A giant leap forward in reflecting the dance underground is the new album from LA duo MINDBENDER. Tony Cummings got their story.
Mindbender...doesn't sound like the name of a Christian dance band does it? And in the wake of the brainwashing accusations levelled recently at a certain Sheffield cleric, it's a name better kept far away from the vociferous gutter press. In fact it belongs to 29-year-old Johann Fontamillas and 28-year-old Wilson Peralta whose eponymous album for Velocity/N-Soul heralds another step forward in the Christian move into ambient/ techno/trance. I spoke to Johann about the strange choice of name. "It comes from a song recorded by a Christian thrash group we know called Crucified. The band explained the song to me - I liked the name and that was that. However, quite a few people have criticised the name. People misconstrue it."
Wilson Peralta and Johann have known each other since college. Johann's brother Jerome played with the fondly remembered metal/dance fusion team Mortal. In 1989 Johann was introduced to the world of dance music. "We were living in a loft in downtown LA," Johann remembered. "Some of our friends started promoting warehouse dance parties and we went along to see what it was all about. It was a real underground scene but there wasn't any Christian input to it. Wilson and I started playing around with some programming ideas and it grew from there."
In 1992 the dance affiliate of Frontline, Myx Records, started to put together an album under the generic title Jyradelix using Mortal. Mortal's Jerome Fontamillas roped in his brother's group, resplendent in the surreal name of the Psycho-Lizards, to do a couple of tracks for the project. "We did 'Out For Love' and Take My Life' and one more. A lot of people said nice things about our tracks - but we never did find out how many copies it sold -Frontline are very secretive about things like that! Anyway, after that Wilson and I really started to take the whole dance thing quite seriously and beefed up our sampler."
Mindbender are thrilled about landing a record deal with Scott Blackwell's N-Soul Records. "N-Soul have been pioneers and it's an honour working with them," comments Johann. He describes the music on their N-Soul debut as "trancy and Holy Spirit-filled." Johann continued, "People underestimate the power of the Holy Spirit. People are being touched by our music. And that's the main objective."
Johann considers "Ambien" and "Dreamin"' to be the strongest cuts on 'Mindbender'. But already the duo are hard at work at N-Soul's studio working on their second album. "It will be a little heavier with more guitars," commented Johann. "One song we've completed is called 'Breathe'. It's about our need to breathe more of the life of Jesus. Also, we have talked to a couple of singers about singing on it - possibly Sandra Stephens."
As a second generation Philippino Christian (he attends the Lomalinda Seventh Day Adventist Philippino Church) Johann is very aware of the racism still epidemic in American culture. "I remember during the time we were recording the Jyradelix it was in the wake of the riots. And there are still many problems of prejudice. There are no easy answers to this huge problem. One thing I do know is that music, and particularly dance music, breaks down racial barriers. A lot of it is based on black R&B and it's great to go into a dance club and see whites and blacks dancing together."
Christian dance has not as yet brought many rewards for Mindbender. Johann works in a local hospital while Wilson has a position with the Hollywood Musicians Union. But Johann is bristling with the possibilities for the future. "Our aim as a group is simple, to keep making the best music we possibly can, keep praying together, and let the Holy Spirit do his work."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.