An Exclusive Excerpt of Steve Almond's Rock and Roll Will Save Your Life, Part Three
Austin singer-songwriter/musician Bob Schneider is performing at Blueberry Hill's Duck Room tonight, Wednesday, March 24. To go along with this appearance, we're running an exclusive excerpt from author Steve Almond's new book, Rock and Roll Will Save Your Life, which Random House will publish next month. Part one was published on Monday, part two was published on Tuesday and part three is published below.
A Kingdom of One
It was time, as they say in Reality TV, to take this bromance to the next level. Or at least to Bob's studio. He led me out past a small pool with leaves in it, to a shack inside of which were more instruments than I've ever seen in one place: guitars, banjos, mandolins, a baritone ukulele, what was either a xylophone or a marimba (Bob wasn't sure), an ancient Wurlitzer that made a mysterious buzzing noise, a small drum kit in the center of the room, a baby grand piano. The room's lone chair was surrounded by banks of synthesizers, mixing boards, and computer monitors. It looked like where a starship captain would sit. And Bob was, in a sense, a starship captain. Using this equipment, he could record, edit, and mix songs all by himself.
The studio doubled as the HQ of his record label Shockorama, on which he's released a dozen records in the past decade. In fact, he'd meant to release Fuck All You Motherfuckers months ago, but it was still sitting on his hard drive, along with hundreds of other unreleased songs. (The rumor was that Bob sometimes wrote a song per day.)
It will sound hokey, but I honestly felt like I was standing in a holy place. I had 559 Bob songs in my iTunes library. I had listened to his music for entire days at a time and thought about him, in some capacity, every day for the past five years. I recognized the chance that we would run off together was extremely low, but I also believed -- and I think Drooling Fanatics cannot help themselves in this regard -- that I understood Bob in a way nobody else on earth did, that we were soulmates and though he didn't know this yet he had a secret message to impart. This is perhaps the most annoying aspect of Fanaticism, from the musician's point of view. They owe us nothing beyond their songs, but we keep hounding them for more.
"How do you do it?" I asked. "How do you write so many totally ass-kicking songs?"
Bob replied that it wasn't really him, it was his unconscious, he was just plugging into it, like you might plug a fork into an outlet. "There's this weird thing that happens with songwriting," he went on. "When you first start doing it you're just doing your best with whatever comes into your head, but after a while you get this idea about what's good or bad and you start doing this approximation of what you think you should be doing and the only solution I've come up with is just to keep my standards low."
Yes, I wanted to cry out, that's it! You, Bob Schneider, have just identified the fundamental crisis (and resolution) of the creative process. Might I now briefly stroke your big beefy man hand?