Thursday, August 03, 2006

August 4, 2006: John Schnall

August 4, 2006: John Schnall

This week's feature is on John Schnall, former WFMU specialty show host and creator of a multitude of film and tv-inspired sound collages. Stay tuned for episode 106, featuring a track by Mr. Schnall, along with 13 other sound collages by artists from around the world!

First though, let me say thanks to - our newest sponsor! Starting Monday, we will begin working with to promote this labor of love. You can check out their website, every Monday, to download the newest episode of Some Assembly Required, and read a short article by yours truly, providing some insight into each week's foray into the world of tape manipulations, digital deconstructions and turntable creations. I can't imagine keeping better company - has provided an online home for Minnesota artists (and their various communities) since 2002, and is a project of the McKnight Foundation and the Walker Art Center.

Thanks to for their support!


John Schnall is an animator from New Jersey, who was involved with a great project at WFMU called Midnight Matinee, for over ten years. It was a radio show, mixed live, using samples from primarily film and television. There are tons of mp3s available at his website, if you'd like to learn more about the project, which ran until 1998 at the popular free-form New Jersey station.

Without further ado, here's the SAR Q&A with John Schnall of Midnight Matinee!

*Name: The project was called Midnight Matinee; it was a radio show that ran on WFMU-fm for a number of years. There’s no band name per se; this show (and the CDs you have) were released under my name (John Schnall).

*Are there any additional names used to describe this project: No, not for this project.

*Do you use a pseudonym: I’ve been known to record under the name The Opposable Thumb.

*Founding Member: N/A; though The Opposable Thumb used to record with Bob Mozart and The Opposable Thumb many moons ago.

*Tape manipulations, digital deconstructions or turntable creations: I’d have to say “digital deconstructions,” or more accurately “digital de- and re-constructions.” The show was often, but not always, a combination of dialog clips from a film with ‘music’ made thru samples of dialog combined with or becoming music in some way (using my sampling keyboard). It was a weekly hour-long radio program, so each piece of ‘music’ was made very quickly; there might be 10 or more different ‘songs’ in one week’s show. I’d prepare the film dialog and songs on different audio cassettes at home during the week and put it together live on my one-hour Sunday night slot on ‘FMU. It was a pretty labor-intensive hour. This was before I had a computer; if I were to do it today on my computer it would take twice as long (it’s hard to stop tweaking on computer; on my keyboard it was pretty much done in one or two passes and then I’d quickly move on to the next ‘song’; seemed like more time was spent hooking up cords and patching than actually ‘composing’).

*Another genre descriptor: No, but some call it noise.

*Location: New Jersey.

*Original Location: Covered below.

*What is your creative/artistic background: I make animated films. I’ve got a compilation tape (“Death Laughs Among Us”) available at, and spent the last several years directing “JoJo’s Circus” for the Disney Channel. I do commercial work as it arises; just finished animation on a documentary called "The Last Speakers." And I’m always working on my next film, which right now is an animated adaptation of a one-act play called "The Dead Comic."

*History: I started animating in high school back in 1979, had a radio show at Drew University in 1980, started animating professionally in 1983 (various commercials), started with ‘FMU around 1986 and released my first single (a Midnight Matinee precursor, “The Jayne Mansfield Story”) in 1990.

*Born: I was born in Rahway, NJ in 1961, grew up in Colonia, NJ until 2nd grade, moved to South Orange, NJ and now live in Bloomfield, NJ.

*Motivations: There are some ideas that just sorta keep you up at night until you do them. I like to sleep, so I have to do what I have to do to get those ideas out of there.

*Philosophy: In Midnight Matinee, it’s often trying to find some sort of inner truth in something essentially not very truthful (for instance, molding all the times a character says “God” in “Davey and Goliath” into a cover of the show’s theme song). Sometimes it’s taking two disparate things and forcing them together to make them get along (like, for instance, melding “Dark Side of the Moon” with "The Exorcist," or “Einstein on the Beach” with “Beach Blanket Bingo”). Sometimes it’s just plain goofy though; always room for cheese in the diet. In my films it’s more often than not an attempt to get under the surface. Sometimes literally, getting under the skin and letting the bones run around, sometimes more figuratively, as in my last film which was an adaptation of the Bible story “The Binding of Isaac” that pokes around and asks questions not often raised.

*How would you like to be remembered: Fondly.

*Web address: On this page you’ll find a description of every Midnight Matinee radio show I produced, along with some archived shows, mp3’s and some animated music videos which listeners might particularly enjoy:


Thanks to John Schnall for being our focus this week! Be sure to visit his website and stay tuned for episode 106, featuring one of his collage compositions - just one of 14 tracks by sound collage artists from around the world.

In other news: I will be DJing at Mira Gallery Tonight (Friday, August 4, 6-10 pm). Stop by and check out the closing reception for artists Andrew Braunberger, Aldo Moroni and Susan Opitz. Mira Gallery is located at 4137 Bloomington Avenue, in South Minneapolis. More info online, at:

Then on Saturday, Rosalux Gallery is having its annual fundraising event ("Green," Saturday, August 5, 7-11 pm). It should be a lot of fun, too, with a performance by Beight, and you can buy raffle tickets for just $5 each, to bid on artwork by gallery members (myself included) and/or prizes from local restaurants and shops. Rosalux is located at 1011 Washington Avenue, in South Minneapolis. Check out the Rosalux website for more information.

Until next week, thanks for listening!
Jon Nelson


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