Steve Taylor: The U Interview

U Magazine
April/May 1988 Volume 48 Issue 7
© 1988 Intervarsity Christian Fellowship
Page 26

What can you say about a guy who has Bigfoot for a father and was raised by wolves? Well, that's what musician Steve Taylor said during a recent U interview. We're not sure whether to believe him.

In addition to describing his parentage and upbringing, however, Steve had some interesting things to say about his music, his new album I Predict: 1990, his current concerns and his own future as a musician.

On his new album: He swears the record is named after a televangelist's book title in which the preacher claimed the book would reveal to his viewers what would happen during the coming year. "It struck me as being so absurd that it would make a good title for a record."

Actually, "in the scheme of things, the new album doesn't look at the future, though a lot of the concerns addressed in the album are looking toward where things are heading. I'm concerned about a lack of idealism today, and with the philosophy that's overrunning America--the idea that whatever is expedient is right.

"The new album has a lot of themes--loss of innocence ('Innocence Lost'), backsliding ('Svengali') and the idea that the end doesn't jusfify the means ('I Blew Up the Clinic Real Good')."

On being accused of sarcasm and cynicism: "I don't think of myself as sarcastic but as satiric. Satire has a purpose because you want to see things change. Cynicism doesn't try to change. I don't want to be controversial for controversy's sake; sometimes satire is the best way to get people to listen to you and get into what you're saying without feeling they're being preached at. Also, sarcasm is closer to nihilism than satire, and I want to avoid that.

"I'm not a very cynical person; cynical people talk a lot, but don't do anything or put their neck on the line. Cynicism comes from knowing a lot and not acting on it."

On making money: "I understand why a lot of (mediocre) albums get made. I don't think it's necessarily intentional. Musicians have to feed their families and have (an expensive travel and promotional system) running, so as a result there are more considerations to be made commercially than I would have to make. My wife Debbie and I live a very low-cost lifestyle. We live as cheaply as we can in a small one-bedroom apartment without having to live in the ghetto. This keeps me from being in a place where I have to keep making records to keep some massive machinery going. I suppose this is hard to understand for people who aren't in music, but if I wanted to make money--well, I made more when I was a janitor."

On his audience: "There are a large number of people who are thoughtful and want to see the world change for the better, but don't like being preached at. They struggle to maintain a Christian world view and discover what it means to follow Jesus and be a Christian today. I think a lot of people who have lost interest in the church would be interested in what I am writing because there is a general unwillingness for people in the church to admit that the church is full of hypocrisy. When you make music thats intellectually challenging, I think it's a lot more rewarding. For example, in the secular market there's Peter Gabriel--a 'cult' artist who takes his music seriously and has had more creative influence by selling 500,000 records than Michael Jackson has with 27 million."

On the rewards of being an artist: "Things like when you write something you're pleased with and think it communicates something. I take letters I get real seriously and they're very encouraging. When hanging around after concerts, I get into a lot of deep conversations.

"But it's nothing like when I was a youth pastor. At that time, I had a group of 50 or 60 young people who I knew I was having an effect on, and got to see steady progress. It was a very tough job, very emotionally trying but real rewarding. When someone writes to me now, I feel frustrated because I could have more influence if I lived in the same city, and all I can do is offer a little bit of advice. I'm not ready to go back to (being a youth pastor), but there's no denying the type of influence you have."

On how he's changed: "I haven't changed a lot in the last 5 years. I got married but I'm still not any better at balancing a checkbook. One good thing about being married is that you don't depend quite to the same degree on being in front of people to know you're accepted.

"I've still got pretty much the same friends and mostly the same band, and people who tell me I'm no big deal. We're still traveling in the same vehicles."

On finding God's will: "People ask my advice, and sometimes I wish I could be a lot more profound on the spot and say something like, 'Never pet a burning dog.' A lot of us waste time thinking that God has a specific job for us, and quite a few people are almost paralyzed to act because they think it may not be God's perfect will. I encourage people to follow what the Bible teaches in your daily life. God's will is concerned with us being saved and sanctified. God requires a lot of personal responsibility and honesty. When we're concerned with the process of being like Jesus, God gives us a lot of decisions."

On the Christian music business: "Right now many leaders in the music industry are saying people are not coming to concerts or buying records like they used to, so let's ask them what they want. That's no way to maintain a prophetic edge or boldness in artistry; that's a way to maintain the status quo. A lot of people in Christian music can be fooled into thinking they're doing something great for God because they sing songs about Jesus."

On predicting his own future: "I've always felt and feel more strongly now that if I look at music as a career, I'd start making career-type decisions. If you're working at a job and don't set goals, you won't succeed. But I'm not interested in setting sales goals or conceret attendance goals; I'm more interested in artistry.

"I don't know if there will be a next project. The deal with Myrrh (who picked up the album from Sparrow after production cost overruns went through the roof) is a one-record deal, which is what I asked for.

"While in London last fall, I lay awake until 4 A.M. one night, wondering what I was going to do next, especially if I leave music. I'm a pretty good janitor and my wife Debbie has worked in a print shop.

"What is the measure of my success? 'To do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God'--that would be a good measure."

--RP/DLP (Ross Pavlac, Diana Lynne Pavlac)