This is Part 3 of the “Seth Hecox interviews Jason Wisdom” interview series.
*Links to Parts 1 and Deux at the end of the interview.
Jason, you’ve done a great job of telling us about your new project and album in the first 2 parts of our interview.
Now we begin Part 3, for the wonderful online community at indievisionmusic and I’ve collected a few questions from members of that community and I’ll start off with one of their questions:
Scott asks “I would like to know how he got into heavy Christian music. Was it in the back of a Family Christian Store or online or through a friend?”
This takes us all the way back to the beginning, as I think Scott is not asking even just about the beginnings of BTA, but about you personally connecting with underground music. So yeah, how did you originally get into heavy Christian music?
That’s a great question. I’m old enough that I can remember when my friend Wesley introduced me to bands like Tourniquet, Mortification, Deliverance, the Crucified, etc and thinking to myself, “wow, heavy metal with a Christian message. That’s unheard of!” “Christian metal” seemed like an oxymoron. Of course, nowadays the Christian metal sub-genre has been around for long enough, and become so expansive, that many Christian heavy bands have made it big in the mainstream as well. So it’s not really shocking to anyone. A lot of the big tours now have Christian/secular bands on the same bill, and I don’t think anyone thinks much of it. But yeah, I can remember when my friend showed me those bands, and I couldn’t believe such a thing even existed. And while I did get some of my music from Family Christian store and similar places, it wasn’t usually metal. I was really big into MXPX, Five Iron Frenzy, the Supertones and bands like that. It was only by the grace of God that I ended up in a metal band, and have been fortunate to make heavy music now for almost two decades.
Ok, so mostly through a friend who gave you the down-low on the whole scene huh?
Thinking back, it was that way for me too. I remember when an older kid in my youth group who had a stud in his lower lip brought the new Blindside record “A Thought Crushed My Mind” and played it on a CD player in our youth room before most of the other people showed up. Blew my mind. Similar things happened with MxPx, P.O.D., Living Sacrifice, etc.
I wonder if people still find music that way. It seems more people discover bands online. Are you finding bands via friend’s reference still? Or is it primarily online? Or do you not discover any new music anymore, haha.
For the most part I still find out about new music (and other forms of art) through friend recommendations. I’m not nearly “in the loop” enough to keep up with all of the new stuff out there now. I think our brains (and hearts) only have a certainty amount of space for music we truly love, and those of us who “filled up” a lot of that space before the digital music age are always going to have a hard time squeezing in new things. And I don’t think it’s because we are old. I think everyone has that same “limit.” But I think a lot of music consumption now is very superficial, and so it takes a long time to “get full,” that way. But yeah, I still rely mainly on friends to say “hey, check this out.” And I try to return the favor.
Man, that’s a great way of envisioning our musical capacities. I completely agree. No human can hold all the songs of the world in their memory at once. Or in their soul (read here “Mary treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart” – don’t we do the same with music that is really meaningful to us?).
Speaking of which, another IVM faithful reader has asked “I’d like to know what draws him to continue performing Christian music as a vocation/hobby? What’s the most rewarding part spiritually? What makes it most enjoyable and how Jason knows he’s called to it.”
As I work toward ordination in the Lutheran Church (ELCA), the term “call” gets used a lot: it’s expected to be a sense of holy calling, orchestrated by the Holy Spirit. Do you feel a similar holy calling toward making music with theologically powerful lyrics?
I don’t know if it’s “a calling” in the way that many people use the term. That is, I don’t know that I’ve ever had a sort of epiphany type of moment where I “knew it was what God wanted me to do.” I certainly used language like that earlier in my life, but I don’t know how much weight it ever held. However, my immediate response to the question “why are you still making music” is very simple–because I can’t not make music (nothing is as #metal as a double negative). It is built into me that I need to create music. And if it’s built into me, I believe that comes, at least in large part, from the one who built me. So I’d say that is “a calling.” And to answer the more specific question “why music with Christian lyrics,” the answer is the same–because that’s what comes out of me. The name “Death Therapy” has as much to do with the therapeutic value I get from expressing my struggles, doubts, worries etc through music–and in doing so, lay myself out on the table to be dissected and rebuilt–as it does with anything. Sure, I could write less spiritually loaded words for a song. But if I did that, I wouldn’t be pouring myself out–which is what I feel like I need to be doing when I am creating art. To do otherwise, well, it would just be business–going through the motions–and I would lose interest very quickly. I want the artists that I love to be free to “bleed” their art onto the canvas, not have to make cold and calculating decisions about how it looks or sounds. And that is what I want to do as well.
Oh my, you verged dangerously close to some emo phrases there, haha. I’m so glad that fad is gone, whew.
But yeah, this makes sense: this is who you truly are. It’s not so much a conscious decision as it is a representation of your identity.
Speaking of lyrics, one IVM reader remembered the Dichotomy lyrics that referenced Stephen King’s Dark Tower Series (and he says he noticed it on Celestial Completion as well). I remember there being plenty of references to C.S. Lewis’s Space Trilogy as well. You and I were reading a lot of those stories back then and I’m a fan (as are many other people, apparently) of how you worked some of those themes into BTA lyrics.
So what are you reading now? Will any of it make it into Death Therapy lyrics? And more over-arching, what is your favorite fiction (authors or series) of all time?
Last year I really enjoyed reading Andrew Peterson’s WingFeather Saga (4 Books). I found out about it from a friend, and decided to give the first book a try. Like the first in the Dark Tower or Space Trilogy, it was interesting, but somewhat slow–until the end, that is. And so, just like with those other series, I found myself intrigued enough to stick with it through the end. It was worth it. I really appreciate when an author will take the risk (of losing some people) by starting slow and really laying the groundwork before ramping things up later in the series–it makes for a much more satisfying series when I feel like I really know and care about the characters and their world. You and I have talked about that before with music too. Some albums seem well thought out and take you on a journey. Some people may find them slow at times, and not as market friendly, but those are usually my favorite.
At any rate, Peterson’s series didn’t work into the lyrics on this album like the others did for BTA. But, on the flip side, the album title (The Storm Before the Calm) is actually from a lyric in one of my favorite songs of his (I also discovered that he’s a singer songwriter, and became a fan).
Oh weird! A singer songwriter/author. What a renaissance man!
Is this a model for your future artistic aspirations?
Our final questions from the IVM readers is about the future of your past bands BTA and Solamors.
A couple people asked about your interest in doing another BTA album and/or another Solamors album with Alex.
Are either of those possibilities or interests?
Perhaps speak about why Death Therapy makes sense at this time of your life and in your current situation.
Yeah, that is definitely be something I aspire to. I would love to be a full time musician and author.
The answer to the next question (about BTA and Solamors) is a bit more involved, so I will start with the easy part. Solamors was a project that Alex Kenis (Physics of Fire era BTA) developed, and he reached out to me to do vocals. I had a great time doing that, but once my vocal tracks were recorded and sent to Alex, my part was pretty much done. I think a lot of people assume that when you are the vocalist, that you are “in charge” of whatever project it is. Not true. (Sorry fellow vocalists out there for bursting the bubble). But yeah, that is Alex’s thing, and if he decides to do more stuff in the future, I would probably be interested in doing vocals again. It was a lot of fun getting to experiment with all sorts of different vocal styles that I haven’t done before.
As for doing another BTA album, I am definitely interested. I will go a step further, and say that I really hope it happens. However, as Seth already knows, I have my heart set on doing it with the original core group of songwriters–myself, Seth, Jon, and Duck. I went to high school with Jon and Duck, and college with Seth. They are some of my oldest friends. We traveled the world together during some of the most formative years of our lives. BTA was always a band that pushed boundaries and embraced changes, but that lineup really “feels right” to me for a “return of BTA” type of album–which is what I think people would consider it at this point. Anyway, life has taken us all in very different directions, in every sense of the word. Seth lives on the opposite side of the country now, and is studying to be a minister. He has two children. Duck has been living in downtown Atlanta, and works at a brewery, and he also has two children. Jon lives in the North GA mountains, has two kids, and last I heard, he has started working in real estate. I have two kids, and am currently working as a teacher. If you do the math, you will realize that between the 4 of us, we have 4 wives and 8 children. If you have any experience with either, you know that it isn’t easy to get schedules coordinated–let alone goals, aspirations, visions etc. All of that to say, the pieces aren’t all in place right now for that to happen, but they aren’t far off, and as I said before, I really hope it happens at some point. And I genuinely believe that if it happens the right way, it will mean a lot more to us, and to the fans.
So why Death Therapy at this time in my life? Well, it just makes sense. I want to make music. I want to play shows. I feel like I have something to share–something that needs to be said. But as I said above, it’s tough to get 4 guys with careers and families all on the same page. With DT, it’s a lot easier. The band is essentially just me until we hit the studio or the road. I am writing the riffs, arranging the songs, writing the lyrics and vocals, making the demos etc. There is no one to argue with besides myself (which happens more than you might think). Anyway, at the point that I’m ready to track a record, or do some tour dates, then I call my drummer. If he isn’t available, I have several friends who are killer drummers, and one of them can fill in for a time. That is why DT makes sense for me right now, and why I believe it will be a sustainable vehicle for me to make music going forward. Do I imagine that I’ll be 60 years old and writing industrial groove metal? I don’t know. Maybe so. But I can guarantee that as long as I am alive I will be making music. So sustainability is what I’m after at this point. I’m excited about what the future holds. Hopefully that’s good news to fans as well.
Wow, do we really all have exactly 2 kids? Ugh, we’re all so typical.
Well, I think that wraps up a lot of what I wanted to ask for Part 3 of our interview.
Part 4 will be audio (and perhaps video) via RadioU (and perhaps TVU) and it’ll be available next week I believe.
Jason, you’re a celebrated artist. Do you have a drawing you’d like to use for the article image when this part of the interview is published?
In the meantime, thanks for sharing yourself for all these fine IVM readers and I’ll let you close this out with a final word to a readership that will hopefully adore your new album!
Yeah man, looks like we are all pretty cliche. But I guess that evens things out when you consider we made a death metal song with a trombone solo (die hard BTA fans know what I’m talking about) and now I started a metal band that doesn’t have any guitar. The equilibrium of the universe has to shift accordingly to accommodate these types of anomalies.
And yeah, I am the world’s worst at drawing. I wouldn’t want to punish people.
Look for Part 4 next week *LIVE* on RadioU and TVU!
Part 1 of the Interview
Part Deux of the Interview