Taking cues from no one but his own muse, Bob Schneider has forged his path over the past two decades with stints in bands like the Ugly Americans and his prolific solo career. Schneider exercises lyrical gymnastics in songs such as “40 Dogs” and brings in Robert Rodriguez to direct a water-gun battle-themed video for “Swimming in the Sea”. His latest three-EP release, King Kong, continues to explore the genre cross-pollination that has endeared to his fans.
Weld: Describe the idea behind the King Kong EPs. What are your thoughts on EPs versus full-lengths as far as conception and recording?
BS: Well, for whatever reason, it’s really hard for me to get any exposure for my music in national magazines or television. We were so happy with the way the record turned out, and we figured if we put it out in three installments, we’d have two more chances of getting someone to write something about it. This interview, for example, would probably not have happened had we put out the entire album at the beginning of last year. It would be old news now. As far as EPs are concerned, I’m not a huge fan of them. I’m always suspect if someone only puts out a few songs, but in this case, we had all the songs finished, we just put them out in installments.
Weld: Very few artists can claim to be both musicians/songwriters and actual visual artists. Which medium came first and how do they inform each other?
BS: I’ve pretty much done both my whole life. My dad was a musician and taught me to play and sing at the age of four and I’ve been drawing that long as well. I’d always planned on being a visual artist, though, and it wasn’t until college and girls and drugs and alcohol came into the picture when I started to see that making music for a living was going to be much more fun.
As far as informing each other, I don’t think they do. They both require a certain amount of time and energy, so one will suffer because of the attention spent on the other. It’s nice to be able to do both, because you might get tired of [just] one. It’s like having two wives, I guess.
Weld: A lot of your fans are drawn from your Texas base. How have you seen the music scene change over the years in terms of bands/songwriters, venues, festivals and audiences?
BS: The main difference in Austin in terms of the music scene is just how expensive it’s become to live here over the years. When I first got here in the late ‘80s I was paying $200 a month, all bills paid, to live right down by the campus. You didn’t really need to do a lot to pay your rent and you could devote the rest of your time to making music and partying and living the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle. It made for a lot of interesting and experimental music, and I think the emphasis was more on how artistic you could be.
I think the people that were interested in making it big moved to Los Angeles or New York and the folks who lived here came and stayed not because they were going to find national success, but a place to let their freak flag fly and be accepted in a musical community that celebrated diversity.
Weld: How have you learned to roll with the punches as far as your career is concerned (major label versus indie artist)?
BS: The main thing that I’ve learned over the years, is the only person that I really need to make sure is happy with what I’m doing is me. Anytime I’ve tried to make decisions based on what’s popular or doubted my own personal taste, I’ve come up short artistically.
Luckily, I’ve had the support of my fan base, which is wonderful, because critics and tastemakers have for the most part not participated in my career at all. You won’t see me on television or magazines. You won’t see me at music festivals, and not because my band isn’t one of the best bands working right now and not because I’m not one of the better entertainer/songwriters working today, but because the people that run these things have their heads up their asses and their minds made up about what I do. The good news is, because I have the support of my fans, I’m able to keep building my song catalogue and get better year after year.
Weld: How do you think music will change over the next few years and what elements will remain steadfast?
BS: Well, the good news is you can get your music out without any of the gatekeepers that you had to go through in the past. The bad news is you can get your music out without any of the gatekeepers that you had to go through in the past, so there’s almost too much to choose from and most of it is pretty bad. Also, you can’t get your money back selling records to people (with very few exceptions), so you kind of have to make music for nothing or get big enough were you can invest your live earnings making records. But it’s like the chicken and the egg: you need one for the other. The good news is, you’re going to have talented people who will continue to make wonderful music. They’ll just have to make it on their own for next to nothing and give it away in hopes that enough people will like it, that they’ll be able to sell some tickets to a show.
Bob Schneider plays Saturday, Feb. 6 at the Forum Theatre at the BJCC. Tickets for the all-ages show are $27.50 with music beginning at 8 p.m. Tickets are available at ticketmaster.com.