Ken Tamplin: Now a solo, the one time Shout frontman is still in your face.

Thursday 1st November 1990

Doug Van Pelt spoke to the fighting-mad axeman KEN TAMPLIN.

Ken Tamplin
Ken Tamplin

With just over six hours of sleep, musician/husband/ minster (not in that order) Ken Tamplin hits the day running. He's on the phone at 7am doing an interview...then rushing to a radio station to do another...then it's a trip to the record company office to drop off lyrics...and spending the rest of the day and night in the studio, cranking out new material. This is a typical day in the life of this 26-year-old, lion-maned singer/guitarist. With a breakneck pace and a drive that an Olympic athlete would envy, this man packs a large quantity of accomplishments into his life without compromising on quality. He's the type of artist who could easily release two to three albums a year. He's constantly writing songs, reading the Word and good books, promoting his music, and writing more songs.

"People who just meet me think I'm a bit overbearing," he says with a chuckle. "Other people just accept me for what I am. It's the kind of person I am. I feel life is so short. There's so much to do in such a short little period of time. I'd like to see that I can get all that I can get done in the time that's been given to me. I think that has led me to have the fervour to do what I do."

In 1989 Tamplin saw Shout, the band he'd put so much hard work into, dissolve in front of his eyes. "It was a direct by-product of several things," laments Tamplin. "One of which, needless to say, is Christian music's inability to financially support several artists who are trying to make a living at it. Unless you're doing a million shows and committed to doing it as a 24-hour job..."

This is what led to the first personnel change. "This kind of thing is just not conducive to someone like Chuck King, who has a wife and three children. That led him to make a decision before the Lord as to meet the needs of his family or try to continue in a ministry. He opted to do what was right, which was to take a couple steps back and literally see to it that his family's needs were met."

On top of that, another band from the East Coast began battling Shout for the rights to its name. Apparently, Tamplin's Shout had the rights to record under that name, but the East Coast band had the performance rights to it. We could have gone to court over it, and spent anywhere from $15,000 to $20,000 doing that; or we could take that money and put it into a new name."

Starting over again with a new name wasn't something that was particularly appealing to the other members of the band at the time, so bass player Loren Robinson decided it was a good time to leave and start his own family.
"It was disheartening for me to see this happen", says Tamplin, "I just said, 'Gosh Lord, I put so much effort and time into this. I sure hope You know what You're doing!' It was very painful, but also exciting to see what the Lord was doing in my life. Even though sometimes pressure hurts to get us to move to another spot, it's always better in the long run."

The next spot Tamplin moved to was working with long-time friend and former guitar instructor Lanny Cordola. "We basically got together to write a couple of tunes. I was gona help him out with some songs for his band House of Lords. One thing led to another, and he just basically said he liked what we were doing so much that he wanted to start writing some serious songs for a record; so, shortly after that, he left his group."

When things get gelled, the two began looking for a name for the new group. Cordola, a new believer, approached Tamplin with the name Magdallan. "He was blown away by the story of Mary Magdalene being caught in adultery and brought before Jesus, who said, 'He who is without sin cast the first stone' What really struck home with Lanny was that God incarnate forgave her and, if God could forgive Mary, then certainly He could forgive you and I. To him that story really epitomizes the grace of God to the world.

"When he asked me what I thought of the name Magdallan, I told him, 'Dude, I hated it when you first said it, but now I love it because of what it stands for'."

Since that time, Magdallan has signed a secular recording contract to Chameleon Records with Capitol Distribution. With a goal to "utterly annihilate the radio waves," Tamplin and Cordola are currently in the studio making it happen. Fortunately they have secure recording rights to the name Magdallan, since Mary died several centuries ago. They plan on making good use of these rights once the album is released by linking up with a major act on the road.

Ken Tamplin: Now a solo, the one time Shout frontman is still in your face.

In the meantime, fans of Tamplin's music will be glad to hear that he's signed a solo gospel recording contract with Frontline. The first project under this contract, 'An Axe To Grind', is due out this month. It features lyrically up-front songs from his bottomless quiver of material. Since the 'Shout In Your Face' record, he's making a habit of using hot session players in the studio, and this one is no exception.

The guest list includes: David Sikes (Boston); Mark St. John (ex-Kiss); neoclassical guitar wizard Joey Tafolla; Ken Merry (Alice Cooper); Chuck Wright (Quiet Riot, Guffria, House of Lords); and jazz star Jeff Berlin. Doing studio work with non-Christian musicians is a great opportunity to witness; as evidenced by Cordola's decision to follow Christ.

"I give God all the credit for that," explains Tamplin. "I'm just kind of an instrument that has a big mouth and God sorta takes over. I don't take any credit for leading anybody to the Lord. I go out of my way to let people see my life and, if that influences them, it was definitely a miraculous hand of God.

"I strive for real musical professionalism, which demands respect from another musician. They don't care if you're a Hindu or whatever, as long as your chops are up. It just really opens doors without having to cram things down their throat that they wouldn't normally be open to."

Another thing that works well in attracting lost people to this man's message are his intelligent, literate, and historical lyrics. They tend to touch on several interesting subjects that seldom see the light of day in the metal genre.

Three examples from the Magdallan project are: "Big Bang", a satire on the Big-Bang theory; "Alma Rose", the choir director at the Auschwitz death camp in Nazi Germany; and "Heartbreak Woman", which comments on America while alluding to the Statue Of Liberty.

"We've tried to come up with some real clever radio ways of ministering the Gospel that we think will be well received." Given the right push by Chameleon/Capitol, the public may well embrace Magdallan's brand of high-quality commercial/melodic metal.

For aspiring musicians desiring to follow Ken Tamplin's footsteps into a successful Christian music career, he offers this advice: "Surround yourself with spiritual people, because if you don't you'll run into problem areas. You need to give God His space to work in people's lives, but at the same time you need to be critical of what you surround yourself with and how you maintain your own spiritual life. Music doesn't even matter at that point. It's strictly your walk before the Lord. Once you get that together, then you can move onto the music thing." This priority Tamplin lives out, being an active member of Hal Lindsey's church.

"Speaking for myself, I strive for perfection in music, both singing and playing guitar. I don't want to settle for anything less than the best I can be. There's a prayer I've been praying for years and years. It's the prayer of Jabez in the Old Testament: 'Oh Lord, that Thou would bless me indeed, Oh Lord, that Thou would increase my boundaries, expand my horizons. That Thou would not take Thine hand from me, but deliver me out of all sin and all evil. That all would be well within my soul' I prayed that for a lot of years, and it seems God has done that in my life. If I could lead anybody, not in a rehearsed prayer, but a sincere effort to increase your horizons, both spiritually and musically, to pray that prayer; but also to get up and practice your gig for hours, because it's the only way you're gonna get better. It's smart practice too. It's practicing things you're not good at." Those willing to follow his advice will reap the benefits of a disciplined, hard working, focussed life.

Ken Tamplin is firmly convinced that life without Christ means nothing, and life with Christ means everything. Perhaps another of his daily prayers is the best description of this man's life: "Teach us to number our days, that our hearts may be applied to wisdom." (Psalm 90:12) 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 Doug Van Pelt
Doug Van Pelt is the editor of HM Magazine in Texas.


Reader Comments

Posted by Gary in CA @ 17:27 on Apr 16 2019

while I question rock as a worship style in general due to its prideful nature, I am impressed with Ken's knowledge of the human voice. I use his you tubes to extend my range for singing hymns. I would be interested to know what he thinks of the "They Sold Their Souls for Rock and Roll" documentary. Music can and does lead us past our frontal lobes and quickens our human earthly nature taking us away from Godly heavenly music that is not so much about us and entertainment but about God and truth.

The opinions expressed in the Reader Comments are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms.

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