Steve Taylor - Post-Fritz Release Interview

Unknown source
Q2(?) 1985
Thanks to Shari Lloyd

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Announcer: Taylor has many sides to his personality. We asked Steve about what other types of music he's done in the past, some of which influences his current writing.

Steve: When I first started writing it was some very embarrassing ballad kind of things, but those will remain locked in the vaults forever. The other thing that I did early on as a semi-professional, I guess, is the Jeremiah People. It's a musical comedy group, it's been here for like 12 years. The thing about them is they did satire, they used it in the church, so they could get away with saying things that the pastor could never get away with saying because it was funny.

So that made a big impression on me, and after I'd worked with young people for about five years as a youth pastor, they offered me this position to direct the Jeremiah People for a year. So I did that, and co-wrote the script, and wrote the music, and that was a real good experience, but it was quite a bit different because we only had a piano and the keyboard with it, so it was quite a bit more laid back, I guess.

[Tape cut]

Steve: ... to do with real soul-searching and coming to God before the album happened. It's interesting, for I Want To Be A Clone, I had a couple of years to write just those six songs, and even when I got to Meltdown, half of the songs on Meltdown had already been written before I Want To Be A Clone was out.

With this last album I started from scratch and I had like nine months to write everything. About three months before the album was supposed to be done, I still wasn't ready to go. I just went to the Lord and said, "you've brought me to this place and given me this platform here, I want this to be an anointed album, I want to be your mouthpiece, but how am I going to do it, because I don't feel like I'm ready." The songs just weren't coming.

I really feel like the Lord used the experiences that I'd had up to that point, all the traveling that I'd done to Europe on many different occasions--to South America, the Orient--to keep my view of Christianity a balanced view instead of specifically an American view, and to keep it so that the issues that we're talking about were hopefully still coming from a Biblical standpoint instead of me just going off on a weird tangent and shooting off at the mouth.

[Tape cut]

Announcer: Steve Taylor, when asked questions like this--does he feel that the church as a whole has placed too much responsibility on contemporary Christian musicians to do the church's job of evangelism, of teaching, of nurturing new believers? How does he feel about that? Has the church put too much responsibility on Christian artists? Here's what he had to say.

Steve: Oh, it's absurd. If they're placing it on contemporary Christian artists, it's absurd because the majority of contemporary Christian artists aren't--I don't want to say Biblical illiterates--but they aren't, they're not trained. A lot of them don't know their Bibles, a lot of them haven't been in any kind of Bible training or anything like that--which certainly doesn't make you an expert or anything like that. You've got a lot of people who are great as musicians but don't have a thing to say. What did Tony Campolo say? He said, "you Christian musicians have a lot of nerve speaking when you're doing a concert--would you like me to sing?"

So if they're relying on Christian musicians to do evangelism, then we're all in big trouble, you know? That's why I think it's incorrect that we put a lot of pressure on Christian musicians to have altar calls. In some ways it's like people are getting what they ask for. If they put pressure on a group and say, "you're only valid if you have souls coming forward at the end of the concert," then they're going to get what they ask for, and they're going to have watered-down altar calls, you know, "come forward if anything's wrong and don't look back," and call it good. So it's like a vicious circle.

Evangelism is every person's duty and it's through relationships, you know? We went through in my church one Sunday morning, and the pastor went through and said, "how many of you are here because you passed by the church and thought it would be nice to come here?" Two people raised their hand out of a thousand people. "How many of you are here because you read about it in the paper?" Three or four raised their hand. "How many are here because you heard that I'm good speaker?" Ten people raised their hand. "How many are here because a friend asked you to come?" Everybody else. Evangelism is through relationships, and that's individual Christians' responsibility, and the church can help to facilitate that.

[Tape cut]

Steve: ...that's not always true, but in a lot of cases it's true because we put this pressure on them to feel like they've got to be evangelists, and they're not equipped to do it. I mean, get real. For one, it's getting to a place where promoters have to be--pretty much where it's becoming to where promoting is a full-time job. So the other thing is in this business [is that] you've got to attract people and stuff like that. So you can't rely on them to have to do all the follow-up because they're getting [unintelligible]. Not all of them, but a lot of them.

Groups, all we can do is come through one and night and we got to leave the next morning, and that's all we have time for. It would be great--different groups tried in the past to stay in there for a week or something like that. It just wasn't possible--it wasn't financially possible. So there's got to be a better way of doing it. My solution is through the church.

[Tape cut]

Steve: I asked myself that same question many times. I think--the comment that I get--people's opinion of me usually comes about either from hearsay or from their kids, say, hearing stuff coming through the bedroom wall or something like that. Invariably when parents pick up the lyric sheet and they read the lyrics, then they get what's going on. That's why I really try--I know that in a concert you can't always understand the words, that's one reason why we do concerts, because I can talk a little bit between songs and stuff like that. That's why I'm big on lyrics, that's why I include lyric sheets and stuff like that, that's because the lyrics are really the key to this whole thing.

There was a station down in Tampa, and they were playing "This Disco Used To Be A Cute Cathedral," and pastors were calling up the station and railing on them, you know, "what is this guy, is he saying that we should turn our churches into dance halls or something like that?" So the station said, "come down, we'll print up lyric sheets, all you got to do is come down and pick them up." A lot of pastors would come down, they'd pick them up, and then they'd understand what the song was about. So it's in the words.

Interviewer: What is the song about?

Steve: The song, "This Disco Used To Be A Cute Cathedral," good question. I'm down in New York city, and there's this disco that used to be a church, called "The Limelight." So I did my little on-the-scene investigation and went down with some friends one night, had to pay fifteen dollars just to get in--I had to walk home (no, not quite.) We go up and it was really bizarre. We come in, and first we walk by these sarcophagi on the walls and stuff like that. I think the person that was taking the tickets was dressed like a nun or something like that. They were showing Ten Commandments on the video screens and stuff.

We walk into the main sanctuary part, go up the stairs to the balcony--there's like two balconies--and the floor of this big church--I mean, it must have been able to seat like a thousand people--is literally jammed with probably 1,500 people dancing, and there's a video screen showing the latest Madonna sleaze on the video and stuff like that. So I'm looking down at this--scratch the Madonna sleaze--my mind starts drifting, I imagine that this is Sunday evening and the deacons have devised this as a way of getting new membership, right? [laughter]

So it's a very satirical song, but the point is--especially like in California where I'm from you've got this country-club Christianity springing up, where Christianity is supposed to appeal to the beautiful people, and we try to get the right elements in our churches--the elements that are going to give money and everything like that. That's not the church's mission. Jesus talked about coming to heal the sick, not those who are well, and so it's essentially a song against this idea of country-club Christianity.

[Tape cut]

Steve: I don't know, I think it evidently got shown a few times, but never got into any kind of rotation or anything like that. So MTV I don't have a lot of comments on because I don't really know what happened. I know that when the video came out that companies picked it up and ended up servicing it to clubs and to about forty or fifty different channels like MTV around the country and it ended up doing very well. So that was a situation where people responded to it because they liked the looks of it, and so they ended up playing it around.

The goal with the Meltdown video--it wasn't practical to do a video at that time just for Christian video shows, because, to my knowledge, there were only like one or two at the most at that time anyway. So we did something that hopefully would catch the general public's attention, cause them to buy the record, and then they'd get the message on the record.

Interviewer: Does that encourage to you start doing some more?

Steve: Yeah, we're going to do another one next, probably on "Lifeboat," Lord help me, but yeah, that'll probably be the next one.

I should emphasize, I think this is important, I look at the main thrust of my ministry as being through the records. Concerts help facilitate that, concerts help people buy the records and stuff like that, but when I do a concert, invariably the front thirty rows will all have the words memorized, they'll know what's going. The kids know--I get all these letters saying, "this song meant this to me," or "this song caused me to do this," and so I really feel like the records are where the ongoing ministry takes place.

A concert, you come in, you do it, and people are affected, but, you know, it's short term, or a lot of times it's short term. But a record, when I know kids are memorizing the words, it's like when I memorize Bible verses and stuff like that. Those Bible verses come back to me, that's why I make sure these songs are Biblically-based, so that hopefully those songs will really mean a lot to kids when they come up against the parents.