Da takes that BIG BITE
HRS Fall 1987
by J. Brian Rice
It is approximately 10:30 p. m. and the day's heat has only begun to dissipate from the aluminum clad building that has served as the side-stage fro Cornerstone '87. Although it's high ceilings, concrete floors and corregated metal walls leave you with a ferris metal aftertaste the next morning, it has housed some of Christian music's finest performances. Outside a large, enthusiastic crowd has been assembled for nearly an hour. Inside the anticipation is just as great, though well disguised behind a more professional facade.
Only an hour before, just before the line outside began to form, the four men of DA had been the recipients of one working of the first of what will be the annual Harvey Awards for Best New Wave Band of last year. Despite the wise-cracks, mock tears, and playful DA theatrics, the appreciation of long overdue acknowledgment was clear. But what can be said? When something you have done without suddenly becomes available, it can feel awkward. Somehow to laugh it off may be the most gracious response that can be managed, at least for the moment.
But tonight hints of something different. Tonight what is past is now history and the future smacks with the smell of something latent, something smoldering. It's like the smell of something hot you can sense even before smoke of flames are visible. It's the kind of scent that only those within a close proximity of its kindling can detect. Back at the side stage the aroma is elusive, yet the crowd outside can smell it. As the band cranks up a stunning version of "Pump It Up," from Elvis Costello to check sound, the fragrance becomes more apparent. People begin to turn their heads in an attempt to locate its source and see if others share the same perception.
Something has been happening with DA, something more than their change of name to Da (pronounced Dah). It is something far more germane to the new record entitled Darn Floor Big Bite
(Frontline). Da has begun to germinate as a band. Not "a group of musicians playing together upon string and percussive instruments," but a band in a more spiritual scene, "a group of people joined together for a common purpose."
Greg Flesch the new guy, the wiz kid, protege, devotee, certainly are all words consistent with the vernacular of the industry, although they are somewhat less than complete in describing the newest member of the band. Somewhat less inflammatory but more accurate descriptors may be humble, student, and lo... nearly a newlywed. He is described by one of his cohorts as no less than "a very talented guy." Greg lives in Pasadena with his wife of one year where he attends college. Majoring in technology, he refers to it as "something to fall back on."
Though tight lipped about his own praise he is very vocal about his feelings toward the band and his fellow members. Flesch describes a sort-of creative potpourri; a sort of joy of discovery in the "Hey, let's try this approach" to writing and production. "I keep stressing camaraderie maybe it's sounding corny. I met these guys through a strange chain of people. The way we all meet through different circumstances, it's pretty incredible we get along so well."
When questioned as to the future of the band, he sits on the edge of his chair with elbows resting on his knees as if positioning himself to make a physical leap. "There is a thing going on to see if the next record will be released on Capital. We feel that, hopefully, being a regular band will widen the things out for touring. We see ourselves sort of breaking out beyond Christian music."
How does he view the prospect of a "Christian band" within the context of that a secular market? Flesch tries to place it into a perspective in a particular context. "U2 for example, can do what they do, people can sing along and believe in that... because they have validated the whole thing with an evening of great music. There is or was a tendency, especially in early Christian music to accept a band for their ideology, sometimes despite the fact the music was... you know. The secular world sees that as a handicap. I feel that what we are doing is very interesting, very good, very selective. Hopefully other people will think the same and learn to accept it for what it is and there will be no need to make concessions. I don't think we should."
Tim Chandler... have bass, will travel. In the midst of some good natured innuendoes about his "hired gun" image as a side man fro a number of other Christian artists, Terry comes to his defense. "No one says (in an indignant tone) 'Oh, there goes that Tim, running around with another band.' Laughter comes easily to this band, as lampooned and lampooner laugh heartily.
Attempting to be more serious in an effort to underscore his meaning Tim states for the record his feelings about Da. "Da is the band that I consider myself to be a part of... This is one of which I consider myself to be an active part, the rest of it comes mostly out of financial necessity." Documenting that statement are almost a whole record of song collaborations on Symmetry
. Big Bite
promises to be the same. Chandler continues, "This feels like the most cohesive line up. When you talk about creative differences in the band... there are almost none." As anyone who has worked on any sort of collaborative effort knows, such is an uncommon phenomenon. Chandler also hails from the Western Coast of the U. S. A. where he resides with his wife of two years. When asked how he has found the life of a musician and marriage he responds positively, "She was a Da fan before I really knew her or was in the band." Taylor offers that she only really liked him because he was in Da. This is countered with a gale of counter quips and laughter. Taylor cops a mock denial that implies Tim's wife may have actually been in pursuit of the band's lead singer. Chandler counters with comments about "older men" (a reference to some previous joke). Taylor howls as if struck with a low blow and the interview is completely out of control with laughter.
Ed McTaggert has sat very patiently through the bulk of the interview as if taking measure of the situation. The laughter has helped him relax but still he offers little input unless asked directly. He would seem content to let the other members represent the band's opinions, occasionally punctuating their remarks with a nod of agreement. McTaggert is clearly not a man to force either himself or his opinions on others.
One subject that McTaggert does speak comfortably about is his family. Married for fifteen years, he and his wife school their four children at home, Rachel 13, Betrice 11, Daniel 8, and Drewcia . In an effort to provide stability for the family he has worked in a variety of jobs from draftsman, to warehouseman, to music publishing, to his present position as art director for Frontline Records. To the children of the Mctaggert household, daddy playing in a rock band is as common place as anything any other father may do for a hobby.
Ed joined Da right after the first record was released. Having sat behind the drum set all that time lends him a particular perspective on the changes that Da has seen to date. Its evolution to its present form has taken a significant place in his life. "It's more than just a band where we get together and play. It is more like the fellowship of a church. There is a lot of camaraderie. As the others have said, there is spiritual enlightenment and a lot of support even in our failure. This is clearly the best band sound of all the different combinations, I think. I love it."
The title for the next record was inspired by the experiments being done in communication between humans and gorillas. An ape was asked to describe its understanding of a recent earthquake. The sign language response was "Darn floor... Big bite." Ed expounds on its significance, "I think in some ways the new record is saying that the way he (the ape) perceived what he saw was limited by his use of language. It is similar to what is encountered in the Bible in describing our creator. The gentle lamb, the roaring lion, ...so that's the kind of idea behind it." Taylor elaborates, "It pertains to our perception of God. We are close to the concept and yet.. not exactly." McTaggert concludes "When you hear that response of the gorilla you say yeah... makes sense... but not exactly. I am sure that is the way God listens to us when we describe him."
Terry Taylor, it is important to note, is the biggest advocate of his companions' creative contributions. Throughout the interview he would interject the occasional hoot of the horn, as it were, that his cohorts were hesitant to blow for themselves. He clearly believes in these men around him as much as he believes in his own personal vision.
The relationship between them is best described in Taylor's own words, "I think what has come through for me in the past couple of years is that there was a time when I felt like I had to override people. I felt like some things were not in spirit of what we were trying to do as a band. With Tim and Greg being involved in the writing, I have complete trust that their ideas, perceptions, and contributions are in the spirit of the idea of Da. Therefore, I can let go and not guard that."
Despite the apparent closeness that has developed among the band in recent years, Taylor finds his greatest support Da outside the band itself, "She is a very gentle, totally unselfish in regard to my pursuits. I don't think I would still be in the band were it not for her." He speaks of course of his wife of 15 years and collaborator on two children; a six year old boy and a little girl of two. Taylor's priorities are as clear as the weight that he plays on his family's importance in his life, "If there were ever to come a day where she would say 'I don't want you to be in Da, that would be the day I would leave." How do the children feel about dad's job? "They love it. I am sure my little boy is listening to my music right now, he goes to sleep by it. He asks me how I get certain sounds."
When asked about the band's future and prospects of a Capitol distribution agreement Taylor is bullish on the implications of being a "Christian Band" in the secular market place. "I think there is a much greater spiritual awareness in music right now. People have been more aware of spiritual qualities. I don't think we've been in a place of compromise at all. I think the last compromising song I did was "I Believe In You." I thought, this will be a mega hit. (Laughter) I felt so dirty that since that time I have never written a compromising song. I don't think about it as secular or Christian. We have been doing it (music) for many, many years and it's become frustrating at times. We hope we are on the verge of getting past where we were before.
There is a change in this band. The change in name is not only cosmetic, but symbolic. The concept has been fermenting for these many years in the minds and hearts of those men who have stood behind it. Now it has taken on flesh. Da is a band of flesh and blood and now dwells among us. Da is no longer a lofty ideal, elusively pursued, but reality in the confines of the lives of these four men.