Steve Taylor's Resurrection

Colorado Springs Gazette-Telegraph
September 30, 1994
© 1994 Freedom Newspapers, Inc.
Page AA23
Thanks to Norvin Coblentz

The rocker is back on a Christian label, but his heart still lies with alternative music

By Gil Asakawa, Entertainment Editor

Steve Taylor used to fight being called a Christian rock artist. In fact, he used to fight the Christian rock industry, jabbing it every chance he got for its closed-mindedness and musical unsophistication.

He even "retired" as a solo act five years ago, after earning the nickname "evangelical rock's court jester," and eventually joined a band on a non- Christian label to avoid the spotlight.

Now, he's back on a Christian label, as a solo act, and he's willing to accept being labeled a Christian rocker. "That's probably how I'm going to be labeled, no matter what, and it was wearing me down fighting it," he says.

That's a loss for secular rock fans, because if nothing else, Taylor throughout his career has been a contemporary rock musician - his message may be gospel, but his music has always been up-to-date alternative rock. In the early '80s, he was making credible new wave; with his now- defunct band, Chagall Guevara, he sang raucous, complex power pop like XTC. His latest solo album, "Squint," on the Warner Alliance label, is also hard-edged alternative rock, a la Matthew Sweet or Squeeze. He even toured with Squeeze in England.

Unfortunately, alternative rock fans probably will never hear Taylor's music, if he's filed in record stores next to nicey-nice artists such as Amy Grant.

But when Chagall Guevara, a band he formed with other Christian musicians that featured very little overt religion, was signed to MCA, a major label, he found the alternative music world wasn't any more open-minded than the Christian music industry. "I was trading one set of stereotypes for another," he says.

The band finally broke up after releasing one kick-butt CD because some of its members weren't willing to commit to the endless touring to win over fans, but its rhythm section remains the core of Taylor's studio band. When Warner Alliance, a subsidiary of Warner Bros., gave Taylor the opportunity to aim himself at an all-Christian audience again (with little chance for distribution or promotion in the pop market), Taylor thought hard and accepted the deal. "I had no desire at that point to be a hybrid act," he says. "I had to resign myself and be happy that my music may be sold only to gospel audiences."

Taylor, 36, was born in California but moved to Denver when he was 5. He graduated in 1976 from Northglenn High School and studied music at CU- Boulder. While in school, he admits to attending a summer camp for singers sponsored by the vapid Vegas singer John Davidson, but then says, "That fall I heard the Clash and everything changed. That was my second conversion."

His affinity for punk rock made him an immediate outsider in Christian music. He says he never asked for the "Bad Boy of Christian Rock" image he was given in the '80s, but he understands why he got the rep: "I don't suppose there was anyone else in Christian music that would do what I did," including openly criticizing the industry for being inflexible.

However, he adds, the Christian scene has gotten more progressive during his five-year absence from gospel labels.

"Sonically there's still plenty of cheesy stuff," he says in his typically plain-spoken way, "but there's almost something like an alternative scene developing." He helped lay the foundation for it with his own early music, which was recently given credit by young Christian rockers who covered his songs in a tribute album.

Alternative rock is still where Taylor's heart lies - he was a fan of Nirvana singer Kurt Cobain, who committed suicide earlier this year. "The whole thing with Cobain brought it home to me," he says. "He saw things very clearly, he saw the future and saw a black hole. Those of us who are Christians think we see the ultimate truth there. It's gotten to the point where people don't want to speak directly, and I think Cobain saw that. "Outside of God, I don't know how I'd deal with it."

WHAT: Steve Taylor Band with Guardian and Hokus Pick
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. today
WHERE: Palmer High School Auditorium, Nevada and Platte avenues
TICKETS: $14, (303) 691-2227