Interviews BigJohnBelly1

Published on December 9th, 2013 | by Ballard Lesemann


The Punch List with Big John Belly’s Mike Schmitt

Metronome Charleston‘s weekly Punch List puts local musicians on the spot with a questionnaire that touches on music, venues, gear, records, and vices. This week, drummer Michael “Schmitty” Schmitt of local jam-rock combo Big John Belly takes the gut-punch for his band.

1. What is your favorite local hang and why? 

“We all find that the Pour House is the place to be anytime of the week. It’s the only place where you can cheaply drink, eat delicious food with the Lot right next door, and see great local and national bands all at once. The staff is always helpful, whether or not we are playing a show or just hanging out. All in all, the people there are just good people.”

2. You know you’ve played an excellent show when…

“When you leave the stage without packing anything up just yet! I know, personally, that when I feel good about a performance, I’ll leave the stage excited to socialize, drink, and hang with the bandmates, and before I know it, it’s 1 a.m., and my drums are still set up. On the latter hand, bad shows leave a bad taste in your mouth. A lot of times, you cant wait to get packed up and figure out what went wrong. Either way, you’re still drinking. So, ultimately, its not that terrible when the show doesn’t go your way.”

3. What was the last show you attended that really got you fired up in a good or bad way?

“I am very fortunate and thankful that I’ve been able to see a ton of bands in my life. With that said, I recently saw J. Roddy Walston and the Business [at the Pour House], and they kicked major ass. And there may or may not have been a lil’ lady dance partner involved. The band put on a stellar show and really knew how to work the crowd. Love those guys, and their newest album, Essential Tremors, is pretty darn good.


Big John Belly at the Pour House deck stage (provided)

4. Define your musical style in exactly 10 words.

“Groovy beats. Crunchy licks. Tasty jams. Smorgasbord. Pot-Luck. Dinner.”

5. What’s your theme song? And why?

“Interesting question. If I had to choose a theme song for the band, I would probably go with The Jeffersons’ theme song. It has an eclectic mix of gospel, blues, and jazzy chords, and I love the tempo. Not to mention, like The Jeffersons, we too are “trying to move on up.”

6. Gear-wise, what’s is your irreplaceable baby?

“I speak from a drummer’s perception. And I can answer, without hesitation, that my 14” x 5 ½” custom snare from Orange County Drums and Percussion is irreplaceable. It is 40-ply maple with custom black tension rods and die-cast rims, with Type 5 orange bird’s-eye maple finish. The best part of it, however, is the custom ‘pumpkin-face’ vents that are cut out of the body of the drum itself. It set me back it little, but I love Orange County Drums and Percussion, and it is my favorite piece, hands down.”

7. What’s the most overplayed album in your collection? 

“Quite often, I tend to get an urge to listen to a particular artist. When I do, I’ll put their album collection on repeat until I have had enough. Most recently, I’ve been listening to the Dead Weather album Sea of Cowards like it’s been going out of style. I love the rhythm and guitar licks throughout the album, and Alison Mosshart from the Kills does an amazing vocal performance. She’s probably my favorite female vocalist right now.”

8. When was the last time you were genuinely star-struck? 

“I don’t typically get star struck by people. I will say, however, I did get a chance to shake hands with the entire roster of 311 back in 2002 when they came into eat at a restaurant I worked in. 311, being my favorite band, were legitimately cool dudes. They talked to me for a while, offered me free tickets to their concert the next night, and even more awesomely, they tipped well.”

9. What’s your poison?

“I go back and forth from bourbon and ginger to the ‘champagne of beers’ [Miller High Life]. Shot of choice, currently, is Jameson.”

10. In 10 years, I will be…

“I feel like the question should be. ‘I hope to be…’ Anyways, I would love to be setting up music events, festivals, and stuff like that. Playing music is my ultimate passion, but there is something very satisfying when you set up a show and people show up — and when it sounds great and there is a genuine gratefulness from the venue staff. You can walk away feeling like you did something worthwhile.”

Big John Belly took shape early in 2013 when singer/bassist Dallas Baker and guitarist/singer Isaac Morrison started brainstorming on material and band ideas. “The main goal was to somehow develop a thin line between ‘improvisational’ and ‘composition,”‘ they stated in a recent press release.

Baker and Morrison jammed with various rhythm section cats before enlisting drummer Michael “Schmitty” Schmitt to anchor things on the drums. As a small combo, they regularly performed sets of folky rock, Americana, and jammy rock and on the Pour House deck stage through the summer and fall — often with Jimmy Landry on the keys and occasionally with Fuller Condon (of the Two-Man Gentleman Band) filling in.

Big John Belly will co-host a “Bring Your Own Belly Ugly Christmas Sweater” party at the Pour House deck on Wed. Dec. 11 at 9 p.m. They’ll perform at High Thyme on Sullivan’s Island on Sun Dec. 22 at 5:30 p.m.

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About the Author

Ballard Lesemann

is a musician and writer. Born and raised in Charleston, S.C., he spent years playing in bands and working for Flagpole Magazine in the bustling music town of Athens, Ga. He returned to his hometown and served more than seven years as the Charleston City Paper's music editor. He's better at drumming than he is at playing guitar.

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