Anarchic, surreal, down right weird. And that's just their costumes. But behind rock dance experimentalists BREAKSPEAR is serious spiritual intent as Andrew Long found out.
One of the featured acts on Cross Rhythms' new sanctified dance compilation album is Breakspear, the eclectic dance rock outfit spearheaded by Nick Breakspear Jones (his real name, honest!). The band appeared at the Cross Rhythms festival, and they have just released a new single "The Twister".
I spoke to Nick recently to get the story behind the band and, for starters, discovered that there's more to the naming of the band than merely naming it after himself. One of Nick's publicity leaflets explains how God showed him a picture in which he caught hold of a spear in full flight and snapped it across his knee. God told him this was "a daring act". I asked Nick to expand on this story.
"About three and a half years ago," began Nick, "I'd been over in Romania with a band and when we came back I had this overwhelming feeling that I shouldn't go back to my work as a chef and that I should go out into the world and take God's light and shine it around. I shared this with my wife and we prayed about it and it began to increase."
Nick began to seek opportunities and applied to various organisations like NGM and Youth For Christ but soon came to believe that God did not want him to join a pre-existent group but rather to initiate the work himself. The notion of a one-man show came together and Nick was prompted to contact Matt Wanstall, ex of 65dBA, with the intention of putting together some backing tracks.
"I wrote to Matt, who was living in Bromley," Nick continued, "and I told him that I believed God was giving me the 'now' message for the 'now' people and I needed the 'now' music and he was really excited about this and believed it was of God. As it turned out he was due to start a three year course in Salford which is right near where I live."
God had started the Breakspear ball rolling and work began on the first recording project which was entitled 'Fling' (Faith Leaps Into No Ground) (eh?). Guitarist Dave Woodman, previously of Rhythm Works, now became a fixture and fitting and 'Fling' also had input from a number of other musicians including vocalist Eils, now a member of Re:fresh.
A glance at the cover of 'Fling', featuring a drummer in Jester garb, complete with red nose and riding a wave makes the listener suspect that he is not going to be in for an entirely serious listening experience. A quick scan of song titles like "Banana Songa" and "YDH...T...BAB" is further evidence. Indeed, humour is a large part of Breakspear's show. When the mighty oracle of CCM, old Greybeard, reviewed 'Fling' he described it as "A madcap, surreal musical journey - a dizzying musical soundscape." But despite the humorous presentation each song has serious points to make and a strongly evangelistic content. The comic blues "Dry Bones" for instance is a plea for revival, and "JB's Talkin'" is an in-character song about John the Baptist's message. Which brings me to the aforementioned "Banana Songa", a crazy, zany circus of a song in which Nick assumes various characters and which is actually about being "bananas" for Jesus.
"Bananas are a big feature at our gigs," says Nick, as if that's the most natural thing for a musician to say. "Toffee bananas," he continues. "We usually lob hundreds of them into the audience; it's a bit of an assault coming to one of our gigs."
Continuing this theme of insanity I asked Nick about the band photo in which he is seen wearing a ridiculously large cowboy hat and red nose whilst Matt is wearing a black and white spotted dress and caterpillar boots, Dave wears dark glasses, false beard and has an axe embedded in his skull and vocalist Lynsey Barry is resplendent in mermaid costume.
"Yes, we're a bit of a barmy lot," Nick admits. "We do go through quite a few costume changes in the show; we treat every gig as an event really and try to put something a bit lavish on."
Breakspear's new single "The Twister" is one of their most theatrical pieces to date featuring what Nick describes as a prophetic sculpture, a huge cacophony of wire and tubes and foil in the shape of a tornado.
"The Lord was trying to reiterate how much he'd invested in the giving of his son and that he was really coming back for his bride, the Church, who would have prepared herself. But what you see a lot of the time is not this beautiful lovely, but a dishevelled old scrubber, and it just came very powerfully to me that the father wouldn't allow his son to marry this undesirable and that he was after something brand new and he was going to do this amazing thing by making the Church virgin again."
"The Twister" is representative then of a move of the spirit throughout the world Church and the song expresses a man questioning the reality and truth of this huge change and ultimately coming to accept it as being from God and realising that it is the giver and not the gift which should be worshipped.
Atmospherically, the song is a headlong roller coaster ride through revival and I'm left to ponder what the full live experience must be like.
A Breakspear show must be an audiovisual delight, a feast of music and theatre and fun which all would enjoy. If they come to your area don't miss them, I'm certainly looking forward to catching a gig. After all, you don't even need to take a bag of sweets with you!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.