Tony Cummings talked to London musicianaries MALOKAI at the Creation Fest
For half their set at the Surf Café in Cornwall's Creation Fest London-based punk rockers MaLoKai were struggling. The soundman seemed incapable of securing a reasonable balance so that the guitar was largely inaudible and the belching bass guitar dominated everything. Mohicaned lead singer Alex Greig had a wheezing, emotionally charged voice, at times uncannily similar to [dweeb]'s Tim Alford who'd immediately preceded them in the Surf Café, but the lack of audible guitar ruined the impressively complex drum patterns. But finally things picked up in the unexpected form of a piano-led ballad. A heartfelt expression of missing closeness with God, it was as moving as it was unexpected. Suddenly the band were playing in another gear. "I'm gonna play a song for you called 'Choose Day'," announced Alex, and the crowd was soon jumping around to the surging polyrhythmic cut from the band's brand new album. "It's a new day!" bawled Alex. It was indeed. Another song followed, a powerful punk version of Tim Hughes' "Here I Am To Worship" and the overexposed anthem rippled with fresh vitality. Suddenly that crowd were singing along. "I'll never know how much it cost/To see my sin upon the cross." Exhorted Alex, "I know you've sung this song a million times, but that's not the point. . . He loves you so much. . . Tell him how you feel about him." Many did. A powerful end to a provocative set.
After such a dramatic turnaround to their set, I was keen to talk to the band. So soon MaLoKai - Alex Greig (vocals), Peter Pax (guitar), Gerson, otherwise known as G (bass), and Josh Wisker (drums) - were sat in the Creation Fest hospitality tent, telling me their story. Said Alex, "MaLoKai has been a vision of mine since I was 15, and God really put it on my heart. So it's been six years of just praying and waiting for God's timing. Then God brought us together, just at the right time. We found each other over the internet and through knowing people."
With Pax originating from Poland and G coming from Bolivia there's a real international quality about MaLoKai. The band really came about when Alex and Pax began to write songs together. Explained Alex, "We got together and started writing, just at a home studio set up. We put a few tracks together and programmed some drums. Then after we had a few tunes together, we sent it around to the rest of the guys to see what they thought about it. We said have a listen, have a practise; this was before we had our first practise. I'd already put the stuff on Myspace and then I got a call from someone saying, 'We'd like you to do a gig at the end of the week.' I said, 'Yeah, let's do it.' So I said to the boys, 'We got a gig at the end of the week. Listen to the CD lots, and we'll have a practise the night before.' We had a practise the night before, and went and did our first gig."
MaLoKai may be a full-on punk band but not for them the "we're a band that happen to be Christians" verbal contortions sometimes adopted for bands endeavouring to break into the mainstream. Said Alex, "We definitely believe MaLoKai is a ministry. We just set up a charity called Project: Unbroken which hopefully, eventually, will employ artists to go out and spread the Gospel, basically. We know how it's hard to make a living when you're starting out, but we want to get to a point where we can go to schools and spread the Gospel. That's what our heart is really in doing. We've also got worship on our hearts as well as going out there and playing to the lost. We actually want to go out there and see people's lives changed through our music."
I asked Bolivian-born G how he ended up in MaLoKai. He replied, "It was on a Saturday, I remember it very well. I was in my room saying, 'Oh God, I need to do something else now. I got my bass, I got a talent, but I need other musicians.' I prayed that prayer and went to the internet after praying, thinking maybe today's the day. I typed in 'Christian bands in the UK.' Suddenly up came a message saying 'we need a bass player' with a mobile number. So I phoned the number - it was Pax's number. We talked for a few minutes and his last question was, 'Where do you live?' London is big. In London it's not easy to find a band, a proper band, the right guys at the right time. Anyway, God is amazing, because the guys were living around 10 minutes from my home. I met them at the station straight away. We talked about the vision for MaLoKai. All the time I was thinking and praying, 'This is the band.' So I joined the band. [Although we are from different cultures] we've got the same heart to worship God, to go for it, you know, to reach the people, to share about the Gospel. We are really excited. I'm sure God has plans for MaLoKai."
Now MaLoKai have released the independent album 'Perception Of Reality' through iTunes and Amazon. Alex spoke about the project. "I produced the whole album myself, firstly because we don't have the finances at the moment to pay somebody else, and secondly I'm not sure if I trust somebody else to mix it. I've been sort of producing the stuff since I was 15, but obviously you're not that great when you start out and I've learned over the years and believe God's pointed me in the right directions to learn. Every thing was recorded in my bedroom, so I had to kick my wife out for the weekend every now and again to record and get all the drums down. I mixed it using Pro Tools, good old Pro Tools. I'm really happy with it."
Alex's favourite song is their most evangelistic, the powerful "Chooseday". "'Chooseday' is actually 'choose', as in making a decision to choose, so it's not Monday, Tuesday, it's CHOOSE DAY. We go from place to place spreading the Gospel, that's what we do, that's our whole heart, and we always finish on 'Chooseday'. We want to give people an opportunity to give their lives to Christ, and to change their life, and that's what that song is all about."
Alex is unswerving about MaLoKai's commitment to evangelism. "That's our one and only priority, to see people saved. And if that means we stay in our regular jobs and live off £1000 a month for the rest of our lives then that's cool. But if God wants to take it further, and give us more openings to play then we're up for that as well. But all we want to do is see people saved, that's our heart."
I let the final word go to Pax, who the next day was due to fly back to Poland to get married. "It's great now that we've started to play Christian festivals. I believe they're part of God's plan for us. I know this is just the beginning; I believe God goes on, and does different things. We are starting to play more and more, with every single month. So yeah, I believe it is just a start, the best is yet to come."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.