InnerView: Steve Taylor

Visions Of Gray
November 1993, Volume 3, Number 3
© 1993 Mission Music Ministries
Pages 10-13, 15-17

The Return of the Clone Prince of God and he's talking

by David Vanderpoel

Steve Taylor and I spoke recently in Music City, at a small but locally well-known estalibshment, the Pancake Pantry. Steve spoke slowly, teetering on each word that he chose, and starting each sentence over several times until he got what he wanted to say right. He answered everything and even filled in a Mad Lib for me.

For the whole interview, SASE.

DV: First of all, I guess the big one is the leaving and coming back and stuff.

ST: Well, when I, I guess "retired" is what I called it.

DV: What's this "vision?"

ST: Yeah, that's right. Yeah, yeah! It was sorta complicated. There were no hard feelings or anything like that. We just felt like it was time to do something else. And I wasn't exactly sure what the something else would be, but it sort of seemed like a combination of the external workings of Gospel Music at that time were, in some ways, at odds with... It just seemed like people were tending to make records and statements that seemed a little more church-y. I have to be careful here because I don't wanna say things that I don't really mean. I still haven't figured the whole thing out.

DV: Well, lemme, lemme put it this way then: Do you feel like things had evolved and therefore changed? Or do you feel like you had come to a point where things didn't necessarily change but you grew intolerant?

ST: Right. You know that, I actually think that Gospel Music was changing at that point. That it had decided, for whatever reason, that it needed to be specifically church-oriented. Which... There's not necessarily anything wrong with that. But I think in the process, it also decided that it needed to be the lowest common denominator of church-oriented. And I don't think it's that way any more, completely. At last, I'm hoping that in the five years since I've retired that some things have gone full circle. I think part of that was good and part was just a reaction to the sin that was going on. It was the time of the televangelist scandals and it was a time...

DV: Sure, yeah. The T.V. purge.

ST: Exactly right. And so a lot of that part was good. But I think reactions sometimes tend to be reactionary.

DV: Um-hm.

ST: And uh, in the process there was like, sort of... Well, in my own situation, it was things to do with an album cover that "was" a Tarot card. Supposedly a Tarot card, which was very bogus. And there was a guy that was writing about that this was new-age-based, and all kind of stuff like that.

DV: I remember you were calling people individually about keeping it on the shelves. You were calling bookstore to bookstore.

ST: Yeah, that's true. 'Cause I was calling to find out what was going on, what actually people's reactions were. The majority of stores probably didn't think that or weren't concerned but there were some that were. There were some that had probably concerns that they didn't understand the satirical nature of certain songs like "I Blew Up The Clinic..." and other songs like that. And I'd completed a contract, and the new contract would've been very sweet. Um, and would've actually enabled me to start making money, which, at that point, was probably appealing... But it was just like, I definitely would've had to become more of a mainstream Gospel artist. And that wasn't appealing. And I would've had to become that if I wanted to keep selling the kinds of numbers I was selling before, which of course feeds everything else. If you wanna do the live show that you wanna do, then you have to sell a certain number of records and all that other stuff. And so, it's sorta like I was just seeing the future and it didn't look very appealing to me. So I just felt like it was time to do something else. It was when my wife and I moved to...

DV: London.

ST: Yeah.

DV: Well, what did you do before Chagall? I mean there's a space in there when...

ST: Right. There was like three or four months where we were living in England. At that point I was producing a record, and Lynn came over and helped me with it. This duo, Phil & John. So that was fun and there was... Just bein' over there. We've got a lot of friends over there, so we like to hang out there. And then, at the same time, we were talkin' about the idea of starting this band. And so that's what ended up happening.

DV: The "Sock Heaven" point of view, now that you look back on the thing.

ST: [laughs]

DV: First of all, first of all, my opinion of it is that you were doomed by the name.

ST: Well that could be. There's probably a lot there.

DV: I know the story of the dream.

ST: [laughs again]

DV: But I don't think that all dreams are divine. I think that was a great example of one.

ST: Well, you know what? I don't think you'd get much argument from me on that. I think what it was is there was a whole series of, uh, choices, that when you look back on it, any one of 'em could've sunk the band. And the accumulation of them was like, overwhelming.

DV: Would you do it differently?

ST: Oh, definitely would do it differently, yeah.

DV: Make a video instead of go on tour or...

ST: Oh, we'd go on tour. Probably wouldn't make a video. We'd go on tour. I probably would start with the name. I still like the name but it was like, just most people just flat out didn't get it. They didn't pronounce it. They couldn't pronounce it. They didn't wanna pronounce it.

DV: Right.

ST: I wouldn't blame 'em. It was a cool name but it was like ... I mean ... And the thing of it is, when you're in a band, you've got like ... It's your buddies, right? So it's almost like you form this club. And it's like, one of the problems is it can become so insular that you almost don't care what everybody else sounds like 'cause as long as, in the band, you decide this is workin', and you've made that decision between you. And so, it's almost like, the more people try to tell you, "This is a bad idea, I'm warnin' ya," it's like, the more you decide, "No, that must mean it's a great idea."

DV: Right.

ST: And, that sort of drama plays itself out over and over again. And of course there's good things about that, in that you sort of get a vision and you don't wanna be too, too dissuaded from your vision, right? But then there's other times when people are almost like, just beggin' ya', "Just listen to me... common sense here." [in hushed voice] "You've got a name that can't be pronounced." [laughs]

DV: Right.

ST: And it's like you're in there with your friends and you're sayin' "Nah. Nah, that's good. That's what we want." You know, there's other things like that. Things that play out time and time again, from the choice of our record label. You know, we had a number of good options. We probably made the worst choice we could've there.

You know, when you go back to the band's inception, as far as from the spiritual standpoint, I wouldn't've done anything different on that, because, man we had our hearts right. I think we had our motives right. I think the whole process was just engulfed in prayer and in wanting to do the right thing before the Lord. And I guess in many ways, the "Sock Heaven" song sums it up as best as I can because, in retrospect, I have no idea why it turned out the way it did.

DV: Hm.

ST: I think, I think we were a really good band. I think the music was there. I think we made a good record. And for whatever reason, it didn't catch on, and this is something that plays out with, you know, a hundred bands every year. They all ask the same question. And the fact of the matter is, in those years, we were like that close to starvation most of the time. It was very very difficult financially as well.

DV: Did you need to make that CD?

ST: Did I personally?

DV: Yeah.

ST: Um, yeah. I don't... I don't, uh, regret the experience from the standpoint of what happened musically. And then of course the different things that go along with that, you know. Like, I think for myself, always having to sort of been in charge of my own career or something like that. Beginning with the band, where you're not the boss anymore, it's like sin just raises its head. It's not the kinds of things that you normally associate with rock and roll, 'cause it wasn't a matter of, you know, girls and drugs and all that stuff. It was a matter... And it's stuff I didn't... That I hadn't had to deal with before. In fact, one of the reasons I hadn't even thought of becoming a pastor was because I couldn't ever... I decided I could never take the board meetings. I couldn't handle it.

DV: [laughs yet again]

ST: Of course, here I was in a band where we had to have conference calls. You know, it's like, we're having conference calls to decide if we have time to take showers before the next decision or something.

DV: Right.

Well, tell me about your pastor. Tell me about the kind of guidance that he's given you.

ST: Yeah. He did play a key role. My pastor is the pastor of about another thousand musicians in this city, so there's nothing unique in that.

DV: I think everybody here plays an instrument.

ST: [laughs] Ah, yeah. Um, our church is out of Franklin. And our pastor's name is Scott Smith. He actually dug the band. I think he liked...

He liked what we were doin' and was very supportive. He listened to the idea and all that stuff. I think what happened is over the course of about, of the three years that the band was goin', towards the end, it became obvious that sort of what we had set out to be and what we had become were two different things. And a lot of that was just circumstances. We sorta knew early on that if it didn't catch on pretty quick we were gonna be in trouble, mostly because the three other guys had kids. And that was all living itself out and the pressures that were induced because of that were sort of mounting and causing tensions. And then, maybe the biggest thing for me, was we really had set out to be a live band. That is the cornerstone of what we were doing. And again, through circumstances, not through anybody's fault, but just through circumstances, we weren't that. I mean the last year that we were together, we played one live gig I think. So it had gotten to the extreme we just weren't a live band any more. And it's like, if you're not a live band, you're not really a band, 'cause anybody can do stuff in a studio. So, and with that, and the tensions goin' on, at one point, one of the members quit for a few days early on, back at the beginning of last, last...

DV: This was all new to you, wasn't it?

ST: Oh, all these... all this kinda stuff happening.

DV: Yeah.

ST: Yeah, definitely was new. I mean, I didn't... I think that I assumed was... I sort of... I've always thrived on chaos, like if, you know, everybody's off doin' their thing but they're all sorta goin' towards the same direction, and everyone's just like, pushin'.

DV: Um-hm.

ST: One of the things that was new to me with the band, this particular band, was there were, there was, sort of unspoken protocol that needed to be followed. So all of my sorta impulses and things, at least from my point of view, that... Lessons that I've learned over the years of touring and working with record companies, stuff like that, all my impulses. I couldn't really follow them because there was protocol to be done and uh, and uh, that was really frustrating because I like to work and the fact of the matter is, the band, we were, literally, for a good part of the time, sitting, waiting for something to happen. And that was getting really really frustrating. And I don't think there's anybody who's very happy with the way things were and the way the future looked. And then of course, one of the big things was, we didn't wanna be on MCA anymore. We had another record that we were contractually obligated to give them.

DV: I didn't know that.

ST: We had a very big budget. I mean, it was like a quarter of a million bucks just waiting for us to go in and do the record and we disliked (nothing against the people, just against the system at MCA) so much, and we were so convinced that it was a waste of time that we actually wrote them a letter saying "We want out of this deal." We just wanted to talk away from it.

DV: Wow. That's something.

ST: It was somethin'. It was one of those things. I sorta, I hesit... In some ways, I hesitate to bring it up. But it's just... It's not common. Usually what happens is that a band gets dropped because they're not selling at all. And we were not sellin' well by any means. But their rock roster was so bad that we were like, the bright spot on the horizon, which just shows how bad off they were.

[laughter all around]

ST: We just didn't wanna do anything more with MCA, so we wrote 'em a letter saying we want off the label. And of course that created a whole chain of reactions. All of them were surprised and some were really, I think, possibly offended. But over the months while we were waiting to see if we were gonna be able to get out of the deal or not, we were sort of at limbo, the opportunity presented itself, just sort of round about of doin' another solo record. And it was not originally my idea.

DV: I heard you were talked into it, pretty much.

ST: In some ways I was, yeah.

DV: Not necessarily "talked into it," persuaded to...

ST: In some ways, yes. That idea might offend people who feel like you've got... You know, everyone in Christian Music is fulfilling God's calling and that kind of thing.

DV: I wish it was that easy.

ST: Yeah, I know. [laughs] I didn't uh... I wasn't that sure. I mean, I wasn't that sure when I started a band. You know, it's like you sorta get into it and you hope it's gonna work. And I wasn't convinced this was a smart thing to do, probably because, you know, we'd invested so much in the band that I really wanted to see that go on as well. But the band was starting to feel more and more like a... almost like a hobby, you know? It was not something we were... You know, no one was doing it full-time. The other guys were off doing other things because they had to make a living, which is understandable.

And I think that's where my pastor came in, because it was sort of a critical time of me thinkin' through this, talkin' with the other guys in the band, trying to decide should I be doin' this or not. And when I met with my pastor, he said uh, he said, "I like your band." He said, "I like it a lot." But he said, "It seems like you've done a better job of explaining what you're not than what you are." And um... made good sense. You know, fair enough.

DV: M-hm.

ST: That was probably exactly it. And he's a kind of guy who... His, sort of, his passion in this next statement surprised me, but he said, "I plead with you, do this. Do this record. You need to do this." At that point, and after much prayer and talking it through with my wife Debbie too... But that was probably the thing that made me decide, "Yeah, I should do this."

And since then, it's sort like "No lookin' back." I mean, I've got no regrets. And in many ways, it's sorta like, ah, lined up nicely with the zeitgeist, the times, in that it feels like we are moving as a society, into Post-Christian era. Which is, in many ways, one of the things that I kinda always liked about England and Europe. I hope that sounds okay, but I actually like the sense that as a Christian, you were fighting an uphill battle. You weren't dealing with the sort of cultural relative Christianity.

It was like right there, in your face. If you're a Christian, you'd better know what you're talkin' about. And when you talk to people, you'd better have figured it out, because, you know, you don't have... It's not like in America, where you sort of have this undergirding of cultural Christianity.

I feel like America's... you know, is moving out of that. Um, the proof of that is: When I was doing the video for the song "Bannerman" the people in the suite were saying, "Wow, that is really fun. So what is 'John 3:16?' What is that?"

[laughter once more]

They flat out didn't even know it was in the Bible, right?

DV: Wow.

ST: I liked it. And in many ways, 1990 was... I mean, that record was a reaction against the feeling that, in many ways, Christians had seized political power and they were really messing it up.

DV: Um-hm. [chuckles]

ST: We were really doin' a bad job. And so, some people look at it as an angry record, and fair enough: it was angry because I was very ticked off at that time. Um, and uh, it just seems like a great time to me to be doin' Gospel music. Um, uh, and to have like a real mission as far as what I want the songs to say. There is no sense of "Well geez, I hope this is cool enough" or "I hope this doesn't manage to straddle the fence." You know, and all those other things. And so the songs came... I won't say "easily," or I won't say "quickly," but they came convincingly.

And uh, there was like, there was a good focus there. And see, I hadn't been writing songs on my own since the band started, so maybe there was some things pent up from over the last four or five years. And uh, yeah, I don't... As we sit here now, I'm glad for the chance to do it again.

DV: Did you write all parts to the songs? Do you write bass lines? Do you...

ST: [swallows, speaks with mouth partially full. I learned to ask questions like this when I was waiting tables. It's terribly entertaining.] Mm. No. What I did is I [swallows again] had the ideas sketched out and got in the studio with Wade and Mike playing drums and Jerry McPherson on guitar, which... He's a great player but I didn't see him bein' able to pull this off.

DV: It sounds like you pushed him, yeah.

ST: Yeah man! It was like, he wanted to do this so much! It was like, "Okay, let's try this out and see if it works." And he really surprised me. He's really shy, and I just didn't think he would have it in him.

DV: He seems like the kind of musician that really grows. He really does.

ST: Yeah, he's always got his mind open. And the stuff that he listens to normally is way afield from what he's normally asked to play.

DV: That's a good sign.

ST: But yeah, it was a real sort of sense of camaraderie and just a lot of fun to be in the studio. We just were not gonna labor this project. I mean, I Predict 1990 took almost a year to record. And I knew that I didn't ever wanna do that again. Because the initial impulse gets lost. Can get lost somewhere along the line. So there was a lot more spontaneity to it. Sometimes I would have, like for your question about a bass line, like on a song, "Curses," there was a bass line there that was sort of melody and Wade just took it and ran with it.

DV: You built the whole thing around it.

ST: Right, right. And there was other times when it was like, uh... Oh man, I mean, sometimes, on some of the songs, (I'll go back to Wade again) he would say, "Come on, give me another track." So I was like, "Go ahead." There's like three bass parts on some of these songs now.

DV: [laughter] It's a nice, full, bottom-heavy sound. I was pleasantly surprised at exactly how full it was.

[the second long pause]

DV: I'm actually stalling to give you time to eat. Well, tell me this. Um, and I don't know exactly how much you had to do with your bio: I know how these things work. Um, but I'll assume that you actually said... Like you say here, you felt the need to conform, um, prior to your modest retirement. At the same time, everything you've done has always been real timely. Real pop-based. Real sensible as far as the music being made right then. So, in what ways were you feeling pressures to conform and in what ways were you fine in conforming?

ST: Right. Um, as far as um, it was mostly just a matter of what the songs were sayin'.

DV: So it's more of the lyrical, the theology...

ST: Y-yeah. I think musically, the sky's the limit. And I don't think that that would even,at that point, that that was not the big issue. I think the issue was sort of what the songs were sayin' and ... Gee, I don't know. Yeah, it was more to do with content, I think.

[third long pause]

ST: Just tryin to think how... I'm just trying to put myself back in that mindset. But you know what? I knew it was coming, because I told the, at the beginning of the I Predict... tour, I told the band, "I think this is it." I think, you know, we're all very tight, and I said, sorta like, tryin' to give 'em like a year's notice, "Get ready, 'cause I think this is it. I think this is the last go-round." It was very hard for me to accept that this is how I make my living. And there's a certain arrogance, I think, in that. Because um, the fact of the matter is you've got to make your living somehow. And even when you're living a fairly simple level, you still have to put bread on your table and put, you know, a roof over your heads. And, as I look back on the band's experience, if there was a constant source of friction, it came back to that. There was a sense from the guys with kids, that I didn't understand what it was like having a family and, you know, what else are we gonna do? And, from their standpoint, I could see how they think that. And from my standpoint, it was like, "This is it. This is what we chose to do. We gotta, you know, we gotta go out there now and make sure it happens."

And so that sort of tension back and forth... With me, it's just sort of the nonchalance of, you know, making a living was always secondary. It always seemed to take care of itself. But of course, when you don't have children to worry about, you can afford those kinds of attitudes and it becomes a whole different deal when you have kids.

DV: Sure.

ST: So... I forget the question. But somehow we got onto that, didn't we?

DV: [laughs] Well, just you're... This thing about conforming. If I were making a case in a court of law, I would say, "You're not entirely against that." Because when you did the record for MCA, in my mind, it was an artistic step forward. But in a lot of people's minds, it was dark because it was on a secular label. It was more veiled and more topical because it was on a secular label. And now that you're back here, all of the sudden you've got songs about John 3:16 again.

ST: Oh, good point! And you know what? That's another think that comes into, I think came into that song, "Sock Heaven." When you go over to a pop label, you just trade in another set of rules.

I was hearing Charlie Peacock talk about this. And he was talking about wherever you land in music, you have to accept the fact that you work within certain systems. I really understand what he's talking about now, because it's the same thing. Alternative music is capable of being just as doctrinaire and stupid and cliche-ish as heavy metal. And there's a certain part of that that was like really distasteful to me.

When, when we got goin' the idea of playin' clubs, and the glamour of playin' clubs and stuff like that, like, faded real quick, you know, when you get the tenth guy comin' after you so, he's like, still weaving and not even able to focus on you and sayin', no yellin', "Y'all are good. Y'all are good." and that's all they can say. It's like, man, I used to able to... I used to feel like the concerts meant something to people.

You know, and there's no sense of this bad at all. So, yeah, yeah, I mean, it's like doin' the deal with MCA was just hard reality. You know, "What you're doing, Steve, you are now making a living doing this and you might as well accept that no matter what you're doing, no matter where you land, there are... You're workin' within a system."

And if you buck that system, you at least need to be willing... You at least need to be aware of the consequences. It's funny now, we see bands, alternative bands, and their big deal is, "Do I sign with an indie label or do I sign with a major label?"

And all the conniptions that they go through because of the same kind of deals. It's systems you know?

DV: Yeah.

ST: And outside rules that people force on you. And so, when the decision... When I made the decision to do a Gospel record, there was not going to be any fuzziness in my mind about what this record was gonna be about. And there was not gonna be any, uhm, any sense of keeping things sort of veiled or...

DV: I understand you have a story about three graveyards. A dream.

ST: Oh, geez!

DV: Of Christian communicators.

ST: See, that, that, I don't, I don't, I don't think this is a good thing to bring up because it's not a, uh... I sort of brought it up off the top... and... and the thing is... [motions to his bio] This thing actually is pretty good because I had time to sit down and write my quotes. I'm not very good at interview. I don't think very... That's why I love, you know, writing and why I'm not necessarily good at interview because I'm not nearly as quick as I'd like to be.

DV: We can skip it if you want.

ST: It's probably best to skip. Just to summarize it, the idea of it was, um, and probably, if we wouldn't've done the band, I probably wouldn't've, probably wouldn't've been able to figure this out quite so clearly.

DV: Right.

ST: But um, well here's a good example. Go back to church: last Sunday, two Sundays ago. I walk into our church and there's like a casket where the altar table is supposed to be. And I'm thinkin', "Geez, couldn't they fixed this from the funeral yesterday!? You know, I mean you've gotta get a better janitor there or something. I mean, what's goin' on?"

But of course it wasn't real. And the message of the sermon was, you know, think about your own death.

DV: It was a prop.

ST: It was a prop. That's a good thing, to try and imagine what happens when you die.

Well, it's like... It's like you... Who are the people that you respect? Think of who are the people that you respect, and if you don't pattern yourself after at least who are the people that you sort of look at as, whatever the word is, bellwethers or somethin'.

And uh, it wasn't, for me it wasn't necessarily fellow gospel musicians, like I hope that someday I can get to a place like so-n-so's at.

It wasn't rock musicians either. And it wasn't the guys in rock and roll who sort of have some loose affiliation with Christianity or whatever, which was sort of feelin' like where our band was sort of sliding by default.

It was like the people that I respect are guys like Billy Graham or C.S. Lewis. It's like, what they have to say really made a um, really impacted people, you know, for, for Christ and for his kingdom.

The totality of their lives, backed up what they were sayin' too. You know, it wasn't like they had this great message, and in a sense, they were huge moral failures. It was like these guys had managed to sorta keep their eyes fixed.

DV: They came by it honestly.

ST: That's right. Yeah, and that ultimately is Lord willing, that's a tall order, that's where I prefer to set my sights toward. But see, the problem with telling that story is: I'm thinkin' if I was on the other side of the tape recorder, I'd think, "Geez, who does this guy think he is?" And so that's not the point, but it's just like, in trying to figure out where you wanna head I just didn't feel like what I was doin' was, was comin' anywhere near there.

And, uh, there's definitely a sense, I think in pop music, that, if you're a Christian, you spend a lot of your time sort of defining, again, what you're not. Well, you know, "I'm not like one of those weirdo guys on television. I'm not like those ultra-orthodox guys, or those right-wingers," stuff like that. And in essence, what exactly are you?

DV: By the time you're done with that, you don't have time to say what you are.

ST: [laughs] Yeah, I know. Exactly. You don't have enough time. And you have not... It's like a buddy of mine who's up in New York, and he was talkin' with an A&R guy from Sony, and the guy was sayin', "Well, I just want you to know at the beginning, I'm anti-New York, I'm anti-big record label, and I'm anti-A&R." And of course, he's an A&R guy in a big record label, living in New York. So it's like, "You're probably in the wrong business, then, aren't you?"

DV: Yes.

ST: Um, being a Christian as a defining term is just way more important to me than those other things that would be attached.

DV: Sounds like, for your genre, you are unusually focused on that. I mean, 'cause really, that's not terribly cool.

ST: Oh, I know. Right.

DV: I mean, my experience in interviewing a lot of bands has not been, well, "I'm trying' to set myself up in this set of priorities and these are my heroes and Christ this and Christ that..." as much as, "I'm saying, well, we're not this and we're not that."

ST: I certainly have, ah, empathy for bands in that position. You try to, you try to figure out, you sort of push different boundaries to see where it is that you fit in. That's why I wouldn't wanna get too waggin' my finger and sayin', "You know, you guy need to get it together."

DV: You've never wagged your finger.

ST: [laughs] Well, yeah right. It'll be this. But I will say this, I don't have a lot of patience for, for anybody who sort of, "Y-yeah, I guess I'm a Christian, or whatever, but, you know, but I'm anti-church, and I'm anti-fundamentalist, and I'm anti-this, and I'm anti-this..." You know, what they heck are you?

It's like, the church is not perfect, but I haven't, ah, seen anything else that comes even close.

It's no fun to make apologies for the thing that's supposedly central in your life. But, you know, that's part of what we're doin. That's part of what post-Christian are saying. It's not only not cool, it's not even easy.

You know, one particular story, which again, I'm not even sure I should tell it or not, but I'll get into it and you can take it out if it doesn't come off well. Even the idea of like thinkin' that human life is sacred and abortion is not a good thing... Got into a raging argument at our record label [MCA] about that very thing. And one of the people... And they were good people, you know, I mean, I really like the people that we were working with, really concerned and like, took me aside after this argument with another person, which came up very innocently, and she said, "What are you gonna do if, you know, in an interview, you guys are asked what you think about abortion?" And I said, "Well, I'll probably tell them what I believe. That's, that's a good idea."

[and all laugh]

ST: It's like, the very thought that someone in pop music would have a view that's so contrary to... You know, all those people just assume a mindset. Again, alternative music can be just as straightjacket and doctrinaire and as posing as anything, as any other kind of music.

DV: Mm-hm. Eat some more.

ST: Thank you.

DV: That actually takes me into something else that I wanted to talk to you about. On this one [Chagall Guevara] and on the new one, you come down pretty hard on power brokers. The people that make the rules. Not only that, but, in fact, I see a lot of parallels between the two: I see the thing about the A.W.O.L. dad in both of 'em...

ST: [swallow hard] Mm! Mm! Right! Good, yeah.

DV: Tell me some, and you can, if you'd like, even choose the songs, but let's go topical in some of the songs.

ST: Okay. Right. Um, well, lessee here.

DV: "Bannerman," I should say, that came as a real surprise to me as far as your take on it. I did not expect you at all to come down easy on the Banner Man.

ST: [laughs] Right.

DV: I expected the finger-wagging. And saying, you know, "This is not a good example of it."

ST: True. Well, you know what it is, is after the experience of the last five years, those sort of little expressions of faith actually seem kinda cool to me. [laugh laugh]

DV: Would you have had that take on one of these other discs if you were to do that?

ST: No. I don't think so. How do I put this? No, I probably wouldn't've. The impulse for the song just came... I was reading an article, probably a year ago, it was just talkin' about how there was like a group of people who do this. They've highly trained. They figure out where the cameras are and they figure out just the time... They've got a little monitor...

DV: [a good, full-bodied laugh] I'll bet.

ST: And then they put up the, uh, the banner. And actually... I certainly wouldn't argue with anybody who says this is stupid: what good does this do? Well, actually, we'd probably get into a big argument about it. But it's like, the same thing with Greenpeace. You know, they go out and hang their banners from bridges and stuff like that. Nobody goes howlin' about that.

I mean, I guess it just depends, again, on what side you're falling on. Ah, I just like the idea of this sort of, these, sort of, guerrilla tactics. And you know, those tactics may have, in another year, lost their purpose and it's time to move on to something else.

At its core, it's the same sort of thing that, ah, I think, that fires people to preach on street corners. Um, it's just like an honest desire to let people know about their faith. And man, I think that's great. And it's like, if it wouldn't've been for people like that when I was a kid, when I was impressionable, somethin' like that, I don't know if I would've ended up bein' a Christian or not.

Ah, hard to say. So that sort of, whatever you want to call it, simple-minded approach, or whatever, it seems like a good thing to me. Unfortunately, I would have to admit that those people have more nerve than I do.

DV: Yeah. That's two.

ST: I guess it takes all types.

DV: How 'bout "Curses?"

ST: "Curses" had...

DV: A.W.O.L. dad.

ST: Yeah, had the same sort of impetus that, um, the song on the Chagall Guevara album, one that I can't remember, ah...

DV: "Rub of Love?"

ST: "Rub of Love" [said simultaneously] Yeah, right. I don't get the number of people, the number of men in particular, who essentially abandon their children. You know, our church just recently decided the new orphans and widows were single moms and their children. Which I think is essentially true, you know. 'Cause fathers just abandon their children and it's like, you know, you're on your own, or if alimony's comin', it's given begrudgingly. Others gotta take responsibility for the lives that they brought into the world. And there was also a sense, especially on the chorus, you know, taken from the Psalms "I was young, but now I'm old and I've never seen the righteous forsaken, the children begging for bread."

I felt like, in the band we experienced that. The Lord's provisions, very succinctly, because there were definitely times when we were down to bare bones and we were on our knees before God, you know, "Get us some money here. Figure something fast for us to do. We've got no other ideas." And God provided. Um so, sort of finger-wagging leveled with God's providence.

DV: "Cash Cow" and "Play God?"

ST: Wow! I hadn't even thought of that!

DV: I mean, it's not as direct, maybe, as the other ones, but I think they're both "God and mammon," power of money.

ST: Yeah! Sure, sure. That's probably true. That's right, 'cause "Play God" was a bit more veiled maybe.

See, originally, I was gonna call the album, The Kitchen Sink. I was gonna go, whatever... I was just gonna try anything. And, in many ways, that's what we did. "Cash Cow" was just trying to take the thing sort of to the limits of absurdity. That's why I put it on at the end. 'Cause, on On the Fritz, I put "Lifeboat," on cut seven and a lot of people told me, especially near, said, "Can you put that at the end next time so we could hear it a couple of times and then we could skip over it easily?"

DV: Um. [long pause] Well, tell me this. Before we go into any other songs, um, I sense now that you've got this vision thing. That it's back under control now, that it's focused. Um, in an overall sort of sense, where do you feel you're going?

We understand what you're not. And we understand who you align yourself with. What's the purpose? What's the direction?

ST: The long term. Um, ah, geez. I haven't quite got it. I haven't quite got that together very well.

DV: A-a-and I'm not meaning to imply that you should.

ST: Right.

Let me say that it's if the term "Christian" is applied to, as an adjective, to my name whenever I'm mentioned in whatever press or whatever, that would be fine with me. And if, if there was ever any sense when... I don't know, even if the, even when I said "retire" if that was ever, if that was ever a problem because there was never any sense like, "I'm embarrassed of who I am." That was never it at all.

But I, I think that there were tensions bein' in a band... It's like, I think the original impetus of the band was that we didn't want Christianity to be any kind of marketing device to market the band. But the fact of the matter is, all that stuff comes to light anyway, and if we would've become successful, that would've become a main point, you know, when the band got written up, or whatever, that would've been right there. I've seen it happen with other bands. It just becomes part of, a part of what you are.

DV: You have to deal with it. I mean U2's had to deal with it.

ST: Right. And usually what people do is they look at it and say, "Yeah, but not like this or this or this, right?" So I'm absolutely, that's fine with me. Because, a "Christian whatever," but a "Christian" foremost. As that works itself out in the future into whatever artistic endeavors, we'll wait and see. I mean, I've got a lot of ideas as far as, uh, gotten a lot into video with this album, and into film and thinkin' of different kinds of projects and...

DV: Just because we spent so much time talking about Chagall and stuff, I would like to pop through the rest of the songs on here.

"Frederick" sounds like you're having fun with the name first of all.

ST: Yeah, yeah... Well, it's sort of a chicken-and-the-egg thing. It's sorta like I'd figured out a chorus and I had to figure out a name to go with it.

DV: It's more of the casket stuff, right?

ST: Yeah, right! That's exactly it. I had this idea, the line, "The news of my death came at a really bad time for me." I'd been carrying for the last five years and um...

DV: Sounds almost like Twain.

ST: Like what?

DV: Twain.

ST: Oh yeah, 'cause what did he say? He said, "the news of my death has been greatly exaggerated," right.

DV: "...reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated." [simultaneously]

ST: Yeah. Well, you see it all around you, it's like, people think that they've living their own little movie and that everything that they do and everything that happens to them; it doesn't matter if it's right or wrong, because, "It's helping me grow" and stuff like that, right?

DV: Mm-hm.

ST: And just, the self-absorption, can be...

DV: That's very vogue for this music.

ST: Exactly! Yeah, right. And that's exactly it too. Especially in sort of the musical alternative world. It's the same thing. Nobody wants to say whether they were right or wrong because, you know, it helps me grow, and I'm a different person, and all that stuff. "I'm livin' out my own little movie."

DV: Jim Morrison?

ST: Jim Morrison, yeah. Very very true. Very true.

DV: "Smug" has the barbs in it that I've come to expect from you, and I was glad to see it.

ST: [laughs] Oh yeah. Right, right. Ah, yes. "Smug" was um... Mighta been, mighta been flipping channels. I'm not sure where the original thing came from, but maybe flippin' channels, I think maybe thinkin' of Rush Limbaugh and Barbara Streisand in a wrestling match and they're just two different genders of the same thing.

Just that attitude that, you know, self-righteousness. It used to be the church always got accused of that, but lately people from all persuasions are taking it and running with it, you know, society is becoming self-centered and very smug.

DV: Is there a danger of talking about something critically, satirically, or whatever so much that it becomes part of you? So that that whole reversal happens? I mean like, the "Strike a pose" thing.

When I saw you guys in concert, it came off, not unlike what U2's doing. It came off very much like, "We're making fun of rock and roll." At the same time, is there the danger that, by doing that all the time, you actually take it on?

ST: Oh yeah. Right. Yeah, there absolutely is. Because it's like we can give ourselves a lot more credit for being stronger than we actually are. And we start sort of adopting those things. Quickly. You quickly adopt. You start posturing and then pretty soon that posturing becomes a part of your personality.

I mean, stupid as it is, like, I would love to wear sunglasses all the time. 'Cause, you know, nobody sees what's goin' on in the eyes. And it's like, that's not a good thing for me. They need to see the eyes, you know, because that's like, the window to the soul. When you block that off, you're just puttin' another layer there. So yeah, it is a problem. But I think, overall, lots of times when I write a song about somethin', it actually serves to be a right-in-my-face warning. So if you could trace different albums, "Oh yeah, Steve's having a problem with this and this and this and that."

"Moshing Floor" we were doing a gig in, um, the 328 Performance Hall. It was like, sort of our last really good gig. And it was absolutely mayhem. And the moshing thing was goin' wild. And of course I was as into it as anybody was. But at a certain point, you sort of realize that what's goin' on really has nothin' to do with the music we're playin'. [laughs]

We could be playin' "Misty" and it could be goin' on.

DV: [seriously] There's something almost bestial about it I noticed. Like, in the festival that we did, and if you'd just taken the guys' clothes off and put leopard skin on, it looked right.

ST: [laughs harder than he has in the whole conversation] Right!

DV: 'Cause they're stompin' real hard, and kind of in a circle and...

ST: Right. [still laughing fairly well]

DV: It's like Lord of the Flies.

ST: Right, right. Yeah. So, I mean, I dug, I dug it. Don't get me wrong. Well it's sort of like "This Disco..." I guess you take a dance and sort of use it as a metaphor for life and philosophy and all that stuff.

And then, workin' in, towards the end, the idea of, "Malls and religion, build a new fort, Jesus is a franchise in the food courts." It's like, where we're livin' now, even if the idea of Jesus doesn't offend you, you know, you take a little bit of that and you take a little bit of that from all the different stalls...

DV: Sure.

ST: ...and you mix it up and you make up your own.

DV: ...your own. [simultaneously] Yeah.

Um, what are your thoughts on this statement: That everything that we do should be something that we can justify or say that we've thought about and reasoned out reasons for everything that we do?

ST: Hmm.

DV: The moshing thing kind of raised that question.

ST: Yeah. Right, right.

DV: Do, do you feel like... Do you think that everything in the life of a Christian should be something that they would be able to defend to somebody? Is there a place for things outside of that?

ST: Well that's a good question. Both of those are pretty deep. Um, [long pause] I suppose life is probably equal parts, acting and then reacting. Um, but I think part of it goes back to what we were talkin' about earlier, of people being so self-possessed that everything that they do, they don't look at it as, "Is this a right of a wrong choice?" It's like, "Well it's contributing to who I am as a person."

DV: Right.

ST: I think that as Christians, it's very easy to adopt that same attitude instead of recognizing that there's right and wrong choices to make and there's sin and that the sin, in spite of God's forgiveness of sin, that sin has consequences. So I suppose that when we're faced with things that are out of controls makin' thoughtful decisions is correct. And that, in the question, all that has a whole chain reaction of, "therefore know God" and "know your Bible" and all those other things. Yeah.