In a new series Cross Rhythms will be visiting cities across Britain to discover what exactly is happening on the Christian music scene. We begin our city-wide surveys with the West Country hot spot fast gaining a reputation as "Britain's Nashville", Bristol. Helen Knight and Tony Cummings report.
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Style: Techno Rock/Rap/Dance/Breakbeat
Line Up: Edi Johnston (rapper), Helen Maynard Watts (lead vocals), Tony Silcock (producer, keys, programming), Matt Wiltshire (drums)
Facts: Originally formed by Tony Silcock in 1996, the band have been pioneers in producing breakbeat-style rock rap for a generation who find much Christian music staid and uninteresting. After independent releases with 'Double Edged' (1997) and 'By Your Side1 EP (1998), the latter featuring the haunting lead vocals of Lucy Britten and becoming a Cross Rhythms turntable hit, the band were signed to Word Records in 1999 and released the critically acclaimed 'Armchair Rebellion'. Despite that album gaining an American release and being featured in a movie, the big break eluded them. The more rock orientated 'All That Noise' for ICC (2000) again produced rapturous reviews while a video of the song "Come Take My Hand" showed Psalmistry had lost none of their cutting edge attitude.
About Their Ministry: Tony: We've increasingly decided we need to pitch our music at the clubbers and people who don't know Jesus yet."
Style: Drum 'n' Bass/Dance
Background: Born Ben Lilford in 1977 in Somerset. Moved to Bristol in 1999. Attends the Lawrence Weston Christian Fellowship.
Facts: Very much one of the new phenomena of 'record producer as artist', Ben Lilford originally coined the name Psonics under which he released two EPs, 'Intercession' in 1999 and 'Passing Through' in 2000, before changing the spelling. He's just recorded a third EP at Redland Studios entitled 'Commercial Breaks'. It was an encounter with God at the 1997 Soul Survivor which led him away from playing bass in a West Country band and began him seeking God and experimenting with dance beats while working at his office job.
About His Ministry: "I'm trying to make Christian music that nobody's ever heard before. I'm very eclectic and am trying to bring some very different stuff into the drum 'n' bass template."
Line Up: Nick Hodges (bass, guitar, lyrics), John East (bass, drums, keyboard)
Facts: Nick and John have considerable experience working pro and semi-pro with the likes of Graham Kendrick and The Chris Betts Band and they finally joined forces in 1997 to form the Rock Brothers. Basically a studio band, they have released four singles this year, "Rendevous In Bogatta", "Warning The Nightime", "For Heaven's Sake" and "She Will" all available through their website and have topped it off with an EP entitled 'Straight To The Heart'. Local radio coverage has been good and the band hope to "get the music out there."
About Their Ministry: Nick: "We are a very commercial sounding outfit and we never preach during the music, we just want to entertain people, but we found that the Holy Spirit has a remarkable ability to prick up people's ears to what you are trying to say in the music."
Line Up: Neil Wilson (lead vocals, guitar), Lee Slater (lead guitar), Rees (bass, keyboards, drum loops), Nathan Evans (drums)
Facts: With their high profile 'Falling Down1 album recently released by the EMI Christian Music Group, NGM band steve are currently the jewel in Bristol's CCM crown. The band have certainly paid their dues. Formed in September 1995, they were formerly called Bleach. Originally touted as a "Britpop" band, they released two EPs that attracted the attention of the record companies with the band finally signing to America's Forefront Records in 2000. The classy production and radio friendly hooks of 'Falling Down' give their record company debut the potential to put the band on the international map.
About Their Ministry: Lee: "We want people to experience God in the way that God would want to meet with them. Maybe they're Christians and God just wants to spend time with them and speak to them through the music. Or maybe they're not at that stage where they know who God is, or are in any kind of relationship with him, but can discover something quite exciting about God through the music and by coming into his presence. The music is about our experiences, places he's brought us to. We sing about the issues we face in life and how we've learned to worship God more through the day. We've found that worship is exciting - it makes us grow as people. Good worship comes from an honest heart. That honesty comes through in the lyrics, which is hopefully something that people can relate to.'
Background: Born in Cambridge, 21 year old Suse is a part of NGM.
Facts: At the age of 13 after going to a number of concerts Suse knew that God was calling her to be a singer. However, it was not until Suse was 16 that God began to fulfill this calling. Suse got the opportunity to sing with a band with whom she travelled around the UK and Europe, singing and taking seminars and workshops. After finishing her A Levels Suse joined NGM.
About Her Ministry: "I applied for the position of receptionist as I felt I needed to lay down my singing as my priority had to be finding a renewed hunger for God. Now I am signed to NGM's management and production company Engage and have just completed three years' intensive training course in singing and communication at NGM's missions and arts complex."
Line Up: Tanya Wilson plus dancers and/or DJ
Facts: Building on three years of success as Tomorrow's Girl, British Christendom's popular girl group, have now evolved into T-Girl. Based around the exceptional lead voice of Tanya with the inclusion of dancers and a DJ when appropriate, the group offer a commercial R&B vibe mixed with hook-filled pop sounds. Young people have seen the group become regulars at events like Soul Survivor, Greenbelt, Cross Rhythms and Summer Madness and though an earlier line up Tomorrow's Girl recorded an EP, 'Tomorrow's Girl', for Engage in 2000 which got considerable radio play on Cross Rhythms, we are still awaiting for a hot new record. Watch this space... >
About Their Ministry: Tanya: We want to engage young people with the love of Jesus in their own culture, letting our music and our lifestyle do the talking."
Line Up: Josh Edbrooke (drummer), Jess (guitar, vocals), Steven Dunne aka Stigs (bass), Niall Dunne (guitar, vocals)
Facts: Well received at the Summer Madness festival in Belfast this year, the band have a thirst for more and will be playing at the Day One event in Bristol next year. With their first independent album under their belt, 'Can't Keep Away' (2000), the band's ambition is clear. Inspired by funk, jazz and alternative music, Transition seek to break new ground rather than echo the secular music culture.
About Their Ministry: Josh: We have a heart for worshipping God, but want to put that into the music and get it out to the people who haven't heard it before as well as hopefully encouraging and blessing people that do know God."
Line Up: Claire J (vocals), Rachel (vocals), Susie (vocals), Natalie (dancer), Claire P (dancer), Lucy (dancer)
Facts: Taking their name from the world's most powerful waves, NGM's latest schools band are hoping to have a deep impact on schools throughout the UK and beyond. Every member of Tsunami will be involved in taking lessons and workshops and have all gone through extensive schools communication training and NGM's ADT (artist development training) course at the Caedmon Complex.
About Their Ministry: Claire: Our vision is to see Jesus taken to the furthest regions of our youth culture and to see a new generation mobilised to live all out for Jesus."
Style: R&B/Hip Hop/UK Garage
Background: Born and bred in Bristol, Fitzroy Lewis had the opportunity to play professional cricket but in listening to pirate radio he was inspired to make a commitment to God to become a DJ for the gospel world.
Facts: Through his uptown bashes in nightclubs and hardcore ghetto outreach events DJ Fitz is actively involved in bringing the Gospel to the 20-somethings of Bristol through music ministry. He has been playing for 10 years and can testify to the changing face of CCM and the array of talent now available both at home and in the US. A
Bout His Ministry: "When I am deejaying it matters very much that I am in Bristol because it is home, these are the people that I live with and I get the opportunity to say I have grown up with you, you know that I am a Christian, God wants to bless and open your heart, but it is up to you."
Style: Breakbeat/Hip Hop/Funky Beat
Background: Born in Plymouth in 1969, Tony Silcock, otherwise known as The Psalmist, got into the club scene in 1993. Things went pear-shaped but by 1996 Tony was working with a musicians' cooperative in Plymouth and made his first sorte to Bristol.
Facts: Mr Silcock balances several overlapping ministries. He is the resident engineer/producer at Redland Studios; he is a gigging member of the band Psalmistry; and he deejays at a wide variety of venues. Amongst his many dance music production achievements was working on the homeless charity album 'Streetwise' contributing a track alongside such acts as Texas and Fatboy Slim. More recently Tony was one of the DJ producers featured on the sought after white label "Selecta" by RSTJ.
About His Ministry: I'd like to do a lot more live deejaying. I've played at numerous clubs and events. I love to mix the music I enjoy."
Doug E Ross
Style:Breakbeat/Drum 'n' Bass/Trance
Background: 21year old Doug was born in Stirling, Scotland. He is a part of NGM.
Facts: It all started about five years ago when Doug was 16. After watching the Beastie Boys on TV Doug decided he wanted to have a go with a couple of old record players in his dad's garage. With this experience under his belt Doug joined NGM after finishing college. Doug has been with NGM for the past four years, originally involved with the Eden church plant in Thornbury. He now works as an Engage artist doing gigs in local clubs and leading worship on his decks throughout the UK, Europe and beyond! He recently recorded an EP for Engage.
About His Ministry: "I really want to see the guys I work with become Christians and develop a heart for their friends and their industry."
The Family Bookshop
Location: Temple Court, Keynsham, Bristol
Owner: Dave Brassington
Facts: Realising the need for a Christian bookshop in Keynsham, which lies halfway between Bath and Bristol, Dave Brassington, a regular Cross Rhythms reviewer specialising in his first love of country music, opened the bookshop in 1984 and stocks mainly Christian books and music to satisfy the tastes of his older clientele. The bestsellers in the music department are easy listening, Southern gospel and country styles with Daniel O'Donnell being a big seller. Following September 11th David reports an increase in Bible sales in keeping with the nationwide increase in church attendance.
About His Ministry: Keynsham is halfway between Bath and Bristol and it was a bit of a joke that you could not get a Bible unless you went to either city. So that was one of the things that lead me to open the shop, so by the grace of God here I am, 17 years later.'
Location: 79 Park Street, Bristol
Facts: Obviously aware of the exhaustive Christian music stock offered by Wesley Owen a hundred yards or so down the road, SPCK have clearly decided not to compete on the music front. Therefore a motley selection of 50 or so albums, most in the cathedral choir and Taize axis, were all that were offered on the one small shelf.
Wesley Owen Books & Music
Location: 60 Park Street, Bristol
Owner: Wesley Owen
Facts: In terms of music, undoubtedly one of the best Christian bookshops in Britain. A stock of around 1,000 different albums takes in every conceivable musical taste from hip hop to classical. What is particularly heartening was that alongside seemingly every new release from the Christian companies, the shop also stocks many independent albums by local Bristol artists. What with listening posts and a bright and attractive display the shop is clearly an essential stop-off for any visitor.
About The Ministry: Sue Finch (assistant manager): "The market for Christian music has definitely grown over the last 10 years. We've definitely got a good youth base around this area so youth has really taken off. Our best sellers are mostly worship. If you look at our top 10 now it is mostly worship - Soul Survivor, Matt Redman are the main names. We also have quite a lot of local bands who bring in CDs on sale or return. We put their CDs in a prominent place and later the artists come in and see how they've gone."