Longform

Schmidt happens

Page 4 of 6

"In the end," he says with a shrug, "the public has a lot of music being thrown at them all the time. As a result, their attention spans are limited, and a band like Funland can succumb to a what-have-they-done-for-me-lately? attitude. The band waited a long time between the Arista record and The Funland Band--too long without anything bright, shiny, and new to attract their attention. My hope is that Clark, Will, and Peter with his new release will all get the public and critical acclaim they deserve. Then Funland will be viewed retroactively as the super group that it was."

If they do, it will be too little, too late, and way too far in the past.

After Funland broke up, it looked as though Schmidt had given up on the music business for good--again. Hell, the business had already given up on him two years ago. He went to work at Internet Media, designing Web sites.

"It was great," he says. "It was the first year of my adult life that I really had money, good money, on a regular basis. I liked the job; it wasn't a bad job at all, but I finally just quit because I really wanted to do this again."

This--making music--actually began again at a December 31, 1996, show put together by then-UFOFU bassist Brandon Curtis. Schmidt had never stopped writing songs; he just wasn't sure whether he wanted to play them for anyone anymore.

"I had mentioned to Brandon that it was probably going to take someone booking a gig first--someone making me do a gig--and then I would have to sit down and come up with a set to do," Schmidt says. "So he went ahead and told me he wanted me to play on this New Year's Eve show, because he said, 'I know you won't get off your ass and do something unless you do that.'"

Just as he had done after Three on a Hill disintegrated, Schmidt re-emerged onstage, alone, backed by his acoustic guitar. Over the next few months, he began taking baby steps back into music, playing a handful of solo shows, usually playing only after someone asked him to. By June, he knew he wanted to be in a band again, but this time, it would be on his terms. The project would be his vision, his songs performed the way he wanted to hear them. He had no idea what he was getting into.

Schmidt sits at a table at Magnolia Bar B-Q, recounting exactly how the recording of his "debut" solo album--under the name Legendary Crystal Chandelier--went from full of possibilities to impossible, nearly destroyed in a cloud of lost money and empty promises. His hair is shorter and flecked with gray now, but other than that, he looks the same as he did 10 years ago.

It's March 1998 now, and the sessions for the album wrapped up a few weeks ago, but the frustration remains, as evident in his voice now as it was on that December night at Pence's studio. There are a million things left to do, though: The album has yet to be mastered; artwork hasn't been approved; a band needs to be put together. He remains understandably apprehensive. He won't feel satisfied until he's holding a finished copy of the CD in his hand.

"There's still so many opportunities for crap to go wrong," he says. "I don't believe anything now until I see it. I'm not trusting anyone."

It's clear that Schmidt won't be the same again. He's seen and done too much in the time it took to record Love or the Decimal Equivalent to ever go back to the person he was before. He's a little more cynical now, less willing to put his life in someone else's hands. When the album is finally released this month, it will have been more than a year in the making--a year that broke his bank account and almost broke his spirit.

"I ran out of money," he explains. "When I quit my job, I had saved up $3,000, thinking, 'Well, that'll easily get me through the summer in comfort, and then I'll get another job.'" He smiles at the memory. "I ran out of personal money and ended up borrowing, and that's what mostly hurt me. The budget for the record...I got screwed there a little bit, just because I had planned to do it one way and then had to, at the last minute, just totally change how I'd budgeted the money. If I'd planned to do it the way I ended up doing it from the beginning, we could have done it a lot more effectively and cheaper, but it just didn't happen that way."

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Zac Crain
Contact: Zac Crain