When I think of worship guitar players who rock the Jazzmaster, Michael Guy Chislett is at the very top of the list. Michael’s not only the Grammy-winning, guitar playing Hillsong producer, he’s also the guy that producer-extraordinaire Butch Walker tapped to be his go-to session and touring guitarist ‘back in the day’. While Michael would far prefer to be placing a mic rather than talking into one, that humility is part of what makes him the epic legend he is!
[WM] Michael, when did you start playing Jazzmasters, and what drew you to them?
[Michael Guy Chislett] They were always on records I loved. I went through a big My Bloody Valentine, Nirvana, Dinosaur Jr., and Sonic Youth phase. Growing up in the ‘90s these guitars were everywhere, but impossible to find in the suburbs of Sydney, Australia. When I met “Fender Billy” (Fender artist relations maestro) in 2006, I had broken the neck off an old green Strat that was actually Joel Houston’s. I asked Billy what the ’62 reissues where like and he said, “Incredible!” and that’s all I needed to hear!
[WM] The last time we got together, I vividly remember the way you turned your pick sideways and dug it into the strings on your Jazzmaster to replicate the sound of the Edge’s Strat on “Sunday Bloody Sunday”. These guitars are classically Fender, but also have their own voice. When you pick up a Jazzmaster, be it in the studio or on stage, is it for that classic Jazzmaster tone, the versatility, or some combination of the two?
[MGC] We don’t use the word versatile very often when we talk about guitars! We like our Jazzmasters to sound like Jazzmasters, Strats to sound like Strats and our Teles to sound like Teles! When we come up with ideas, we usually have a sound in mind. Fender really nailed these types of guitars a long time ago, they are part of history. I have learned to play pretty quietly so that laying into the guitar brings out brighter sharper tones, something the Edge is great at. I used to watch the POPMART concert film every day when I got home from school!
[WM] Your Jazzmaster is from the Fender Custom Shop as I recall. Was it custom made for you, or did you find it at a store?
[MGC] Fender did a few guitars in the ‘60s with block inlays that are hard to find and pretty expensive, and some of them haven’t aged well. The Custom Shop route seemed to be the best idea. The other thing is that I wanted was an Ebony fretboard. To me, Ebony has a brighter, more pronounced top end. My old friend Marcus Beaumont, who I grew up with had a few ideas on changing the radius and a few other things so the whole guitar worked with a Mustang bridge.
I will say that in the few years since getting the Custom Shop Jazzmaster, Fender has done an amazing job of nailing the new Jazz/Jag reissues. For a pretty long time I felt like I was moving against the fashion by playing a Jazzmaster, but now they have become widely acceptable. Fender has done a great job marketing these.
[WM] What are some of your favorite things about these instruments?
[MGC] If you have a chance to own a Jazzmaster, I recommend sitting with it for a while before changing any of the electronics. The functionality and limitations are what make these instruments so cool. I use the dip switch all the time because it rounds off all the top end. That sound is so cool for slide guitar or doubling hooks. The Jazzmaster has its own lane and it’s just as important as the lane the Stratocaster sits in, so please don’t put pickups in it to make it sound like a Strat or a Les Paul!
[WM] Always great to catch up Michael! Is there anything else you’d like to add?
[MGC] I’m sitting here in Columbia at the hotel getting ready to play tonight, we have had a great time traveling around the globe seeing what God is doing! Always a pleasure Doug, our friendship spans something like thirteen years!