Longform

Schmidt happens

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The original plan was simple: Schmidt and Pence would record some basic rhythm tracks together at Pence's studio, then Schmidt would record the bulk of the album at Course of Empire drummer Chad Lovell's studio near downtown Dallas. Lovell had already established a good working relationship with Schmidt, starting with a remix that he did of Funland's "Angry Girl" (which appeared on the "Bleed Like Anyone" CD single), and continuing with the cut-and-paste cover of Twisted Sister's "We're Not Gonna Take It," which the duo collaborated on for the Come On Feel The Metal compilation released last year. Lovell even supplied Schmidt with tape loops to augment his occasional live performances.

But the relationship quickly soured once Schmidt and Lovell began to record the album. Lovell was beset by technical problems from the start, problems that never seemed to get fixed, and the project was delayed interminably. Stuck in a limbo between recording and waiting to record, Schmidt lost a little more money and patience with each passing day. Eventually, Lovell and Schmidt dissolved their partnership, but only after Schmidt had wasted about $4,000 and more than three months. When he discussed the project in July 1997, he was excited about the prospect of working with Lovell and Pence. Now, he sounds shell-shocked, as though he still hasn't come to grips with how he could have been so let down by someone he considered a friend.

"Every day, there was a promise that it was going to get fixed tomorrow, so I'm not going out and getting a job, because I'm always thinking that I'm starting the next day, or at the very least, two days from now," Schmidt says. "I think Chad's a really talented engineer, but I mean, when it comes down to it, I double-checked on everything: 'Are you sure you're going to be able to do this? [Are you] sure everything's working, because I'm not quitting my job?' When it came down to it, I don't think he took his responsibility seriously at all. I offered--and we came up with--a lot of different scenarios on how to work around the problem, potential solutions, and he vetoed them all, when they could have worked and we could have gotten an album done. It was a shame."

Lovell declines to talk about the aborted project.
Once again, Schmidt found himself trapped by other people's promises. Stuck without a job, and with no idea when he would be able to record again, he had to find ways to make ends meet.

"Every now and then, I would go pick up a day or two of work up at Tapemasters, which is depressing work," Schmidt says, laughing at the absurdity of spending his days dubbing other peoples' cassettes and CDs while he was trying to make his own.

He finally got back on his feet with the help of Matt Pence. Pence was always supposed to be part of the production team, keeping the album from turning into a Course of Empire project. Now, he was the sole producer. However, he had an even bigger job: keeping Schmidt from giving up.

"Peter has always been struggling to get his ideas out," says Pence, who has since moved to St. Louis. "I can't imagine fighting for as long as he has, and facing so much adversity. I can't imagine how he's kept going, and how he's had so much success. It's easy for me to throw myself into a project for six months to get it done, and fall into that fully. It's a totally different thing to say that I'm going to follow through on something for my lifetime the way that Peter has."

Schmidt credits Pence for seeing the album through, sticking by him and motivating him during even the darkest times. Schmidt says now he was ready to quit the record several times, walk away from it as though it were a car that just won't start. And every time, Pence would goad him to finish, like a track coach pushing a runner to complete the marathon even when his legs are about to give out. The final product, Love or the Decimal Equivalent, proves it was worth the struggle.

"I wish I didn't have to go through all that, because I'm still..." Schmidt stops, then begins again. "My personal life and financial [situation] are all screwed up. It really just threw my whole life off schedule, but I'm glad I ended up doing it with Matt."

It's July 1998 now, only a couple of weeks away from the album's release. Schmidt looks relaxed for the first time in months. The album is finally finished, and he's got a job again, working in the production department of an advertising agency. It has been a while since the recording of the album was completed, and some of the bitterness and frustration have left his voice. The journey that began more than a year ago is almost done, and he looks happy to finally see it come to an end. He isn't worried about how many copies the album sells, whether it's in the thousands or in the dozens. He's just happy it exists.

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Zac Crain
Contact: Zac Crain