Midtown beatologist Tha Fruitbat wants to shred your expectations of electronic dance music
Evan Schneider was an angry lad in high school. It wasn’t easy being a vegetarian at Del Oro High School in Loomis, where the 4-H Club instructed students in how to neuter sheep. “The students got extra credit if they bit off a testicle,” Schneider later lamented over tofu curry at Sacramento’s Chada Thai Cuisine restaurant. He once saw sheep testicles stuck to the sides of a trash can on his way to a history class. Processing such horrors resulted in the man’s zest for polyrhythmic, machine beats that sound like heavy objects falling down 60 flights of stairs—a style better known as jungle techno.
After graduation, Schneider escaped to Midtown, where he then bloomed into a jungle producer who often composes with a Nintendo Game Boy. He is an eight-year veteran of Sacramento’s electronic dance scene, where, according to his guesstimate, he’s either performed or promoted shows at “every venue on the [Midtown] grid.” Like any other fruit bat, this herbivore typically ventures outside at night.
“My music’s purpose is to just blow your mind with beats, whoever the fuck you are,” the 28-year-old musician explained. With his debut album, Tha Fruitbat, released on the LunaticWorks label last month, Schneider hopes to alter the popular conception that electronic dance music is “overly smoothed out.”
On the contrary, warfare breaks out in Schneider’s imagination when he composes. “I imagine anime battles, like in Robotech, where there’s missiles flying,” he said. Such violence translates to militaristic beats (mainly sped-up hip-hop rhythms) that clash with robotic synthesized melodies. “Jungle is the speed metal of electronic music,” Schneider argued.
It usually takes Schneider two or three days, followed by constant mixing, to create a single rhythm with his living-room computer and his bank of synthesizers, drum machines, acoustic percussion instruments and samplers. His single “Zenuba” is a 13-minute epic jaunt that includes a tribal drum solo uncannily blended with the noise of a broken washing machine. Schneider credited “Zenuba” for his signing with LunaticWorks—a deal that has granted him retail distribution he never dreamed of, through powerhouse corporation BMG. Ads for Tha Fruitbat are now displayed in Tower Records and Borders shops, much to the underground artist’s astonishment.
Schneider branded his album with the logo of Command Collective, a group of Midtown bedroom electronic musicians he sometimes shares bills with (including Chachi Jones, Faster Faster, Dusty Brown and Tycho). His connection with Tycho (graphic designer Scott Hansen) led to Tha Fruitbat‘s arresting cover art—bats flying out of a silhouetted forest, underneath a surreal, 1970s-looking album title. This fall, Schneider also will appear on a compilation CD with Tycho and Brown on local indie label The Americans Are Coming Recordings.
During his live shows, Schneider hunches over a VCR-sized sampler and a CD player and painstakingly sequences his noises into a groove. “There would be nights when my mojo wasn’t working, and I had some train wrecks,” he said. “But it’s exciting when I can beat-match three different rhythms at once.” His past shows have ranged from packed Bay Area clubs to nearly empty bars.
Schneider is trying to liven up the local electronic scene with his side projects, Hysterisis Loop and Two-Player Game. Two-Player Game is his collaboration with Takeshi Lewis. The duo stitches together dance music from sampled video-game jingles, and homemade melodies from the Nintendo Game Boy Camera’s music program. Hysterisis Loop is an ensemble of four beatologists who produce an alien breed of jungle and hip-hop. They performed at a 1999 rave at Arco Arena and opened for Filibuster, where they encountered a few hecklers. “These guys yelled, ‘Get off the stage, you fags!'” Schneider said. “But a few years later, they asked us to play at a few shows.” Hysterisis Loop is currently in limbo, boiled down to Schneider and whomever he can perform with.
As for the future, Schneider plans to revive Hysterisis Loop while still marauding the moonlit streets as Tha Fruitbat. "I just want to make a wild-assed trip for people to go on," he concluded. "Hopefully, it won’t sound like any electronic music they’ve heard before."