From The Desk Of Bob Schneider: Christian Rex van Minnen

Fourteen years removed from his major-label debut, Bob Schneider is still struggling to be heard. Does he care? You be the judge. Schneider will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our brand new feature on him.

VanMinnen

Schneider: I like strange art, and I like people who have incredible technique. Christian Rex van Minnen (Instagram: @van_minnen) has both of those bases covered in spades. His work is at once scary, and beautiful, and laugh-out-loud funny—one of my favorite combos. I recently asked him a few questions about his work and his life.

You have a classical approach to your painting style. Did you study with a classically trained painter or go to a special school to learn this technique?
Christian Rex van Minnen: I learned the techniques of the old master’s, specifically, the Venetian Method, from books and a lot of trial and error.

How often do you paint? Do you have a daily routine?
I paint nine to five, Monday through Friday. I strive for balance in my life nowadays. It hasn’t always been that way. For many years, I worked a job, so my painting schedule was mostly evenings, late nights and weekends. It’s nice to have a normal schedule now, I get a lot more done.

I have a kid myself and often have parents and kids at my house. I always forget how strange and bizarre the art I have hanging is. Do you ever have get-togethers with other parents and wonder if they think you’re a weirdo because of your subject matter?
I have a lot of other artist’s work up, and a lot of it strange. Being that it’s Brooklyn, I think people are more acceptable of eccentric visions. I’m also so used to that “WTF is that?” reaction that it just doesn’t register anymore. I am curious how my son, who is 18 months old now, will react to my work once he gets older. One of his first words was “paintings,” which is awesome.

I know most artists listen to music when they work. Is that the case with you? Who are you listening to now when you paint?
I love music, maybe even more so than visual arts. I go through a lot of phases. The past couple of weeks, my favorite artists have been Shabazz Palaces, Chassol, Slayer, Antwon, Bruce Springsteen, James Blake, Arthur Russell’s World Of Echo. I also listen to a lot of podcasts and audio books. It all depends on the mood I’m trying to cultivate.

When did you decide that you wanted to be an artist? If you could be something else, what would you do?
I always was an artist. I chose it as a profession in about 2005-2006. I think that in my wildest dreams I would have loved to be a musician or singer or something like that. It’d be wonderful just to get it all out there all at once, all immediate.

Do you have any New Years resolutions?
Striving for balance and perspective. To be less of an asshole.

Did you get anything good for Christmas?
Warm wool socks, always a pure joy.

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Bob Schneider: Austin Limits

BobSchneider

Fourteen years removed from his major-label debut, Bob Schneider is still struggling to be heard. Does he care? You be the judge.

He claims it doesn’t bother him, but you can tell the Jack Johnson thing eats at him a little. Just a month after Johnson’s debut ambled its way into the waterlogged psyches of frat dudes everywhere, Bob Schneider’s Lonelyland was also released on Universal. Almost a decade and a half later, Johnson remains a top seller on the Universal roster. And Schneider, well …

“He got a hit and went on a trajectory that’s crazy, selling millions of records and playing stadiums—and I didn’t,” says Schneider from the back of the 2014 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter that’s home when he’s on the road. “For the past 10 years, I’ve been playing the same clubs and haven’t been able to break out of it … 85 percent of the gigs I play are in Texas. But it’s cool. I can do anything I want, and I make enough money to live comfortably. If I had the success of Jack Johnson, I’d have to do a lot of shit like this interview—which I never do anymore.”

It’s about an hour before a well-attended show at World Cafe Live in Philadelphia. The performance will be loose, good-natured and ultimately a bit bizarre when the so-called “Philly All-Stars”—basically a guy, his wife and assorted friends—take the stage to serenade Schneider during an encore. “They showed up at (a Philly show) maybe eight or nine years ago,” he says. “They were dancing, and I pulled them onstage. They’ve been to every show since.”

So, here’s the deal: Schneider wasn’t raised on the Oahu’s North Shore; he’s never surfed Pipeline; and film school in Santa Barbara was never an option. Born in Ypsilanti, Mich., he was raised mostly in Germany, where his dad, an opera singer, struggled to eke out a career. He studied art for a while at the University of Texas at El Paso before settling in Austin, where he fronted punk-spiked groove outfit Joe Rockhea, and the sorta-similar mid-’90s band Ugly Americans.

There are similarities between Schneider and Johnson. The two share a rubbery, granular vocal delivery, rugged good looks, an ear for melodies that stick (for better or worse) and an acclivity for absurd song titles (Schneider: “Jingy,” “Capn Kirk,” “Penelope Cruz”; Johnson: “Bubble Toes,” “Banana Pancakes,” “Washing Dishes”). Both have kids. Schneider has a nine-year-old son from his first marriage, and he’s newly engaged. He once dated Sandra Bullock (prior to her disastrous run-in with Jesse James).

That relationship loosely coincided with the official launch of his solo career. At the Austin release party for Lonelyland, the men’s room was buzzing over numerous “Sandy sightings.” (I should know—I was there.) A clear-eyed Schneider, to his credit, refused to be consumed by the hype. Sober since 1995, he’d partied enough for two lifetimes by then. “It’s weird,” he recalls of that time. “It really doesn’t feel that much different now than it did then. It’s kind of like Groundhog Day. I’m still writing songs; I’m still putting out records; I’m still playing the same clubs and with a lot of the same guys—I’ve played with (bassist) Bruce (Hughes) for 20 years.”

Seven more proper solo albums have followed the promising Lonelyland. A good number are wildly inconsistent, and two (2011’s A Perfect Day and 2013’s Burden Of Proof) are pretty close to great. Most encouraging, for him and for us, is that Schneider, now 49, has made some of the most honest and sophisticated music of his career over the past few years. And his habit of larding his releases with throwaway tracks and goofball hokum has mostly gone by the wayside.

All that could change with his next project. For now, the plan is to release a series of EPs throughout 2015, with the first one coming this month. All will be limited editions, with cover art created by Schneider, who’s come a long way as painter in recent years.

“The thing that works best for me is to keep things really eclectic,” he says. “I just did a show in Austin where I played 12 hours, but with no bullshit. The set list was, like, 200 songs. It would’ve gone on for like six days if I’d played all of them. But then there would’ve been a couple days of some pretty mediocre tunes.”

The only album Schneider played in full: 2001’s Lonelyland.

Go figure.

—Hobart Rowland

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In The News: Built To Spill, Best Coast, Darkness, Ben Lee, Brandon Flowers, Bee Gees, Ben Folds, Super Furry Animals, Coliseum And More

BuiltToSpill

The eighth studio album from Built To Spill, Untethered Moon, is due out from Warner Bros. on April 21. A limited-edition vinyl version will be released exclusively on Record Store Day (April 18) … California Nights, the third full-length by Best Coast, will be available May 5 via Harvest … The Darkness will return June 1 with the release of fourth album Last Of Our Kind on Kobalt Label Services … On June 16, Yonder Mountain String Band will release its new record, Black Sheep, via its own Frog Pad label at the 42nd Telluride Bluegrass Festival … Warner Bros. has announced the signing of Ben Lee, and will issue his latest studio album, Love Is The Great Rebellion, later this year. This announcement comes just after Lee self-released A Mix Tape From Ben Lee, which features Zooey Deschanel, Ben Folds, Sean Lennon and more. Proceeds will be donated to The Q’Ero Project … The second solo release from Brandon Flowers, The Desired Effect, will be out via Island on May 19 … Bee Gees: 1974-1979 is a five-disc boxed set featuring four Bee Gees albums as well as a bonus disc featuring a selection of songs from the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack. It’s due out March 24 … Ben Folds will kick off an extensive world tour this April, including an exclusive festival appearance at Bonnaroo, with plans to release a new digital album this spring with a vinyl release to follow in the summer … On May 5, Domino will reissue Mwng, the fourth album from Super Furry Animals, in honor of its 15th anniversary. The band will play several dates in the U.K. in support … 4AD has announced the April 21 release of Red House Painters, a limited-edition LP boxed set containing the first four out-of-print Red House Painters albums … The 30th anniversary of the Smiths’ eponymous debut was celebrated last year with the recording of Tease Torment And Tantalize: A Tribute To The Smiths’ Debut. Featuring contributions from Kevin Devine, Mother Falcon, Field Mouse and more, the tribute album will be available March 24 via Reimagine … Deluxe editions of Bad Company’s first two albums, Bad Company and Straight Shooter, will be released April 7 via Rhino, complete with previously unreleased tracks and other bonus material … Coliseum’s new album, Anxiety’s Kiss, is due out from Deathwish on May 5 … Live At The Bitter End, August 1971, a previously unissued live recording by Dion, will be released April 7 via Omnivore … March 10 marks the digital release of Frank Turner’s The Third Three Years on Xtra Mile … Domino will issue Patrick Watson’s fifth album, Love Songs For Robots, on May 12.

—Emily Costantino

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From The Desk Of Butch Walker: Finding A Cure For Pancreatic Cancer

Butch Walker built his reputation with hard-hitting, self-produced rock albums marked by a bright, polished sound. When he set out to make Afraid Of Ghosts, an LP partially inspired by the death of his father, he decided to forget about perfection and aim for a more visceral, acoustic feel. The songs on Afraid Of Ghosts were written over the course of a year, then recorded with Ryan Adams and his band in a four-day burst of creativity. It’s the first time Walker worked with an outside producer. Walker will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our brand new feature on him.

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Walker: I know we’re ending this on a bit of a downer, but it needs to be done. It’s easy to roll through life, turning the other way if something tragic happening doesn’t affect you directly. But when it does, that is when the wake-up call usually hits. This is the case with cancer. It’s been in my periphery for years and years, and taken lives of many loved ones and relatives. My wife lost both of her parents to cancer not too long ago. Cancer has been getting worse and worse in the amount of diagnosed cases per year, and treatments for certain forms, like pancreatic, are not doing much good because it is too late and far too aggressive by the time someone finds out they have it. I lost my father more than a year ago. He was my best friend and biggest fan I have ever had. There had come a time when he sat me down to talk to me, with a quiver in his voice and tears in his eyes, about his declining health and that the outlook from doctors didn’t seem good. It was a combination of pulmonary fibrosis of the lungs, congestive heart failure and severe rhumatoid arthritis that was crippling my father and forcing him to breathe with an oxygen tube in his nose 24/7 for the rest of his days. He was such a hard-working man who couldn’t take these things lying down, so he stubbornly defied the doctors for five years later than they actually gave him to live. This, combined with some powerful, but questionable, drugs to help him deal might have been the thing that led to his end. He got pneumonia (again) and had to go into the hospital. I knew it wasn’t good. I flew home, and basically what the doctors found was aggressive pancreatic cancer and said he might have a day to live. If you’ve ever loved a parent or loved one and heard those words, then you know what it does to you. He passed with all of his family by his side, as peaceful as he could. I am starting The www.AutumnLeavesProject.org and plan to really raise some money, awareness and try to make a difference, through music and entertainment. I am so excited about this, and I am totally married to helping find a cure for this disease. It won’t be easy. I mean, it killed Steve Jobs, so it can kill anyone. More importantly, it killed my best friend. My dad.

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Normal History Vol. 310: The Art Of David Lester

Every Saturday, we’ll be posting a new illustration by David Lester. The Mecca Normal guitarist is visually documenting people, places and events from his band’s 30-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

Of all the songs on the new Mecca Normal album I’d say “Between Livermore And Tracy” bears KRAMER’s mark of sonic ingenuity most in its soaring conclusion.

You may recall me writing about my father’s health in late 2012 after he had a series of heart attacks and strokes. “Between Livermore And Tracy” is about leaving for Miami to record the new album while he was still in the hospital with acute delirium.

Not wanting to be a downer, I wasn’t going to tell KRAMER about my father, but a pal of his had already seen my posts on Facebook (where ideas for this column sometimes arrive) so he’d been briefed on my possible state of mind. I was afraid telling KRAMER about my father might make recording too emotional (it’s hard to sing when you’re crying), but, as it turned out, it was all OK. Funny how interacting with other humans can sometimes be such a good idea and at other times, not helpful at all. It’s often difficult to tell which is going to be the better course of action. To stifle or spill.

“Between Livermore And Tracy” is really the first thing we did when we got into the studio. I didn’t set out to explain the situation. It was spontaneously created from my writing at that time. I’d never heard the music David started playing. I added piano as he played guitar, and then I sang, opening up what had been deeply felt. KRAMER added his part at his studio in Fort Lauderdale after we’d flown home, whisking what David and I had created together in a way that has come to symbolize the entirety of the recording project and how writing was very helpful to me while my father was literally not himself. And when I say writing, I mean the readers for whom I write—including myself.

“Cherry Flowers” from Dovetail (K, 1992) (download):

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From The Desk Of Butch Walker: Cartersville, Ga.

Butch Walker built his reputation with hard-hitting, self-produced rock albums marked by a bright, polished sound. When he set out to make Afraid Of Ghosts, an LP partially inspired by the death of his father, he decided to forget about perfection and aim for a more visceral, acoustic feel. The songs on Afraid Of Ghosts were written over the course of a year, then recorded with Ryan Adams and his band in a four-day burst of creativity. It’s the first time Walker worked with an outside producer. Walker will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our brand new feature on him.

Cartersville

Walker: This took a long time for me to admit, because I spent the last half of my first 18 years of life trying to get the fuck out of there. It was this quiet (boring), religious (also boring), mining town about 40 minutes north of Atlanta. My family moved there when I was about five, and I started grade school there. My dad got transferred for his job with AT&T (then called Southern Bell) to be closer to headquarters and also closer to his aging mother in Rome, Ga. There, I would learn to ride a bike, shoot guns, roller skate, take girls on dates to the roller-skating rink, form my first love for guitar, rock ‘n’ roll, and my first band behind our house in my parents arts-and-crafts store building. I would go to the high school football games with my elementary school buddies. We would eat at the 4 Way Diner or Ross’s Diner (both still there and consistently greasy and good) everyday at lunch time. I would get my very first job, working at the local music store called Strings And Things. I would skip school and drive to Atlanta to make out with my keyboard player in my band (she was three years older than me). And then, I would leave Cartersville. For good. the day after I graduated high school. I went straight to L.A., then moved to ATL for another 16 years. Then back to L.A. Then Nashville. All while going back, periodically for family gatherings and holidays to see the kind folks of my hometown. Days would go on, and my career would shift and change over the years, but it would settle into a pretty nice career as a touring artist and songwriter over the last half of my life. I remember my mom and dad always asking me, “Why won’t you ever play a show here in Cartersville?” I would always say, “Why the hell would I wanna do that? And who would wanna come see it?” Well, as a promise to my late father, I did a show in his honor, this past Thanksgiving. It was at the beautiful old Grand Theatre on the downtown square. I saw my first movies at that theatre when I was a wee lad, and over the years, it got restored to a beautiful playhouse theatre like it was back in the day. The show was special and emotional, and I am so glad that I finally got my head out of my ass and did it. Basically, it was like playing for all of my neighbors I grew up with and reminded me that, especially with the life of my father now taken, that it is precious. Never be too cool for your hometown. Or your parents. Ever. Because you’re not.

Video after the jump.

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Film At 11: Death Cab For Cutie

Death Cab For Cutie has been around for 17 years and is still going strong. The band’s newest album, Kitsugi, definitely focuses on the emotions from the recent divorce of Ben Gibbard, but it also shows how those emotions can create brilliant music. “Black Sun,” the newest video from DCFC, tells of a stuntman and the hidden energy behind one actress onlooker. Check out the clip below.

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MP3 At 3PM: The March Divide

TheMarchDivide

Last year, the March Divide showed the world that emo is back, and now the band continues its trail by releasing the +1 EP, the follow-up to critically acclaimed 2014 album Billions. Sad track “Forward Thinking” is available for free download, and it’s great one. It’s a little more on the rock side overall and more polished than anything, but just as fun and exciting. The March Divide mixes uplifting music with sadder lyrics for an all-around good time. Download “Forward Thinking” below.

“Forward Thinking” (download):

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Vintage Movies: “Amadeus”

MAGNET contributing writer Jud Cost is sharing some of the wealth of classic films he’s been lucky enough to see over the past 40 years. Trolling the backwaters of cinema, he has worked up a list of more than 500 titles—from the silent era through the ’90s—that you may have missed. A new selection, all currently available on DVD, appears every week.

Amadeus

Amadeus 1984 (151 minutes)

Tom Hulce hit the jackpot early in his career with key roles in a splashy pair of movies. He was Larry Kroger, one of two wide-eyed pledges to Delta Tau Chi in 1974’s Animal House, which absolutely nailed an out-of-control, keg-swilling, early ’60s college fraternity. It was done so well nobody has even attempted to do it since. Then there was Hulce’s career zenith as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in Amadeus, a lavish costume drama depicting the young man who was at once a baroque musical prodigy and a foul-mouthed womanizer. With the titles of both movies filed under the letter “A,” Hulce’s career, unfortunately, never made it to “B” and “C,” let alone “X, Y or Z.” But it was a hell of a start.

Amadeus, meaning “one who loves God.” opens with Mozart’s musical rival, Antonio Salieri (F. Murray Abraham), now an old man near death living in an insane asylum after a failed suicide attempt, confessing the murder of the brilliant young composer to a priest, after which Salieri begins a winding narrative.

The highlight of Salieri’s early encounters with the “boy genius” is Mozart’s arrival at the court of “the musical king,” the Holy Roman Emperor, Joseph II. “Young man,” says the emperor (Jeffrey Jones), ‘we’re going to commission an opera from you. Have we decided whether it will be in German or Italian?” the monarch asks the kapellmeister and other musical dignitaries. “I believe it was to be in Italian, sire,” says one. “Oh, German, please let it be German,” begs Mozart. “I’ve already found a libretto that is quite amusing.” His interest piqued, the King commands, “Tell us the story.”

Mozart stammers, then emits an insane cackle, “Well, well, it’s, it’s, it’s…It takes place in a harem, Majesty.” The gasps in the room feel as though someone has opened a window. “You really believe that subject quite appropriate for a national theatre?” asks the monarch. “It’s not indecent, it’s full of German virtues,” responds Mozart. Salieri, the court composer, asks what those might be. “Love,” Mozart responds. “Ahh, of course, we know nothing of love in Italy,” quips Salieri, a transplanted Italian, to much laughter. “Ah, well, let it be in German,” decides the emperor, a native German as is Mozart.

Salieri has written an homage, a welcoming march, to the precocious musician and plays it perfunctorily on the keyboard. When Mozart critiques the melody, the King asks him to play it on the harpsichord and hands him Salieri’s transcription of the piece. “It’s all up here,” replies Mozart, pointing to his head. He sits down to play the simple tune as the Italian has written it, then proceeds to embellish the work with every show-stopping element in his arsenal, leaving Salieri feeling like a horsefly squashed by a coach’s windscreen.

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From The Desk Of Butch Walker: “Boyhood”

Butch Walker built his reputation with hard-hitting, self-produced rock albums marked by a bright, polished sound. When he set out to make Afraid Of Ghosts, an LP partially inspired by the death of his father, he decided to forget about perfection and aim for a more visceral, acoustic feel. The songs on Afraid Of Ghosts were written over the course of a year, then recorded with Ryan Adams and his band in a four-day burst of creativity. It’s the first time Walker worked with an outside producer. Walker will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our brand new feature on him.

Boyhood

Walker: This movie hit me right in the gut. As a parent of a seven-year-old boy, this was the coolest-yet-frightening movie to see about growing pains. Richard Linklater won my heart, way back when he did Dazed And Confused. Hell, I loved it so much that I somehow convinced my pal Matthew to put back on the “Wooderson” get-up from the film, and be in a music video of mine called “Synthesizers.” In his films, Linklater isn’t trying to throw a ton of visual stimulation or gratuitous action and violence into your face with them. He really just seems like a regular guy, who is drawing from his regular life experiences—that just so happen to relate to almost everyone. I mean, Dazed was not only the musical soundtrack to my youth when it came out, but I was that kid. I was the kid trying to fit in with the older cooler guys, while my older, protective sisters watched from afar to make sure I dint get too fucked up along the way. Boyhood is the same, but a tantric approach to film making. It’s the “slow and low” pot roast being cooked, if you will. Most directors, actors or even movie-goers wouldn’t have the patience to hear about a movie being made … that is going to take 12 fucking years to make. But Richard did it. And Ethan Hawke did it. And Patricia Arquette did it. The kids were pretty good, too, considering I don’t think they really wanted to be in it for some of the years that pass by in the film. Still, to see this kid start at my son’s age, learning to ride a bicycle, to finally walking out the door to go to college … it’ll leave a pain in your chest that you will never understand until you have one of your own. Thanks, Richard, for having the heart and patience to make this amazing film.

Video after the jump.

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