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A moe-ment in the Sun: Al Schnier of moe.
By Matthew S. Robinson
(more articles from this author)
2001-05-07
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[Matthew] How do you come up with your song ideas?

[Al] I sit with my guitar and start playing and see what happens. Sometimes it's a chord progression or a melody or a lyrical nugget. It's not scientific. It's more channeling and letting the muses flow. The key thing is recognizing a song idea and knowing how to develop it.

[Matthew] What is the songwriting process among the band?

[Al] It's always changing. It ranges from group improvisation to a single composer bringing an entire song to the band and saying "play this!" These days, we all live all over the place, so I more often bring in complete songs. However, our songs are never really 'complete' in that we are constantly reworking them on stage and stuff.

[Matthew] How does releasing a song on album affect the final product?

[Al] It's a constant evolution. Therefore, we are often reluctant to record a new song until it has grown into its own (usually over a period of a bout six months). Even after that, though, the song is never really 'finished.' The album version is just a 'presentable' version, it is not a 'definitive' one. Some songs are complete in their simplicity and there is not much room to change them, but we always have to be careful not to crush the vibe. That's the key!

[Matthew] Who are your musical influences?

[Al] I love The Dead more than anyone or anything. They have had a profound effect and had a constant influence on me and my music. [Drummer] Vinnie [Amico] likes them too. However, [guitarist] Chuck [Garvey] and [bassist] Rob [Derham] really don't think much about them, so they become apart of our music but not all of it.

[Matthew] How do comparisons to The Dead make you feel?

[Al] It's a double-edged sword in that, on the one hand, I'm honored to warrant such comparisons, but comparisons can be lazy and misleading. If someone is told that moe. is "like The Dead," and they don't know or don't like The Dead, that does not serve them or us!

[Matthew] Explain, in layman's terms, how you get your guitar sound.

[Al] Well,it's 90% vintage equipment dating back to the 50's. There's not much hi-tech- no lasers or anything, even though it may sound like it. It's a fairly 'organic' sound, even though it sounds sci-fi. Rather than trying to simulate the sounds of Jimi Hendrix and The Beatles with digital processors and stuff like that, I figured it was better to use the same gear. Everything I do, you've probably heard before, but I try to put a new twist on 'em.


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