Milwaukee music legend Sigmund Snopek III was kind enough to compose and record the latest batch of OnMilwaukee.com radio spots. In the week we spent recording the commercials, I began to get an idea of the musical genius behind the man we've all heard play his off-beat music each year at Summerfest.
Sigmund took a few minutes out of his busy schedule to sit down with OnMilwaukee.com and discuss his 25-year career, as well as offer a glimpse into what makes this unorthodox Milwaukee musician tick.
OMC: Why do you stay in Milwaukee?
Snopek: I get nervous if there isn't a beer within walking distance.
OMC: But you've traveled around the world?
SS: Yeah, I've played in Australia, all over Europe and the U.S.
OMC: Where are your favorite places?
SS: Milwaukee and Paris.
OMC: How are they different for a musician?
SS: Well, there are more taverns to play in Milwaukee. But they really respect your work in Paris.
OMC: Who have you played with over your career?
SS: Myself. (laughs). Let's see … the Violent Femmes, I toured with them for several years. I've played with Cheap Trick. One of the Monkees stayed at my house.
OMC: Which Monkee?
SS: Peter Tork. He a friend of a friend. He walked in and I started playing "Hey, hey, we're the Monkees." He wasn't amused. I've also played with Richard Perry from Pink Floyd.
OMC: How long have you been playing Summerfest?
SS: Since 1971. I've been there every day since 1975. I love it.
OMC: What other Milwaukee events do you participate in?
SS: I do Bastille Days and State Fair every day. I call State Fair
"State Hair." I also travel around the state. I've also played my own stuff in
Florida, St. Louis and a bunch of other places.
OMC: You had a few bands in the '70s, right?
SS: Yeah, I formed the band Snopek, which broke up in 1982. Since then I've had another band, as well as a solo show. I'm kinda resurrecting that now, but there will be musicians with it.
OMC: Tell me about the classical and experimental music you work on.
SS: I'm finishing my space opera, which was written in 1973. It's called Trinity Seizes. It's a two hour and 10 minute space opera about a guy who gets kidnapped at a wedding Waukesha. It's coming out soon on a German label. I have 30 guest virtuoso musicians, most of which are Milwaukeeans. I've been sequencing this thing for three years, and my work alone has 75 to 100 tracks.
OMC: How many albums have you put out over the years?
SS: I can't remember.
OMC: More than 10?
OMC: How many songs have you written?
SS: About 300 songs. I have about 80 compositions.
OMC: Tell me about your experience with the symphony.
SS: I've written five symphonies. I performed with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra in 1971 and 1975. The most recent thing was a composition for chamber and voice in 1997.
OMC: Your new CD is called Beer. What's up with that?
SS: It just came out, and it's a collection of my bar sing alongs and street songs. It's selling rather briskly. You can find it at the Exclusive Company, or on the Internet at my Web site.
OMC: How long did it take you to record?
SS: About a year.
OMC: I've heard it. It's pretty much a who's who of Milwaukee musicians.
SS: Yeah, it features about 15 musicians, including Greg Koch, Vic Delorenzo, Jim Liban and others.
OMC: What do you like better, your funny stuff or your serious pieces?
SS: It's a yin and a yang. I like them both equally.
OMC: Any interesting gigs coming up?
SS: I play at Hi Hat, and at Linneman's. At Hi Hat I play lounge music and at Linneman's I play my own music.
OMC: Are you traveling with the Femmes anytime soon?
SS: It's always a possibility. I just finished their Wisconsin tour.
OMC: What other projects are on your plate?
SS: Well, I'm also a director of musical called Starmites, which will play at the Mojeska. In this production, I'm working with high school kids, which is cool. I just produced an album for Amy Rohan, and I produced the Mombo Surfers CD. I've done a lot this year. I'm also finishing recording my Irish opera, Trocaire, which is Irish for "compassion."
OMC: How do you know about Irish music?
SS: I'm part Irish. I played with the Pogues, and I've been to Irish Fest.
Andy is the president, publisher and founder of OnMilwaukee. He returned to Milwaukee in 1996 after living on the East Coast for nine years, where he wrote for The Dallas Morning News Washington Bureau and worked in the White House Office of Communications. He was also Associate Editor of The GW Hatchet, his college newspaper at The George Washington University.
Before launching OnMilwaukee.com in 1998 at age 23, he worked in public relations for two Milwaukee firms, most of the time daydreaming about starting his own publication.
Hobbies include running when he finds the time, fixing the rust on his '75 MGB, mowing the lawn at his cottage in the Northwoods, and making an annual pilgrimage to Phoenix for Brewers Spring Training.