Harvest Rock Syndicate 1991

Terry S. Taylor


Harvest Rock Syndicate 1991

by Brian Quincy Newcomb

Terry Taylor has had an impact on the alternative Christian music scene that few others can come close to. Leader of the seminal band that was Daniel Amos, became DA, and later Da, Taylor went on to produce fro others - Common Bond, Wild Blue Yonder, Randy Stonehill, 'scatered few', and Jacob's Trouble - and create other acts around imaginary persons - The Rap'Sures, and Camarillo Eddy, leader of the Swirling Eddies. Taylor's body of work - including some of the genre's all-time classics - is slowly being released on CD; with Shotgun Angel available and soon a DA live concert disc from 1982 will be forthcoming. His current Alarma Records Release, The Miracle Faith Telethon seeks to bring together the many different artists that Terry Taylor has been in dr. Edward Daniel Taylor. He has given us great rock 'n' roll, enlightened and comical influence and no small amount of himself in the records many of us have come to value highly. He was kind enough to invite me to invite me to share some of DA's impact on my life in the linear notes of that disc, so we thought it only fair to let him share even more of himself with our readers. Here HRS begins an in-depth look at his life, art, ministry, and thoughts on the industry. It will be continued next issue.

HRS: The newest record is attributed to dr. Edward Daniel Taylor, is this not a solo record?

Taylor: We just decided to combine everything we'd ever done, it's kind of a mixed bag from the Frontline era. They wanted to do a "best of", but I didn't think, without my entire body of work, that it would have been a real good project.

HRS: By that, you're referring to product that you don't own?

Taylor: Yeah, so rather than do that we'd have more fun with it, make it more of a collectible thing. There are a lot of fans out there that are eager for this kind of stuff, that we couldn't normally put on a early record. I included a little history on each of these cuts, little anecdotes, so that collectors will have fun with it.

I called Tom Gullatta who heads up the Swirling Eddies Fun Club, because he's really tapped into the average fan, he's getting all the letters and the orders for the "Hide The Beer, The Pastors Here" Beer Mugs, so he gave me some advice. He said have fun with it, put some things on there that the fans would like, and that's where we went, we just tried to have a lot of fun.

HRS: A number of tracks are older DA things that never really got recorded, for instance "I'm On Your Team".

Taylor: That was a song that was really kept alive by fan requests. It was one of those songs that I think was written during the Horrendous Disc sessions, and for some reason it didn't go on the record. We tend to do a set for about a year and songs will come and go, and that one kind of got lost in there. But we kept being reminded of it by people who knew the song from previous performances. It was a song that was pretty near to the heart of a lot of people, including some of the band members. I sort of just thought it was a good little rock 'n' roll song.

HRS: It sounds like it was written in response to some of the criticism that got heaped on the band in that Horrendous Disc era you began to shed the county clothes of the first album and Shotgun Angel.

Taylor: Exactly, It was written in response to that. I remember the first time we performed that song, It was in Hawaii and we were there with Calvary Chapel pastor. We were getting a little flak for what we were doing, so we included that song in every set as kind of an answer back.

HRS: On the new album as "The Right Rev. dr. Taylor", you do that whole TV evangelist thing a little too well, don't you think that's a little suspicious?

Taylor: Well, it kind of scared me, too. I had to take time to come out of it. They poured some water on me, slapped me around a little and that brought me back.

HRS: Maranatha! is releasing the first two Daniel Amos albums on CD, do you cringe when you hear them?

Taylor: Well, we made Shotgun Angel in '77, and Daniel Amos was either a year or two before, I'm not really certain. I cringe on the first record in particular on a couple of the songs, although there are a couple that hold up really well. But that was an innocent time; we were a garage band with a couple of guitars sitting around working on harmonies and suddenly our church was asking us if we wanted to do a record, and we jumped at it. We just went in and sang our little songs and did our harmonies, and then padded it with extra guitar players and keyboards and a drummer that we had never worked with, because Ed didn't come in 'til just after that.

And theologically, it's insensitive, there are lines like "Oh my, you'll fry", sang gleefully. Those lines make me cringe. I think there was a little pride in there and a disregard for the human condition. But other things are good, "Don't Light your Own Fire" is a real nice little song. "William" is a nice song. Both albums are re-mastered, and I had control of that. Shotgun Angel were a lot closer to what we were trying to do. It's what we felt DA was about since its inception. It reflected the radio that I listened to in the 60s and early 70s, which had that real eclectic and diverse and exciting...

HRS: Well, rock 'n' roll was still so new that nobody knew what the parameters were.

Taylor: Exactly, and for me it was a sad day when those parameters were defined. Musically, you could here anything on the radio. And that's what I wanted to get on that record, all the things that influenced us, the Beach boys, the Beatles' experimental attitude. We didn't have a chance to achieve that with the first record, we were trying to get a direction, and had gotten locked into an image by people who had come to our concerts and responded to the whole county thing, that was only a part of our set.

I remember when we were having to come up with songs fast and country songs were easier to pull together, and that was about the time of our first record. So, Shotgun Angel was our first opportunity to lay down on wax what we were really about, and it had everything. Every album after that really springs from that reference point. Even the country and western songs on there are musically mature, and Jonathan Brown did an excellent job.

HRS: I don't remember you guys ever taking that country thing very seriously, why do think so many of your fans did?

Taylor: It may have been the atmosphere of that time, the Eagles were a big band about that time, and people kind of linked us to that sound. We were like this Christian answer to the Eagles in some peoples' minds...

HRS: But that was that whole era: remember Rez band, the Christian Led Zeppelin; Honeytree, the Christian Joni Mitchell. Every Christian artist got labeled as a response to a secular antecedent.

Taylor: And we got stuck with "The Christian Eagles" whether we wanted to be or not. And the funny thing is that I had really had a fascination with early country rock and the music of the Byrds. But the other thing is that it happened so fast, our lives virtually changed after we played Calvary Chapel that one night, that we had to go with the simplest thing we did, and that threw us into that country thing. Things went so fast that we really didn't have time until we started sitting down to write and get ready for Shotgun Angel to find our voice.

Added to that was the fact that we had this across the board appeal. With just a couple of guys on acoustic guitars, we were essentually easy listening, so Mom and Dad enjoyed us just as much as junior. We were really feeling the thrill of that and got swept away - we were being appreciated, we got to play music full time, we were in good standing with the powers that be in that church and it's whole network, and we were kids, we hadn't really thought it through. Shotgun Angel was experimental, but it didn't rock the boat in too many peoples' minds.

HRS: The whole thrust of Side Two had a certain popular interpretation of what the end times are going to be about, do you feel good about the theology on that record?

Taylor: Well, not entirely. I'm not really sure how that will all unfold. But it was a musical thing for us, you've got to remember that, as it continues to be. And that's really began to lose people, because theologically we weren't fitting into a nitch.

HRS: Hasn't there always been this dilemma between the calling of a musician to make the best music they can, and the expectation of the Christian audience that you be pastors or theologians or preachers as well?

Taylor: Absolutely, and that was the problem at that time. I looked around at my peers, all the people that I was involved with, in the Maranatha! family. But the problem was that a lot of that first wave, sort of during that LoveSong - era, those people were all becoming youth pastors, or leading music in a church full time. But I had no intention of going in that way. I didn't feel that that was my lot in life. I wanted DA to exist, I wanted it to go on and become something musical, and there was this conflict, because up until that time, I don't think the people at Maranatha! had run into the kind of an animal that I was.

HRS: Wasn't their bias that the music had more of a utilitarian value, that it was be used as a tool to accomplish something in the lives of the listeners? I get the feeling from you that for you music was very much an artistic expression, more of an opportunity to create something of value in and of itself.

Taylor: Exactly. I understood and totally supported the other aspect, but that wasn't what I - if you want to put it in these terms - was called to do. there was a sense on my part of being off center, because at times I was forced into playing that game. There was were a sincerity there, and a desire to please, a desire to minister. But I really didn't know how to do it, in a way that I felt God was calling me to do it. It became increasingly uncomfortable for me, for the band, and the churches that had us in. When we moved out of the idea that we were supposed to be increasingly evangelical, and even instructional, and then break up and become youth ministers - when we were into being a band, and staying a creative entity, then the flak came down. That's when the stuff hit the fan.

HRS: I remember Shotgun Angel getting a lot of positive response.

Taylor: People loved the Shotgun Angel thing. We did the Anaheim Convention Center, in which we had a full orchestra, and Chuck Smith spoke after the band played. And we did that all over, in Sacramento and at Riverside, so there had been a lot of acceptance. But we were already looking beyond it, to the next step. And I admit we might have gone gang-busters, and people just weren't ready to follow. But we were anxious in many ways, because we were so open to the creative process, and felt such freedom that it was exciting. We didn't feel inhibited by certain musical, or even theological conventions. We were anxious just to get on with it, and see what was possible. I knew in my heart - I mean I as just burned with a passion - that the possibilities were limitless. I didn't see any problems ahead. With Shotgun Angel we sort of set a precedent of experimentation, but when it became unconnected to a certain theology, like the end times teachings of that church, that's what I foresee really alienated us from so many people.

HRS: There's a lot of conjecture about the quiet years between Shotgun Angel in '77 and Horrendous Disc, which didn't come out until nearly 1981, what was going on with you guys, why did it take so long for that record to come out?

Taylor: Those were years of turmoil. We were doing the music from Horrendous Disc live, way before it came out, and there were people who were saying that they loved it, and others were confused by it and were saying things like "you guys have lost it." It was turmoil before Disc came out and turmoil after. It was a very, very dark time.

HRS: How did you leave Maranatha! on good terms?

Taylor: Pretty much. I think they were feeling that it was time to get out of dealing with bands, and personalities. We had families and children, and growing concerns. There were a lot of bands, who were becoming increasingly vocal about their needs. When we started drawing up contracts to make sure our needs were met, I remember being one of the first groups sending out a rider saying that we needed a hotel for the night. You wouldn't have believed the reaction to that. It was unheard of.

Really it was a practical thing - in those days the band unloaded the equipment, the band set up the equipment, the band played, tore down the equipment, and talked to people afterwards, and went to the spaghetti feast after that to talk to more people, sometimes to all hours of the night. You'd roll into town after driving all night, you'd play your concert and there was this guilt that you had if you said to someone, "I'm really tired, I'm going to bed." People were really keen on calling the pastor, and complaining that we looked sideways at someone, or we didn't smile at someone, or we weren't kind or whatever. Those were tough times. If we were going to tour, and you always lost money - which you always expected, but you could say, well, it's for the Kingdom, we shouldn't worry about that - but when you came home and had a family and weren't sure how you were going to make it, it became a different matter.

Often we'd be exhausted and sleeping in the same bunk bed where some sick kid had slept the night before and then we'd get sick, which often ended up happening on tour. It just became a necessity, and we weren't staying in Hilton's, we're talking Motel 6's. All these things are commonly accepted for touring bands now, but we were one of the first to put out that kind of rider, so we were the guinea pigs. We were looked down upon as less spiritual, but lots of others have gone through the doors that we opened.

In those middle years, before Horrendous Disc came out, we had a large audience, we had those fans that really understood what we were about, but we also had these people who tuned into the country rock angle and they were coming out hoping to hear that. So there was a lot of controversy over even what we were playing in concert. A lot of folk walked out, but then the promoter will ignore the other 3000 people in the auditorium having a good time, if 3 people get up and walk out.

HRS: Especially if they are youth pastors and ask for their money back.

Taylor: Exactly. We really leaned on each other through the difficult times, we were a family. And there was some bitterness there, no doubt about it. Because I had never really had to handle some of the kinds of reactions, we experienced. It was like people coming up and throwing up all over you. And then, you were expected to respond in a graceful way, and I'm not the meekest and mildest of people. There was a lot of anger, but I didn't know we going to experience a lot more of it, as a response to Horrendous Disc.

HRS: Why the delays in Disc's release? I presume it didn't take three years to record.

Taylor: No, in fact, we had started to record it for Maranatha! Music, we had brought in an outside producer. It was during the recording of the album, that Chuck Fromm had set it up for us to take the album to another label. They were going through a time of adjustment, they were getting more into the Praise albums and kids records. We knew that we couldn't make the demands that we needed to make from Maranatha! Music, so it was best to move on.

Alex MacDougall had gone on several tours with Randy (Stonehill), and knew Larry (Norman). Al said we were getting a lot more serious about touring, what we ought to do is approach Street Level and see if they wouldn't book us. We talked to the people and they said they wanted to book us, but about a week later we were told that it had been their policy only to book Solid Rock artists. To us that was a switch, they'd changed it.

Larry was a controversial figure, but he seemed like a nice enough guy, he was talking about taking us to a secular label. We had begun negotiating with one particular secular label, and Larry said "I know the guy there." So it was decided, Larry would put us on Solid Rock, and he'd go ahead and get us the secular deal, and Street Level would book us. It looked like a beautiful package, and we bought into it. We signed all the contracts, and then came the delays.

HRS: Did you re-record those tracks you'd done for Maranatha!?

Taylor: Mike Stone was the producer of Horrendous Disc the whole time. So, Larry's involvement with the record was peripheral, he had nothing to do with the recording at that time. He might remember it differently, but the truth is he had nothing to do with the recording of that record. I think Larry did step in and direct us as to where he wanted it mixed, and it was mixed by someone Larry had confidence in, but again he was not there and had nothing to do with it.
HRS: What about the whole conceptualization, the Horrendous Disc idea, where did it come from?

Taylor: We had this idea, this thing we were doing at the time, called "Preachers From Outer Space."

It was a live shtick, which included several songs, "Mary Baker Eddy" and "Secret Scripts In 3-D Glasses", and we had each created our own costumes for this thing. We had a pajama party one night at Alex MacDougall's and we all wore our costumes, which was hilarious. Randy was there, Larry, Tom Howard, all of us. We had our pajamas on and went to 7-11's and things like that, and had sort of a weird, strange night. Well, Larry lost it, he thought it was the funniest thing he'd ever seen. When we did Horrendous Disc he asked to take some pictures of us in our costumes. We said "we're not using those for the album art," and he said "oh, no. I just want to take some pictures." Well, they got into the album, that inside photo. That was fine, it came out great, but it was Larry's idea. And we were told it wouldn't happen.

The real frustration began to grow as there were so many delays. We had nothing personal against Larry, it was just that we had recorded our record and we wanted it out.

Continue to Part Two of the HRS Interview with Terry Taylor