Making A Pass-A-Fist

Heaven's Metal
March/April 1994 Issue #46
© 1994 Heaven's Metal Magazine
Pages 12, 16

By Dan MacIntosh

It all started with a song. This new Industrial-Roots Rock-World Music-Over Hyphenated style of a project orchestrated by Dave Perkins and Lynn Nichols called Passafist grew out of something Perkins had written for a film soundtrack. "I had done a song," explains Perkins, "that was going to be in a movie that was being shot over in London last year. And I wanted to do a kind of semi-industrial version of it, because: number one, I was really into that vernacular of music; and number two, they wanted a song that they could choreograph a dance scene to that was being filmed in an ultra-alternative European club situation. Kind of a very decadent Berlin type of night club. So anyway, I did this song called 'The Christ Of The Nuclear Age.'"

When Lynn Nichols heard this tune he told Perkins how much he liked it. "One thing led to another," continues Perkins, "and I said, 'Hey we ought to write several more and do a record. It would be a blast.'"

Many avid music listeners probably do not associate Dave Perkins, who has brought a kind of roots rock sound to his own solo record a few years back, as well as bringing out these same rootsy sound in his production work with Randy Stonehill and many other artists over the years, with industrial music. But Perkins understands why this side of his musical nature has never been seen.

"I've played virtually every music there is to be played, and have been in bands which specialized in one or more of them. I think that most of the stuff that you'd probably know about me is based upon what was done in the Christian music community. And when I was producing a lot in the Christian music marketplace, there wasn't a lot of that (industrial music) going on."

Both Perkins and Nichols want to make it clear that this is not an attempt to capitalize on the industrial fad. In fact, industrial is just one of this product's ingredients.

"Coming off the Chagall (Guevara) stuff," explains Nichols, "it was something totally different. That sounded like fun, because it's largely Dave and I and samples and machines. Although we have integrated very ethnic African rhythmic aspects," adds Nichols, "with real players. So we're marrying several different things together."

When Perkins and Nichols think back on their experiences with Chagall Guevara's first album, the word disappointment seems to sum up the situation best. "We were definitely frustrated with MCA Records," recalls Nichols. "MCA didn't know what to do with the kind of music we were making. This record company has never been good at taking the alternative genre, or almost anything rock & roll -- outside of maybe Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers -- and making it successful.

"We went with that company," continues Nichols, "because they had convinced us that they were really in the midst of a change (for the better), and indeed they were. When we were talking to them, we met with several new people -- A&R people, marketing people, alternative college promotion people -- they had hired and brought on board, and there were some very strong, impressive, new people. And it really did look like they were tooling up to go after that (alternative) market."

Unfortunately for Chagall Guevara, there were more changes on the way at MCA that would not be in the best interests of the band.

"Then a Japanese company bought them out," continues Nichols. "Lots of internal shake-ups took place, and a lot of the people that came on board that were dealing with us at the time our record launched, were leaving or being fired. The marketing director, who was a terrific guy, left right at the point our record was launched. We had to wait a long time to find somebody else."

These changes took a real toll on the album's chances of being exposed in the marketplace. "We had a single worked to college radio that was called 'Violent Blue,' which, from where we were sitting, we really didn't think it was a college single. Still, it did pretty well. But we couldn't follow-up with another one, because the alternative department, at this point, had been fired."

Yet, with all the label problems Chagall had, there were also some positives Nichols can point back to. For one, the band, which loved to play live, was able to tour Europe opening for the band Squeeze. Secondly, and most importantly, the group made an album it was proud of, and probably had a much bigger production than most alternative bands in the Christian marketplace could ever dream of having. And the best news of all for Chagall fans is that the band has never really broken up. Surprisingly, with everything that went wrong at MCA, the label was still willing to have the band make a second album.

"It was funny," says Nichols, "that during all this shake-up MCA was dropping artists like flies. And we were so frustrated with them that we said, 'Good, hopefully they'll drop us,' and it looked like they would. But, of course, no, they wanted us to make another record. It sounds funny, because with so many people wanting to get signed, and wanting to get a deal, and here we are wanting to get out of one. It then took a couple of months to wiggle out of our contract."

With Passafist being a record for a Christian label such as R.E.X., one wonders if this will be a more explicitly Christian project than Chagall was.

"I would say that there are lots of messages," explains Perkins, "and that there are lots of concepts in there that are being chewed on by a lot of people. And some of them are just from human beings living on the planet in this day and age. And some of them are certainly obviously the same thing plus the Christian mind-set, or a scripture centered mind-set. A lot of the things are more cultural. Broadly cultural, and less initiated by the church or the religious community."

"We're writing about a lot of things," add Nichols, "as viewed through the eyes of a couple of people who are believers."

At the time of this interview, Passafist was still working on the lyrics for this project, and they were unable to give specific examples. But once can be optimistic, based upon these two individual's previous projects, that this will be a highly intelligent and entertaining project.

When you consider Steve Taylor's new solo album and this new Passafist project, along with the possibility of a new Chagall Guevara album someday in the future, one is reassured to know that the individuals which made Chagall such a welcome gift to the Christian marketplace are still busy creating. Expect Passafist to stand out on its own as one of the more anticipated projects released to the Christian marketplace, and not just something to keep fans pacified between Chagall Guevara reunion albums.