DC Talk: The American band playing in the UK

Tuesday 1st October 1996

The Nynex Arena Manchester on 19 October 1996 will see 12,000 fans giving vent to the kind of enthusiasm normally associated with concerts by megastars. But the appearance by DC TALK is more than a rare UK show by Christian music's hottest property.

dc Talk
dc Talk

On the shoulders of Toby McKeehan (31), Michael Tait (29) and Kevin Smith (28) rest the hope of seemingly millions of young evangelicals carrying the weight of being called Jesus freaks by their school mates but determined, by God's grace, to live a life worthy of the name Christian.

The band's progression from pop rappers to articulate purveyors of a brooding grunge-pop-rock-rap synthesis has been already documented in the pages of Cross Rhythms. In this special feature we allow the band to talk on a wide range of subjects: videos and racism, Nirvana and merchandising the DC Talk image. This then are the collective voices of DC Talk...

On Racisim
MICHAEL "Toby, Kevin and I met and became friends in college, before we ever started pursuing music together. So when we eventually formed DC Talk, it was natural for us to use it as a platform to address problems of racism. Being on stage together makes a big statement in itself. We're up there as band members and best friends. We call it 'living integration'. It's right there in front of people and it tends to have an impact that words along never have."

On Gaps Between Albums
KEVIN "I think that the three years since the release of 'Free At Last' have been a time of definition and maturity for us. We all took some time off and pursued other creative outlets. Michael did a lot of songwriting, Toby launched Gotee Records and I published a book. When we came back together to do DC Talk, it was with a fresh perspective and a fresh energy."

On Transforming From Rapper To Singer
TOBY "I had my apprehensions going into the 'Jesus Freak' album because I've typically used a rap style and sung background on our previous projects (with the exception of 'Free At Last's 'The Hardway") but we had decided that I should take more lead vocal sections this time around. Weaving my voice with Michael's and Kevin's voices makes for some pretty interesting musical passages. We go from big, open sections into smaller, moodier parts where the vocals sound almost live. It's very textured."

On Their Mission
TOBY "We're an evolving pop band that moves with the times. We want to compete with other people musically and sprinkle some of our faith in God into it. That comes out of us because its part of our lives."

On The Christian Sub-Culture
TOBY "We don't want to be trapped in this Christian bubble. We want to be relevant musically and lyrically. I think people can relate to honesty."

On Stylistic Differences Within The Band
MICHAEL "This stage in the development of our music is absolutely personally satisfying. When you have three different individuals and you have three different styles merged, you can walk a fine line between creating something that's distinct but cohesive and something that just sort of falls apart and rattles around. All of our exploring and experimenting notwithstanding 'Jesus Freak' turned out to be pretty tight."

On Nirvana
TOBY "Nirvana had a big influence on this generation musically, but lyrically it definitely rubs me the wrong way. I think we need to understand what's happening (in pop culture) but I don't want it to affect my faith. There's just a lot of despair out there. It's gloomy. People are getting tired of (living) in these catacombs of darkness. I think people are ready for something that's a little more hopeful."

On Their Video Producer
TOBY "We had seen some of Simon Maxwell's work with Nine Inch Nails. His style appealed to us. Our manager suggested we try to work with him for the video and when we contacted him he was extremely interested. The first thing that we told him was that 'Jesus Freak' wasn't just another song to us. This song represents our beliefs. It is about our faith and we were not about to back down from that. Then we told him that we did not want to send out a message that was confusing. We are not confused about our faith and it was important that the video represent our strength and conviction. He was extremely sensitive to our belief and to our faith."

On Direct Christian Lyrics
TOBY "The problem with a lot of religious and Christian music is that it tends to be watered down. Some artists tend to back away from what they really want to say. People respect you more for taking a stance and sticking with it. Our goal has always been to be out there on a mainstream level, but we won't compromise our message to achieve that."

On Exposing Struggles In Song
TOBY 'The song 'The Hardway' on 'Free At Last' paved the way for that. It kind of opened the door for us to be able to say 'Hey, we've got the same emotions and struggles as the people in our audience.' When it comes down to it, we're three guys who are actively pursuing our faith and the key word is actively. Sometimes in an active motion you find that you're failing. Sometimes in an active motion you're succeeding. We've become comfortable now writing about either."

On Art Vs Ministry
TOBY "The music is very important to us, it is very important to us that we make quality art. But at the same time our primary goal is to share our faith with people through our art. Sometimes it's done in a subtle fashion, other times it's done in a deliberate aggressive bold statement, but you know it just depends on the type of song that it is.

On 'Kevins' Going Solo Rumours
KEVIN "I'm not ashamed or bashful when it comes to this question. However I've been misquoted several times just because I think that there's a lot of word on the street. I've always been interested in pursuing music away from DC Talk in a different musical setting artistically, but I'm not interested in leaving the band to do it. Yeah, I definitely think in the near future there will be an album for me. I'm getting ready to go to London this December to work on some songs and working on getting kind of a miniature catalogue of music together. All of my favourite music has come out of Britain. I grew up listening to David Bowie, the Police, Echo & The Bunnymen. When I feel that it's time to go ahead and pursue a contractual agreement with a company, I'll do it. And I honestly feel like that's probably where I'm gonna end up in the future - Kevin Smith solo artist. I don't know if DC Talk's going to continue forever. You never know. I am kind of made for music and unless God takes that gift away from me, I don't want to leave it because I really enjoy it."

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