Genre: Hard rock/metal
If there were one guitarist to define rock music in Indianapolis, it would have to be John Zeps. The man can shred. His unmistakable sound varies from fast, squealing solos to odd-time signature crunches. He may be best known for his work with Burn It Down, a political hardcore band that could raise a crowd up like few this town has seen. After releasing 2000’s Let the Dead Bury the Dead
, an album that transcended two-minute thrashers and gave way to epic metal anthems, the band hung it up — save for a reunion show in 2005.
What few may know is just how many bands this guy has been in, most of which had a deep impact and have helped to influence the hard rock sound coming out of Indy.
Zeps took up guitar at age 12, and without ever having formal training, was soon tearing up basements and pissing off parents who wished they never bought their kids instruments. “I cut my teeth on hard rock and metal from the ’70s,” he says. “A few early influences were Randy Rhoads, Yngwie Malmsteen and [Sonic Youth’s] Thurston Moore.”
After graduating from Ben Davis High School came a career move that would allow Zeps to practice at night and play gigs on the weekend: Tracks Records. However, he may have felt a little burnt out after a decade of running the counter and playing in several bands. “I almost moved to San Francisco with friends but stayed to own a record store,” he says of buying the store in 2000 and changing the name to Vibes Music, located across from the Castleton Square Mall.
Zeps’ latest band, Action Strasse, is a little more laid-back than previous outings. “It’s definitely got more of an indie rock feel to it,” he says. You can also catch him playing out with Lukewarm Bodies (At Best) and Amongst the Swarm.
After years of playing, touring, recording and then of course the day job, do you think Zeps is satisfied? “Never,” he says. “I always try to reinvent myself and keep everyone guessing what I’ll do next.”