Henry James Schneekluth

Henry James Schneekluth
Henry James Schneekluth: Marty Moffatt.

Henry James Schneekluth handles the groovy guitar parts in Robert Jon & The Wreck. While impassioned Southern rock might be an easy category to pigeonhole this killer band, there’s more to The Wreck than meets the ear. We caught up to Schneekluth while they were working on a full-length album with Kevin Shirley producing.

How does the band write together?
Generally, somebody has an idea; I might bring an idea for a guitar riff, and it then becomes our song. We pass it around to make the arrangement stronger. It’s very collaborative. I use whatever knowledge I have to enrich what we’re doing. I’m semi-educated in harmony and modes, but I like playing rock music. I like plugging into a loud amp and strumming an A chord as much as the next guy. That’s more raw and straight-ahead rock than, say, the unfiltered thing I normally do.

With Robert Jon & The Wreck, it’s about getting back to the roots. I love Southern rock just as much as I love prog rock, and I think of the band more as California rock than Southern rock. There’s Americana, R&B, soul, funkier things, roots, and country-influenced pop songs with big choruses.

Being proficient in psychedelia adds unique flavor to the sound.
I think so, too. At the end of the day, you can only write the same rock song so many times before you want to expand on it. I’ve been less-bashful about showing my colors. I’m getting more psychedelic with stuff. When I’m improvising live, I’ve gotten more encouragement to go with whatever I’m feeling in the moment. Sometimes that’s a psychedelic-rock thing.

What’s the story with your SG?
It’s a 2004 ’61 reissue that has Hepcat pickups, which are PAF re-creations made by my buddy in France. Modern humbuckers have a bit too much midrange for my liking, and these are closest to what you’d find in an old Gibson. There’s way more clarity and high-end. They almost get on the verge of sounding like a single-coil when you roll down the Volume knob. This guitar is an open-E slide machine.

Which other guitars are you using?
I have a 2020 Epiphone Firebird I bought on a whim because I’ve had this fascination with Firebirds for a long time. I loved how it felt, so I put some Seymour Duncan Mini Humbuckers in it and immediately started getting compliments. It fits in the band so well. It’s my main standard-tuned guitar for touring. I’ve also been playing an Eastman Juliet a lot. My buddies at Eastman Guitars let Robert and I have what I think are the first production models of their Juliet model. It’s basically a solidbody amalgamation of a Tele and an SG with a Firebird center block. Mine has P-90 pickups, and it’s my main backup. On certain nights I need to feel something different in my hands, so I change it up.

How about amps?
I have a Supro 1600 Supreme, which is a 25-watt 1×10 combo. It’s great to tour and record with. Everyone asks, “Hey, what’s that amp you’re playing?” Unfortunately, they’re not in production anymore. The other amp I tour with is an Ugly. It’s 20 watts, like a low-watt tweed Marshall.

I also have a ’69 Traynor Custom Reverb head. It’s basically a Canadian Marshall with reverb and gets that classic Marshall sound, with its own thing. It’s so loud it makes your skull rattle (laughs).

Are you a pedal guy?
Oh yeah (laughs)! I have the Wampler Plexi-Drive Mini that I leave on for the whole show. I run the amps more or less clean with a hint of breakup and get my drive sound from the Wampler. For a solo boost, I vary between a JHS Solo Boost and a Wampler Tumnus. I’ve also been digging the Silktone Fuzz. It’s basically a Fuzz Face with a bias knob.

What’s up with your solo band, King Tree & The Earth Mothers?
Our album is finished; it’s the first to feature the full band lineup. It has nine songs, and the two singles are “What You Feel” and “Chasing Clouds.” I’m excited, and I love both bands very much. We all have stuff playing in our heads, and this is what’s been playing in my head for a long time. I’m excited to share it with the world.

This article originally appeared in VG’s August 2023 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.

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