Guardian: The CCM hitmakers moving from classic metal to modern post-grunge rock.

Sunday 1st August 1993

America's GUARDIAN will be doing their first UK gig at Greenbelt. Andrew Long spoke to the band with a surprisingly eclectic approach to music.

Walking Miracles: Guardian
Walking Miracles: Guardian

An old fashioned string band tunes up before a stagehand whispers, "Dr Jones, Dr Jones, time to go on now." And on they do indeed go. Vocalist Jamie Rowe shrieks like a demented banshee, "Well, I've been walking down the miracle mile..." and the band kick into heavy overdrive. Like a sanctified version of Motley Crue's "Dr Feelgood", the opening track on the new Guardian album "Dr Jones" throws down a creative gauntlet few heavy rockers before them would have dared to let loose. From start to finish Guardian's highly successful 'Miracle Mile' album is something eclecticly special. Take for instance "Johnny", where a funky horn section meets with a high-octane axe solo from Tony Palacios. Or a full tilt rocker "Curiosity Killed The Cat" now getting a lot of US radio airplay. Or, most spectacularly of all "Sweet Mystery" where the rhythm section is...wait for it...a string quartet.

Guardian have come a long way from August '89. Then in America's CCM magazine's Metal Messengers special, Guardian were put in the same Pop/Glam Metal pigeon hole as Stryper and Whitecross. Ever since then Guardian have been confounding both CCM hacks and headbangers alike with their determined versatility. They contributed some gentle worship on the acoustic concept album 'Portrait Of A Spirit' and laid down a mean blues on 'Larry Howard's Cornerstone Blues Jam'. Now with 'Miracle Mile' the band have delivered an album whose presence in America's Top Ten CCM album charts demonstrates the US Christian underground can produce talent broad-based enough to find mass evangelical appeal. I began my chat with Guardian's lead singer Jamie Rowe by asking how the band felt about being asked to come and play Greenbelt.

"We're real honoured," responded Jamie. "Greenbelt's one of the things I've heard about for so many years and to be able to play it is an honour for us. We're also playing the Flevo festival and some other dates in Europe in between the two festivals. We really love to play Europe because the people there treat us so well."

In a recent interview with Heaven's Metal, Guardian's bassist David Bach explained the band's commitment to their crammed touring schedule. "Touring is hard work," said David. "I think the only band that tours more than Guardian are Whitecross. We have been seasoned enough, however, that the glitz and glamour of touring are not really there for us. We know what touring is and is not. Now that we have gotten past all those illusions, we love it. We are road dogs, highway men. The hardest part of touring though is being away from our families."

'Miracle Mile' has been released by Pakaderm who have struck up a mainstream distribution deal with Epic, giving Guardian the chance to get their music to a much wider audience. Epic helped get mainstream radio and MTV airplay for material from the 'Fire And Love' album and already the song "Curiosity Killed The Cat" from the new album has been heard on a number of mainstream radio stations. I asked Jamie whether some of their new material might also hit MTV.

"We did a video for 'Shoeshine Johnny' but it wasn't intended to be released to MTV. In the next few months we may be doing a video for 'Sweet Mystery' or something else. I'm certain we'll have some sort of MTV action this year."

Guardian's debut album 'First Watch' was produced by Oz Fox. Not surprisingly it had a very Stryper-esque sound. The progression through 'Fire An Love' to 'Miracle Mile has been startling. Did Jamie think they had now settled into the direction they wanted to go?

"We're always hoping to grow and change," replied Jamie. "We hope we never become a sterile band and just release the same record over and over - in all fairness to Oz he produced that record and basically it was his first production. The only thing he knew about making records was Stryper so instead of trying some new things he probably just stuck to what he knew, and that was Stryper. 'Miracle Mile' is the most accurate recording of Guardian to date. We tried to capture a live element and we tried not to go overboard on production. Guardian never want to fit in to what people expect us to sound like. We all have different tastes and we just set out not to play by anybody's standards but to make a true Guardian album. So I'm very pleased with how it turned out."

So what are the influences behind Guardian's material? "Dave, Tony and Karl grew up in the 70s," said Jamie. "Dave likes Sly And The Family Stone; Tony learnt to play guitar because of Led Zeppelin and 'The Song Remains The Same'. I grew up on Kiss, Van Halen, a lot of 80s hard rock, Motley Crue. Right now I'm really diggin' on Extreme. I think they're killer. I like the latest Mr Big record, I really think Eric Martin is a killer vocalist."

Mr Big is notable in 'Miracle Mile' but yet the Guardian stamp of originality is retained. A bigger recording budget allowed the band and producers the Elephante brothers to indulge themselves a little adding those startling original elements mandolins, accordions, a string section, even black gospel singers. The lyric of the stunning opener, "Dr Jones And The Kings Of Rhythm" is about an itinerant preacher. David Bach designed the album cover around the theme of a poster for a travelling revue. So, who was the mysterious Dr Jones?

"Dr Jones is actually a fictitious character," said Jamie. "In the old times in the US there were a lot of travelling medicine shows and stuff like that. Now and then you'd get a guy who was really right-on and that's who Dr Jones is, a really right-on travelling preacher going out and telling people about God and doing his thing."

David Bach has become a regular contributor to US metal fanzine Heaven's Metal with his humorous column about a fictitious band called Tortured Virtue. Bach's columns are intended as an advice column to young bands in which David puts the unfortunate musos through every manner of music biz hassle. The popularity of this Christian answer to Spinal Tap almost exceeds that of Guardian with the band now making their own Tortured Virtue T-shirts. So what GENUINE advice would Jamie give to young bands?

"Practice!" stated Jamie. "Play for the love of music and not for the love of money. Become a real band, you're gonna have to be happy before you can make other people happy."

Finally, I asked what message, if any, Guardian would bring to Greenbelt. "We're not gonna come over there to preach to anybody," Jamie told me. "But we want to show them that Christians can play music, can enjoy life and live with the hope of eternal life. We want to show Greenbelt God. We hope that they will look at us and see Jesus." CR

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.
About Andy Long
Andy Long writes regular music features for the European Christian Bookstore Journal and plays bass.


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