He's a bad man ... 

But you can call him Bob

Austin-based rocker Bob Schneider can make you like types of music you might otherwise never consider. Don't believe it? Go to one of his shows and watch him weave in and out of genres with deft fluidity. He'll have you nodding your head while he plays mambo king, leads a polka, knee slaps some bluegrass, hammers out some power chords and stomps some big beat hip-hop. Schneider plays different styles of music with such conviction, you'll wonder if you are still listening to the same guy.

Of all the genres, Schneider says his heart lies most with hip-hop. "If I had to listen to only one genre of music, it would be hip-hop," says Schneider. "The only real rock stars in the past 10 years have been hip-hop ... some of the best writers in the last decade have been hip-hop. I'd much rather listen to [bad] hip-hop than [bad] country." Schneider has taken bits of the hip-hop approach to live shows and in turn, become very efficient at moving a crowd. "I feel very comfortable onstage," he says. "Offstage, I usually feel uncomfortable." The secret to both Schneider's stage swagger and his musical talents can be found in his upbringing.

Schneider was born in Ypsilanti, Michigan. Shortly after his birth, his dad, Bob Schneider Sr., decided to move the family to Munich, Germany, so he could study opera. An ardent musician, the elder Schneider led the choir of Oompah Loompahs in the original Willy Wonka and Chocolate Factory. He also moonlighted by playing pub gigs. Cast in the shadow of this musical renaissance man, and it wasn't long before Bob Jr. ditched his Legos and began following in his dad's footsteps.

At around age 10, he started learning the guitar. Shortly thereafter, Schneider started writing songs. His parents approved. They would often wake up their son late at night to entertain friends at the house. A few years later, Schneider would put on his leisure suit and join his father on stage. After gaining his stage legs with his dad and playing with a few of his own bands, Schneider took a long plane ride to Texas to pursue an art degree at the University of Texas at El Paso (Schneider is also an accomplished visual artist). At art school, Schneider had the realization that living his life and creating art was going to make him an artist--an art degree had little to do with it. And so, with the undeniable desire to make art and music his day job, he moved to Austin.

In Austin, Schneider surrounded himself with like-minded artists and musicians and led a number of bands through the labyrinth of local nightclubs. He also began compiling a dizzying number of original songs. Schneider says that he's written 1,000 documented songs and there are probably 500 or more currently missing. Missing? "Well, I didn't write them down, so after I performed one of those songs a few times, it would just disappear," he says laughing.

It wasn't long before Schneider gained a reputation as a charming, intense and talented bandleader. Although sometimes noted for his raunchiness, he didn't really care who he offended. Soon, he became part of the quasi jam-band The Ugly Americans, who produced two major label releases and opened for the Dave Matthews Band. During his tenure with The Ugly Americans, Schneider also channeled his creative energies into the bawdy band The Scabs, an Austin-only outfit. Schneider tried taking them on the road once. The tour didn't even last a month. Within three weeks, there was a broken arm, numerous visits from the police and, according to Schneider, "there was a grand theft incident that luckily the police didn't find out about." After a few years, Schneider hammered the coffin of The Ugly Americans closed, grew up and went solo.

Schneider's first major label solo release, Lonelyland, sold over 15,000 copies at one Austin record store. Schneider claims it was partly because it was only stocked at that one store--he was too lazy to try to get it stocked anywhere else. With Lonelyland, listeners were offered a glimpse into Schneider's varied musical heart. "My main influences are writers like Tom Waits, Randy Newman, Chuck D. and Run DMC," says Schneider.

For his next release, Schneider enlisted the help of his guitar player, Billy Harvey, on production. The resulting 2004 release, I'm Good Now, garnered Schneider even more recognition--both the country-tinged title track and the song "Come with Me" received national radio play. Schneider has said that the album's name was not about him "cleaning up his act," but instead referred to being dead. "[I'm Good Now] took a long time to make. I recorded a bunch of demos in my room on ProTools, and then Billy and I worked on those songs for a full six months. By the time the record was done, I hated it because we had spent too much time on it. I can listen to it now, though. I like it." I'm Good Now, like its predecessor, is a verbose, genre-checking record.

"I write songs because it is fun ... like painting or sculpture," said Schneider. "None of my songs are autobiographical." When asked about his new album, The Californian, says he decided to stay out of the studio as much as possible. "We basically recorded the album live in the studio in two days [with] another two days for overdubs, and then I had someone else mix it," Schneider says. The result is an album with a serious backcountry strut sound--much closer to his live show, which is where Schneider really shines.

Asked who he looks up to when it comes to playing live, he says, "Nobody rocks the house like Springsteen. I don't think anyone can charge up a crowd like him. Maybe Neil Diamond; maybe Queen, but only in England. They're all neck and neck for rocking the house the hardest. If they were in a race, it'd be photo finish."

With his hip-hop love intact, Schneider would also be a welcome contender in the aforementioned race.

Bob Schneider with the Supervapors: Sunday, November 12, 8 p.m., $15, The Big Easy, 416 S. 9th St., 367-1212.

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