About Myrrh, The Music Biz and How To Offend Everybody At Any Given Time

Myrrh Magazine
25th Anniversary Edition, July 1997(?)
Page 20

Steve Taylor Gives A History Lesson

(Ed. note: We start with Steve's history as an artist, which, conveniently, has to do with Myrrh's own VP and General Manager, Jim Chaffee, though long before he was a record mogul...)

Jim got things going for me more so than anybody. I ended up meeting him and he made a couple of calls, set up other meetings, actually with a guy with Word. I was hearing from pop labels that the music would offend our listeners. I think the Word guy's attitude was more like 'we don't like the music and the lyrics would offend our listeners.' So my first experience with Word was a dead end. Then I talked Cam Floria into putting me on to his Estes Park [Christian Arists] seminar for a couple of songs which is where I got signed, so Jim and Janice Chaffee were very instrumental in getting the whole thing going. In fact, during that performance, I think they put plants all through the audience to stand up and cheer and make a lot of noise. My whole career was built on a lie -- it's all plants.

All the artists I've talked to have said they were most impressed with Myrrh's willingness to take risks, and let the artist be who they are. Was that true for you?

Absolutely. When I signed with Myrrh it was a complicated scenario...we knew at the time that our I Predict 1990 record was the exact opposite of all the records that were being put out at the time. It was a time when all the TV evangelism scandals had all hit and things were very much in turmoil. All the major artists were doing their "isn't it good to be back home where I belong" kind of records. And I believe the [I Predict] 1990 record was the exact opposite of that kind of record... a very risky record, in my experience, the most risky as far as content goes. It had very complex themes on it and some very satirical songs. Myrrh took heat on every side from the cover to some of the songs. The song, "I Blew Up The Clinic Real Good" was on that album which of course was about...the absurdity of being pro-life and blowing a clinic up. Of course a lot of people misread it and never got past the title. So that took a lot of heat. People thought the cover looked like a tarot card; my wife designed it, and we pled innocence but that wasn't enough for a lot of bookstores. There were a lot of songs on there that were the farthest thing from doing a reassuring record for the church, because it was a very challenging record. And at no time did Myrrh say, "you know you need to tone things down or you need to make a more church oriented record because that's where the church is now." They were just totally supportive. That's a hard thing for an artist to find. I've always really valued that.

I talked with Peter King from Dakoda Motor Co., who's said some critical things about Christian music, but what he said about Myrrh was really amazing to me. He said, essentially, that the reason they left Myrrh was because the people there encouraged Dakoda to be who they were, which resulted in taking a different path. Similarly, Russ Taff told me he was at Warner Bros. because the people at Myrrh encouraged him to be what he was, to follow his heart.

That's a very heavy statement and that says a lot about what Myrrh has been over the years. I'm afraid that many artists, and often labels as well, can get to the place where they are talking down to their audience. One thing you will never hear me say is that it's "only" Christian music. I don't believe in talking down to your audience. I believe it should be as complex and challenging as the Bible is. I feel like that has always ben a hallmark of what Myrrh has done -- that they don't talk down to their audience. There are some times when that hurts them commercially...So, I think what is a real tribute to them is the trust and the value they put in the artists. It's combined with a very strong supportive nature, as well. And I know that from working with Guardian for the last two records. And of course working really close to Jim. It really is the best of both worlds in that sense.