Tony Cummings located "Gene" (a pseudonym) of LUST CONTROL, a pioneering band from America's Christian underground.
They're called Lust Control. Their first album was entitled 'This Is A Condom Nation'. On the lyric sheet of that utterly devastating album they tell the purchasers boggling over songs like "The Big 'M'" ("Masturbation...it's artificial sex /Don't do it!") and "You Make Me Puke", (You're not cold, you're not hot/You don't know who you are/But I know what you're not/You make me puke!) that "we don't have T-shirts, photos of the band, use keyboards, do interviews or play live") On the last two items at least there has been a change of heart. The band recently played at Chicago's famed Cornerstone Festival but with one small concession to their desire for total anonymity - they wore masks! They also agreed to talk to Cross Rhythms, but only on the condition that lead singer "Gene" wouldn't reveal anything to divulge his or his three fellow Lust Controllers' identity. I began by asking what precisely America's new Christian music underground was. "It's a movement of people in America, across the seas too, who really love Christian music that's out of the normal like Daniel Amos, Adam Again, Lust Control, stuff like that. Obviously a lot of the stuff is not really commercial so you can't find it in all your stores. So these people are hardcore enthusiasts who actually write letters to the bands and who communicate and trade albums through the mail.
"People hear of it through underground magazines. Its kind of a network of people who love this kind of radical, weird music and they keep it going on a grass roots level. The underground really grew up around the albums and gigs of pioneering white metal bands, who seemed light years away from the cosy conformity of Christian AOR and the Dove Awards. But that's changing. "White metal, or Christian metal is really coming into its own and being accepted so that it's now more and more a commercial style of music as far as many people accepting it. So the underground is beginning to go back more to covering the weird stuff like thrash and punk rock and industrial music and just weird bizarre stuff." Lust Control, to many Christian ears are bizarre. Not surprising they herald from Austin, Texas, the Mecca of North American political hardcore and post-punk bands including the Christian underground's the increasingly acclaimed One Bad Pig. Lust Control play in a neo-punk hardcore style with lyrics that range from tongue-in-cheek to deadly serious. Their "Apocalyptic Nightmare" for instance, featured on Lust Control's debut album, is a sombre descent into post-tribulation theology spoken over a howling wall of feedback while "Madolyn Murry O'Hair (On Judgement Day) examines, over a frantic pogo-in-the-Spirit rhythm, what might happen to the infamous communist and civil rights campaigner who got prayer barred from US schools.
But it's songs about sex which possibly pack the biggest wallop. For instance there's "Mad At The Girls" a line from which gave the band their name ("Mad at the girls, with their sexy smiles/Mad at the girls, miniskirts are back in style/I want to control my lust/But my mind I cannot trust/Mad at the girls, mad at the girls, mad at the girls, I'm mad at myself!") So how did Lust Control begin their full-frontal attack on sexual immorality? I asked Gene. "The band really started for fun, it was three musicians and me. I don't really have musical skills. It really was fun, but in the midst of it we found God wanting to say something, issues we addressed, there was really a need for taking God's truths into difficult areas. We wanted to address issues like sexual sin in the church and get people thinking rightly about sex. Sex is a good thing, God invented sex. We confront some areas that people feel uncomfortable with like masturbation. "Our motivation now is to minister in an area that not a lot of people are daring enough to minister in. We were originally going to call ourselves Talking Ass, after Balaam's donkey who talked. But a dear friend in the church felt it would hurt our ministry if we had a name like that. So we decided on Lust Control". What, I asked, do the churches to which Lust Control belong think of their shiningly radical punk gospellers?
"People in our church liked what we were doing. Our church is really wild; it's a young church so there's lots of rock'n'rollers in the church. But there's also some conservative people. The ones who were conservative were shocked and didn't know how to react to 'We Are A Condom Nation' we could tell that they were kinda freaked out by it. The rockers thought it was great - they loved it," replied Gene. Initially the band had no plans to play concerts, relying on their attention-grabbing home-produced cassette made on a microscopic budget, to do its job. It created a word-of-mouth buzz, got touted by the underground fanzines and was even momentarily picked up for distribution by national distributor Spring Arbour (before being dropped after a protest by aghast warehouse staff). Then came a - think resulting in occasional live gigs ("We'd love to do Greenbelt if somebody would ask us") and a second album, again privately recorded - 'Dancing Naked'. It is definitely as radical as its predecessor. The opening track begins with a literal rebuke in the name of Jesus Christ for the listener's failure to share the gospel over a furiously frantic beat while "Circumcised, Baptized and Moon Pies" dissects with scalpel-like precision the divisions in the body of Christ. ("Listen to me before it's too late/Salvation comes through Acts 2:38/Dis-agree? Hell's your fate").
If all this sounds a bit too heavy there is again Lust Control's liberal dose of blackest of black humour. "We did a song called 'John Styll' John is the editor of CCM Magazine [the nearest thing to Cross Rhythms in America and a long established fixture of the US contemporary Christian music scene] The lyrics of the song go, 'John Styll, John Styll/Put us on the cover/Or never see you mother again'." With Lust Control's be-masked visage missing from the Cross Rhythms cover that seemed a good moment to close up the interviews. I closed by asking: Why the continued anonymity "In fact the underground magazine editors all know our identities but they're cool about it and don't reveal our names. And our pastor know about it and the people we have a relationship with, who have the authority to speak into our lives and rebuke or whatever. It's just that it's useful having a platform to say things that it would be difficult to say if we weren't wearing a mask. We still can't do anything stupid or ungodly. "It's also good for publicity. We don't see that as compromising our message because we at not going to tone down our message so as to sell. We never set out to make any money in this. We never thought, we never dreamed that any label would be stupid enough to sign us. (They're now talking to a couple of independent Christian labels.) After a while we saw God in what we were doing as far as addressing the issues - pornography, abortion, lukewarm Christians, whatever. We want to be able to help people with some of these issues. Our guitarist, he always tries to write radical lyrics, he doesn't want anybody to ever say that Lust Control mellowed out."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.