Steve Taylor: On The Fritz and Working Better Than Ever

Sparrow Spotlight
Q2-Q3(?) 1985, Volume 4, Number 1
© Sparrow Records
Page 15

Steve Taylor had never intended to make music for a living. Like so many things in life, it just sort of happened.

Serving as a youth pastor in Denver, CO in the mid to late-'70's, Taylor had felt a need to communicate the truths of Christianity to a wider audience. Inspired by the radical new music of consciousness-raising English rockers like the Clash and Elvis Costello, Steve figured he'd found a method to do it.

"It definitely seems," he says, "that music is the mode of communication for my generation. We won't listen to politicians, but we'll listen to musicians."

Taylor, who was then also working on twin degrees of music and theater from Colorado Univ., had played in a number of garage bands before trying his hand at serious performing. His professional debut came at the 1982 Christian Artists Music Seminar in Estes Park, when he startled but ultimately won over a rather stodgy audience with renditions of "I Want To Be A Clone" and "Whatcha Gonna Do When Your Number's Up?" Sparrow Records chief Billy Ray Hearn happened to be in the audience, and before long Steve Taylor found himself with a record deal.

"At the time I started writing," Taylor recalls, "a lot of Christian music wasn't very honest. It talked about a Christianity that didn't exist. You know, 'Jesus makes me happy all the time, and I praise the Lord every minute of my life, every breath I take' -- it just wasn't rooted in reality. That's not even a Biblical reality; we're all human, we have struggles, we have things we have to face."

With the release of his first mini-LP, I Want To Be A Clone, Taylor's name quickly began to spread. "We had just release that album to see what would happen," he recalls. "When it started taking off, I had to make a decision: is that what I want to do? And so I decided to go ahead and start touring."

Meltdown, his next release and first full-length LP, yielded a hit single and video in "Meltdown (At Madame Tussaud's)," and further established Taylor as a master purveyor of avant-garde, utterly uncompromising Christian rock. His latest album, On The Fritz (produced by Foreigner's Ian McDonald) brings him a step closer to secular notoriety, while not wavering a degree from the ideals that put him in the spotlight in the first place.

"Without Christianity as a basis," says Steve, "and a real desire to communicate who Jesus is to my culture, I don't think I would've gotten involved in music to this extent."

Steve's penchant for attacking hypocrisy and weakness both inside and outside the church has garnered him some criticism from within. Mostly, however, he's earned accolades for dealing unflinchingly with topics such as racism in the name of Christianity ("Color Code") and fast-talking TV preachers ("You Don't Owe Me Nothing").

Taylor finds himself between the proverbial rock and hard place over his moral stance, but he wisely refuses to waver. "Those in the church," he says, "would prefer if I towed some kind of conservative line across the board, which I don't want to do, because I'm not interested in politics a whole lot anyway. Some are bothered that I would speak out on pro-life issues, and then not come out for a strong defense, or something like that.

"And then on the other side, you get those that say, 'Why is he speaking out on abortion? That must make him a right-wing Moral Majority person.' So they won't listen to anything else I've got to say.

"On the one hand," he muses, "I like to think they're tired of having other people do their thinking for them. Christians in general seem to want pastors and religious leaders to do all their thinking.

"Hopefully, what I'm trying to get across through the songs is, 'Don't accept it just because a religious leader said it.' You've got to check things out with what the Bible has to say, and compare it to what Jesus was preaching and was living.

"Kids need to realize," Taylor says firmly, "just like adults do, that if they're going to call themselves Christians, that demands a radical change in their lifestyle. We're not doing them any favors by getting them to make some kind of commitment, and then telling them later, 'Oh yeah, now you've got to change.'"

Given the nature of Taylor's music and his steadily increasing renown, one wonders if the thought of secular success ever crosses his mind. "It would be nice if it happened, just because it happened," he says, "but I'm not interested in toning things down to cross over, or anything like that. 'Cause them it would be defeating the purpose in the first place."

And Taylor's adamant about keeping the message front and center, no matter how he's making his living. "If it gets to the point," he says, "where I don't feel there's anything more to communicate through music, I'm probably going to do something else.

"I hate to be quite this blatant about it, but I'm not gonna be one of those guys who's recording for twenty years and has ten people buy their records.

"I wouldn't just hole up and keep recording albums because I get some kind of incredible fulfillment out of hearing my own records. The communication aspect is very important to me: the fact that, hopefully, people are listening and understanding."