Steve Taylor - Creation '96 Press Conference

Source: Andrew D. Taylor of QRSTUV
Creation '96 Press Conference, Hersheypark, Hershey, PA
June 29th, 1996
Thanks to Andrew D. Taylor

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Steve Taylor: I'm sorry. Security, can we have those gentlemen in the back removed? [laughing]

[Steve is referring to two people from re:Think Records, Charlie Peacock's record label at the time. One of them is Jay Swartzendruber, who later went on to work with Steve and Squint Entertainment a year later.]

Audience: Can you tell us about the new album?

ST: I can't, actually. I've been working on it for quite a while. I was explaining on the radio earlier that the guys in my band, I don't even let them hear the final mixes. It's sort of like people coming in for a--like actors in a movie, and all they get is their lines. They don't see it till it's done.

There's no real reason for that except that what I've been doing the last few years has been relatively accepted and I can be in a restaurant and someone can come up to me and actually say "hello" instead of "give me advice on what I should be doing differently." That hasn't really happened that much anymore. I think this new record is going to be very--I think the people that like it will probably really like it, and people that don't will probably revile it.

Maybe that's part of the reason why it's taking me so long, because I'm not sure what the reaction's going to be, but I think it's going to be fairly possibly heated in the little circle that actually will buy it to begin with, so we'll have to see what happens. So, yeah, I can't really describe it. Sorry! [laughter] Long answer to a short question.

Just going to wait and--the only guy that's heard anything is Russ because he engineered it with me, and he's sworn to secrecy. I played my wife one song, and then I'm not even going to play her anymore, either. So I guess we don't have really anything else to talk about now, do we? [laughter]

Audience: [unintelligible]

ST: It's about probably one-third one. It's probably about a third written, and the rest of the ideas, I just haven't finished it all up yet. One of the good and bad things is since we've got our own studio, we can take as long as we want, and sometimes that can be a blessing and sometimes it's a curse, because you don't have any excuse to not get it right. We're just going to keep working on it until it seems like it's right and ready to go. It'll probably be out sometime early next year, I would guess. So just add a couple of years to that and we'll probably have the release time right.

Audience: You've always been very honest... [unintelligible]

ST: Right, well as far as weaknesses go, I think everybody shares in it. This topic came up a while back in an interview. The content of that interview with the people involved was sort of going towards blaming record label executives or whoever else was in charge. But really it all starts with the artist, because nobody puts a gun to our head and says you've got to do this kind of a song, or [that] you have to act like this.

Everything about this begins with the artist, and if we allow pressure to dictate what we're going to do, then it's our own fault. You can't blame a manager, you can't blame a record company. It may be wrong for record companies to try to pressure people to be something they're not, or to try and tell them "you got to do this many songs that'll fit on the radio," but ultimately the artist says yes or no.

I think ultimately it comes back to the artist. It's been an interesting--I don't know if this is a very good parallel, but it just sprang to my mind. Of course in the pop world there's a big debate going on about the number of heroin addicts in rock music. Everybody's pointing fingers and saying "it's the record company's fault," or "it's the manager's fault," or whoever, but ultimately it does all come down to an individual choice. Artists don't want to take responsibility for their lives and for their actions, but ultimately they're responsible for their choices.

I think that record labels, for instance, can do a good job of--certainly can do a better job of making the choices on their end, too. I sometimes wonder, in the pop music world, sometimes I just want to ask one of the heads of these labels, "is there anything you wouldn't do for money?" I think that Christian music has always been distinctive in that regard. If it gets reduced to the same thing, certainly we're in big trouble.

So I don't know, is that enough for the critique? [laughter] Okay.

Audience: [unintelligible]

ST: It's hard to say. I mean, that's always, I guess, a possibility. It's just strange how things change from year to year, and so it's very hard to predict what the climate will be--how the reception would be for something like that--from year to year. Certainly when Chagall was going--I told some different stories about this--I felt that alternative music at that point was becoming as much of a club with walls, "you do this and you don't do this," certainly as much as gospel music had been. So it was like I traded in one set of boundaries for another set of boundaries.

I think it was at some sort of get-together that Charlie Peacock was hosting, and he was talking about the same thing. You just have to recognize that almost wherever you go, as far as recording artists goes, and it probably applies to a lot of other things, there are systems. You land in one of those systems, sometimes whether you want to or not, and you have to realize that those systems have certain boundaries, and if you want to cross those boundaries, you certainly can, but there's probably going to be consequences to that, too. No matter where we go we have certain choices that we have to make, and perhaps the climate might be right to try something like that again in the future. I don't know.

Audience: Was it a positive part of your career? [?]

ST: Well it was positive from a creative standpoint, and it was good collaborating, because I don't usually--not in the past enjoyed collaborating, and that was an enjoyable thing. There was a lot of frustrations involved in it, too, and many aspects of that I wouldn't be anxious to get into again. But I still look on the experience fondly, a lot of it, and still keep in touch with all the guys, and of course two of the guys from Chagall are in my band now, Mike and Wade. I guess it would just depend on the circumstances.

Audience: [unintelligible]

ST: Well I really like doing them all, and trying to do as many of them at the same time as possible, because it keeps things interesting. Sort of like interdisciplinary studies. You're working on one thing, and you start thinking, "okay, if I was editing this song like I was editing this video I'm working on, how would I approach this?" So they all start getting mixed up.

I think usually that's a positive thing, although I'm sure sometimes it's not. More than anything I'm just getting good at juggling different things. I like mixing them up. I would probably really--if everything but one went away, it'd probably get sort of tedious.

Audience: [unintelligible]

ST: It's a really long, wrestling process. It usually takes weeks for a song. It's not a pretty process. [laughter]

It's very enjoyable form the standpoint that--especially when it gets down to just the lyrics--that I can do it anywhere with just a pencil and a pad of paper. Oftentimes my wife and I will get in the car--and she'll drive for safety reasons--we'll just go somewhere and drive. And every once in a while something will come together really quickly. The best example was the lyric to "Shine" for the Newsboys [which] came on a trip to Memphis and back. But that's never happened before, which is interesting, I think, because that's a very complicated lyric because of the rhyme scheme.

I keep thinking that's going to happen again sometime, and it usually doesn't. Usually it's just very tedious. It's enjoyable from the standpoint that I can do this anywhere. There's certainly a lot of worse jobs, but it can just be very frustrating. I think with lyrics, too, you're always trying to do two things: you're trying to keep what you're doing accessible, which can be tricky, but you're also trying to keep raising the bar on the high jump. You don't want to keep coming back to what you know.

Sometimes that happens, like coming up with a very outside rhyme scheme, and sometimes it happens with taking a title or a lyric that shouldn't necessarily fit with what you're talking about and seeing if you can make it work. I'm certainly not always successful at it, either. It's a long process.

Audience: I think you've definitely raised the standard, like on your video, and I was just wondering, do you have any ... [unintelligible] ... rumor like that about a long-form video?

ST: Right. Yeah, the thing I'm working on right now is--we just filmed it, actually, about three weeks ago. It's with the Newboys and it's an hour-long sort of "movie-ette," I guess. Maybe a cross between "A Hard Day's Night" and Spinal Tap or The Monkees or something like that.

It's definitely played for laughs, which I guess comedy is a pure artform--if people laugh it works, and if they don't it doesn't. So I gotta wait and get it in front of an audience to see if it works or not, but I think it's going to work. The Newsboys play themselves, but it's got a plot and characters. It takes place at a circus that's on its last legs.

It was really enjoyable doing it. It was about an eight day shoot, and the days ranged from 16 hours to 20 hours plus. At the end of the project I told my wife, "now I know why unions were formed," because of what I did to my poor crew.

But they were all very good-natured about it, and the Newsboys, if I can say this, did a really surprisingly good job in acting. Which, of course, that was one of the big concerns. Of course they were playing themselves, but that's probably a lot harder than it sounds. They came on--they were really well-prepared, and very seldom flubbed lines or anything like that. All the crew was really marvelling at it, because the shoots they'd been on, they normally don't see the professionals coming in that well-prepared--and that relaxed, because if you don't know your lines, you're nervous ahead of time.

They just did a really good job. They were some scenes that were extremely complicated, long takes, where if we didn't get it right the first time, we were going to add on another three or four hours just to set it up again, and they inevitably got those right, too.

I'm really excited about it. I'm in the thick of editing it right now, and it was a big job, because music videos--literally anybody could shoot music videos. [laughter] It doesn't take any special talent. Not that this necessarily does, either, but it's a big stretch when you add dialogue, and you're writing. It was easy to write the Newsboys' parts because I'd hung out with them so much, I could easily imagine who would say what. And of course I now speak Australian, too, so that made it easier. So I'm anxious to see how people react to it. It comes out in September, I think.

Audience: I have heard a lot and yet can't find a little bit about the "unofficial" record label that you have.

ST: Oh, right, right. [laughter]

Audience: Have you been talking with any other "unofficial" labels?

ST: Right, right. Well, it's been a strange thing. I hadn't actually made any announcement about it or anything like that, and I think one of the magazines, might have been CCM, made the announcement for me. Which was sort of a drag, because I had not said anything, and all of a sudden I'm getting even more tapes in the mail than usual.

It's just been a really long process. I don't-- [long pause] I don't know how much I want to get into this, actually. It's not like starting a label was ever a big dream or anything like that, but the opportunity presented itself through a friend. The more I thought about it, the more it made sense. I actually had a couple of good conversations with Charlie [Peacock], too, because I think what he's doing is exactly the flavor of what I think is the future of--not just with Christian music, but with music in general.

Unfortunately the talks I've been having with this one entity, there's greater corporate things that are happening at the same time, and I've just had to tell them, I can't do anything until I know where this is going to land. So, I don't know if that could possibly be any vaguer. [laughter] So I'm just waiting right now to see where it lands.

This whole corporate structure is a very strange thing. I really like working with people where their "yes" is "yes" and their "no" is "no". Unfortunately corporations are made to subvert that very process. You gotta go through committees--and at some point I'm thinking, man, I might as well be back in Chagall Guevara, where we had to have a conference call to decide who was going to take a shower next.

So we'll have to see what happens. I wouldn't want to be in a position with doing this where I would be the guy where my "yes" wasn't "yes" and my "no" wasn't "no," so that's always been part of the backstop: "here's how I do it, do you want to do it or not?" This entity has said they definitely want to do it, but now with these other things happening at the higher level, I just have to wait and see what happens.

Moderator: We have time for one more.

Audience: [unintelligible, something about Guardian]

ST: Oh, right, I really like working with them, too. Just a really good band. They were in a difficult position in that the musical style that they started in has now gone the way of all dinosaurs. One day it's just, "gone, where did it go, nobody knows." They came from this L.A. metal scene, and it just disappeared.

So they ended up coming on tour with us, because Dakoda [Motor Co.] was not able to finish the tour, because Peter King was going to do his MTV thing. So they joined up at the eleventh hour. Just in hanging out with them on a bus, I got to know them really well, and really, really like them.

At the end of the tour--I think we're in Germany--they asked if I'd be interested in working with them on their next record. My first question was, "what do you want to do musically? Because we have to figure something out here." They said that that's part of the reason they wanted to work with me, to try to come up with something different.

I really like their record. We're getting ready to start the next one soon, and we're trying to take another step further. This is a great band. There's not many bands like that where there's no weak links. They're just great--just get in the studio and start tracking it and it all comes together, so it's been really fun.