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Exclusive: Smashing Pumpkins Guitarist Jeff Schroeder - 2010-09-08
Brent Mendoza
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Jeff Schroeder was plucked from L.A.'s local music scene four years ago and thrust onto the world stage when the Smashing Pumpkins tapped him as the band's lead guitarist. Joining a band with a legendary back catalog — one that inspired Schroeder's own rock and roll fantasies — the guitarist has proven he can hold his own.

On August 28, the Smashing Pumpkins headlined the third annual Sunset Strip Music Festival and energized the crowd of 13,000 before taking off on an extensive U.S. and international tour. Check out this exclusive interview, conducted prior to the band's crushing headlining set, and get to know this unlikely and understated guitar hero a little better.

Take us through the story of how you came to join the band.

I didn't know Billy [Corgan] or Jimmy [Chamberlin] prior to finding out that they were looking for new musicians to play with. Before I found out about this opportunity, I'd never tried out for a band. I've only played in my own bands, so I don't really know how to relate to other people's experiences. A friend of mine told me they were looking for a guitar player and said I should audition for the band, because he thought I would be perfect for the job. I put together a simple package and emailed it off to management. A few days later, I got a call from Jimmy and we started the process. We played and hung out for a couple of months, just getting to know each other. It wasn't until four or five months later that they told me I had the job; that was four years ago.

How many songs are in your repertoire? What song do you find most technically challenging?

Since I've joined the band, we've probably played at least 150 different songs! The hardest to play well is probably "F*ck You" off of the Mellon Collie record because we usually play it at break neck speed.

What's the best part about touring? What's the worst?

The best: Traveling all over the world (I'm writing this from Mexico City). The worst: Being away from friends and family.

Most "rock star" moment since joining the band?

Smashing a guitar at the Fillmore in San Francisco. That was "old Jeff," so that probably won't happen again.

Favorite Pumpkins' album?

Hmmm, that's a tough question. I like Siamese Dream and Machina a lot.

With your new found fame, you must have brushed shoulders with tons of other music icons and celebs. Has anyone left you star struck?

I have been lucky to meet quite a few of my heroes because of the band — Gene Simmons, George Lynch and Rush. They all leave me star struck because I respect what they do so much. But I think meeting the Edge from U2 was probably the coolest thing that has ever happened to me.

Growing up, did you ever participate in any pumpkin smashing high jinks during Halloween?

Ha! No, I was always a good kid.

Which other band/performers are you most excited to see at this year's Sunset Strip Music Festival?

Slash and No Thanks.

You're currently finishing your Ph.D. in comparative literature at UCLA. Which books are you currently reading?

I'm currently reading Karen Tei Yamashita's new novel, I Hotel.

Being that you share the same name and you are both musicians, do you identify with the Schroeder character in the "Peanuts" comic strip? What else might you have in common?

I think Britt [Pennella] from Blackboard Jungle might provide a better answer for this question.

Note: When reached for comment, Britt had this to say about his friend Jeff:
"I think the way Schroeder [of "Peanuts"] completely marched to his own drummer and let his playing do the talking is one of the many ways that these two are similar. Also in the Christmas special, when Lucy demands he stop playing one of his opuses and play "Jingle Bells," he proceeds to play an elementary, one fingered version of the song. This reminds me of something Jeff would do if someone stupid demanded something of him."

Everyone has a great story about a night out on The Sunset Strip, anything you're legally allowed to share?

I'm hoping to have a few new stories after Saturday night? That being said, the recent show we played at the Viper Room was amazing.


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