By BRUCE DENNILL
It’s been necessary, for reasons of integrity, for you and other musicians to withdraw from CCM as an industry (specifically as a business/corporate entity more than a worship and missions platform). That action is often seen as controversial or aggressive, but from your point of view it must a complex, multi-faceted thing. Do you need to withdraw sometimes in order to, paradoxically, find God?
I’ve never really fit into the industry as a whole, and the Christian industry is just as flawed, or even more so than any, really. Ultimately, people are trying to figure out how to make a buck. My music cannot be defined in a lot of ways and is not radio-driven, so instead of trying to win that game I do my own thing. I am not trying to find God by ducking out of the industry, I am about finding God every day, regardless. I look at music as a universal thing, and it is a subjective thing, some people might get what I do, others won’t.
Blind Thief Farm feels like a statement of intent, in many ways. It’s out of town, so independent and private. It’s a studio, so music remains at the centre. It’s an AirBnB-listed accommodation option, so it’s a gathering point for people, or a spot where memories can be created. What is your hoped-for legacy with the farm?
Blind Thief Farm was a decision we (my wife and I) made on the go. We were bored with the suburbs, had done quite a bit of time in the urban environment of East Nashville and wanted a change of pace. I got lucky really finding this place. I grew up like this, in Michigan. I was raised on a 20-acre farm outside of Grand Rapids, so this is a return to my roots, I guess.
I have just recently been interested in “homesteading” and the idea of living off the grid. I am an anarchist, so it plays well to my interests in that way. I am also a big believer in bringing people together in alternative type settings. We want to use our place as an events-driven destination. I want it to be more of a hippie farm than a corporate one, though.
In an old interview, you said you left Audio Adrenaline because you felt you “didn’t really fit the worship leader mode”. What did you mean by that?
I left Audio Adrenaline because it wasn’t cohesive after the second year. I started out with big hopes and aspirations to see the band go back to its rock and roll roots. When that didn’t really happen, it lost the plot – in my opinion. I am extremely happy for the money we raised for Hands And Feet and the kids of Haiti. I have the utmost respect for Mark Stuart and Will McGinniss and the work they are doing in missions. Wes Campbell saw that vision too, and we did some great things in two years. I dug everyone in the band, in all of its sequences, but I’m not big on the industry or authority.
As far as the modern worship thing goes, that was what they told me me they were going for towards the end of my tenure with them, but then they went and made a pop album after going through two new lead singers. I don’t understand modern worship as a genre, but it doesn’t mean that its not valid or uplifting or inspirational – I tend to meet God through different types of music. I feel a spiritual connection while listening to rock and roll mainly, because I understand and am inspired by rock, alternative rock, poetry, electronic synth based pop and a bit of folk. Does it make me better than everyone else? Who knows and who cares? Your experience with God should be yours and yours alone. I don’t subscribe to any form of bandwagon.
Playing Games With The Shadow features a great deal of electronica and a wide range of topics, most of them either fairly introspective in tone. What are you wanting to communicate with these songs?
Playing Games With The Shadow was just another expression of creativity. It was a bit of an experiment this time around, as I wrote the whole album on my synthesiser. I was into quite a few retro Eighties albums when I wrote it, so I think it shows a bit much. I go through massive shifts in what I listen to and what inspires me. Right now, I am writing an album that is almost entirely classic rock. As a solo artist, I can inhabit any style I want to because I don’t have a guitarist ringing me up saying “Those ideas are really stupid”. For better or for worse… Give me a good band, though, and I will give up the solo life.
You’re getting on with your own projects, whatever they may be on whatever timeline you feel works for you. You’re fortunate, at this point, to have the resources to allow for experimentation, but you’ve also had a set of experiences that have confirmed this as, arguably, the best way – the only way? – to work going forward.
I make music for myself and then I hope it relates to people. The problem with most of the music industry at large, is that they make music for other people first, and then wonder, “Hmm, do I even like this personally?”
My mantra has always been: be yourself. God created you individually with individual tastes and gifts. Why try to be like everyone else?