by Luke Baumgarten and Clint Burgess & r & It's gotta be tough to do publicity for Christian rock. The evangelical idea that the secular world is the devil's domain - that it's the fiery gauntlet you have to navigate to get your eternal reward - turns some people off. So does the amount of Christian rock that's painfully sunny, glorifying God while forgetting the tensions of faith and ignoring, basically, the entire human element. The fact that many bands front like they're angsty and tortured to get their foot in the door, so to speak, to minister to people - that really turns people off.
It's understandable, then, that the guy handling Project 86's tour publicity would so adamantly say that, yes, Project 86 is a Christian band, but they're, in his words, "the edgiest Christian band I've ever heard." He also said that lead singer Andrew Schwab was a pretty edgy guy. Edgy, he repeated, not secular-sounding, which I took to mean "mainstream, but not as a front to trick people into finding Jesus."
Still, edgy seemed frighteningly undefined. I asked for an interview thinking it'd go one of two ways. I'd either expose Project 86 as a bunch of religious wolves in hard-core clothing, or I'd get to talk to an artist who, like Pedro the Lion and Leonard Cohen, actively plumb the place where faith and human experience intersect. Someone who creates religious art rather than, you know, peddling religiosity.
Unfortunately, Mr. Schwab preemptively answered all my hard-hitting questions before I asked them. Turns out, he was kinda edgy. So much for being a hero.
On being considered a Christian rock band: & r & "I don't think we're that at all. The title is very limiting, but there is nothing that we can do about it. I would call us a rock band. I would put us in the vein of Queens of the Stone Age meets Hatebreed with hints of the Faint. We're heavier, but I wouldn't put us in the metal category. At the same time, we tried to avoid the glut of screamo and metal core."
On the Christian rock paradigm: & r & "First of all, I believe that there's a difference between Christian rock and being a Christian band. Christian rock has an agenda to emulate secular rock and put a Jesus twist on it. We're about culminating influences and writing something that's unique. We don't portray the Christian life as happy go-lucky. I want to approach it with subtlety and reality. That's been an interesting thing for us. Most of our music has been sold in the quote-unquote 'secular' market."
On the way Christian rock is portrayed in the film Saved!: & r & "I love that movie. I have the DVD."
On sounding secular to save people: & r & "It's just a different way to market. We try not to approach our music from a marketing angle."
On not always singing about God: & r & "We try to take a diverse approach, but it's strange. It's made a large part of the Christian community look at us with suspicion, while a lot of secular people still say, 'Oh, they're Christian.'"
On Pedro the Lion: & r & "I love Pedro the Lion. [David Bazan, of PtL] has a very interesting niche. He doesn't always sing about God, and he has all these ridiculously offensive lyrics, but somehow he manages to get invited to play all these Christian festivals. [Christian promoters] invite him because he's had so much success in the mainstream. That's the tension between wanting to be Christian and wanting to seem mainstream. I admire him because he takes a stand."
On being an artist and a Christian: & r & "Look at Michelangelo. Everything he ever painted was about God, but it wasn't about converting people. The biggest motivating factor to me is, if I'm claiming to be 'inspired by God,' then it better be freaking cool."
Project 86, Number One Gun, Spoken and Mourning September play at Fat Tuesdays on Tuesday, Sept. 27. Doors at 7 pm. $10 in advance, $13 at the door. Call (888) 825-5200 or visit & lt;a href="http://www.ticketwest.com" & Tickets West & lt;/a & .
Take Up the Cause & r & If the only thing you ever know about David Lanz comes from this article, let it be the fact that he sells more sheet music than Yanni. Lanz brings his aural as well as visual mastery to the Met this Saturday to tantalize the senses with his vivid and colorful approach to the piano. The show is a benefit for the downtown arts hub CenterStage and promises to be an event not to be missed.
No stranger to the idea of making music for a cause, Lanz has been a long-time proponent of connecting with people. "I'm a firm believer in the old axiom -- think globally, act locally," Lanz says. He has supported different causes in the past, donating music, time and proceeds to organizations that work to preserve the human experience of the arts. "I love to entertain people," says Lanz. "I tend to attract very positive people to my concerts, this benefit is the kind of event where I can give people a chance to enter my world." The kind of world Lanz is speaking about is one steeped in a musical genre he helped create. It could be called New Age, or it could be called something entirely different. Regardless, it is coming from a positive place and that is communicated in the music.
With an impressive 22 albums under his belt, Lanz can write his own ticket and with his latest album, Spirit Romance (Narada), he has done just that. Lanz joined forces on his latest outing with long-time friend and colleague Gary Stroutsos. The collaboration was a culmination of the two artists's friendship as well as a rewarding exercise in music as a lost art form. This lost art form was manifest under the guise of Native American music. Stroutsos is a flute player, but he doesn't just belt out his wispy melodies on a traditional flute. He plays a Chinese instrument called the xiao, and on Spirit Romance he combines his expertise with Lanz to play renditions of ancient songs. The album combines the two artists' collaborative and spontaneous nature with technical and melodic brilliance that leaves listeners somewhere between reality and the subconscious.
This performance will mark the beginning of a few months of shows centered on the latest album. "This will actually be the first show Gary and I play the songs from Spirit Romance," says Lanz. No stranger to the Inland Northwest, Lanz makes it out to Spokane every year or so.
"We enjoy coming out to Spokane - I've performed at the Met before and I really look forward to just having a nice evening in the theater," Lanz enthuses. After this show, Lanz will do more promotions for the album, and early next year he will be headed to Korea.
This benefit in particular is being organized to assist the plucky CenterStage venue. It may be shocking to know that the facility nearly closed its doors for good last month. Julie Shepard is the driving force behind the event. "Initially I had done some work with other nonprofit organizations, and I volunteer at CenterStage, so I knew they needed something to generate some revenue."
When Shepard began organizing the benefit, she was immediately inclined to approach Lanz about his availability. "I had asked him a few years ago to donate an autographed CD for another event, and he really impressed me," says Shepard. "He took the time to call me personally, he donated the CD and actually gave me some tickets to see him at an upcoming concert." With Lanz on board, the event came together nicely and everyone at CenterStage has been working to make the show a successs.
With a new lease on life, a small army of volunteers is leading the charge to keep a valuable asset a part of our local arts and culture landscape. "The board was able to get enough pledges from local businesses and supporters to allow the venue to continue to remain open," Shepard explains. Now the real work begins for her and everyone surrounding the endeavor. "We have a board of directors that's looking for new ways to generate funds, as well as a marketing committee to help find new ways of promoting CenterStage as an option for events in the community." -- Clint Burgess
David Lanz and Gary Stroutsos at the Met on Saturday, Sept. 24. Tickets: $19-25. Silent auction begins at 5:30 pm, concert begins at 7:30pm. Tickets available at CenterStage and the Met or call TicketsWest