No other band has done more to wrench praise music into the '90s than Littlehampton's Delirious?. Tony Cummings spoke at length to the band's lead singer Martin Smith.
As I set up my tape recorder Martin puts me in the picture. "I'd like the interview to come across as me speaking on behalf of the band. It's definitely NOT the Martin Smith Band." Delirious? (note the question mark?) is much more than a bunch of anonymous musos though such is the charisma and songwriting/engineering/album production achievements of the 26 year old lead singer of Delirious? that humble journos can be forgiven for homing in on Mr Smith.
The rise and rise of Delirious? is a British CCM phenomenon. Originally formed as the house band for the Cutting Edge local youth event run by the Arun Community Church in Littlehampton, the band in three years gained a following, and a moniker (the Cutting Edge Band) almost by default. In 1993 the band's first 6-song tape 'Cutting Edge 1' was released and quickly the joyfully-fresh rock propelled praise songs like "Thank You For Saving Me", "Lord You Have My Heart" and "The Crucible For Silver" were rrecognised for the classics that they were.
Three more albums followed, each pushing back the boundaries of contemporary worship: the more mellow 'Cutting Edge 2'; the raucous 'worship from the terraces' (a Soul Survivor magazine phrase) 'Red Tape: Cutting Edge 3' and the intensely innovative 'Fore1. The Cutting Edge Band's tapes were subsequently repackaged on two thrilling CDs. From a marketing perspective, what was stunning about the surge of sales support for Delirious?/Cutting Edge Band (over 40,000 albums sold) is that it was achieved without any involvement from the usual Christian record companies (the group's own Furious Records producing and selling the albums). With their name change in April, Delirious? have been full time. It was a matter of no little faith for the band. Among the things that had to be jettisoned was the West Park Studios where Tim Jupp and Martin Smith had made many a successful recording. The band - Martin Smith (vocals, guitar), Stuart Garrard (guitar), Tim Jupp (keyboards), Jon Thatcher (bass) and Stewart Smith (drums) - are clearly going from strength to strength as anyone who saw their blistering performance at the Wembley Arena recently will testify. I began by asking Martin to fill in a bit of his own biography.
"I was born in Woodford Green in Essex. My parents are Christians and I was brought up there in a tiny little Brethren church. My parents were obviously into that sort of stuff. When I was 17 I left home and went to work at ICC Studios in Eastbourne as a trainee on a youth training scheme."
Tony: Were you into all the recording technology
Martin: "No, not at all to tell you the truth. I was really into music and I just thought working in a studio would be a good way to finding out more about how music works and how songs work and all that sort of stuff. As it turned out I got really into the recording side and really enjoyed it. I've found real fulfilment in engineering."
Tony: So what was your first band experience?
Martin: "The first band I every played in was a band called Hope Train which was a band that came out of the local church in Eastbourne. I was probably about 18 and we used to play local pubs and clubs. Even then I was writing stuff, not worship songs but songs about life, what we were going through, love songs, the sort of stuff you write when you are 18. We did some cover versions but even then I was writing, believing in that sort of stuff rather than covers."
Tony: When you were at ICC, working as a recording engineer
eventually led to you taking up the additional role as record
producer. How did that begin?
Martin: "One of the first albums I produced was the first Asia Worships album. It was the forerunner to the 'Asia Worships' album. I'd done probably four years of just engineering, really just sitting there and being told what to do and trying to absorb all the techniques of recording sound. Over that time I just absorbed so much stuff, so many styles of music, arrangements, how songs and lyrics were written, how you got different sounds. Looking back, that was an incredible time of absorbing, everything to do with music. It was mostly Christian stuff but I worked with a lot of non-Christian local bands too. Heavy metal, stuff like that. I learnt a lot about how to put a record together from a guy called Les Moir, I engineered a lot of the albums he produced. So it was a natural transition to produce."
Tony: When you were at ICC did you meet any of the musicians
who went on to join Delirious?
Martin: "Only at the very end. There's a guy called Tim Jupp. He used to come across with all the tapes of Ishmael's new albums and I used to mix them. We became mates. Through that friendship I began to find out about the church he and his friends were involved in at Littlehampton. It just came to a time where I needed a break and also to start seeing some of my own dreams and ambitions fulfilled in terms of production. I'd done five and a half years in ICC. So in 1992 I decided to go freelance, came to Littlehampton and joined the church there."
Tony: How did you begin to work in worship?
Martin: "I was leading worship in my church in Eastbourne and had been for about a year. I was singing mostly Vineyard songs at first. I'd written 'Lord You Have My Heart' and a couple more but when I moved church the floodgates opened."
Tony: Were there musicians at the Arun Community
Martin: "Yeah, when I began I met Stewart Smith and Becca Jupp, they were in the church leading the youth group. I met Stuart Garrard who moved to the church as well about a year after me. Stuart had been in bands like Treasure Park and played on many different albums and he felt it right to relocate and to be involved with the local church."
Tony: How did the Cutting Edge event begin?
Martin: "It started about three months before I moved to Littlehampton. It was started by Stewart and Becca. They really wanted to create an environment where young kids could get together from all around the area and worship God in a new way, in a free way. So we hired a local drama classroom and we had 70 people the first time and we've been meeting every month. Now we have about 600. We were amazed really how it took off."
Tony: How would you describe Cutting Edge?
Martin: "Basically it's two hours of worship really with some teaching in the middle for 10 minutes and then some ministry. Then there are other elements that come into it with dance and drama. But basically it centres around worship, free worship."
Tony: Were you aware that what Cutting Edge was doing was
radical in terms of worship?
Martin: "Depends what you mean by radical. I think it was a strong thing, leading people to know the Lord more, in that sense it was radical. Musically I don't think there is anything new under the sun. But the fact that we were playing loud rock-orientated music in church in that sense maybe it was radical."
Tony: How did the church leaders respond to Cutting
Martin: "The leaders of the church here were totally behind what was happening. They could see the spirit of what was going on. The great thing that's happening is that the meetings on a Sunday morning are not too different from the Cutting Edge music. It's just that we have all ages on the Sunday morning and the lights are on! And it's not as loud! But the Spirit of it is the same. The church has got behind everything. It's just wonderful to see that, that this thing is not just for young people it's for all generations. Everybody who wants to can buy into it. Anybody who is young at heart. So we are thrilled about it."