The Door Interview: Steve Taylor

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Wittenburg Door
October-November 1984, Number 81
© 1985 Wittenburg Door
Cover story, Pages 3, 8-11

Okay, so he didn't make it at Biola. Okay, so he's a Preacher's Kid. Okay, so all that stuff came together and made Steve Taylor who he is today--a Bible College Drop Out-Preacher's Kid-Ex-Continential Singers, Singer. Besides, we even published one of his articles in the Door (remember Christian Videos?).

Since Steve was "discovered" in 1980, he has rocketed to the top fo the blacklists of most Christian Schools, and has been nominated for a Grammy this year for "Best Gospel Song by a Bible College Drop Out-Preacher's Kid- Ex-Continential Singers, Singer." Steve feels he is still too new on the scene to win his first Grammy, but thinks he could place second in that category.

We found Steve Taylor to be full of energy, with a bubbly personality that caused him to never quite sit still--then he finally told us he had to go to the bathroom. Steve Taylor is a very talented and gifted performer, and we have the feeling you will be hearing a lot ffrom him in the future (and if that isn't the kiss of death to his career, nothing is).

Door: What group or individual has most influenced your music? Petra? Amy Grant? Daniel Amos?

Taylor: A group called the Clash.

Door: The Clash? Aren't they regulars on the PTL Club?

Taylor: Give me a break.

Door: The 700 Club?

Taylor: Give me a break again. Actually, the Clash is from England. They are very political. Their lyrics are very hard hitting and, most of all, they sing with conviction. You never doubt for a minute that they mean what they sing. My problem with Christian music has been that most of it is not saying anything that hasn't already been said many times--and usually said better--in hymns. So, when I heard this group in England and their music was not only speaking to the issues of the day but it was being sung with such conviction, I asked myself why the same thing wasn't happening in Christian music.

Door: So you decided to write music that speaks to the issues of the day and perform that music with lots of conviction?

Taylor: Yes.

Door: Then would you define your music as "message music?"

Taylor: Absolutely. I was told by a secular music producer that message music just isn't commercial anymore, and that Christian music is nothing more than preaching which is set to music. My reply was that everyone is preaching through their music. What difference does it make if the message happens to be "Christian?" Of course, it does make a difference to secular radio stations. I can't get my music on any regular "Top 40" radio stations. One radio station made it very clear as to why--they told me that my lyrics would offend their listeners.

Door: Ah, but what about the Christian radio stations and record companies? Don't they do the same thing? Don't they want to make sure your music will not offend their listeners?

Taylor: You have to make concessions. The art requires a certain amount of that.

Door: Isn't the problem, really, that music is actually a business, but many Christian artists see their music as a ministry?

Taylor: Well, I have a real problem with the way "ministry" is being thrown around. I don't think I am "called" to minister through rock-and-roll. As Christians, we all have the same calling.

Door: So you don't have any trouble charging money for concerts.

Taylor: I don't feel guilty about charging for concerts. I mean, we sell T-shirts and buttons and stuff like that. That is very business oriented--it's what keeps us on the road. However, I am not into music just to make money.

Door: Then how come you charge $2000 to $3000 per concert?

Taylor: I'm in Christian music so I can make big bucks, right? Give me a break. I had to take out loans just to pay for our most recent road trip. I mean, give me a break. If I ever do make money, it's going to be three or four years down the line because I've spent so much money to get started in the first place. I'm not asking for sympathy, because this is my choice--but, come on. I know there are some people who are making money at this, but they are the exception not the rule.

Door: But isn't $2000 to $3000 per concert a tad high?

Taylor: We're talking about four or five people, plus travel, plus equipment, plus lodging, plus food, plus lights--and I'm just talking about adequate equipment, adequate lights, etc.

Door: What is the difference between a Christian group and a non-Christian group?

Taylor: Nothing, as far as the sound and the lights are concerned. The difference is in the words of the songs and in the lifestyles of the performers. I am not just talking about whether the band members smoke or drink, either. It goes much further than that. Most of my band members are veterans of clubs and so they are used to being ripped-off all the time, but they are not used to having to smile while it's happening. In Christian music, you get to put up with bad sound systems, unfulfilled concert expectations, and churches reneging on their financial arrangements.

Door: There is another difference between a secular group and a Christian group.

Taylor: What is that?

Door: Hey--we're asking the questions.

Taylor: Oh. Sorry.

Door: That's OK. We'll answer your question anyway. The difference is that Christian musicians seem to feel it necessary to talk all the time instead of just singing. How do you feel about that?

Taylor: The problem with my songs is that I have to set them up, somehow, or they simply will not be understood. And, frankly, a lot of people in the Church aren't willing to put out the effort to work with a song and to think about the words. They want it all explained. I will not do that, but some songs just need to be set up. The problem with most groups like ours is that we don't know how to talk. If we're not careful, we just ramble on incessantly. Although we can play music very well, when it comes to other tasks some of us musicians have a hard enough time tying our shoelaces.

Door: Do you believe every musical group that calls themselves Christian should be made up of only Christians?

Taylor: I wouldn't necessarily make that the rule for everybody. But, for me, if you have a Christian band, then everyone in the band should be a Christian. If it is a solo artist with a backup band, then I don't think everyone has to be a Christain. But, it is necessary for me because I think they kids expect it. Kids would be blown away if they came up after a concert and talked to one of the guitar players and found out he wasn't a Christian.

Door: Do you feel it is necessary to have some kind of an invitation at the end of your concerts?

Taylor: No. But the trouble is that many churches expect it because that is how they justify our music. They look at it is a way of getting kids saved, so they want results. Most altar calls at concerts are a way to twist kids' arms so that they can be counted up in the next newsletter to justify what we're doing.

Door: Do kids really listen to the lyrics? Are kids really affected by the music they listen to?

Taylor: There's no doubt that music affects people. Even though we all know that groups like Motley Crue are using their heavy metal, satanic image as a way to make money--if the result is that kids are going out and digging graves, etc., then those groups have to take responsibility for what happens as a result of their music.

Door: What about a group's appearance? Isn't there a basic dishonesty in a person like yourself trying to look "New Wave" when you're not really New Wave?

Taylor: I don't see any problem with dressing-up to perform. I am not putting on a facade when I dress the way I do. It is the way I dress, period. But, when you are 40 years old and you try to dress like whatever is "in" at the moment, then I think that is putting on a facade. But the way we dress is not the real issue.

Door: Uh... what is the real issue?

Taylor: Integrity. The issue for Christian musicians is making sure there is no difference between what they sing and what they do.