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Interview with Neil 'Kneel' Schneider

Written by: Kurtis Bradimore

Photo Credit: Tony Ciaccia

Neil “Kneel" Schneider, creator of the infamous xspongexcorex, as well as black metal outlets Diplegia and the newly formed Vintertodt, is a drummer from Troy, New York. His combination of energetic, humorous and satirical metal portrayed in xspongexcorex is strongly contrasted by the darkened, powerful vibes depicted in Diplegia and Vinterodt, all of which have been filling fans with joy, one laugh or shrieking scream at a time!

I first connected with Neil through Facebook back in late 2016 after a friend of mine introduced me to xspongexcorex. Being a big fan of the project, I was very excited to be given the opportunity to ask him a few questions on behalf of screams media about his projects and get to know a little bit about the man behind the music. Enjoy Screams Media Interview with him below and keep up to date with the pages linked throughout.

SCREAMS MEDIA: Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where are you from?

What instruments do you play?

Hey y’all, first off, thanks for having me! I’m from a little city called Troy, New York which is about a 15 minute drive from the state capital of Albany!
My main instrument is the Drums. I’ve been banging on them for the better part of 16 years now. I started when I was 10 years old, I’ve always had an interest in string instruments such as the guitar and bass guitar. I can play them to a certain degree but its' very minimal compared to what I can play on the drums.

SCREAMS MEDIA: So how many bands are you currently a part of? Any former bands?

They are more or less studio projects than actual bands but, I currently am a part of three!
Vintertodt, which is pure Black Metal calling back to the classic Norwegian bands that helped shape the genre today. We currently have one demo out entitled “Pure Fucking Hatred”, I wrote and performed all the music besides the drums which were handled by the legendary Lord Marco and vocals which were performed by Nick Rossi.
Diplegia, which is our take on Depressive Black/Doom Metal. I’ve had a few friends help me along the way with this one and they have become main collaborators with the project. I wrote and performed most of the music on our debut album besides two tracks (“Stranger” and “Bitter”) which were written and performed by Tony Ciaccia. Nick Rossi also lent his vocals to this album as well along with our cover of Xasthur’s track “Screaming At Forgotten Tears” which we just released a couple weeks back!
XSPONGEXCOREx is my third project and the one that I’m most well known for. I wrote some extra xXTHICCXx breakdowns and fit samples from Spongebob Squarepants in the place of where vocals would normally go. I popped it up on BandCamp one day and it literally took off overnight, not even lying! I’m not very active with that project these days as I focus more on the other two mentioned above, after 30+ tracks, it gets a bit hard since I’ve already used so much material. However, it's not done for good, I’d say its just on a bit of a hiatus.
I’ve had a plethora of other bands/projects throughout the years but I’ll just name the three main ones: Open Casket Division, Dawn Of The Hero, and Palindrone. I played drums for all three! Open Casket Division was some chaotic Hardcore Punk, Dawn Of The Hero was Metalcore with a lot of Progressive/Technical elements involved, and Palindrone was a Technical Death/Thrash Metal band that I started with a friend of mine for a little bit when I left Dawn Of The Hero for a couple years.

SCREAMS MEDIA: Can you explain how some of your projects came into being? Which one is your favourite to work on?

Honestly, they all just kinda happened. Vintertodt started one day when I was trying to write some riffs for Diplegia. The riffs didn’t fit Diplegia’s style but I liked them, so I just decided to make it into a whole separate project. Diplegia started one night when I was on a phone with a friend of mine, I was noodling around while we were chatting and stumbled upon the riff that would become the main riff for our track “Self”, from there I just kept writing and finding other riffs that fit the same general mood as that first riff.
xSPONGEXCOREx happened one day in January 2013 when I was working on my production skills. I was writing a bunch of random breakdowns and just editing them to be as tight as I could. Later that day, my friend Adam came over and I showed him what I was working on and I remember him saying “dude, all I can hear is Spongebob’s laugh over that one part and I don’t know why”. So, we downloaded the laugh and popped it in. I remember we laughed so hard and I went on to complete that track which became He Was Number One on the first EP! I made one more track “So, You Like Kickin’ Butts Do Yah?”, popped both of em up on SoundCloud and forgot about the project until around August 2014 when I remembered it and decided to make a few more tracks, made em, uploaded the EP, and the rest is history!
I’m not sure which one is my favourite to work on honestly, they all have their really fun parts to work on. Overall though, I’d probably have to say xSPONGEXCOREx though, just because I spent countless hours perfecting those tracks and it was so rewarding when I got the samples to fit perfectly. I remember staying up past 5AM one night finishing up Don’t Mess With TexXxas just because I wanted to hear it in full. I’ve never done that with either Diplegia or Vintertodt... yet.

SCREAMS MEDIA: What musician(s) inspired you most growing up?

Oh boy, where to start on this one *insert laughing face emoji*. I’ll try to make this kinda short. The three main bands that inspired me growing up into my early teens were In Flames, Children Of Bodom, and Slipknot.
I discovered In Flames and Children Of Bodom from my brothers friend at the age of 9 years old. The screaming scared me at first but I absolutely fell in love with their riffs and that made me continue to listen. Slipknot came a couple years later, I always knew of Slipknot but never listened to em, one day I did and I was hooked! They were an obsession for a good two or three years.
At the age of 13, I was introduced to Black Metal from an old Slipknot message board I used to be a member of. One of the members told me about Darkthrone, Mayhem, and Burzum. I was intrigued and wound of finding a Darkthrone CD at my local FYE. I knew my parents were not going to be okay with me listening to that CD (my brother bought it for me,) so I waited until everyone was asleep that night, hopped on the computer and popped it in. It immediately scared the living hell out of me, it was around 1AM and there I was in an all dark old creaky house listening to some of the most evil, intense music I’ve ever heard at the time. I couldn’t get enough though and kept listening, I wound up falling in love with that album! A couple months later, I went back to FYE and happened to find Mayhem’s debut album for sale. So with my birthday money, I nabbed it and again, immediately fell in love. I started to learn the history of Mayhem and Burzum and all the earlier Black Metal bands and just fell in love with the genre as a whole.
I think the last two bands that truly inspired me were Opeth and State Champs. Definitely a weird combo, but I first heard Opeth at the age of 16 due to my brother who was a huge fan at the time. I immediately became obsessed with them! They opened my eyes to different genres and different playing styles on the drums. I started using more intricate cymbal and tom patterns thanks to Martin Lopez’s drumming style. State Champs is a weird one being as all the other bands were metal, they’re from my hometown though. My old Metalcore band, Dawn Of The Hero, used to play shows with them when they were still local. We never chatted or befriended each other but I always try to support local bands that are doing great things. So initially, I bought their stuff just to support them but when they dropped their debut album, The Finer Things, it absolutely blew my mind and oepned my world up to whole new genres I never batted an eye at before. Those being Pop Punk, Emo, and Indie to name a few.

SCREAMS MEDIA: I understand all of the profits made from xspongexcorex are all donated to charity. How much have you raised so far/which charities have you donated to?

The profits from just the music is donated actually! I keep the money from the t-shirts I sell because packing/shipping everything from Cds, to Cassettes and Vinyl is/was a lot of work, so, some compensation is nice. Over the course of almost 5 years I have been able to donate close to $7000 from the music alone! It’s been a truly rewarding experience honestly. Its great to make music that not only makes people happy but also be able to donate to the greater good. I’ve gotten letters back from places that I’ve donated to saying that the donation was used to buy guitars and other music supplies for different schools and that warms my heart!

SCREAMS MEDIA: What are some of your greatest motivations when it comes to making music? Anything discouraging?

Hmmm, this is a solid question... you know, I’m not certain what exactly motivates me to make music. Ever since I was a little kid I’ve always been in love with music and always wanted to be a musician. I think keeping that dream alive is my greatest motivation, that and the high that you get from releasing new material. Even if its something that no one will really listen to, just knowing that I’m creating and releasing new music is always a great feeling!
The most discouraging part is my lack of skill when it comes to string instruments, there’s so many ideas in my head but as I’m not that great at guitar I can’t get them all out into actual sound and as I get older it gets increasingly harder to set aside to practice instruments. So, that's definitely discouraging but every now and then I’ll stumble upon a great riff that I love and that usually turns into a new track!

SCREAMS MEDIA: What drew you into creating black metal?

Mainly the love for the genre. It’s such a vast and diverse genre and being as it’s the genre of metal I listen to the most I wanted to help add to its legacy. You have albums like Satanic Black Devotion from Sargeist that create such a dark, dismal, and evil atmosphere that is extremely captivating and then you have albums like Bonebranches from Bloodbark that are extremely uplifting, melodic, and atmospheric. I just love the genre as a whole!

SCREAMS MEDIA: Any plans for live shows in the near future?

Probably not to be honest. I’m not going to lie, my least favourite part of being a musician is performing live. I always get awful anxiety because I keep feeling like I’m going to screw up terribly and ruin the whole performance. I honestly prefer the recording, mixing, and mastering side of music way more these days. That being said though, if there was ever a solid offer for any of my projects to perform live I would absolutely try my hardest to make it happen!

SCREAMS MEDIA: If you could pick any 4 musicians from any genre to form a band, who would you choose and why?

Neige (Alcest) Vocals/Guitar, Mikael Akerfeldt (Opeth) Vocals/Guitar, Necrobutcher (Mayhem) Bass and the wildcard, Steve Lamos (American Football) Drums. I feel like that would be a pretty wild and solid line up honestly. Neige has got a fantastic background of Shoegaze and Black Metal. Mikael, a fantastic background of Progressive Rock/Metal and Death Metal. Necrobutcher could bring that rawness and fierceness of Black Metal at points but I feel like could tone it down if need be. Then theres Steve Lamos, I know he could fit but possibly not too well with whatever Metal sections there may be but his drumming on all of American Football’s material is so solid! His drum patterns get stuck in my head often, they fit so well to whatever song he’s playing. He would rock it in the Shoegaze/Progressive side of the band for sure!

SCREAMS MEDIA: Can you briefly describe your writing process. Do you write around lyrics? Improvise ideas?

My writing style I’d say is generally normal. I kinda just build off of a riff and maybe add another riff in there as well. I don’t really improvise anything and the only time I’ve ever written around lyrics is with xSPONGEXCOREx with tracks such as “Look At It!” There has been a few times though where I’ve written a song from ending to beginning but that’s super rare! The only two I can think of off the top of my head are “Follow” from Diplegia, and “No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service” from xSPONGEXCOREx.

SCREAMS MEDIA: Where did you come up with your band names? Any significant meaning behind them?

Band names are always the hardest and most fun part of making these projects. Vintertodt came from Runescape actually! There’s a minigame in it for the Firemaking skill called Wintertodt, I was playing it one day and thought that it sounded pretty Black Metal if I just changed the “W” to a “V” and voila! Vintertodt!
Diplegia, I found on a list of medical conditions. I was doing an overnight at my job one night and knew that I needed to come up with a name for the project. So, I had a bunch of time to kill and I looked through a bunch of different medical conditions and stumbled across Diplegia. I love how it sounded so I used it, and surprisingly there’s no other band out there named Diplegia either which is wild!
xSPONGEXCOREx was definitely from mocking Straight Edge Hardcore bands. I noticed that a lot of Straight Edge bands seemed to have X’s in their name so I was like “welp, this one is going to have three to show that we’re extra xXHEAVYXx!” Thats why it originally stated that we were “STR8 EDGE HXC FROM BIKINI BOTTOM” on Facebook. It was definitely me trolling, but then as it grew more in popularity I would get messages asking if I was actually Straight Edge and I had to explain to them that I’m not and I was just trolling. Most people were cool with it and understood but there were a few that got upset, which is understandable, no one likes seeing their lifestyle get mocked. So I changed it to just “BIKINI BOTTOM HARDCORE” to clear things up. For the record, I have zero issue with Straight Edge individuals or the Straight Edge scene/lifestyle. More power to them, honestly! It was just me being young, dumb, and a troll.

SCREAMS MEDIA - QUICK FIRE ROUND: Answer in as few words as possible.
My favourite artist is… its hard to have one when there are so many amazing artists D:
My genre of choice is… BLACK METAL \m/
Pineapple on pizza is… absolutely delicious!
My favourite song I've released is… Follow by Diplegia
My 2019 goals are… a new Vintertodt demo, get more recording clients!
SCREAMS MEDIA: If you hadn't become a musician, what would you be doing right now?
I’d probably be far into the Medical field. I’ve always been interested in the Medical field and I currently work as a Nurses’ Assistant working with individuals with mental/physical disabilities. I’d probably would’ve been a Registered Nurse by this point but music took me over at an early age and I can’t stop!

SCREAMS MEDIA: Can we briefly talk about a fan, mentor, friend or family member who has really inspired you in the past to continue creating? What did this person do or say that had such an impact?

I’d have to say one of my biggest mentors and inspirations to me to continue on with music is my brother, Jeff. He’s also a drummer and when I was growing up he was in a few bands, I always loved them and knew that I wanted to create music/be in a band when I was old enough. I learned how to play drums on his set when he would go to work, one day he caught me but said “hey man, you’re actually pretty good. Keep playing, just don’t wreck my set.” So his encouragement definitely helped me continue on and helped get me to where I’m at today!
Fun Fact: He’s a left handed drummer, so I learned how to play on a set that was reversed from how I normally play. When I got my own drumset finally when I was around 12 it was a whole new world!

SCREAMS MEDIA: Anything else you would like to mention before we wrap up? Any teasers or things that fans can look forward to this year?

I think I rambled on enough at this point, to be honest. However, I would like to thank everyone that got to the end of this and if you’ve ever jammed any of my music then thank you for the the bottom of my heart, seriously! It means the world to me! <3
This year, I don’t even know what to expect. I’m focusing a lot more on production than I am at creating right now at this moment in life and there are a few pieces coming out soon that I did the production for that sound so dope! I can’t wait for everyone to hear! The only thing that I know for certain is that you can expect another Vintertodt demo at some point this year! I have an idea for a new XSPONGEXCOREx track, the problem is finding the time to create it. So, we’ll see what happens with that throughout the year!

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