Latest Schnauser Articles
The latest edition focuses on Swim Mountain, Magic Castles and Schnauser
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Neddy recommends recent releases from Schnauser and Dodson & Fogg for this week’s column.
Schnauser began in 2005 as a solo project for Alan Strawbridge during the time spent recording The Lucky Bishops’ 3rd album, ‘Unexpect the Expected’ which was taking longer than expected. Initially recording all the instruments himself, and then inviting musician friends to contribute, he completed a bunch of songs which would eventually become the self released album, ‘Kill all humans’. Lyrically inspired by the emotional turmoil surrounding the death of his father along with more trifling matters such as a dislike of Tarantino movies, and an arse operation, the music continued on where The Lucky Bishops left off in a pop-psych vein.
Recorded entirely at home on a digital 24 track, the album was sold through iTunes and the two Flash videos for ‘Moron’ and ‘Kill all humans’ were made as part of Al’s degree project to help promote the album. The Lucky Bishops carried on playing live during this time, but eventually split after a loss of momentum and minimal feedback from the 3rd album released on Australian label, Camera Obscura. The Bishops’ first two albums were released on Nick (Bevis Frond) Saloman’s label Woronzow and received some good reviews, with the band enjoying tours in the US, Germany and Spain.
At the tail end of 2005, Al started recording songs for what would end up being ‘The Sound of Meat’ using the same home recording set up – drums first, then layering the other instruments one by one on top. Around the same time, future Schnauser member John Fowle recorded drums for 5 tracks during occasional visits to Weymouth which were subsequently layered up by Al when time would allow.
During mid 2006, Al started playing open-mic nights in Weymouth performing the Schnauser material solo on 12-string acoustic guitar, often sweating profusely through nerves in front of the bemused audience members used to hearing covers. Acoustic renditions of ‘Moron’ eventually became regular occurances alongside ‘Kill all humans’, ‘There’s a fist’. ‘Nobody loves me’ and the occasional Big Star or Shins cover.
Al got together with Holly in June 2007, their first collaboration being the song and video ‘Quiches & Flans & Bottles & Bags’, with Holly joining Al at open-mic nights and the occasional duo gig in Weymouth. Holly also added bass to ‘Nobody Loves Me’ around this time, although the album went unfinished for several years.
Much of ‘The Missing Link’ was recorded over the next year or so whilst Al was living in the backwoods hamlet of Langton Herring in darkest Dorset, next door to a moneyed sociopath who would eventually inspire the lyrics for ‘Hangdog’. Again, recording most of the instruments himself, these tracks were meant for inclusion on what would be ‘The Sound of Meat’, but ended up being set aside until later.
Al & Holly moved to Bristol in September 2008 to house-sit for drummer John while he was away in Ghana for six months. On John’s return in 2009 and newly invigorated by the thriving live music scene in Bristol, Al, Holly and John developed their live set. Over the coming two years, they played gigs around Bristol, supporting Ariel Pink, The Zombies, Real Estate, Jonny and Blitzen Trapper. Other local shows with great Bristol bands from included Arthur Duke, Dusty Cut, Billy Whizz, and Hi-Fiction Science.
Towards the end of 2009, Al spent a good deal of time finishing and remixing ‘The Sound of Meat’ material ready for release on the Pink Hedgehog label, one of the highlights being the discovery of a backing vocal recorded by his late friend Rick Hammond on ‘Homeless’ which was reinstated to the mix. Rob Williams did a brilliant job on the mastering and along with James Holland’s inspired arwork, the album was finally complete and released on CD in Sept 2010. The album had a bunch of nice reviews, the highlight being Stewart Lee’s Sunday Times write up, which despite being slightly non-commital, was nonetheless written by one of the finest comedians in the UK.
The band continued to play around Bristol promoting the album, and worked on new material which now reflected the sound of the band, the new songs sounding more focused and showcasing Holly’s fluid melodic bass playing alongside John’s crisp driving drum style.
At an odd but fun Bristol gig supporting Euros Childs and Norman Blake (as Jonny) in Feb 2011, Duncan Gammon introduced himself to the band, eventually sending through a link to his brilliant and eccentirc solo album, ‘Lord Gammonshire’s Guide to Everyday Sounds’ which reflected very similar influences to Schnauser’s.
After some badgering and protestations that he wasn’t a keyboard player, Al persuaded Duncan to join the band on keyboards. After some teething problems involving computers which were thusly ditched in favour of analogue gear, the band developed their current sound when Duncan adopted a Jumbo Gem organ from Al and bought a matching Traynor Guitar Mate amp to play it through.
The semi-completed album, was then finished off during 2012 as Duncan added a myriad of melodies to the recorded songs, and new material was rehearsed and developed at gigs which then completed the line-up of songs for ‘Where business meets fashion’.
A ream of highly enjoyable gigs around Bristol & Bath followed, supporting the likes of The Lovely Eggs and Cud and meeting new bands/friends like Empty Pools, Glis Glis and the Goan Dogs along the way, and establishing a new, more individual sound for Schnauser.
September 2012 saw the departure of John due to family and work commitments, meaning his final gig was at the brilliant Figure 8 festival in Dorset. However, the breach was fortuitously filled only a couple of months later by drummer Jasper Williams, who had recently impressed Al, Holly and Duncan in his previous band ‘Chronological Rocks’ who split around the same time John departed the fold. Jasper called to offer his services and his instant grasp of the material on first run through was enough to seal the deal.
Thusly, the newly invogorated Schnauser have been writing and rehearsing new material which retains the melodic sensibilities whilst throwing in more odd time changes in looser and more improvised arrangements.
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Watch Eric Clapton tear through Prince’s “Purple Rain” for just the second time ever as part of the encore from his third and final 2019 Royal Albert Hall concert in London.