Totally Nude Island: An Interview with Fred Schneider
After the B-52's passed on a holiday album several times over, Fred Schneider took matters into his own hands, recording an album with his new group, the Superions. Schneider opines recording an EP in a bathroom, wondered who the Flight of the Conchords are, and worked to dispel rumors that he threw a ham at Paula Deen.
Fred Schneider of the legendary B-52's is ready to turn the niche market of holiday music on its ear with his band the Superions and their new album of originals called Destination...Christmas!, out now on Fanatic Records. Mahalia Jackson it ain't, so don't come, all ye too-faithful, if you aren't into Santa getting his freak on ("Santa Je T'aime") or sexy yuletide shenanigans ("Under the Tree"). Fellow lounge-lizard bandmates Noah Brodie and Dan Marshall help bring Schneider’s instantly recognizable brand of kooky, danceable rock to the yuletide season. With songs about cryptozoological critters, fruitcake and various and sundry things in between, it’s just the cure for the standard holiday fare of elevator music and Silent Night on a seemingly endless loop.
PopMatters’ Jennifer Cooke chatted with Schneider about the creative process behind the future soundtrack to your office Christmas party, not throwing a ham a Paula Deen, and what advantages ProTools has over recording in your bathroom...
So how did you hook up with Noah and Dan for your Superions project?
Well, I've known them for about ten years now -- they're record-nut friends with me. And one day they came up with some music, because I had turned them on to lounge music, like Martin Denny and Esquivel. I jammed on the music they had, and we came up with "Totally Nude Island". We did a couple more songs just for the fun of it, and people heard it and said "That sounds great, why don't you put it out?" So we did, and it's gotten a lot of attention on YouTube. I had an idea for a Christmas record, so we did a Christmas record.
I know you've always talked about, even going back years with B-52's, how Christmas music and holiday music was a big influence on you. How did you get so into Christmas?
I collect Christmas records, and I had all these Christmas ideas. The B's passed on doing a Christmas record several times. I had all these ideas, and now that I have the B's and I have this side project that I'm putting a lot of work into, it just worked out great. I wanted it to sound sort of modern and retro, and with subject matter that touches on Christmas -- but not your traditional Christmas.
I'll say! It's a pretty freaky-deaky Christmas record!
Oh yeah, totally!
I think I wanna have a Christmas party this year just specifically so I can play it, because I want everyone to hear it. But we've got a while before it comes out.
Well, I was thinking of "Fruitcake.” I mean, I can make fruitcake year-round, and that's the first single, that comes out this month. I'm still thinking of the old school, like vinyl, and I wouldn't think of putting a Christmas record out in September -- but that's what they do, so that's what we're doing.
Yes, its like fashion--you buy bikinis when it's freezing out, then you're supposed to bust out your fur coat, and it's still hot!
Your fun-fur coat.
Yes, of course, fun fur, faux fur. I was watching your video for "Who Threw That Ham at Me?" the other day, and I know you must have seen a million times the video of Paula Deen, when someone actually did throw a ham at her?
Oh yeah, yeah, a friend sent it to me right away -- he thought I threw it. But no, I didn't do it.
I thought that was hilarious.
I know, and that happened the day after the song came out!
Another thing I thought of when I was listening to the record was Flight of the Conchords. I was wondering what you think of those guys?
I've never seen it.
No, I'm not a big TV guy.
And you've never heard their records?
Wow, because I think they really owe a lot to you, they have very heavy B-52's influences and I think even Fred Schneider influences in particular. Have the Superions considered just running with this holiday idea? You could do Easter, for example.
Well, we already have plans for a Thanksgiving record ... or, I mean Halloween. We're going to do a Halloween record.
You could easily do a Thanksgiving one too!
[Laughs] Yeah -- we're gonna try to do as much as we can. We're having a great time.
Are you guys going to tour?
Um ... we will tour when we have a regular record out. We'll be doing that actually next year, early.
And I have to applaud your use of the Snuggie -- thank you for keeping the Snuggie Spirit alive, I love those and I give them as gifts every Christmas!
Those are so funny, they make you look like you're as big as a house ... next we'll be doing glamour portraits so we can put them all over the house.
You should do one of those with your face in a brandy snifter, with a big red rose.
I'm gonna Photoshop myself in a brandy snifter ... or Photoshop myself onto ... you know ... somebody handsome! Someone said "Well why would you want to make yourself look like that?" But we're just having fun with it. It's a fun album, you know.
Exactly. It wouldn't make any sense to put out such a fun record and then have super-serious artwork or videos or whatever to go along with it. Well, I would be remiss, for your fans, if I didn't ask about B-52's. What's the status with you guys?
Still together, and we have tours booked, just booked the next one. So, into next year.
Because you have one of the most recognizable voices around, I’m curious - when you just call, like, to order a pizza, do people know it's you just by your voice?
Sometimes ... on the phone or when I'm out, they say "I thought that was you!" And I'm just going, "Were you listening in on my conversation?"
I would think so, because it's such a distinctive voice.
Yeah, that and my style of writing. I wrote all the lyrics for the record. In fact we did the whole thing in 11 days, just working on a total budget, we just did whatever we could put into it. We were in the house, and we put a microphone in the hall, which had a great echo to it.
That sounds like such a cool way to do it. It's not overthinking, it's just spontaneous and creative.
Its not like other bands today where you come down and the give you ProTools. All we did was get our microphone and look for where we could find the best sound. For the first EP, that recording, the bathroom had great acoustics.
Yes, the bathroom! That's what people have told me, that there is something about that small space, with the tiles, that gives it a great sound.
It was the tiles actually and the bathtub, the way its shaped, it sort of echoes.