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Friday, November 30, 2007

Interview with Bob Schneider

Photo credit: Alexandra Valenti

Bob Schneider is pretty much the coolest dude ever. He’s a singer/songwriter, but he's not a typical folkie – his songs are more rocking, with explicit lyrics, sharp wit, and in-your-face attitude. He’s currently in the middle of the “Songs Sung and Played on the Guitar at the Same Time With People in the Room Tour,” and he called in to talk about touring with the Dixie Chicks, the decline of the Austin music scene, and the varying degrees of giving a fuck.

You’re doing a solo acoustic tour right now. How much different is that from the full band thing?
Well, besides the obvious difference that there’s not a band… I can only play the good songs when I do solo acoustic. With the band we can play some shittier songs - because you have the band, you can kind of polish the tard, as they say, with good musicianship. The other difference is I engage the audience a little bit more in between songs, which I don’t do a lot of when I’m playing with the band. When I’m solo, I wanna feel like I’m having a conversation with the audience, so there tends to be a more intimate sort of concert setting because of that.

Can you do songs like “Ass Knocker” in that setting?
I get requests for that song all the time when I’m solo and I will play it, usually just to shut people up, but it’s not my first choice.

Which do you enjoy more, a small headlining show, or a large arena show where you’re opening for someone like the Dixie Chicks?
I like both, but I really enjoyed those arena shows. I would love to be headlining those arena shows. That would be the ideal situation. If I can’t do that, then opening up for somebody like the Dixie Chicks is great. Their audience isn’t too much different from my audience, so it was a nice match. If we were opening for someone like Ozzy Osbourne, it would be a harder sell, I think.

But it’s nice to headline too. There’s a certain energy in small clubs, there’s a certain lack of pretension. There’s a don’t-give-a-fuck attitude in a club that’s hard to generate when you’re in front of 15,000 people. You usually tend to give at least a small amount of a fuck in front of that many people. But you’re shooting for 100% don’t-give-a-fuck when you’re playing live, so it’s easier to do that in a smaller venue.

I listened to the track “Blauu” on your website, which you classified as “gangsta rock.”
(laughs). I classified it as gangsta rock?

Well, there you go. You can say anything on your own website, as you know.

You seem to like playing around with different styles and genres. Your first band was a rap-funk group, is that correct?
No, the first band I was ever in was called the Warriors, and it was a rock band. The first band that I made enough money to quit my job and start playing music full-time was a rap-funk band, sort of a rap-rock band similar to Limp Bizkit and Red Hot Chili Peppers. It was this band where you could get laid a lot.

I saw an interview where you talked about how language shouldn’t be censored, and that’s something that comes across in your songs. They’re kind of in-your-face lyrically.
Well, when I talk I cuss a lot, so I guess when I write songs I tend to use bad language in the song. It just depends on the song and who’s narrating it. If the narrator in the song uses graphic language, then you use it. I don’t write a lot of autobiographical things, so it usually tends to be from the point of view of somebody that’s not me.

The Austin music scene has exploded in the time you’ve been there. How do you feel about being one of the leaders of that?
Actually, I feel like it’s imploded. When I got here the music scene in Austin was really quite exciting and there were a lot of bands taking a lot of chances musically. It was really neat to live here. It still had a small-town vibe to it, and you didn’t have to work a lot to get by. You could just be a creative, drug-taking musician in this town. And then when the high-tech companies came in the mid-‘90s, it drove the price of living up. I think the town lost a lot of those slacker musicians that were making this really interesting music, and I think the music scene ended up really hurting because of it.

Recently, there’s some interesting stuff going on in Austin. There happen to be a bunch of pretty decent bands that live here, but they don’t play here hardly ever. They play here once or twice a year, but they’re nationally known acts. It’s kind of bizarre how that works. A lot of the bands that actually play here aren’t so good, I don’t think. I mean there’s a lot of music here, a lot of great players, but I have this romantic idea of the early ‘90s and that whole period of time when it just felt like there were so many great, great bands that were playing in Austin at that time. But having said that, I’m completely out of the loop. I play 250 shows a year. I don’t have time to go out and see music, so there could be tons of great shit that I don’t know about.

Do you have a favorite place to play?
I play every Monday at the Saxon Pub when I’m in Austin, and it’s my favorite show. We have a hardcore group of people that have been coming for years to those shows. That’s where I try out all the new stuff that I’ve written that week. That’s where I dig in and pull out songs that I don’t ever play anywhere else, so it’s a fun show for me.

Well Bob, thanks for taking the time to chat, I really appreciate it. I’ll be checking you out when you come to Pittsburgh next week.
Alright, come up and say hi!

Find Bob Schneider online at www.bobschneidermusic.com or www.myspace.com/bobschneider.

Upcoming tour dates for Bob Schneider:
November 30 LAWRENCE, KS Bottleneck
December 1 OMAHA, NE The Waiting Room
December 2 MINNEAPOLIS, MN Varsity
December 3 MILWAUKEE, WI Shank Hall
December 4 CHICAGO, IL Schuba's
December 5 CHICAGO, IL Schuba's
December 6 ST LOUIS, MO Blueberry Hill
December 7 INDIANAPOLIS, IN Music Mill
December 8 PITTSBURGH, PA Club Cafe
December 10 PHILADELPHIA, PA World Cafe
December 11 ANNAPOLIS, MD Ram's Head
December 12 NEW YORK, NY Knitting Factory
December 13 VIENNA, VA Jammin Java
December 14 VIENNA, VA Jammin Java
December 15 CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA Gravity Lounge
December 16 ASHEVILLE, NC Grey Eagle
December 17 ATLANTA, GA Smith's Olde Bar
December 18 NASHVILLE, TN Exit/In
December 19 BIRMINGHAM, AL Workplay
December 21 NEW ORLEANS, LA One Eyed Jacks
December 22 HOUSTON, TX Mucky Duck

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