Arcade Fire and Atheists

March 31st, 2007 |

This post is my attempt to up the pace around here. I’d like to write something every day but it turns out I’m not interesting enough.

I saw Arcade Fire on a re-run of SNL tonight. Hughes has raved about this band. I don’t get it.

A new Newsweek poll says that only 3% of Americans identify themselves as atheists. Only?!? They said “Just 3 percent of the public self-identifies as atheist, suggesting that the term may carry some stigma.” Wha? Maybe only 3% of people polled said they were atheists because  only 3% of them were atheists. Do they honestly think that the poll was skewed by stigmas when 82% of people said they were Christians? I would argue that being an atheist carries much less of a stigma than being a Christian.

Angel’s Big Day

March 30th, 2007 |

I took my PC to the puter fixer today. I just want to go on record as predicting that the problem is the motherboard. I’ll know early next week what the official diagnosis is and we’ll see if I’m right. Almost all of the symptoms (except a peculiar few) point to the hard drive but I’ve seen enough episodes of House to know that even though everything points to Lupus, we all know that its a toothpick sticking through the colon wall.

I’m not sure why I never mentioned it but Angel started a new job a few weeks ago. It came with a 20% salary increase and the office is five blocks from our house, as opposed to forty five minutes, which was the commute time to her last job. God is good.

The thought of disclosing on the Internet exactly where my wife works sort of gives me the heebie-jeebies so I won’t. I’ll just say she is the office manager for a law office that just opened a new branch here in Granite. For the last few weeks she’s been training at their Glen Carbon office but today was her first official day of business. The totals? Zero phone calls, zero walk-ins. That’s what I’m talkin’ ’bout!

Riley is spending the night with my mom tonight so Angel and I went out on a date to celebrate he first big day of business. Our quiet, romantic evening started at this new Mexican joint in town. Nothing says “I love you” quite like a gigantic chicken burrito.

After that we spent the next hour gazing (glaring?) into each other’s eyes while slow dancing up and down the isles of Shop N Save. “We need to get this show on the road. I gotta use the John.” Yep! I still got it. Chivalry is not dead, it just needs some Imodium.

We ended the night (I guess it’s not actually over. She’s sitting on the couch reading a book right now) watching Survivorman and a Cardinals spring training game. That twinkle in my eye is Opening Day two days away.

The Secret

March 27th, 2007 |

I was listening to NPR today and there was a big discussion about The Secret. I haven’t read it. I have watched the trailer however. I spit up in my mouth a little but other than that it had a few good laughs in it.

The Secret has inspired me to write my own self-help book. I will release it for free on my website just like I do everything else that may some day potentially make me wealthy had I not released it for free on my website. Not only that, I am going to write it right here, right now before your very eyes.

Chapter 1 – Just stop! It’s easy right?

– Stop smoking.

– Stop drinking.

– Lay of the caffeine.

– Eat less fast food.

– Exercise a little you bum.

– Say please.

– Say thank you.

– Be nice.

– Pretend everything will be OK as long as you stay positive.

– Learn to manipulate people. (OK I stole that one from Carnegie)

– Find a job that you would do for free except have them pay you lots to do it.

– Get out of debt.

– Stop cheating on your spouse.

Chapter 2 – Happy yet?!?

Chapter 3 – How ’bout now?

Chapter 4 – The Secretest Secret to ever Secrete.

– None of this will bring you peace. Not lasting peace. Not eternal peace.

The End

You’re welcome.

If you’re looking for a way to pay me for this wealth of information, I need this, this, and this.

I’ve heard Christians say there’s no peace outside of God. These are people who have obviously never washed down a Xanax with a glass of wine and watched the sun set while sitting by the ocean. But it’s hard to keep that up for a lifetime. In fact, it’s hard to keep that up for more than a few hours. Expensive too.

It’s been almost a year since I became a Christian. I can vouch for God’s peace. I can’t explain it, but it’s real.

I look at life through the window of music. I’ve always defined myself by my music. So when I think of peace I think of it first in terms of who I am now as a musician as opposed to who I was a year ago as a musician. The outward differences are obvious. This time last year I was in (what I think was) one of the best bands around. Now I play acoustic guitar in a worship band at a small community church. But here’s the difference that may not seem so obvious. I no longer feel the need to make you love me with my music. I don’t hate myself for being a financial failure with my music. I am no longer obsessed with proving my self worth by getting a record deal.

I am genuinly ecstatic  about what is happening in my worship band. I have found my purpose.

Come check it out some time.

Deal Or No Deal

March 25th, 2007 |

I love Deal Or No Deal.

I am not the kind of guy who laughs at the misfortune of others. I don’t laugh when my wife falls down (if only she’d return the favor). I don’t laugh when my son wipes out. I don’t laugh at videos of skaters crushing their genitals while attempting to grind a handrail. However, when someone says “No Deal” to $190,000.00 and ends up saying “Deal” to $75.00, I point and I laugh. I point and I laugh very hard for a very long time. Not just to mock their greed (though there certainly is that), but because I can’t help it. It’s not forced laughter. It’s genuine, uncontrollable, humans-are-so-stupid laughter.

It’s amazing to see human nature so bare and raw. I love it. Dangle that sized carrot if front of us lower-middle class people and we totally lose all sense of reason. The offer was $95,000.00 and it went down to only $65,000.00 so I’d better ride this failure train all the way into the ground baby.

I remember the good old days when people went out of their skulls upon winning all of Ben Stein’s money. That was, what? $5,000.00? If that. Do you know how nice of a computer I could buy with 5 large?

Rock- pt 3

March 23rd, 2007 |

Taylor raised some interesting points in his comment from my “Rock of My Salvation – pt 2” post. Go read what he said then come back. I’ll wait.

I think it’s interesting the point he makes about worship lyrics because I used to (and still do to a certain extent) feel the exact same way about Christian music in general. When I was a teenager I used to have long discussions with my mom about this very subject. I wanted to know why God didn’t have all the best songwriters and musicians on his team. I wanted to know why I only had three Christian albums that were any good. I wanted to know why theological gems like “Boycott Hell” (DeGarmo and Key) were the best that the CCM (Contemporary Christian Music) industry could muster.

Maybe the CCM industry is better these days. I don’t know. I don’t really listen to much music. I haven’t for years. But even people who are rabid music fans will only come across maybe five or ten albums a year that they consider to be really good. So if the CCM industry has roughly a hundred times fewer artists, that would mean that even to get one good album out of the CCM scene would be beating the secular average.

Worship lyrics are a tricky thing I think. If a songwriter has had a profound experience with God then you’d expect profound thought to come from that experience. But what if they’re just a lousy songwriter? God’s got them too. There are lots of people out there writing songs to the very best of their ability as an act of praise to God but the songs are just plain bad. I’m sure it’s a beautiful sound in the Lord’s ear because he’s far more concerned with a person’s heart than their sense of harmonic momentum but the fact remains that the song is weak.

I consider myself to be an above average lyricist. So I hoped that when I set out to write my first worship song that the lyrics would be at least as good as Lunar Beams or The Ballad of War’s End. But they’re not. My first worship song was called Hands to Heaven and the lyrics are incredibly simple and anything but profound.

Here’s why. I want people to be able to sing along with the song after hearing it only twice. I also want them to know all the lyrics after hearing it only three times. Hands to Heaven has two lines in the verse, two lines in the pre-chorus, and two lines in the chorus. It’s probably the simplest song we do at our church but people really seem to like it because it’s so simple and so catchy. I think this approach to songwriting promotes worship just because of its simplicity and ease of learning.

But what do I know? Amazing Grace has incredibly stunning lyrics, and lots of them, and we still worship to that one and hopefully will forever.

I know exactly where you’re coming from Taylor. I wrestled with those same things. They frustrated me too. I guess you have to find your own answers to those questions. The answer I found was that God does want us to give him our best even if our best may appear to be rubbish.

Philippians 4:6

March 21st, 2007 |

I’ve decided to let go of my computer worries. See? There they go. I have done everything I know how to do and none of it has worked. I also have no money to have it repaired. I have been in this exact same situation before and the solution I most often find is Visa.

I’m not going to do that this time. Over the past four or five years we have charged ourselves poor. This is a trend that has recently stopped and I’m not going to start it up again. I have lived without my computer for the past few weeks and I think it’s safe to say that I could live without it indefinitely if need be. I hope the need does not be but I’m going to wait and see.

The computer is royally hosed. I’ve tried doing a repair install of Windows, a full install of Windows, I’ve swapped out the RAM, I’ve swapped out the main hard drive, I’ve put the main drive in Angel’s PC as the slave just to copy all the important stuff off of it, and that’s when I realized that a gigantic amount of my recordings were gone. Nothing is working. It won’t boot. Bad computer!

I am going to trust God for a solution. I have trusted Drew for one and he has let me down. His “Just charge it” solution was awfully tempting however.

There’s also another issue that I’ve been wrestling with. All of the software I use for recording is stolen. Between my main recording program and all of the plug-ins I probably have close to $3,000.00 worth of software that I found on Limewire. Of course I swiped all of this stuff before I was a Christian but still, it puts me in a weird spot.

I had never really given it much thought until I started thinking about having to re-install all of my programs, which I’ll have to do after my PC is fixed. It just seems like I’d be steeling them all over again. That really bothers me. So I decided I’m not going to do it.

So here’s where all of this leaves me: No computer, no recording software, no money, no worries.

I’m going to go back to the worship music subject maybe tomorrow or the day after becasue Taylor made some very good points that I want to address. I just need to get my thoughts together first.

Bad News

March 20th, 2007 |

My dead PC has been ignored for almost five weeks now due to lack of money to repair it. I started working on it yesterday and things look bad. I’m in too lousy of a mood to go into it right now but almost 2/3 of my audio files appear to be gone: all of my solo album stuff, almost all of my demos, the entire Formula Kid album, and so on. This makes me extremely sad.

Pray please.

Fab Five Freddie in the Hall

March 16th, 2007 |

When I recently learned that Fab Five Freddie was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame I was elated. This is a pioneering moment in music history. Finally we can all celebrate a man known neither for his Rock nor his Roll as he has summited the great mountain.

I now know that there truly is hope of Ricky Scaggs finally receiving the Source Award he so well deserves. And I shall continue to hold my breath knowing that Martina Navratilova still has a chance of winning the Cy Young award.

Rock and Roll in all its rebelliousness has finally aimed its rebellion at its own temple. How much more rebellious can you get than to recognize a Hip Hop artist as one of the all time greatest Rock and Roll artists? That, my friend, is Rock and Roll.

I found it strangely fitting that Eddie Van Halen couldn’t make it to his own induction ceremony because he was in rehab. That’s, somehow, almost too perfect.

The Rock of My Salvation – pt 2

March 15th, 2007 |

And now for something completely the same.

Concerning the comments from yesterday’s post, first things first. Crappie fishing = awesome. Joe, yes, let’s do a whole lot of that. Call me.

I think the whole conversation about worship music is totally fascinating because it’s such a point of devision in many churches. I’ve done some reading about it and it really has become kind of a big deal. Bizarre.

When I was a boy we worshiped to whatever was put on our plate and we worshiped every last crumb of it and we liked it. Honestly, we liked it. There was no debate about old or new, Marshall or Fender, hymnal or Crowder, there was only debate over whether or not we could beat the Baptists to the KFC after the Sunday morning service.

Taylor, your question was “What about the youth?” The answer is simple. Nobody cares about the youth. The Bible shows us that God doesn’t love anyone under the age of thirty. That’s why Jesus couldn’t start his ministry until he turned thirty. He also doesn’t love Cubs fans.

You’re right though. I totally agree. What about the youth? The band plays a David Crowder tune so the under 21 crowd can worship their God. Then they play “Old Rugged Cross” so the retirees can worship their God. Then the band plays Jellyfish so Drew can worship his God. Then they play some Toby Keith so we can worship bein’ tough and drivin’ a Ford and then slit our wrists. “Did everyone get their God in? Did we leave anybody out?” That’s why I think that every church should find their own Mustang Sally.

A band can walk into pretty much any bar in North America that hires cover bands and play Mustang Sally and 90% of the people will be either singing along or dancing. Why is it so hard to find worship songs with this same kind of mass appeal?

Taylor, I like modern worship music. I didn’t mean to give anybody the impression that I don’t. I even said “I think it’s a blast to play the new stuff too.” But comparing the best of the old to the best of the new I prefer the old. I prefer The Zombies’ version of pop better than Fountains of Wayne’s version of pop but I love both. Same thing with worship music.

But I’m coming at it with a different perspective than most people. I am hyper-critical of songwriters, especially Christian songwriters because if you’re going to write a song about God it better be real good. I’m also hyper-critical of Rock that doesn’t rock. If you’re going to write a Rock worship song it better rock. That means the guitar player had better turn the chorus, reverb, and delay off. That means no rolls on the hi-hat! That means no DX7 keyboard sounds! That means no “Beacon in the night” lyrics! I could go on.

I am by no means an expert on modern worship music. I would guess that the number of worship CDs in my collection would probably be about zero. I’m basically forming my opinion on the huge catalog of modern tunes my worship band has played. The majority of the songs that are supposed to rock just simply don’t rock. And I don’t even know exactly what it means to rock. I can’t really put it into words but I do know this, Van Halen rocked. AC/DC rocked. Zeppelin rocked. And very few of these songs rock. They’re fun to play but they don’t rock. And that’s kinda OK I guess because if they really rocked then we probably wouldn’t be playing them on Sunday morning.

The great thing about the older worship choruses is that they are exactly what they are. Country/Blues/Gospel/Bluegrass, whatever you want to call it, it is what it claims to be.

I am all for having a kickin’ band playing modern stuff every Sunday as long as it works for that particular congregation. I am convinced that I could put together a rotation of tunes that would keep most of the people happy most of the time but is it really about that anyway? It’s not entertainment, right? Is it? That’s a completely different can of worship worms that I’ll open tomorrow, maybe.

Check this video out. This is Ruff Taff singing “Ain’t No Grave”. This isn’t exactly a worship chorus but stylistically it’s pretty close to style that I really like. Russ Taff is one of my top three or four favorite singers but he’s about fifteen years past his prime in this clip. Still awesome though.

The Rock of My Salvation

March 14th, 2007 |

Worship music underwent a radical change in the thirteen years I was away from church. “Just Over in the Glory Land” has given way to a Les Paul jacked up through a Marshall. Some worship services are just rock concerts without the beer and smokes.

Church folks simply love getting upset over the little things, and the migration of the music is one of them.

When it comes to this particular issue I stand proudly on the fence.

I love Rock n Roll. I love that my amp is louder than yours. I love smoke machines. I love laser lights. We know this. So it would seem that I’d be fully in favor of the modern approach to worship music – which I am – I think – sort of – I guess. But I was raised on the old stuff, and it rocks too. In fact, I would argue that in many cases the old stuff actually rocks harder if it is done stylistically accurate. I mean, put any old run-of-the-mill rockabilly band up against – uhhh – Creed for example. I don’t even need to type it. You get the point.

If I had to choose between the best of the Old Time Gospel Hour stuff and the best of the modern stuff I would have to say that I’d probably pick the old stuff. I think it’s more fun and more challenging to play, and in general I think it’s more well written. But then again I think it’s a total blast to play the new stuff too. I’m just glad to be playing.

But for some (maybe most) people this is a big issue, and I see their point. If you walk into your local retirement bar you won’t hear Fallout Boy on the jukebox. And if you walk into a dance club they’re not going to have Hank on the jukebox. They don’t even have a jukebox, Einstein! Now take these two crowds and smash them together, put longer skirts on the girls, put Jesus in their hearts and you’ve got a church. So what’s a poor jukebox to do?

No seriously. I’m actually asking.

But wait, before you answer, the plot thickens. The jukebox has an opinion of its own.

Back when I was in The Drew Johnson Band I would often ask which song the crowd wanted us to end the show with. We can either play song A or song B, you pick. I always wanted to play song A and the crowd always wanted to hear song B. This is the other problem. The proverbial jukebox has Fallout Boy and Hank, but the jukebox wants to play The Zombies.

Here’s what I know. There are, in my mind, two different kinds of bands (Rock bands, I’m not talking about worship bands). There are bands that you go to listen to and bands that you go to dance to. If you want people to stop and stare you play War Pigs. If you want them to dance you play Mustang Sally. The Drew Johnson Band played War Pigs. I think that this sort of logic should be applied to a worship service. Play Mustang Sally!!! Play some Skynyrd!!! But whatever you do, don’t play 2112.

The trick is finding out what your church’s version of Mustang Sally is and finding out what their 2112 is.