A new album by a new band, at least new to Christian bookshop browsers, hides a wealth of rock experience. Paul May, lead singer and guitarist with A.N.D. spoke to Andy Barnes.
Get Real' is the red hot and rocking album by A.N.D., a heavyish AOR team from the Midlands whose previous albums have been released by secular companies. A.N.D.'s new one is a series of firsts for the band, the first for record label Nu Life, co-owned by producer/engineer Paul Hodson (Seventh Angel, Gethsemane Rose, Detritus, etc); the first with A.N.D.'s new, all-Christian line up of Paul May (vocals, guitar), John Wylde (guitar), Mick Porter (bass) and Lance Blackwood (drums); and the first focussing all out on spiritual concerns. So in this age of crossover compromise, how does a band go the opposite way journeying from the lucrative secular circuit to take in British Christendom's under financed church hall and festival scene as well as pub and club earners? Before I got to that, I asked rock music veteran Paul May, who clocked up an impressive 14 years as a professional musician, to sketch out his musical background.
After leaving school in Walsall Paul joined a pro country and western band. "We toured extensively around Holland, Germany and Switzerland and that was interesting and very good experience. The guy who ran the band was a real hard man, but he taught me an awful lot and hardened me up to certain parts of 'the scene'. After that, I wanted to get back to my musical roots and I formed a rock band, called Arcana, who were definitely 100 per cent non-Christian! At this time I had many gods, music being my main one. There was certainly an occultic side to Arcana and at the time it seemed cool to be singing about this type of thing. Being young and impressionable, I didn't realise the dangers of dabbling in these dark powers but I thank the Lord that he pulled me through that time. He has turned me around full circle. God had laid out a path for me which had been there for many years, but I hadn't realised it was there. When he opened my eyes and guided me onto it, everything started to revolve around him."
In 1989 the original A.N.D. were formed out of the ashes of Arcana. A.N.D. are a tight, creative hard rock outfit, with heavy blues overtones. Their first two albums, '100 Hours' (that being the length of time it took to record the album!) and 'Madman's Overture', both did very well in mainland Europe, as well as garnering plenty of airplay on rock radio programmes up and down this country. But it's the new album 'Get Real' which Paul is really excited about, in part because it's the first totally 'Christian' album he has recorded. Its predecessor had very spiritual overtones, however, coming as it did midway through Paul's conversion to Christianity.
"Over a period of time the Lord showed me bits and pieces but I didn't really understand what was going on at that point. Then God started talking to me through some of the songs I was writing. Again, I wasn't aware of this at the time, but looking back at them, they are so biblically based it's incredible. These things were gradually taking a hold of my life. But one day, in November '91 when I wasn't feeling too good about myself and I was halfway through a bottle of brandy, I just broke down, right here (in his living room) and prayed to the Lord for his forgiveness. That was without anyone preaching to me at all, so I guess it was quite dramatic in the end and there were people praying for me."
A.N.D.'s 'Get Real', recorded at Paul Hodson's Stairway Music studio in Walsall, is being distributed both in secular outlets and, through a deal the label Nu Life have worked out with Kingsway, into Christian bookshops. Comments Paul, "It's a real 'smack-you-between-the-eyes' type of album but the whole idea is to use it as a witness to the people who already know us. I can teach more people that way and just tell them what God has done for me and I hope the songs will reach out and challenge all people, not just Christians."
Paul's musical career doesn't start and end with A.N.D. His talents are much in demand from plenty of other artists. "I've worked with a guy called Al Atkins, who was in fact the original lead vocalist in Judas Priest," says Paul. "I've done a couple of albums with him and we are just starting pre-production on another. Like A.N.D., the main market for his music is mainland Europe. I've also worked with a progressive rock band called Janus. Back in the 70s they were quite big. In the late 80s they decided to get back together and do some recording. They were then signed to the same label as A.N.D. were on, so they asked if I'd like to do some vocals for them. I've now done four albums with them and I'm still involved there as well. The main push now is on the 'Get Real' album which is due out in mid-March. We've got a steady line up in the band, all of whom are Christians from my fellowship, and we are rehearsing to go out on the road at the moment. We aren't just going to limit ourselves to playing concerts strictly for the gratification of other Christians, the whole point of this is to reach out to the unsaved as well, make 'em have it!"
So there we are, Paul May and A.N.D. may be new names to you, but they've been around for a good while now, developing their craft. If you like your rock nice 'n' hard with songs that challenge you rather than wash over you, you could do worse than check out 'Get Real'. Oh, before we go Paul, what does the name A.N.D. stand for? Something deep, something spiritual?
"Actually, it's just the word AND with a couple of dots!"
It just goes to show, simple is best.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.