome. Great vibe, and a killer interpretation of the tune. Was there any pressure in taking on such an iconic song, and making the Pumpkins’ version unique unto itself?
Strangely, no. In fact, we didn’t think or talk much about it at all. We naturally fell into the Smashing Pumpkins version of the song. If people want a good glimpse of what this version of the band sounds like compared to the original band, I feel, oddly enough, that the cover of “Space Oddity” provides a good example. I don’t feel like it’s too far away from something like “My Love is Winter” from Oceania. The fact that we didn’t have to work too hard to make it our own is probably one of the main reason we like playing it all the time. It’s a good example of a band searching for a different voice using someone else’s song as a starting place.
You’re one of the first guys I’ve heard of touring with new SD “Whole Lotta Humbucker” set in your Les Paul – Can you tell us what you like about them, and how they’re translating live (and loud)?
After playing every night with them for the last couple of weeks, I have to say I’m completely in love with them. The mixture of clarity, punch, and dynamics is wonderful. It’s the first matched set of pickups where I can actually use the neck pickup. For the most part, I’m not a fan of overwound, high output pickups. I like the beginning of my signal chain to have the widest spectrum of frequencies as possible. The Whole Lotta Humbuckers sound great clean as well as distorted. While playing, you can role the volume knob down and get tonal and gain variation that way too. And when I’m playing with a lot of gain, they sound and feel exciting under my fingers. They are easily my new favorite humbucking pickups. I want to put them in every Les Paul I own.
I’m told you’re also using the TB-5 Custom and TB-12 Screamin’ Demon in your Jackson V – both of those are generally considered to be bridge pickups, so readers will be interested to know: Which one do you have in the neck and why? Did you request a “neck” version or just go with the stock model?
I’m using the TB-5 Custom in the bridge and the TB-12 in the neck. I’m just using the stock bridge model in the neck. Actually the people at Seymour Duncan suggested that and it has worked out great. With the V, I only use the neck for soloing and the Screamin’ Demon sounds great for that. It has a little more punch and cut than a normal neck pickup, which is great when you’re playing in a two guitar band and have to get your solos to tonally stick out against a big wall of distorted guitar.
You’re also using Antiquity II Surfers in your Strat – what made you choose them, and what do you like about them? How do they enhance your tone?
Over the years, I’ve heard a lot great things about the Antiquity series, so I was interested to try them. Like I mentioned earlier, I like my pickups to be normal/vintage output. I’d rather shape my tone gain-wise with pedals and the amp. In the end, you get a bigger, clearer sound. The Antiquity IIs are the best vintage style Strat pickup I’ve used. They’re very responsive pickups. All the subtleties of your playing come out when using them.
Could you describe your touring rig for us?
Guitarwise, I’m using Gibsons, Fenders, an EVH Wolfgang, and the Jackson V.
Amps: Customized Randall MTS preamp modules done by the amazing Anthony Salva at Salvation Mods and a few Orange heads.
Cabinets: Three Orange 4×12′s–two for the guitar and one for the Theremin.
While the rig may look somewhat complicated, it’s a fairly simple signal chain: guitar –> pedalboard –> amp –> effects loop –> power amps –> cabs. It’s a serial chain, no parallel routing or anything. I’ve had more complicated setups before but was never happy with the results. When it was time to put this particular rig together, my old tech, Jason Baskin, and I talked a lot about it and this is what we came up with.
For more information on Jeff Schroeder, please visit: http://www.smashingpumpkins.com/