Fighting Instinct: From Led Zep To Bathing In The Presence

Saturday 22nd July 2006

Mike Rimmer met up with US rockers FIGHTING INSTINCT and found they shared an interest in Led Zeppelin.

Fighting Instinct
Fighting Instinct

TJ Harris, bassist Jason Weekly and drummer Dallas Farmer are Fighting Instinct and they're peering off the small stage at the gathered throng of record company people, foreign distributors and media people gathered in The Founders' Room at EMI Christian Music Group HQ just outside Nashville. It's a showcase gig and the boys on stage are playing songs from their new album and letting us hear their music. Singer/guitarist Harris tells us that the band's influences are mainly Led Zep and Skynyrd and listening, it's not hard to guess! I'm immediately impressed by TJ's gritty vocals and guitar work. The band are solid and hungry and when at the end of the showcase EMI give me a bag packed full of CDs, it's theirs that I check out first when I get back to my hotel room.

A few days later in that same hotel room, the trio come to pay me a call and we chat about their music, ministry and ambitions. Harris and Farmer have been playing together for 10 years in church bands but it was only when they formed a band with Weekly in 2004 that things began to come together. It was even Weekly who named the new line up Fighting Instinct. If he hadn't they might have remained Crank Option and who would have signed a band with a name like that?

As well as the influences mentioned already, TJ seems like he is in a confessional mood when he says that he also likes Bon Jovi! "You know, I was a kid, I had a little plastic guitar and I used to jump off my bed singing 'Shot Through The Heart'." It seems that right then the rock star within him was born! He's still leaping around now only the guitar is a little bigger. He admits, "It's made out of wood now and real strings, not nylons."

The band also grew up listening to Christian music. Jason cites the dc Talk album 'Jesus Freak' as an influence as well as bands like Audio Adrenaline and the Newsboys. Dallas admits, "I started off with Carman. That's the first thing I ever heard. Then I met TJ and started listening to Stephen Curtis Chapman. My first concert ever was dc Talk so I had listened to dc Talk and then Chapman and then Audio Adrenaline. Then I heard Kirk Franklin, so that kind of took me on the gospel side."

The group also know the power of being impacted by Christian songs. Dallas shares, "There was a song on Stephen Curtis Chapman's album 'Speechless' called "Be Still And Know". It was just an encouragement to sit there and as my uncle used to say, 'bathe in the Presence'. It said, 'Be still and know that he is God, Be still and know that he is faithful.' It was about how to humble yourself and be still, be quiet and listen for that still small voice and feel his presence. It was just a great song for me."

The band hope that they'll pen songs that speak into the lives of those who hear them. TJ loves "World's Apart" by Jars Of Clay. He says, "I think it sums up struggles. It sums up theology. It sums up all your beliefs and all your desires if you're living a Christian life in one song. As I think about it, I want to write songs like that. I want us to perform songs like that. I want to relate to where people are. It depends on what the people think, you know? I am a Christian but I am one person. Just as Jason and Dallas are. I can write for me. I can read the Bible for myself and I would always encourage everybody to read the Bible for themselves. I just listened to my dad recently and what he's been saying is, never base your faith off another man's revelation. Get in there and read it for yourself and learn the Word for yourself. Listen to God for yourself."

But surely the band can also write songs that will unlock that desire in people? TJ agrees, "Definitely. And I strive to. We've got a couple on the debut album, one of them is called, "Just To Please You". It just talks about, 'everything I do I do just to please you'. We were created to worship God. It talks about just getting out and ministering to people of every tongue and every nation and getting his Word out there. Just to get everybody as a whole, worshipping him because that's what we're created to do."

So why do Fighting Instinct do what they do? TJ answers in very straight forward fashion. "We love music. We love God. We are called to minister his Word to everyone we come in contact with. Paul said that he was obligated to the Jews and to the Gentiles and to every person, and not restricted to any one group of people to preach the Gospel. So that's why we do what we do."

TJ expands the idea of what "ministry" is about. "There are so many people out there who are searching," he observes, "and our music is written out of our experiences and faith. People are just searching for something to believe in - for hope. And if they can get that through our music, great! If not, and they enjoy our music, then maybe they can hang out with us after a show and we can plant a seed that way. It's really relational in a lot of ways. Music is just a pathway to ministry."

One of the band's greatest strengths is that they write about their experiences and share their faith from a realistic perspective. TJ gives an example: "The song 'Back To You' was written at a time in my life when I was saved. I believed in God and I knew there was a place for me in his kingdom and a place for me in ministry. I knew what I was supposed to do. But I was just at a place in my life where I was sitting by the wayside not doing that. I was doing what I wanted to do. I was just trying to find my way back to God. When it's like that, you've got to humble yourself. You just gotta let yourself go. Stephen Curtis Chapman sang a song called "Lost In The Shadows'. It talks about losing ourselves and the more of us we lose the more of him we gain and the more Christ-like we become in our walk with him."

The conversation ends and the tape machine is turned off. We all have to be somewhere else but as we leave the conversation turns to Led Zep. I had read the legendary Zeppelin biography Hammer Of The Gods on the plane to America so it seemed that TJ would be a good person to pass it on to. He accepts the gift gratefully as we leave the room. Wonder if he's read it yet and whether the decadent lifestyle of his favourite band has put him off their music? 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.

Reader Comments

Posted by hayley mash in Jefferson NC @ 01:00 on Aug 27 2008

I heard Fighting Instinct at wet n wild water park on the 23rd and I was impressed. I'm a christian who loves rock music and for me its hard to find something to listen to thats appropriate. Its good to see people who are not ashamed of our God.

Posted by Stan Biel in Southbend Indiana @ 13:33 on Mar 5 2007

I saw the show a GCC last night (3.4.07) and I've heard Fighting Instinct before, but it just blew me out of the water. I don't know why this band isn't on the top ten list, but they should be. Because as far as relating to where people are, these boys deffenatly did that for me.

The opinions expressed in the Reader Comments are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms.

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