After 25 years, the band moe. hasn’t shown any sign of fatigue. The group has been through it all together, yet continues to remain true to their roots in the purest of fashions. In this exclusive interview the band’s guitarist, Al Schnier, talks about celebrating 25 years of moe. as well as a few thoughts about what’s on the horizon. The mayor of moe.down, Rex Thomson, sat down with Schnier for an extensive conversation.

Read on for this exclusive with al.!

L4LM:  What does moe. mean to you?

Al Schnier:  Oh my goodness.  What does it mean to me?  Geez.  It’s so many things, but I guess what I really think about, the prevailing thing I think  about when I think about moe. is really family.  There’s the guys in the band, first and foremost.  I think it’s pretty clear to everyone and anyone that we’re like brothers.  We have a pretty tight-knit organization, between the band, the crew and our actual families.  It’s a pretty big family, and once you start extending it out to our friends and fans, the lines get pretty blurred.  I feel pretty lucky to be a part of something like this, and to have been part of it for twenty-five years.  It’s kinda awesome.  But that’s the thing that I think stands out above all else.  

L4LM:  When all this started, did the concept of being together with the band for twenty five years even enter your head?

AS:  Absolutely!  That was my prime directive!  I said, “If we’re gonna do this, it needs to be for twenty five years and there needs to be hundreds and hundreds of people involved.  It needs to be a close-knit group, and it needs to be very much like a cult.  And if we can, we should all live in a compound together and Rob (Derhak) should be our leader.”  (Laughs)

L4LM: I’m already in that cult. 

AS:  (Chuckles)  No, I mean, honestly, no.  In the beginning, it was just “Sell enough tickets so we would get asked back again.”  And get free beer.  And hopefully buy better equipment.  That was about the extent of it.  We just wanted to keep doing it.  And maybe get to the point where we could play on Friday and Saturday nights, because we were good enough.  

L4LM:  So, Rob, Chuck (Garvey) and yourself have been writing songs for each other to play for more than two decades now.  How much of a factor are their articular playing styles a factor in your personal writing process?

AS:  Hmmm.  I don’t think about it consciously while I am writing.  It’s not like Frank Zappa would compose something specifically for Steve Vai to play.   He wrote stuff that he knew Steve Vai could play, but not FOR him to play.  He wrote stuff that Terry Bozio could play, and someone else could as well.  It’s not like I think “Oh, this will be great for Rob to play or sing.”  It’s more like just writing songs that sound good…and because of the players it sounds like moe.  Certainly, when I write songs, they sound like moe. in my head, and in practice, because of the way everybody plays, because of every one’s personalities. 

 But I know who I want to sing with me, I know how I want Vinnie (Amico) to approach something, or whether or not I want Chuck to play harmony on something or whether I want him to take the lead, or maybe I should take the lead, depending on the kind of song we’re doing.   Short of that, I wouldn’t say I am writing specific parts for specific people.   As the songs present themselves to me as a writer, it’s weird.  As the songs unfold I start to realize “Oh…this will be great right here, this would be great right there.” They come together all at the same time.  It’s like a natural evolutionary process.  I certainly wouldn’t be writing songs for moe. if I wasn’t in moe. for twenty-five years.

L4LM:  You hit on a wide range of topics and emotions in your songs, particularly one I feel is under-utilized by bands, specifically humor.  Do you seek to write to these topics, or does that just come naturally to you?

AS:  I dunno.  I guess maybe it just comes naturally.  I don’t think I’ve written a funny song, at least consciously, in a long long time.  I probably take myself too serious, ever since…oh…ever since I’ve grown up.  Certainly when we were much younger we tended to write a whole bunch of silly songs.   I would say that Rob certainly writes a lot more whimsical songs than I do.  Nothing we ever write is ever gonna approach the humor and absurdity of other bands, like Ween or Phish or Frank Zappa or even Primus, y’know?  There’s so many bands out there with crazy stories and characters in their songs.  A lot of the stuff that we write is pretty down to Earth at the end of the day, but I think we all have a pretty good sense of humor as well.

L4LM:  How much control do you have over your writing process?  Can you set out to write about a topic, or do you tend to let the thought go where it wants?

AS:  It goes all different ways.  There’ll be times when I may write down a particular phrase that I like, and say “I’m gonna get back to that idea.”  Other times I’ll just have an idea or a subject matter that I wanna write about or a subject matter that I wanna touch on.  Sometimes I’ll set about specifically to write about a certain thing.  Other times it’ll be a series of words that flow and I like them…just so many different ways that I write songs.  

Sometimes, though, there’s a specific thing that I need to get off my chest, there’s a story that I want to tell, there’s a thing, there’s an emotion that I need to convey throughout the course of this song.  I’ve written a lot of very personal songs.  Over the last several years, I’ve made a concerted effort to stop writing about myself, and to try and write about other things.  That’s been a really good exercise for me.  And for the first time ever, I have a surplus of lyrics.  I have pages and pages of unfinished songs.  It’s always been the case that I have enough music, but never enough songs to go with it.  Now the opposite is true.   It feels good.  It feels like I have this huge windfall of cash in a savings account I just found.  The music has always seemed to come much more readily than the lyrics, at least it used to…and I feel pretty good about that.

L4LM: Another thing that seems to set moe. apart is the variety of voices, both in song-writing and the actual singing.  Do you feel like ever struggle to keep a coherent band-identity or is it just anything you do is moe.?

AS:  I think everything is fair game.  I think, at the end of the day, it’s really hard to say what you can say belongs to a particular artist.  If I write a song, or if I paint a picture, for example, does it make a difference if I do it in watercolors, or oils, or silk screen something?  At the end of the day it’s me expressing myself.  There should be some essence of Al Schnier that comes through and ties it together somehow.  And the same should be true of my lyrics or my guitar playing…it should be an art of a whole.  Like that case in the eighties when (Record label) Geffen tried to sue Neil Young for making records that didn’t sound like Neil Young records.  They claimed they didn’t sound like Neil Young.  At the end of the day, they were thrown out of court.  How the hell can Neil Young make a record that isn’t a Neil Young record?  He’s Neil Young!  granted, he made a rockabilly record, he made a synth pop record…they didn’t sound like “Harvest.”  But they’re still Neil young records…he just broadened the palette of what could be considered Neil Young at that point. 

L4LM:  Neil’s on record as saying that one noise record he wrote was just to piss off his record label. 

AS:  Which one was that?  There’s like “Landing On Water,” with the Hot Pinks and The Blue Notes…the whole era where everyone sorta had a different theme or approach to it.  None of them were really terribly good, unfortunately.  (Chuckles)  I’m a BIG Neil Young fan, and those were probably good exercises for him, but none of them were really that great, unfortunately.  I don’t fault him for tryin’!  The Hot Pinks was a cool Band and The Blue Notes was a cool band, but I just don’t think the records he made with those bands was very good.  But hell, he’s Neil Young!  He can do anything he wants.  I would rather he do that than go out and try to retread all the old songs and chords that he’s already done. 

L4LM:  Artists should always be trying to progress.

AS:  I should think so.  Aren’t we always searching or striving to do something, to create something new?  If not, then you get relegated to state fairs and casinos and playing the oldies.

L4LM:  That’s gonna come back to haunt you in twenty years when moe. is playing state fairs and casinos.

AS:   You know what…fair enough!  There’s something to be said for that as well.  Those bands are out there, experiencing the joy of performing.  Maybe they aren’t growing as musicians but they’re out there as performing musicians, as opposed to…golf I guess, right?  They’re out there playing music, so good for them.   

L4LM:  You play guitar in a band heavily known for improvisation.  How hard is it to come up with a new way to say things musically every night?

AS:  It’s harder than you would think.  You’d think it would be easy to say “Just open up your heart and your mind and say whatever you want!”  It’s not as easy as you would think because you still want it to sound good.    You still want to, I don’t necessarily say impress everybody, but you want it to be enough of a redeeming quality to it that the people can say “That was valuable, that was worth my money.”  The show isn’t time for me to be self-indulgent and explore at the cost of everybody else in the room.  Yet at the same time, and this is the irony of the situation, that’s exactly what that time is for, what everybody is there for.  There’s a fine line of balancing that control, reigning yourself in, and being wild and careless at the same time.  It’s hard to know when to play it safe and when to just go for it. 

There’s a tendency, in what we do, to falter on either side of the line and it’s really, really tricky.  I don’t know…what…what I’m supposed to be doing.  (Laughs)  I feel lucky when we get it right.  There are those times when we happen to be exploring beyond the boundaries of what we normally do and we land on something really cool.  Often this will happen within the context of a particular solo that we do.  Usually, I find those things happen in the segues in between songs when we start getting into that uncharted territory.   Not so much in the context of a song itself, because that seems a little bit safer and the guys tend to stay in their safety zones, and we’re not as likely to go into different spaces.  But in between songs, we aren’t all necessarily going from Point A to Point B at the same time.  In that space, when there isn’t a defined trail…that’s when things get interesting.  We have had a lot of really great jams in those segue ways and that’s the stuff that I love.  Those are the times that I’m willing to go out on a limb and take some chances.  Do I want to fuck up the solo in “Plane Crash“?  Not so much, because “Plane Crash” is “Plane Crash”.   Not that it isn’t exciting if it takes a left turn and becomes something else, but at the same time if we do a forty-five-minute version of “Plane Crash” with a spoken word piece and interpretive dance, it’s not gonna be great for everybody in the room.  It might be fun, that one time, kinda, sorta, but it might also derail that song.  But, the space in-between “Plane Crash” and some other song…That’s a time when we might end up playing something really wild that we haven’t done before that who knows, could wind up being it’s own song someday.  that’s the stuff that I love.

L4LM:  Now your fans are going to want a forty-five minute “Plane Crash”…

AS:  (Laughs)  I’ve thrown out this idea where I wanted the five of us, all five members of moe. to start a side project where all we would do is play segues.  It’d be as if we were playing the transitions between our songs without actually playing the songs themselves, and we could do this whole night of jams that would normally be between our songs.   The five of us, playing all improv, all the time…just doing jams.  I can’t get everybody to commit to it.  I’m like “C’mon, no homework, nothing to do, we just go out and we play.”  I’m not talking about just playing crazy random noise…we’ll play stuff, like we do…but I can’t get everybody on board with it. 

L4LM:  Well…bringing it up in an interview like this might be a way to force the situation…

AS:  (Laughs) Spread the word!

L4LM:  Earlier this year you got to play one of Jerry (Garcia’s) guitars.  Did it make you nervous, holding a piece of history in your hands? 

AS:  Yeah, of course I was.  About this time last year I got to hold Wolf for the first time, and that was the same thing.  I was sorta cryin’ while I was holding that guitar.  I wasn’t expecting the Travis Bean to be at our show.  The funny thing was Preston Hoffman, our lighting designer, told me maybe a month before “I’ve got something for you that I’m gonna have at the Denver show.”   And I said “Okay, cool!”  The last time he said that, he showed up with a pair of socks for me.  (Laughs)  And they’re great socks, he got me these really great wool socks.  He found these socks that he loved and he bought them for everybody in the band…it was a really nice gesture.  So I’m thinking to myself “…Maybe it’s underwear this time…”  (Laughs) 

So a month had gone by, and I had completely forgotten about it and I show up and the Travis Bean is sitting onstage and I’m thinking “Oh! That’s what you were talking about!”  I knew that he knew the guy, we had talked about it.  I didn’t know what the deal was with it.  I didn’t know how long it was gonna be there.  I thought maybe just for the sound check…whatever.  Then I found out it was gonna be there the whole weekend and I was gonna get to play it as much as I wanted…that was awesome.  That guitar happened to be my favorite guitar of Jerry’s. 

L4LM:  Well that worked out well…but were you a little disappointed at the lack of underwear?

AS:  (Laughs)  I brought my own underwear.

L4LM:  Sounds like you might have needed to change it after playing the Travis Bean.  How many guitars do you own?

AS:  These days, to be honest, I’ve gotten rid of most of my guitars.  In the last year or two I’ve purged most of my musical equipment.  I still own all my studio gear, but I got rid of most of my guitars and amps.  I kept a good selection of effects pedals and a few guitars and amps…when I say that I have twenty guitars and twenty amps at this point, but that’s down very considerably from what I used to own.

L4LM:  Seems like a good money maker to me…”As played by Al guitars!”

AS:  Over the last twenty years I’ve bought and sold a lot of guitars online, and frequented guitar shops we have good relationships with, and I’ve never tried to use my name, or moe.’s celebrity to add value to them.  It just seems kinda unethical to me, somehow.  I spent a lot of time on the guitar forums online, and people just knew me as one of the guys who bought and sold a lot of stuff online.  Every now and then there’ll be a moe. fan who’ll send me a private message on the side, but for the most part I’m just another guy.

L4LM:  In holding one of Jerry’s guitars, did it register to you that there are people out there who would have the same reaction to holding one of your guitars?

AS:  No.  (Laughs)  No, not at all.  There may be a fan who says something like that to me, I really appreciate that, like, maybe our music has gotten them through a hard time or they’ve learned a lot of our songs and they appreciate our music.  But at the same time I can’t help but think, and it’s a compliment and I really appreciate it and I’m flattered, but at the same time there’s just no way it means as much to them as Jerry’s playing meant to me.  (Laughs)  And if it does then they just need to spend more time listening to Jerry Garcia play and they’ll see the folly of their ways.  I don’t mean to sound so self-deprecating, but I just can’t accept that anyone would hold us in the same regard that those players are to me.

L4LM:  That humility is a fine trait, but you know, somewhere in you, that there are folks out there whose lives you have impacted pretty importantly.

AS:  Certainly I know that.  The folks who have seen us a hundred times…spending their vacations with us…and they DO want to have our guitars and they’re putting tattoos on their bodies…naming their dogs and children after us, and our songs.  It obviously means a lot to them.  I get that, and I think it’s incredible.  That just goes back to that notion of this whole thing being one big giant family.  I love that.  If nothing else, the greatest thing we’ve done is bring people together.  I just can’t help but feel we’re a small part of something much, much bigger. 

L4LM:  This anniversary year has seen a change in your touring method.  You’ve been playing a couple of shows per city, often adding a smaller, more intimate venue in as a bonus for the folks seeing both shows.  What was the thinking behind that?

AS:  We wanted to do something different for the twenty-fifth anniversary and rather than go out and do the same old tour that we’ve been doing forever, we kinda wanted to pinpoint these areas, these regions where we could just plop down these events and say “Okay, let’s just all get together and just rage a weekend in one city.”  Kinda do it in these single destinations rather than these one night stands.

We just thought it would be a nicer approach for us, and for our fans too. It was a nicer, more communal way to spend the twenty-fifth.  We realized that over the last fifteen years we were playing the same venues.  We might go up a little or down a little.  It’s kinda unique.  I’m really grateful for that.  It’s rare for someone to hold onto the same job for twenty-five years, let alone in the music industry and be able to sustain it as long as we have.  It’s kind of incredible, and it’s something we’ve remarked on. 

If you look at a city like, say, Atlanta, we’ve played the Tabernacle for about fifteen years, and we’re gonna go back and play the Tabernacle again.  We’ve played the 9:30 Club in DC for fifteen years.  We’ve played most of the same venues in New York City for the last fifteen years.  Sure, we bounce around a little bit and some of the names of the venues have changed but we’ve been playing the same places for fifteen years and it’s kind of awesome…it’s kinda scary, but it’s awesome at the same time. This way, we play three nights in the same place, and you can just come up and hang out.  The fans seem to be embracing it as well.  I love the atmosphere, I love being able to fly into a city then not having to travel for three days.  We have Friday afternoon, Saturday afternoon off.  We can just hang out…it’s the fall…we can watch college football, explore the city…I can go running.  It’s been awesome so far, and I’m looking forward to continuing this run.  

L4LM:  So you’re doing your Tropical Throe.down again this year.  Why on Earth do you think people would want to see concerts on a beach in Jamaica in the middle of winter?

AS:  Yeah, we still can’t quite figure that one out.  Doesn’t seem like that good an idea to me.  (Chuckles)   I don’t know why anyone would wanna do something like that…go see one of their favorite bands, hang out on the beach all day and not have to do anything else.  Sounds horrible.  (Chuckles)  The thing about doing the resorts is, you don’t HAVE to do anything.  There’s the beach, and you can just go and lay at the beach.  There’s a show that night, and you don’t even have to do that.  But it’s just nice and easy.  There’s really no schedule, and it’s nice.  We like that, that pace and that atmosphere.  

L4LM:  So would you consider doing another cruise, like maybe doing Jam Cruise again?

AS:  Oh totally. I love Jam Cruise, and I would go every year if I was invited to go.  But I’m also a big fan of the beach. I would go to the beach anytime, anywhere. 

L4LM:  Kids grow up of winning the big game, saving folks from fires and being rock stars.  Did you dream of being onstage in front of a massive crowd, wailing on a guitar when you were a kid?

AS:  Sure!  Who didn’t?  As a kid, I totally did.  I had a tennis racket, and I had a makeshift guitar pic.  I remember listening to “Kiss Alive II” and pretending I was Ace Frehley, playing my tennis racket.  I didn’t have the tennis racket backwards, but I played it backwards.  I used to think the high notes were further up the neck…I had it backwards.  I used to play all the guitar parts.  I played air guitar all the time, but, y’know, I was ten.  Of course I dreamed about that stuff, but I didn’t think it was something people actually did. 

My parents wanted me to be a lawyer, or a doctor, or an architect because I was good at math.  They expected me to stay in school, and do something respectable.  Until I was playing moe. for a couple years, full time, for a couple of years, I didn’t think playing music as a career was an option.  Playing in moe. was just something I did.  I’ve been playing in bands ever since I was a teenager.  When I was thirteen I started playing in my first band, and since then I’ve ALWAYS played in a band, throughout high school, college and starting up with moe.  It was just something we did, kinda like some people bowl…I played in bands.  It was just a thing we did…and every now and then we got together and played a house party.  It wasn’t career, at least it wasn’t supposed to be…and then it was!

L4LM:  Besides your incredible fret board dexterity, you’ve shown a lot of regular dexterity.  You run, and climb and jump around the stage…do you see yourself as the band’s hype man?

AS:  (Laughs)  No, not at all.  But I do feel an obligation to not just stand there.  Part of it comes from seeing other musicians, from seeing other entertainers, and it might be from something as simple as seeing someone like Del (McCoury). Del is one of the greatest entertainers ever.  I’ve had conversations with him about this.  It’s as simple as him putting on his suit and a smile for the audience…a positive attitude and delivering somehow.  It’s not like he’s running around the stage, doing something crazy high energy, but he certainly brings a lot of energy to the stage, and it’s very positive and upbeat.  There’s just something about what he does. He’s very upbeat as an entertainer…a very commanding performer. There’s something to that.  He’s mentioned to me about feeling he has a sense of obligation to the audience, about how they spent their hard earned money. They could have spent it on other things, but they spent it to come hear him play, and he felt that, as an entertainer, that was his job, his duty to show up and do something more than just stand there.  He wants to elevate the crowd, to do something more and the least he could do was dress up, put on a smile and entertain the people there. 

Then you take that to the next level, and you have people like Bruce Springsteen, who is at least ten years older than me, and he’s running around on the stage for three hours straight, and is an amazing performer.  He does that thing that Del does, he takes it to the next level.  I can name them over and over, even in our scene with people like Michael Franti…even Bobby (Weir) does it to some extent.  The “Fare Thee Well” shows were great.  Bobby became this really energized lead singer again, and it was great to see because I hadn’t seen him so animated in that role in a long time.  There’s just something about that, a difference between that and a guy that’s just staring at his feet the whole time.

It’s one thing to go see Pink Floyd and all these people are staring at their feet…at least the light show is exceptional, so that takes you to another place, and they certainly put on a great show, but the musicians themselves weren’t entertaining, they weren’t doing anything like that.  I don’t know…there’s a fine line there too, because you don’t wanna be a total cheeseball.  The other part is…that’s the stuff I grew up with.  I grew up watching Van Halen.  I love that stuff!  (Laughs)  I don’t see any reason why you can’t have that in the jam band world.  We’re playing rock music, I’m inspired by what we do, and y’know what?  I am a skier, I do run around I do jump…whatever.  So if a certain part of the song comes up and I wanna jump around, I wanna climb up on a speaker, then it’s awesome!  Whatever! It’s part of the reason I was playing my tennis racket when I was ten years old in the first place.   I may be forty seven years old now, but a big part of me is still ten years old and I think part of it is still really enjoyable to the audience.  

L4LM:  I know photographers love your energy.  Jay Blakesberg gave you a shout out in the interview we did with him basically saying shooting you running around was a blast.

AS:  It’s more about the song, the moment.  I look around and go “There’s a thing. I’d like to go and jump off that thing!”  I like to go visit Vinnie, so I’ll climb up on my amp or his drum riser.  I like to go over and rock out with Chuck.  I got a longer guitar cable just so I could go over to his side of the stage.  I wanna be able to move around.  I’m not ready to go to a wireless thing because they don’t sound as good, but if they did, I would totally switch. 

Check out our conversation with Jay Blakesberg

L4LM:  You ever pulled a muscle during one of these shows?

AS:  Like a tendon or something?  No, but I worry about that. I’m not as young as I used to be, and I know the band’s well being is at stake when I am running around like that.  So I don’t wanna jump off anything to high or climb on anything too risky…those are the same thoughts that cross my mind when I am skiing too.  “Am I skiing too fast?  Am I going down something too steep?  Do I really need to jump off of this thing?”  (Chuckles)  I have a job, and I have obligations, not just to my family but to the four other guys in my band and our whole crew and everybody.  I can’t break a wrist.  No, I need to take care of myself, and put some kind of limits on what I do.   I’m fine, I get to explore a lot of fun slopes, but I stay mindful of my obligations.  I’m also a ski patroler, so I have obligations there too.  There’s just too much on the line for me to roll my ankle jumping off a speaker stack.  I need to be careful.  I gotta stick the landing.

L4LM:  You’re also an avid long distance runner.  Do you think about music while you run?

AS:  All the time.  I never run with music.  I don’t run with an iPod, I don’t run with ear buds.  The one time I did, most recently, was in D.C.  I was on my own, and I was expecting a phone call, and it was an important call, so I brought my phone with me, and I figured I would just listen to some music.  I rarely ever do it, like, once every four years I’ll run with some music…that’s how infrequently it is.  And it happened to be the day that the Pope was speaking to the Capitol and appeared on the Capitol steps. I actually ran down the mall and saw him there as he drove by me and it was surreal. 

It was great to be running down the mall and listening to The Band.  I had all these great Americana songs playing while I running, and on the way back I was listening to The Talking Heads, and it was the same thing, it was great listening to that music while running through this living landscape.  I loved it and I can sorta get why people run with music.  Most of the time, I run with my own songs in my head.  I’ve written a bunch of my songs while running…a lot of it comes from the rhythm of my footsteps or a melody that’ll be in my head.  I can work on lyrics or whatever…it’s a great process for me.  There’s so much music in my life that getting out and running in some kind of solitude, some kind of quiet…it’s just good for me to get out and hear some of what’s going on outside.  It’s a god way to get a break from the sounds that tend to be pretty prevalent in my day to day life.   

L4LM:  Floodwood recently dropped a lil bit of a bombshell recently, announcing you and Zach would be leaving the band.  What can you tell us about that decision?

AS:  Floodwood was something that Jay (Barady) had talked about for a long time.  Jay was kinda pushing me to do it, and I had said “I really just don’t have the time right now.”  I had started that group Empire Of Sound, and that had begun as just a one off, and it was gonna be this instrumental funk group that I was putting together and it all came to a head right around the time my father passed away.  The timing couldn’t have been worse.  We had just put the single together and members were in flux and we were supposed to play moe.down the first year Floodwood ended up playing. 

Somebody had double booked something, and I was like “Y’know what?  Let’s do Floodwood now.” moe.down is gonna be our first gig, let’s do it.  I didn’t know if we would ever play again, but the gig went great.  And just at that moment I had a little more time to spare, so I wanted to pursue it.  I started to work towards that, and to try and get more time to pursue it, but I found I really wasn’t getting any more time.  We thought moe. would be working a lil bit less, that was something we had discussed, but it turns out we weren’t really working any less.  We were spreading our time out more, but we were working about the same amount as before. We ended up being really busy with a record coming out and the twenty-fifth anniversary, and there’s not gonna really be any break coming next year.  Stuff just keeps coming up.  We’re doing European tours, we went to Japan…stuff just keeps coming up. 

I was getting frustrated trying to book Floodwood at the same time, and finally I just got to the point where I had to keep saying “No” to Floodwood.  Some of the guys in the band were wanting to play more, and the band has gotten to the point where it really needs to play more.  We’d established it…we put out a live record and a studio record and were starting to get some airplay on Sirius’s Jam On station…we were building a buzz.  I felt like I was the one holding us back.  Those guys were doing a lot of solo gigs, and I told them, “You guys just need to do Floodwood without me.”  I said it to them nine months ago, and they said no.  When I said it to them three months ago they said okay. 

I said, “This thing can do fine without me. Find another guy. There’s plenty of great guitar players out there, find another guy.” They need to take it to the next level, and they can do it with a bunch of guests, or a new permanent person.  If the time worked out and I was available to do it then I would love to, but it just isn’t working out.  It’s been like a huge weight has been lifted off of me.  I don’t have to come home from a tour with moe. and then immediately jump in a van with Floodwood instead of being at home with my family. 

This is my son’s last year at home, he’s a senior in high school.  It’s his last year at home before he heads off to college.  My daughter is a sophomore in high school and my kids are really busy and I wanna be around and do stuff with them.  I have a new house, and I have a lot going on at home.  I’ve got the ski patrol…my personal life has changed considerably and I wanna be around.  Between those obligations and being in those two bands full time, not to mention the Everyone Orchestra, not to mention Phil and Friends, and four gigs in New Orleans during Jazz Fest.  I don’t want to be the guy saying no, I don’t want to hold them back. 

So I told them, “You go play a hundred or two hundred gigs a year, see what you can make of it.”  And I can use my spare time to be with my family, and write songs for moe.  I think it’s gonna be the best thing for everybody.  Every thing’s cool…there’s no beef between me and the guys.  it was said to me sooo many times…”You look like you’re having so much fun playing with those guys” and it was true.  I love playing with Floodwood.  I love the music that we play.  I love that band, and I would love to play in that band full time.  But I just don’t have time to play in two bands.  The prudent thing for me to do is to put my energy into moe.  I need to be a better guitar player for moe., I need to put more energy onto writing songs for moe.  There’s a lot of unfinished business with moe.

L4LM:  Well, that’s it for my official questions, but as always I reach out to the fans for a few of their questions.  Do you have time for a few more?

AS:  Sure!

L4LM:  Great!  A lot of folks want to know, “What happened to your Moog?”

AS:  Well, it came home and lived with me for a while, now my best friend from high school has it, who I had my very first band with.  He has it in his studio.  That’s what happened to it.  Anyone who misses it is largely just listening with their eyes because that red Nord keyboard I have makes all the same music that the Moog used to make.

L4LM:  You have your own signature beer brewed by the nice folks at the Saranac brewery.  How much input did you have on the flavor and how much free beer do you guys get?

AS:  Regarding the free beer part…so far I haven’t paid for any of it.  (Chuckles)  Those guys are just fantastic.  Fred and the entire organization is just fantastic to work with.  I couldn’t be more excited about being aligned with them and being honored by this signature beer.  Growing up in Utica, and being a part of this is just an honor, a really great honor.  Regarding the second part of your question, I actually went down to the brewery and met with those guys and tasted what they had so far.  It was just when they were introducing the mosaic hops into it and that point, and really, I’m not gonna take any credit for it.  They did it all.  They asked our input, they asked what we liked and what we thought and it already tasted great when I sampled it.  I just said “Uh Huh!”  (Laughs)  I agreed with the mosaic hops, and we signed off on it then.  We definitely liked that as opposed to something that was gonna take it in a more bitter direction.  That gave it a bit more of that piney, herbal direction, and that was awesome.

L4LM:  Not sure who sent this one in…But who’s your favorite mayor?

AS:  Hmm…That’s a good question.  Uhmmm…You are!

L4LM:  YAY!  Have you started your winter beard yet?

AS:  I’ll say this. Wait. I can’t even say.  I don’t think there’s gonna be a winter beard, at least this year.  I’m a happy man, and I think I’m happy with the beard I have.

L4LM:  Last one…”Where do you see moe. in 25 years?”  Casinos?

AS:  Wow.  Let’s twenty five years, I will be 72 years old, and with any luck, we’ll be playing the Tabernacle, the 9:30 Club and Filmore…we’ll be playing in Jamaica and January…there will be a moe.down and will be another snoe.down and I’ll be doing another interview with Rex!

L4LM:  I guess that gives us all something to look forward to!  Well, thanks for taking all this time to chat sir!  Have fun out there on the road!

AS:  Thanks!