Irish rock team CLAY were quizzed by Tony Cummings.
When Mike Rimmer did his survey of Ireland in Cross Rhythms 54, one band missing from that fascinating look at the Irish scene were rock team Clay. Now with the band set to make their live debut in England at the Cross Rhythms festival, this seemed a good moment to shoot some questions at the band's Rossy Alexander and James Adamson
Mike: Can you give a brief history of Clay?
(Rossy) "The band started in the summer of '96. It was formed by myself, James, Michael Blakeley and Davy Graham. It was a peculiar scenario due to the fact that we were all guitarists! Davy volunteered to take up the bass, Michael and James decided to split the lead vocal position and I stayed on the guitar. The vacant spot for a drummer was filled by a young lad called David Jamison whom we knew from church. The band was formed simply to reach young people with the gospel of Jesus Christ. The current line up of the band is James on lead vocals and guitar; David on drums; Catherine Jamison, who became a permanent member during the recording of 'We Can See', on lead vocals and backing vocals, and myself on guitar. Due to our original bassist leaving the band in February we are currently rehearsing with a new bassist and we are hoping and praying that things work out with him that he might become a permanent member."
Mike: The 'We Can See' album was a bit of a hit on Cross
Rhythms radio with the song "Big Blue Sky" getting some airplay. Did
you expect it to do so well?
(Rossy) "No! I think initially we thought it was a good album but within a few weeks of releasing it we all cringed every time we heard it. I think looking back now I would say yeah, it wasn't a bad album, but we did make a lot of mistakes that we have hopefully learned from. Soon after the album was released Michael left the band. We then made the decision to stop gigging and pour ourselves into prayer and seeking God. It sounds very spiritual and pious but in all honesty it was a long, terrifying experience during which our faith and dependence on God deepened greatly. Our chief desire was that the Lord would make us into more than just a band. We seriously desired to be a ministry and that simply meant we had to please and obey him, and speaking reverently we had to learn to 'perform' to him over and above anybody else."
Mike: Where did you get your name from?
(Rossy) "Our name is taken from John chapter nine. It is a marvellous chapter where Jesus opens the eyes of a man who was blind from birth, by spitting on the ground and making clay with his saliva and the dust of the earth and then anointing the eyes of the man with the clay. It is our prayer that the Lord would take us as the dust of the earth and pour his Spirit upon us and use us to open the eyes of many young people that they might see Jesus, the real Jesus, the Jesus that heals and forgives and gives abundant life to all who come to him."
Mike: How would you describe your music?
(James) "I would like to think that our songs are 'in your face' both musically and spiritually. There isn't really much room left for originality within music these days but I think our style is varied enough to offer something for everyone. Major influences in the past would have been the early '90s 'Seattle scene'; bands like Pearl Jam, Nirvana and Soundgarden.etc. Nowadays it would mainly be Rich Mullins, Mitch McVicker, and Sonicflood, etc."
Mike: Tell me about some of the songs you are currently
(James) "Two songs which really stand out for me would be 'Reality' and 'Make Me'. Both deal with the subject of being broken enough in the eyes of God in order for him to have the freedom to make you into what he wants you to be. Inspiration would come to me from the pulpit or from reading the Scriptures, but I also believe the Lord can open your eyes to a situation or a need within somebody, and that can lead to a song being written that will touch someone in a very personal way."
Mike: We get the impression on the mainland that there is a
lot of resistance in the Irish churches to Christians playing
contemporary music. Is that so?
(Rossy) "Yeah, I would say there is some resistance to CCM in this country and I think that Christian bands do have to accept some of the responsibility for that resistance. If we aren't delivering a clear cut message then it's hard to distinguish us from the secular scene which leads to the Church in general forming the opinion that we're just emulating the world or being part of the world. The Word of God explicitly states that we are meant to be salt and light, and the Church is supposed to be founded on that Word so they have every right to be wary of the CCM scene. But it also works the other way in that there are bands going into bars and clubs and being a tremendous witness to Jesus Christ and the Church has a duty to recognise and encourage this. I think I would sum it up by saying that if there was less of the profound and more of the prophetic then the Church would have no choice but to listen and consider."
Mike: What's your vision for the future?
(James) "Our vision is simply to be more like Jesus, individually and collectively, and that we could accomplish great things for the honour and glory of his name. I think we have all realised that record deals and world tours don't really amount to much if you fail to glorify the name of Christ, and even though we do want all those things, we want to be servants of Christ first and foremost."