A worship band from North Wales, MTK spoke to Craig Wakeling.
Surely one of the most unusual names ever chosen by a worship band is the aggregation from North Wales known as More Than Karaoke, though possibly wisely the band now more commonly use the abbreviated form MTK. I met up with the three brothers and friend when they visited the Cross Rhythms offices to take part in a God TV programme. MTK (Tim, Dan and Sam Rowlands and Mark Sherwood) were more than happy to discuss the origins of that More Than Karaoke moniker. Explained singer and songwriter Tim, "We were asked to play at an event a few years ago and we had to hire a big screen to put the words on to so that the people could take part in the worship. The people that we were hiring the screen from couldn't get their head around why on earth we needed this big screen for a church worship service. I explained that the words go up on the screen so people can sing along. It was like a light came on in the hire people's heads. They said, 'Oh, so it's just a big time of karaoke in church?' I just remember thinking to myself of course it's not, or at least it shouldn't be. Worship is meant to be more than a sing along."
Clearly the band have grasped the idea that worship is something that should always be taken seriously. How many of us have gone to a church hoping for an intimate time of God-breathed worship and settled for a jolly nice sing along? The songs from the band are not ones that are just thought up on the spur of the moment. Said Tim, "I think my songs are very much about a personal response to God so that when we are worshipping him they will help lead people in to a place where they can respond personally and connect with God for themselves. A lot of the songs that I write are out of my own quiet times, my own Bible studies and prayer times with God. I think the songs reflect being fired up for God and giving him our all."
When considering the band's journey, it is interesting to note that from their own church in Conwy, North Wales God provided continually, including the talents of their bass player. Explained Mark Sherwood, "I was actually at university with Tim and I played at a few events with him. What happened to get me involved in the band was that he asked me to come and play at a week-long event near Derby at a youth camp. Towards the end of it he suggested that I come along to the church and become a regular member and get properly involved with the band on a long term basis. That was about three years ago now."
Things have certainly moved on since then. In 2004 MTK were leading over 1000 people in worship at Merseyfest which lead guitarist Sam Rowlands remembered was a thrilling experience. "It was just a great privilege to be in that place. Just a few months earlier we saw Delirious? play there. It was a great experience to worship there, entering into God's presence. It was a milestone as a band, to play in that venue, and with all those people there as well."
One thing most believers will know about Wales is that in 1904 the nation experienced great revival, something which Tim recalls in his song "Singing In The Streets". I think there is a burning in all of our hearts to see God move in the towns, communities and churches in Wales. Something great happened in 1904 and we want to see something great happen now. I am sure it does fuel a lot of our thoughts. You read stories of the old Welsh revival, of the singing in the streets and the miners coming out of the coal mines singing hymns, and you get inspired. The song 'Singing In The Streets' is kind of a heart cry: 'Lord, we want to see it happening in our streets again, we want to see people's lives resounding with worship and song!' I wrote the song when we were on a men's weekend with the church and I came up with this chord sequence. We were surrounded by the lovely Welsh scenery and it just sparked something in my heart. God did something great in that part of the world once and we just long to see something great happen again."
The band have been involved with events on the other side of the Atlantic as well. When asking them how their nine US worship sessions came about, it certainly became clear that God is really moving in the lives of these four young men. "Probably five years ago now someone had a vision in a church over in the USA that some people with our kind of accents would come and lead worship with them for a week. I don't know how it came about, but my wife and I somehow got to go. Someone paid for us to go out there. From that one contact these others have opened up. When we went out there in 2004 it was such a privilege to lead worship in a church in the States."
In terms of recording, the band have released a studio recorded EP 'Touching Splendour' and a live album recorded at a conference held at the popular Christian centre Cefn Lea in Powys, mid-Wales. MTK are currently working on a new album and playing at numerous events. But local church comes first as Paul emphasised: "First and foremost, my commitment is to be in church on a Sunday. So it has to be something quite special to get us away."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.