Al Schnier of moe. has many interests – from vintage guitars to human rights in Burma to producing albums. So when HeadCount launched a monthly streaming radio show, we quickly lined him up for an interview (we knew it would be good!). You can listen to the entire interview on HeadLiners Radio, along with live tracks from moe., The Allman Brothers Band, Pearl Jam, The Decemberists and many other of our favorites. Or, read the highlights below.
HeadCount: Well of course you have lots of thins going on. moe., your band, is rarely stagnant. Right now you guys are promoting your new album that just finished in January. Is that right?
Al Schnier: That’s right. It seems like just about every other year or so we put out a new studio album, although it seems like we’re constantly on the road. We’re not one of those bands that will necessarily go out on the road to tour in support of an album. We’re on the road all of the time anyway — but it’s nice to have a new album out and just have some fresh music and do something a little bit different.
And some of these songs are not so new, really. You’ve been performing them for years, is that right?
That’s true. You know, when we went in to record this album we decided that anything and everything would be fair game — meaning anything we hadn’t recorded to date. So we went back throughout our whole career. We looked at some songs that were 15 years old and some songs that we hadn’t performed live yet and everything across the spectrum. At the end of the day we just picked the ones that worked together for the album. A lot of that really came down to working with a producer, being able to make those decisions and come out with something cohesive. The cool thing was — because we’re such a live oriented band — being able to go into the studio and present these songs in a different light.
Your fan base is obviously deep and wide because ya’ll have been playing for so long and you’re always on the road. As testament to your being so nurturing and playing for the fans and really doing what they want you to do– do you still see some of the same people when you stop in cities, do you still meet fans on the road that you’ve talked to for years and years?
Absolutely. And that’s one of the things I love so much about what we do. If I ever doubt the validity of what we do — because you know every now and then it starts to seem silly that I play guitar for a living, it seems like I ought to be doing something more important with my life somehow when I look at the big picture. When I spend time with these people who, and its not just because they come to our shows and take something away from the music — I mean its great that people care so much about our music — but the thing that I really love is the fact that so many friendships have formed because of this central point that is our shows. There have been marriages and babies and these extended families and thats the part of it that I really love. We’re still so close with so many of these people. At the end of the show every night, when we do our encores, I’ll read these announcements from the stage announcing anniversaries and birthdays, and these announcements where people have seen us 75 or 150 times. It’s so humbling that there’s that kind of atmosphere there and so much of it has to do with their friendships and being such a great social outlet for the fans.
What right now, here in an election year — I know you’ve been partner artists with HeadCount for a long time — what are you as a parent, as a musician, as a voter following this year?
There’s so many issues that are very near and dear to me. It’s interesting because you have your issues that are important to you as a citizen and then you sort of watch the candidates and think “does that really address the issue that’s important to me?” One of the issues that’s really been important to me, that’s really touched me deeply a few years ago, was the situation in Burma. It’s great to see so much pivotal change happening[there] recently. How a new administration will deal with that is important to me. They may not talk about Burma specifically but when they start to talk about foreign trade, when they start to talk about their business policies — these are things you have to interpret. And that’s the thing that scares me. Everyone has these issues with Big Government but I tend to get more scared about Big Business than Big Government. I’m all for independent business — I’m the co-owner of a business. At the end of the day moe.’s a business and I’m a small business owner but at the same time Big Business is still just frightening. It can be very powerful and it’s kind of run wild in this country so that’s one of the things I keep my eye on. That same thing is also something that’s very integral in the whole hydrofracking issue, which is something that’s really important where we live in upstate New York. It can completely make or break the area where we live. They may decimate our landscape while pursuing this thing because it’ll make a quick return but it will be one those gold rush things. it’ll be a boom/bust thing. I just hope that people have the sense to do their homework. Those are the issues that important to me right now. There’s so many issues that It’s hard to say “oh those are the two things” but those are the two things that stand out, those are the ones that I pay attention to all the time, like on a daily basis. I’m actually a board member on the local hydrofracking group and I’m very close with Burmese monks. These are the things I pay attention to on a regular basis, not to say that I don’t pay attention to other larger issues like education or the economy and the other things politicians talk about. But I feel like so much of that is just stuff that they talk about and I’m curious to see what will actually happen.
To hear the entire Al Schnier interview, and some great LIVE music, listen to HeadLiners Radio now.