Al Schnier: My Page (Rock ‘N’ Roll Daddy)

June 2, 2011

From the Feb/March 2006 issue of Relix

My name is Al. Not Flea. Not The Edge. Not Iggy. Just Al. I’m 37 (soon to be 38). I’m a husband and a father of two, and I also play guitar in the band moe. I was raised in a fairly average, middle-class home in central New York in the Mohawk River Valley (the Historic Barge Canal), just south of the Adirondack State Park. It’s a city with maybe five McDonald’s and about 300 kids in our graduating class. I think you can tell a lot about a place by knowing those two simple figures. (Throw in a mall – and the number of cinemas within the multiplex – and it speaks volumes.) It’s also the town where I live now, where my wife and I are raising our children. Growing up here was fantastic. I had all a kid could really ask for – a mall, a good record store, a cool bike store, a great guitar shop, four seasons and miles and miles of woods, streams and fields. Nevertheless, when my wife and I were considering where to live, I never even gave my hometown a second thought. "Vermont, New Hampshire, maybe Saratoga… " It never even occurred to me to move back home, but I’m glad she had the clarity of mind to suggest it.

Our kids – they’re five and seven – attend elementary school in the building where I went to high school. Their piano teacher is actually the daughter of one of my former music teachers – the same one who literally grabbed me by my ear and tossed me out of her classroom. Luckily, my kids are faring much better with her daughter. My folks still live here, and I love being near them.

Never in a million years did I think I’d end up back home with a respectable middle-class life, let alone playing guitar in a rock band. I was supposed to be a doctor or a lawyer, or maybe an engineer or architect. And then I thought I could just sell organic food in the lot on Dead tour. A graphic artist? Maybe a philosophy professor in Boulder or Berkeley? I couldn’t ask for anything more.

I love my family. While we’re not the Osbournes, life is far from normal. Being a dad in a rock band means you miss the first day of school, the tooth fairy from time to time, every other piano recital. You miss brushing their teeth and tucking them in.You can’t come home when something goes wrong and they want you there to deal with it (i.e. bird in the house, favorite Yu Gi Oh card lost, power outage, etc.). But you get to come home and be home 24 hours a day for weeks until it’s time to go back to work. It really is feast or famine, but it averages out.

While I’m away, cell phones and a WiFi connection keep us in touch as best as possible. When I’m home, I’m theirs. When I’m away, my wife becomes a single parent and I do the highwire balancing act of staying focused on my work, while tending to my family’s needs as best as I can, which means not doing lines off of Rob’s ass, not sleeping with Winona Ryder, not throwing the TV out the hotel window – after all, someone’s kids may be swimming in the pool!

I’m not sure how it all translates for them. I’d like to think that in the end, they’ll be richer for it. They hang out with all of the other band kids. They spend a lot of time around rock shows. They meet people from all over the country. They’re totally comfortable walking onstage and playing in front of 8,000 people at moe.down. Our kids are vegetarians and eat organic food; frankly, we’re a bit weird by white, middle-class suburban standards. But I never cared much for standards.