Dissident Prophet: Midlands rock band working in the mainstream

Friday 1st August 1997

Steve Stockman investigates Midlands-based DISSIDENT PROPHET

Dissident Prophet
Dissident Prophet

"Ministry" is an overused word in the world of CCM. Even CCM is a difficult concept to grasp in a world where there is no Buddhist CM or Krishna CM. The danger with the word "ministry" is that it can be a neat cover to give credibility and reason for existence to music that is inferior to what happens in the real world. Dissident Prophet are a band who are suspicious of the "ministry" tag. They commented, "'Ministry' is a funny word. It sounds a bit pretentious and I'm not sure what people mean by it. Besides, we've all got a bit of a post-charismatic heartache. 'Calling' was an overworked concept that left a lot of people feeling that what they did was second best." And yet this is a band with a message.

Dissident Prophet formed in 1995. Consisting of Andy Jennings (vocals/guitar), Tom Livemore (lead guitar), Simon 'Smudge' Smith (bass) and John Large (drums), they first became acquainted with each other from the West Midlands club scene, having played in a variety of local bands including Hectors House, Doodlebug and fondly remembered roots rockers the Pink Dandelions. Andy was suffering from disillusionment from the music scene before getting together with the guys. Staggeringly, they were signed to MGL Granite Records after only two gigs! Commented Andy, "I felt playing in some bands could be a very self centred experience, it's easy to get on an ego trip and lose touch with the daily drudgery of a boring job when you can get sidetracked on other things. In fact, I began to find it hard to write from experience. Coming back refreshed - the energy in this band has fired us all up -I want to say, you know, there is light at the end of the tunnel, you've just got to stay positive. We have all been unemployed or had depressing jobs, but let the darker things in life get to you and it can really grind you down."

Their debut album 'We Are Not Grasshoppers' was produced by the band and Simon Hanhart (Marillion, Suicidal Tendencies, Tin Machine) and came complete with classy packaging. However, when I asked what kind of venues they play they said, "We don't believe in playing to large crowds which is just as well since our record company don't believe in marketing or promotion." I see! Anyway, a couple of majors are interested so the plan has been drawn up, "We thought of walking around the label's building seven times." Alas, there was a flaw - "couldn't get the tour support." Mature, talented and humorous. Someone sign this dang band!

Though sceptical of the pretentiousness of "ministry", Dissidents "are comfortable with what we are trying to do... Just don't ask us what that is at the moment." This degree of humility belies a band with a very clear sui generis raison d'etre. 'We Are Not Grasshoppers' shows them to be a band in the here and now both musically and ideologically and into the context of their Generation X they want to be involved in the conversation to bring "Real Love" and "Unconditional Love" and find a "Parachute" when all comes crashing down. They are very aware of Christians bringing up the rear. "It helps if music made by Christians has some semblance of what's being played right now. 10 years ago is no good. We're in danger of finding power/guitar pop as the rest of the world moves on." This band have the trend of what's UK now along with those American influences like REM and The Pixies which gives their work that little bit more lasting sound.

When asked about the song and the context of their art "Generation X" they respond with typical acuteness. '"Generation X' is about a lot of things. Christianity Today did a good summary of that. It's about honesty, authenticity, a desire for relationship and meaning, no quick fixes like 67 ways to get joy in your life, and a whole lot of good stuff. It is also about no absolutes, a pick and mix approach to values and morality, a questioning of all authority because of the abuses that have been exposed, a reaction against reason and logic as the only basis of conclusions and a pluralism across the board. We've been going on about New Testament Christianity for years. Now we're increasingly living amongst the same kind of cultural challenges that they had. Let's see if the rhetoric matches the reality." You can see what I mean by a band whose art interrogates.

Dissident Prophet have a handle on their culture and their lyrics show a very clear understanding without the arrogant propaganda of many other bands of how faith applies at the end of the millennium. Theirs is no victorious, sanitized distraction to the reality of this world we live in. In fact, they say they nearly changed their name to reflect the honest struggles of their faith. "We almost changed the name of the band to Tiny Threads once. All the lyrics are about certainty whereas on many occasions the love of God feels like a tiny thread, barely capable of supporting you, yet the only thing you have to hold on to. The record label thought it sounded like the name of a support band rather than the stadium filling superstars we are destined to become. So much for their appreciation of the finer theological nuances of life."

Entertaining and educating together in a non-clichÚd way, the band has so much to offer the scene of Christians involved in the arts in the UK. Yet do not claim them too much as our own. They do not want to be tied to our aprons. Allow them to be the dissidents they are so that they might prophecy into their generation. CR

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.
About Steve Stockman
Steve Stockman is an Irish poet, author and long time Greenbelt contributor.


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