Man With A Mission: DA's Terry Taylor
Harvest Rock Syndicate - Winter 1987
by T.L. Faris
(This issue of Harvest Rock Syndicate, featured Terry and Steve Taylor on the cover with the header "Taylor Twins." The issue featured interviews with both artists. What follows is the entire interview with Terry Taylor.)
Terry Taylor has long been one of contemporary Christian music's more unpredictable artists. Yet in spite of his unpredictability, or perhaps because of it, he has maintained consistently high standards of creativity and honesty in his art. Whether at work on a project with DA, the band with which he has worked for more than ten years, or on a solo effort, or producing the Altar Boys or Wild Blue Yonder or Isaac Air Freight, Taylor brings to the project his own brand of humor and his insight as well as his commitment to producing good art that is engaging and gives glory to the Creator.
Terry recently spoke to Harvest Rock Syndicate by telephone from his home in Southern California. Here are some of the highlights of our conversation with the older and blonder of the Taylor Twins.
HARVEST ROCK SYNDICATE: One of the things I want to talk about is the idea of integrity, a central emphasis in all of your work. How does integrity work out in terms of your lyrics, your presentation, your concert work?
TERRY SCOTT TAYLOR: As a writer I have made it my goal to improve each time l write a song. I feel that first and foremost I want to write a good song. I don't want the song itself to be victim to some sort of preachiness or message that I am trying to convey. I want to challenge myself. I want to challenge the listener. I want to I want to intrigue the listener. I want the listener to have fun with it. I want it to be a total experience. That extends into all the other areas. Doing concerts with DA is very tough because we've always felt that in a live performance we want to do our best, to do a show that stays with people, nothing cheap or second rate. And it's been difficult for DA to do that. It's not a money making proposition to be out on the road. But we continue to do it. That is why we are doing this coming tour. It is in us to perform. It is in us to meet the people that have supportted us through the years. DA has been sort of assigned to this cult status which is fun in some ways beeause we get these incredibly supportive fans that under-stand what we're trying to do as a band, what I'm trying to do as a songwriter. They are listening to the words. They're interested in what we have to say. They're having fun with it. They're anticipating the next record and they haw a genuine desire to see DA transcend the boundries of this little niche of ccm and get it out and beyond into the real world. Touring is an opportunity to go out and meet those people anti thank them through a performance for their support.
HRS: Your search for integirty has taken you in a lot of directions with DA. You have given up something in terms of popularity. Does that ever bother you?
TST: It did at one point because we were sort of the darlings of the church crowd. It was wry difficult to endure the onslaught of criticism that came our way, especially when it called into question even our relationship with God. And we did get a lot of it. But I think we've always been a band of vision and felt that was really all there was, all there is, and we've endured. We've gone ten years and we continue to do music that is meaningful. So the vision is all there is. When you set that before you, you have to resign yourself to, in a sense being a prophet without honor. And I have no regrets. I used to be concerned about DA and its popularity. I had to go through that and get over it and let the ego sort of fall by the wayside and just decide that we do what we do because we feel right about doing it and enjoy doing it. I don't think that the band could have goneon if we had listetwd to that criticism and had succumbed to it, become a parody of ourselves continuing to be a broken record and redoing what we had done in the past in order to retain that popularity.
I didn't feel even from the beginning that DA was going to stand still in a musical sense. I fashioned DA after much of what l heard in the sixties when music was everything. I felt that music at one time was surprising. I couldn't wait to go down and get the next Beatles record because you never knew what they were going to do. That was fun to me, that was an enjoyable time. I wanted to bring that back, that sense of intrigue and fun. I felt that DA would move in that direction which we eventually did. We tried to make a statement basically from Horrendous Disc
on, that we are not going back to what we were. If we did, that would be death. That would be the end of DA because that isn't the essence of the band. The essence of the band is to be challenge and to challenge.
HRS: I have heard that you write obscure and enigmatic lyrics in order to keep people from asking questions so you can get more time on the beach. Any truth to that story?
TST: That is with tongue tirmly in cheek. I really don't think my lyrics are that complicated. I think that people make them out to be complicated because they are not catch phrases or cliches so they don't push certain buttons. People have to use their whole brain to think about it a lit bit and think about what they're listening to and what has been said. I have no intention of sitting down and saying, "Now I'm gning to be obscure when l write this song so that people will perceive me as being some sort of unapproachable musical genius," or some such nonsense. l just write. This is an art developed over a number of years. I've been writing fnr many years and I want to say new things anti make new statements. So the writing has to improve and maybe get a little more complicated, adding more dimensions to the writing so that people feel they are absorbed and involved in what you are saying. I've always felt that you had to become involved with the music to appreciate it fully. I think that people who take the time to do that are very much surprised at what they are hearing.
HRS: Your images can be understood in so many different ways. Do you think that is a problem for some people in understanding your music?
TST: Whn you are involved in writing, you are involved with God's spirit. I don't mean that in the purest sense, that I am merely this vessel and that God speaks his heart through my pen. I do believe that God works in my work, so there are many dimensions to what is being said. Sometimes I'm surprised by it. I've even had songs that I've written for other people that have come back and meant something personal to me. So much of the time I'm standing outside what I write. I'm hoping that each song has that universal appeal, but from time to time the song will minister to something specifically in someone and although it does cause problems with being misinterpreted at times, I believe there is enough dimension there that it can reach various hearts and become a very personal thing, as well as a universal thing. And that excites me.
HRS: Your description of all this sounds like the prophets of the Old Testament and even prophets today. Do you see yourself as being prophetic?
TST: I'm embarassed even to deal with that. In some ways I feel awkward. I really don't know. I don't mull it over. I don't think about it. I've been asked this question before and I have a hard time knowing how to handle it. I really don't take myself seriously in that regard. I just see myself as a musician, a Christian man, who is fortunate enough to have a group of guys who understand what I'm trying to say and I understand what they want to say and we work well together. I really have not looked at it as a serious thing. It does have some serious overtones and some serious by-products. I think that if I blow up DA to be this incredibly important thing that is somehow getting priorities twisted around a little bit. I think the main thing is this: One of the signs of DA's vitality or that it should go on is just the pleasure of doing it. I always felt that was one of God's signs to me, that when it quit becoming a pleasurable experience, a challenging, creative experience for me, that that would be the day I quit doing it. And that hasn't happened yet.
HRS: Fearful Symmetry
seemed to be much more of a group project than some of the earlier DA albums. How did you like doing more collaborative kinds of writing?
TST: I enjoyed it immensely. We went through some personnel changes in the past and I sort of had to take the musical helm, so to speak, and really lead the band and give the band a platform. But one thing that has happened in the last couple of years has been my solo albums. That's an outlet that I have been wanting for many years. I can say things in a solo record that I am not saying in DA and vice versa. I felt, having one solo album and now being involved in another, that I should let DA become more of a group thing. I am very protective of what DA says and represents. It takes me some time to let go. I felt it was a time with Fearful Symmetry
that the band had really become like one person and therefore I could let go and let the band be a band and let the other members shine. And I think they really did. I felt right about it and good about it and I think the result was incredible.
HRS: You said from the beginning of the Alarma Chronicles that there were going to be four "volumes." Now that DA has accomplished that, where do you go from here?
TST.: You have to get away from the idea as an artist that you always have to top yourself. I played that game before. It is going to be tough to top Fearful Symmetry
. I really believe that, but I'm not going to let that cause me to lose sleep. We've got plans now for the next record, and of course I've seen those plans change over and over again, so we don't know what we'll do next. But I know that it will stand up.
HRS: Is your new solo album going to be a continuation of some of the themes raised in Knowledge & Innocence
or is ti going to be something altogether different?
TST: I think in terms of themes it will continue to be a personal statement, much more so than DA. I mostly see DA as being a corporate statement, I don't know how else to define it. Musically it's not a rock-n-roll record, it's not an MOR re-cord. I don't know how to describe it. I didn't know how to describe Knowledge & Innocence
. I don't know what it is. I think it is stirring and haunting. It has a certain beauty to it. Other than that I really don't know. It is difficult for me to assess what I do. That is for other people.
HRS: What about touring?
TST: We went out in mid-November. We will be going out with The Choir, formerly the Youth Choir, to the Midwest and to the East and here, there, and everywhere. I have a love/hate relationship with the road. I hate traveling in a van or a bus. I hate being away from my family. I love playing, I love performing, and I love the camraderie, the fellowship of the road. That is great. So I have mixed emotions about another tour, but I am going and it is going to be a great show, a pretty hilarious show. There will be the sober moments, but it is going to be a lot of fun.
HRS: Would you like to say anything about Steve Taylor, your twin brother?
TST.: At one time Street Level Productions was sent a tape. The question was asked would I produce the person that was on the tape. Of course it was Steve Taylor. But that never happened. I don't know why it never happened. I thought that was interesting that we could have worked together. I hope sometime that it will happen.
HRS: The Taylor Twins together again for the first time?
TST.:Right. I've been told that Steve used to come to Calvary Chapel and sit in the crowd and watch DA perform - the young whippersnapper.