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7 DECEMBER, 2012

Be a Prayer | Well, our year-long project of recording one song a month is finally finished. I wrote this song several years ago, when it was essentially just a little acoustic ditty. Verse, chorus, repeat. With MB singing a lovely melody over the top, all that was needed was something a little different, a little extra. We found that in the studio when we invited three (!) drummers to sit in on the song. Roger Johnson, Dan Hazen, and Dave Warburton had each played on individual tracks for the current recording project, so it only seemed fitting to bring in all three of them to finish out the album. We also invited Brenda Hazen back to lend her talents to the backing vocals.

If you're the spontaneous type, you'll appreciate the fact that we never rehearsed. Instead, I simply e-mailed an mp3 of a rough demo to everyone involved. We then showed up at Elliott Bay Recording Co. to record the song and, after an hour of tinkering with the arrangement, did exactly that.

If only you could have been in the "big room" with us while we were recording the drum tracks. The volume was insane, and the energy was just shy of combustible.

for every last drop
for the very first kiss
for the trembling to never stop
for everything, for this

be a prayer

for the one who takes you down
for the ground that meets you there
for your single worst fear
for the truth you cannot bear

be a prayer

for the day that never ends
for the one that never comes
for the love I could return
for the love...

- Matt

23 NOVEMBER, 2012

Thank you | On this Thanksgiving weekend, we’d like to give thanks to everyone who contributed to our Indiegogo campaign. Confession: we didn’t sleep too well the night after we launched our campaign. We thought, “What have we done? Whose crazy idea was this!?!”

Thank you!Well, suffice to say we’re more than relieved at how things turned out (we raised 125% of our goal). In fact, we’re a bit giddy. Can’t wait for 2013. It helps that we already have four “personal concerts” lined up and a nice long list of people waiting for their copy of the new album, which will be mailed out a week or two before Christmas, assuming all goes according to schedule.

As I write this, we’re wrapping up the artwork, listening and relistening to the final master, and making plans for the listening party in January.

To all of you who contributed, once again, thank you, thank you, thank you. We couldn’t have done this without you.

- Matt

16 NOVEMBER, 2012

The Only One | This song has been waiting in the wings for quite a few years. I first wrote it while MB and I were still living in Port Townsend. I remember we whipped it out live one summer evening at an acoustic performance at the food co-op. We knew as soon as we had played it in front of an audience that we had something powerful on our hands.

From a musical standpoint, it's the first song I ever wrote using a drop-tuning on the guitar (everything is dropped a half-step). Lyrically, it came to me unbidden -- i.e., I have no idea precisely what it's about. But there's something universal about the feelings explored.

I'm broken
and dirty
and lost
all alone
I came here
the same way
you showed me
back home

the people
talk circles
around me
I'm invisible
the streets run
like corn rows
remind me
I don't belong

I'm waiting
I'm waiting
I'm waiting
for you
I'm sinking
without you
I'm bleeding
don't know what to do


[repeat first half of first verse, repeat first chorus]

I'm waiting
what I've done
I'm sinking
I'm the only one

Interestingly, that last line was originally written as YOU'RE the only one. But at some point YOU'RE was scratched out and replaced with I'M on the original lyric sheet. Not sure who made the change -- Mary Beth or me (or maybe the two of us in tandem). One of the cool things about printing out lyrics as soon as they're "done" is to see how they evolve as we work them out in rehearsal and over time. Sort of like sifting through the geological layers of rock strata. Only we're peering back through a few months or years, not whole ages.

- Matt

1 NOVEMBER, 2012

Teamwork | The new album is almost finished. Two songs to go. Before we post the November song of the month, we’d like to share something a little different with you:

The video above explains how you can get a copy of “Siren” just in time for Christmas (and before the album’s official release) -- and how you can help us finish funding the project.

By participating in our first-ever crowd-funding campaign, you can play an integral part in what for us is a momentous occasion:

Next year, 2013, will mark the 20th birthday of The Whole Bolivian Army. “Siren” will be our tenth (!) album.

To celebrate, we’re offering all sorts of fancy perks to anyone who pre-orders the album: DVDs, posters, the entire TWBA catalog on a thumb drive, a house concert—you name it.

To learn more, visit us at:


- Matt

14 OCTOBER, 2012

Go Down | This is a song about a cow. Well, technically, it’s a song about life from a cow’s perspective—a cow who lives her whole life in a soulless factory farm before being mechanistically slaughtered. I know, I know. Cheery stuff.

Yet somehow this song came together in a beautiful, disarming way. Same routine as always: I sent a demo to everyone, we met for one rehearsal to hash out an arrangement, and shazam—we were in the studio. At the rehearsal, drummer Dan Hazen, after setting us all at ease with a few macabre bovine jokes, set the tone with an inventive, locomotive groove. But the song wasn’t fully fleshed out until Brenda, Dan’s lovely and talented wife, had improvised, chipped away at, and finally found a soaring counter-melody for the backing vocals—all while behind the studio microphone.

Halfway into the mixing process, I think we all knew we’d just done something special. This feels like one of the best songs we’ve ever recorded, although as one of the five that birthed it, what do I know? Regardless, I feel truly blessed to be working with so many talented, generous souls.

I’ve seen better days
in my dreams
Two Legs says I don’t
but I scream

dirty blades are singing
they’re coming for me
I hear the others go down
one, two, three

go down

hormones and antibodies
dinner for none
Two Legs forgets sometimes
which way to run

go down
I can see four walls
too close to touch
but I know it’s out there somewhere

brilliant sky

- Matt

26 SEPTEMBER, 2012

Siren artwork | For this month's video, we take a behind-the-scenes look at Tacoma artist Michaela Eaves' contribution to the forthcoming album. Michaela, who was responsible for the lovely art on the Bells cover, needs only four minutes and change to whip out the Siren cover, thanks to some cool time-lapse footage.

- Matt

27 AUGUST, 2012

Siren | This song, which belongs to the same Port Townsend demo session that produced “Golden Hour,” has been simmering for a few years now. We’ve always liked the hook but feared we wouldn’t be able to deliver the goods in the studio, where songs don’t always live up to their promise. Fortunately, Roger Johnson (drums) and Greg Strickland (bass) made good use of the demo recording, fleshing out their respective parts and even adding a few ideas (listen for Greg’s cello solo before the last verse). We only needed one rehearsal to fit the pieces together.

The recording started out smoothly, with Roger nailing the drums on the first take, but took an extra session at the mixing board to get everything just the way we wanted it. The problem began when I added an extra guitar part. Then we thought up a cool counter melody for the vocals during the choruses. Suddenly, we no longer recognized the song. The vocals stayed, but the guitar didn’t. Scott Ross captured it all at Elliott Bay Recording Co. in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood.

The video, meanwhile, was shot at Northwest Costume in Tacoma. On the first floor is a funky, eclectic, and even spooky retail space. Upstairs is an old-fashioned ballroom. We made use of everything, including a few costumes. (Thank you, Mary and Tom!)

The one oversight was the lyrics. Usually, as a song makes its way through the process of demo + preproduction + final arrangement + final recording, the lyrics are polished along the way. But somehow we neglected to revisit the lyrics, and as I listened back to the final mix I found myself wincing. “Oops, I forgot to replace that cliché with a better line. Dang, why did I try so hard to force a rhyme there?” Too late. The lyrics, which tinker with Greek mythology, could have benefited from a revision or two. But the theme is still an interesting one.

hear me speak
hear me breathe
hear me call to you
hear me sing
hear this song
hear the ocean blue

you’re coming to me
you’re crashing free

you’re drinking from me
your soul-sea

hear me think
hear me blink
hear me pray for your return
hear my mind
hear my heartbeat
hear the gull – its throat burns

you’re coming to me
you’re crashing free
you’re drinking from me
your soul-sea

your siren
your shipwreck
cannons firing
all hands on deck
you’re a firefly
you’re a dancing buoy
you have to try
my siren boy

skyward bright
fading light
you’re deep-sixed in my heart
air escapes
ocean takes
they’ll never break us apart

- Matt

30 JULY, 2012

Open Your Eyes | For this month's post, we're taking a break from the album in order to share a song we recorded several weeks ago for our friends Tim and Jamie, who just tied the knot. We're not a wedding band, per se, but when we were asked to whip out an acoustic cover of Snow Patrol's "Open Your Eyes," we were happy to oblige. Here's the video:

In other news, CD Baby has a big ol' sale going on this week, July 30 through August 3, during which time all of the proceeds go directly to the artists. If you want to support local music and get a screaming deal, now's the time. You can shop at CD Baby or use the CD Baby widget at our store.

- Matt

23 JUNE, 2012

Ten Feet Taller | This song is another one with a complicated back-story. In its first incarnation, which we plan to record later this year, it was a lovely little ditty entitled “Be a Prayer.” But somewhere along the line I started toying with a tougher version. Not long afterward, this version was born.

Lyrically, the song is about listening to our better angels, which means (1) living courageously and (2) living with gratitude—two things that are hard to do for most of us. It’s not necessarily a religious or even a spiritual song, but it can certainly be interpreted along those lines.

Back once again at Elliott Bay Recording Co., we enlisted the services of Dan and Brenda Hazen in the studio, with Dan laying down a rock-steady groove on the drums and Brenda supplying the yin to Mary Beth’s yang vocally. It was also producer/engineer Scott Ross’s birthday, which added a bit of festivity to the occasion (red wine followed the birthday apple pie). There were no big surprises on this one, other than the final results, which exceeded our expectations. Brenda and Mary Beth’s collective mojo really shines.

be a prayer
ten feet taller
be the sweet scent
be the wild one
be the black son

for every single drop
for the very first kiss
for the trembling to never stop
for everything, for this

be a prayer
ten feet taller
take their punches
be the last one
be unbroken
be relentless

for every single drop
for the very first kiss
for the trembling to never stop
for everything, for this

for the one who takes you down
for the ground that meets you there
for your single worst fear
for the truth you cannot hear

- Matt

25 MAY, 2012

Hungry Ghosts (Still Breathing) | This song, which was originally entitled “One Last Time Here,” has been through the creative wringer. I wrote the lyrics and melody for it several years ago while MB and I were still living in Port Townsend. At the time, it was supposed to be a punkish rock song. When MB and I moved back to the overpopulated side of the pond, we brought it to Tommy Thew, oft-fifth member of the band, who fleshed out a demo complete with programmed drums. But no one was quite happy with where the song was leading us, so we put it back on the shelf, where it stayed several years.

Flash forward to a few weeks ago, when I transposed the heavy guitar part to the synthesizer, opting for an 80s sound, a la the Cure. We needed just one rehearsal at the Strickland mansion for the song to come together. Greg unleashed his flying fingers on a galloping bass part, and Dave pounded away at a custom-made steel drum set to give the song an extra edge.

The one thing that still needed work was the title. Lyrically, the song is about addiction, so Dave suggested “Hungry Ghosts,” a nod to what Buddhists call insatiable spirits and a term that in the West has come to be associated with addiction. Greg added “Still Breathing” as a subtitle, and we were off and running.

In the studio, we received a visit from Dave’s friend who had custom-made the drums. He was excited to hear them at work. The recording itself, meanwhile, went relatively smoothly, although some tracks were ultimately discarded while we tried to home in on the sound we heard in our heads. Engineer/producer Scott Ross added a few fancy loops and sound effects, and voila—the song was done. Well, not quite. We ended up spending a couple more hours a week later tweaking the mix, breaking our self-imposed rule that every song has to be recorded, mixed, and mastered in one day.

As with the three songs preceding it, we were able to gather some video footage from the recording process. But this time we also set MB loose for some conceptual footage. As we thought about addiction and the romantic but ultimately nihilistic impulses that fuel it, we tried to go somewhere sexy but dark. The results are a tad on the brazen side for us, but as MB so eloquently summed it up, “You have to be willing to just put it out there.” We’re thankful it was her, and not the rest of the band, leading the charge.

let me be your slave
you can be my higher power

I know it’s a dead end
I know it’s the last stop
I’ve been here a thousand times before

hey, look—I’m still breathing

who’s to keep me from myself?
who’s to talk me off the ledge?
who can whisper loud enough?
one last time here...

- Matt

25 APRIL, 2012

The Golden Hour | This song has been waiting *forever* to be included on an album. I actually wrote it years ago, while Mary Beth and I were still living in Port Townsend. The year was 2003. I was retrieving the mail from the mailbox one September evening, and the last bit of sunlight was giving everything a golden hue. I said something about the magical light to our neighbor as she picked up her mail, and she launched into a discussion of the “golden hour," a photographer’s term I’d never heard before. A few hours later, I had the lyrics, the chords, and the melody. Sometimes they really come that easy.

Later that fall, Tommy Thew (engineer and occasional 5th member of the band), Jay Perry (former bass player), and Roger Johnson traveled to Port Townsend, and we recorded the song, along with another one, in our backyard studio. Just a little demo, which has been sitting idle for almost a decade. Well, we e-mailed an mp3 of the demo to Roger and Greg a few weeks ago, and everyone went to work learning/relearning their parts. One rehearsal at the Strickland abode was all we needed before taking the song to Elliott Bay Recording Co. last Saturday.

In the studio, Roger Johnson nailed the drum part on his second take, and the tone was set for the rest of the day. The lads from Soul Theory sat in on the session and were drafted for a sing-along chorus at the end of the song. Also joining the fun, Gibson Kite made his first appearance behind the microphone.

For the video, we collaborated with long-time friend and globe-trotting photographer John Greengo, whose panoramic shots during the golden hour contrasted nicely with studio footage.

raven goes red
blackbird to rust
and the tree line turns to dust
and it seems to me
the only place to live
is in the space of forgetting who I am

horizon washed out
blinding sun sea
and the summer turns to leave
and it seems to me
the only place to heal
is in the day that’s dying in me

the golden hour
we’ll never grow sour
as long as you’re with me

ooh, maybe we want to
ooh, maybe we ought to
ooh, maybe we whisper
ooh, maybe we call out

raven goes red
a love I can trust
and your memory turns to dust
and it seems to me
the only way to live

is to make fear your passion, your grace

horizon washed out
blinding sun sea
and the summer turns to leave
and it seems to me
the only place to heal
is in the day that’s dying in me

the golden hour
we’ll never grow sour
as long as you’re with me

- Matt

28 MARCH, 2012

Sunday Station | For the second song of of our year-long project of recording one song a month, we said goodbye to the Marshall half stack (or at least turned it down) and said hello to the grand piano and cello, with Dan (drums) and Brenda Hazen (backup vocals) joining us last Saturday for the first time since, gulp, 1995.

"Sunday Station" began on the piano one day when I was exploring our new keyboard, a Yamaha DGX-640. The melody came next, but I only had a few lines for quite some time, and those lines were borrowed from another song that never quite went anywhere. Then one day I went for a run through the soggy trails at Snake Lake here in Tacoma and the rest of the lyrics came to me:

your love feels like Sunday Station
slow coach pulling away
broken rooftops, father’s watch stops
miles and miles to feel this way

ooh, wish I was
ooh, wish I could

your love feels like Red Square Sunrise
still life waiting to be born
dizzy heartbeats, worried smile lines
I’m ready to be torn

ooh, wish I was
ooh, wish I could

your love changes everything
your love makes me blind

Most of the lyrics are personal and symbolic. The first verse draws from a trip to France Mary Beth and I took shortly after we were first married. We were sitting in a tiny train station in Amboise in the Loire Valley one overcast Sunday morning in June, and the place was all but deserted. We took the slow train to the south of France, rolling through bucolic scenery most of the way. One of the lines from that first verse, “Father’s watch stops,” came to me unbidden (as many of our lyrics do). I think it’s the result of reading one too many Thomas Mann novels in my college years.

The second verse, meanwhile, is a nod to Red Square at Western Washington University in Bellingham, where I went to school many moons ago (Greg and MB also went to WWU). But of course there are many Red Squares in the world, from the UW campus in Seattle to the mother of all Red Squares in Moscow, Russia.

Overall, the song is about love, but not just love between two people. Love of place. Love of beauty. Love of those timeless moments when life seems so grand it makes the heart ache (in a good way).

We sent a simple demo of the song to Dan, Brenda, and Greg, and after everyone took a moment to think out their respective parts, we met at Greg’s place in Fremont for a couple hours of playing, recording, listening, and arranging. By the end of it, we had a song in place and were ready to record. All of us felt a tad nervous, since we were leaving our comfort zone (guitar rock) and trying something new. Greg, along with playing bass, would be bringing his cello to the recording session. And the bulk of the song was based around my piano part. I’ve played piano on a few TWBA songs, but usually the piano has been used to augment a song, not anchor it.

At Elliott Bay Recording Co., we needed twelve hours to record, mix, and master the song (engineer/producer Scott Ross was his usual self behind the console: fast, efficient, and tireless). It didn’t help that Mary Beth, Gibson, and I locked ourselves out of our house that morning and were late to the studio (ack!). But despite the slow start and the nerves beforehand, we ended up with something truly unique and triumphant. Everybody knocked it out of the park with their respective instruments, but the sum was even greater than those parts. We were once again blessed by the (musical) gods.

- Matt

25 FEBRUARY, 2012

Small Men Need Fear | We’re one song into our year-long project of recording the next album. You can listen to "Small Men Need Fear," recorded last Saturday at Elliott Bay Recording Co., here. And below is the video:

This song has actually been in the hopper for a number of years. I wrote the lyrics not long after the Abu Ghraib scandal in 2004. Angry and disillusioned, I reflected on how such things come to pass. I realized that fear often leads us down the wrong path, and that the people in power—usually men—don’t just prey on our fear but are caught up in it themselves.

Because the song is at times much harder than the usual TWBA song (with the exception of material on the “War Stories” album), it ended up being shelved until now. With most albums, we try to set a largely consistent tone musically, but we’ve vowed to let “Siren,” the current project, take us wherever it goes, without any preconceived notions (or constraints).

It was quite a thrill to have Dave Warburton back on the drums. The guy just oozes energy and has a great instinctual feel for how he approaches the song. We sent him a demo to listen to for a few weeks, and then the four of us got together for one rehearsal and hashed out the arrangement. We recorded the rehearsal, practiced our respective parts individually, and then met last Saturday at Elliott Bay Recording Co. to lay the song down. The process wasn’t rushed, per se, but we definitely kept things moving quickly enough to maintain a certain level of spontaneity.

Scott Ross, engineer and long-time friend at Elliott Bay, has a huge pile of old-school gear at his disposal, so I was excited to plug into a Marshall half stack for some of the bigger guitar sounds. We also did something different, which was to use minimal microphones on the drums (five) and record the bass and drums together live (Greg and Dave locked up after just a few takes). That left only the guitar and vocal overdubs and kept the feel raw and energetic. In contrast to our approach to Bells, our 2011 album, which was pretty slick/polished, we deliberately set out this time to achieve something tougher and more bottom-heavy. We also wanted to give MB room to cut loose, which she did on the third verse. Perhaps the song’s best moment comes when she belts out the final vocal line of the song: “All men need... mothers!"

Some songs are harder than others to capture in the studio. This one turned out just the way we wanted it to, so we left the studio on Saturday tired but giddy with satisfaction.

These are the best times
These are the worst times
This is the only time for you and me to get it right
This is the long night
This is the long war
This is the tunnel with no merciful end in sight

Small men need fear

This is the low ground
This is the bloody sound
This is the road to torture paved in legalese
We are the sheep-lemmings
They are the chicken-things
This is the shit they want you to swallow on your knees

Small men need fear
Small men breathe fear

[repeat of first verse, one octave up]

Small men pray fear
Small men tax fear
Small men vote fear
Small men hide fear

All men need... mothers

- Matt

30 JANUARY, 2012

Song of the month | Bells is less than five months old, but we're already preparing for the next album, tentatively entitled Siren. There's plenty of excitement around this next project, and much of that has to do with the creative process itself. The plan is to record one song a month and document the song and the process on YouTube. Starting in late February, you'll be able to watch the album as it comes together. And if all goes as planned, it will be ready before Christmas, 2012.

- Matt

15 OCTOBER, 2012

With Dave Warburton

Q. You recorded several albums and played a hundred or so shows with TWBA in the mid-to-late 90s before moving on to other musical adventures with the Souvenirs, Redneck Girlfriend, and a few other bands. Then you put away the sticks for a while. What brought you back to playing again?

Dave WarburtonA. In 2008, I had hit a wall after playing 16 years non-stop. I actually wanted to take six months to a year off going all the way back to 2001, but I guess so much of my own identity was wrapped up in being a drummer I didn't know how to say "no." Well, in 2008 I had a bad health scare, and that was my motivator to just start taking care of myself better. I told all musicians in my life at that time, "I'm done until further notice." And I found a great freedom in that. Turns out I can be happy, contented, and useful whether I'm playing drums or not. That was a great discovery.

So, six months grew to a year, to two years, to three, etc., and I found myself with the time to do things I had been thinking about forever, like going back to school, or living in a different place. Found out I'm happiest in Seattle for now, and my day job turned into a career that took off without having to get a Master's -- all great stuff.

Still no plan on playing. One day my wife asked me to go to the Tractor for a Bluegrass show by Trampled By Turtles, one of the great new-grass bluegrass bands out there touring right now. For some reason my wife is just nutty for the bluegrass -- pretty strange for a grunge-era chick from Seattle. I hadn't been to the Tractor or Ballard Ave in years. It was so nice to be back there, seeing my first live show in a long time. Knut Bell, an old friend of mine from the scene who leads Knut Bell and the Blue Collars, asked me if I still played, and would I want to just play Sunday evenings over the summer up in Conway because his drummer couldn't make those shows? I said, "Sure, what the hell." We played the next day.

If you would've told me 24 hours earlier that I would be a drummer again, I would have absolutely told you with conviction that you were nuts.

And since last summer, the drumming has taken off again. I'm playing all over town, making money at it -- enough to (mostly) pay for vacations that Juli and I like to go on as frequestly as we can. It's a second job for me, and a great second job at that. Helping out on a few TWBA songs for Siren has been a hight point!

Q. Why don’t drummers play at the front of the stage?

A. I know two that have: Terry Bozzio, from the '80s prog-pop band Missing Persons, and Boots Kutz, the original drummer in the Souvenirs.

It's a neat setup, but I think drummers have had their egos fed since the advent of the drum riser -- and their names emblazoned on the bass drum head, should they choose to. Both courtesy of the master, Buddy Rich. I guess that's always been enough. Of course, in the club scene there are no drum risers, and I have no artistic ability to design a bass drum head with my initials in a badge. So I play in four bands instead. But always remember: if we drummers were total ego freaks and just had to be out front, we'd have picked a different instrument!

While we may be a tad more humble in that regard, we're also completely nutty, obsessive compulsive maniac freak-shows. Why do you think every band has had at least four drummers by the time they get to their second year? Anyone who says, "I want to make music. Give me those sticks. I'm gonna pound drums," is a different breed. I'd like to take a moment here and apologize on every drummer's behalf that you more balanced, sensible musicians have to deal with our crap.

Q. Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough or Chunky Monkey? Or... ?

A. New York Super Fudge Chunk. For obvious reasons.

2 MAY, 2012

With Roger Johnson

Q. It’s been just over a decade since you laid down the drums for the Be album (2001). Some of that time you’ve been playing on stage with TWBA, but you’ve also been involved with a few other bands and projects. Can you bring fans up to speed on what you’ve been doing?

Roger JohnsonA. Yeah, I can't believe it's been that long since we did Be! I played with the incredible singer-songwriter Kellee Bradley. She got the call one day to open for John Mellencamp on his "Cuttin' Heads" tour during the summer of 2001. The highlight was playing the mainstage Gorge Amphitheater. We got the full nine yards: our own trailer, food, and drinks. I also started (and continue) to play with The Bourbonites. We have one record so far to our name: This Is Just a Drem (dream). Between TWBA and The Bourbonites, we've had songs on top-40 radio as well as renown independent station KEXP. us!

Q. You’ve often said, “I’m a drum player, not a drummer.” What’s the difference?

A. I just like to say things like that. My credits on the back of The Bourbonites album read, "Roger Johnson: drums, no percussion..." Seriously, why do drummers feel the need to write, "drums, percussion." I think everybody knows that's what they do. I have to laugh when I read Neil Peart's credits. He lists drum set, tuned crotales, glockenspiel, chimes, blocks, gong, timpani...and even concert toms. I think the next record will say, "Roger Johnson hits things that make sounds on this record."

Q. You’re stranded on the proverbial desert island and can only bring one thing with you: your drum set, a copy of This Is Spinal Tap (and something to play it with), or your favorite video game. Which is it and why?

A. I would take my drumset because then I can get some serious practice. Between family life, my son's extracurricular activities, playing with you guys and The Bourbonites, as well as going to Northwest University (I'm on track for my Master's in Education), I just don't have any time to sit down and really get a good workout. So give me a few weeks before you seriously start looking for me. I'd love to be able to do a drum solo like Keith Carlock. That is the type of solo I want to be able to do.

21 MARCH, 2012

With Dan Hazen of SoulCurve

Q. Let’s go back in time to 1995, Crow Recording, and the making of the Hazen album. How do you feel about that EP and the recording of it now, so many years later?

Dan Hazen (SoulCurve)A. I recall that, at the time, I was the “old salt” in the band when it came to recording (with a grand total of about a half dozen sessions under my belt). Of course all of that experience was in an analog context, and honestly, less-than-professional environments. So when I listen to Hazen now, I remember having a lot of FUN doing those songs essentially LIVE and with little or no production value added. Comparing Hazen to later TWBA work also makes me realize how skilled Matt, MB, and the others had become at the art of recording. I haven’t done ANY recording since 1995, so it makes me a little jealous and quite nervous, frankly: now I’m TOTALLY the rookie!

So... I have very fond memories of the experience, but I’d like to go back and correct all my mistakes, slow down a couple tempos, take more TIME to get it right, and use all the cool “new” gear. :)

Q. Your music career didn’t end when you left TWBA. What have you and Brenda been up to in the years since? Maybe you could share a bit about your latest band, SoulCurve.

A. The lion’s share of our musical efforts has been at our church. I was the music director there for twelve years, and Brenda has been a worship leader and vocalist. We both perform there almost weekly. I have done short stints with cover bands here and there, but five years ago, SoulCurve came together. Our thing is to choose songs we really like from any genre (we’ve got Zeppelin, Gershwin, and The Atlanta Rhythm Section!) and we do them our own way. We “curve” them. It’s a lot of fun, and we get out every four to eight weeks or so for gigs around Snohomish County.

Q. You two are big U2 fans (sorry for the bad wordplay). You’re also practicing Christians. U2 went through a phase early in their career when they almost walked away from the music, but they found a way to reconcile rock and roll with their faith. You must have fought similar battles over the years, but your story is different. You brought music to your church, Allen Creek. Can you share a little bit about that?

A. Oh, Matty, Matt, Matt, Matt! Whoever could have inspired you to ask such a question…hmmmm? SAYT-n!?

Seriously, there’s big important stuff in that question, and brief, relevant answers are hard to give, but let me try.

Brenda and I are blessed to be part of a community that recognizes the God of the Bible as the source of creativity…THE Creator. As such, we are free to acknowledge His presence in all art. In other words, if God created artist A, then God is somewhere inside artist A’s work, regardless of what artist A thinks. It doesn’t matter if I like my dad, ever met him, or even acknowledge him -- I still have his eyes. So we look for family resemblances in all art. It’s just easier to find in some art than in others.

This idea frees Christians to enjoy the artistic expression of whatever context they find themselves in: Brenda and I grew up in the 20th century western United guess what? We like to rock. It just so happens that wherever or with whomever we rock…we rock for Jesus. :)

While pop music is our preferred form, this view of creativity also means that at our church, we have the privilege to play all kinds of music from Rage Against the Machine to ancient, nameless hymns to TWBA! (That’s right! In May, we will be performing “When Machines Eat” by TWBA for a sermon series about technology!) We also embrace dance, poetry, drama, and the visual arts.

But the sad truth is this: in the church (and elsewhere) God is forced into little censorship boxes that we build for him. As Christ followers, Brenda and I are called to change that from inside the church. As St. Augustine is credited with saying: “The church is a whore. But she is my mother.”