As well as being the frontman for evangelistic rock band A.N.D., PAUL MAY also runs a unique recording studio, Rock Solid. Cross Rhythms' Les Wilkes went to Walsall to talk to Paul.
Albums produced and engineered by Paul May from his Rock Solid studio in Walsall are just beginning to hit the marketplace. The No Second Chance CD 'Wasp In A Jam Jar' is out now and that will be followed soon by albums by Bolton metal team Crucifer, Midlands AOR musicianaries After The Fall and a compilation made for the Meltdown teach-in. But it's the release of 'Given In Love' by Paul May himself which most succinctly expresses Paul's militant attitude towards the marketing of Christian music albums. For the tape - a fine set of acoustic rock and blues numbers with a no holds barred Gospel message - is available FREE in a pay-what-you-want system recalling the pioneering efforts of the late Keith Green a decade or more back in the States. Rock Solid too is far from being a normal commercial studio enterprise. The bands recorded aren't charged for studio time! To find out more I went along to the Walsall Christian Centre where Paul worships and where the studio is based.
We began by chatting about Paul's background, his experience and his testimony. Paul reveals that he has been involved in music since he was 14 and since then has toured all over Europe with various bands. He has also sessioned or collaborated with people such as Al Atkins (formerly of Judas Priest) and Janus. He points out that during that time he served many different gods: music, sex, drugs. Paul was involved with the occult and generally wasn't a very nice person. To cut a long story short, after failing to find fulfilment in his success or anything else he'd tried he got on his knees and asked God into his life and from that point on began to turn his life around. That was about five years ago and Paul has been in full time ministry with his church for the last two and a half years, busily involved in leading worship, preaching and playing with the Christian rock band A.N.D.
I asked him how he came to be involved in the recording aspect after being an artist in his own right for so long. "I've always been actively involved in the recording side," answered Paul, "with all the albums I've done before. I've either produced or co-produced one way or the other and that's something that I've learned over the time that I've been involved in the music scene."
Paul then explained how the studio came about. "It had always been on my heart anyway to set up some kind of recording facility but didn't know how I was going to go about it. Then, this one-week I was just coming before the Lord, praising, worshipping... just spending some good time with the Lord and I just wrote down everything. I thought, This is what I'd like to do. I'd like to provide a recording facility for Christian ministry bands.' Only Christian ministry bands, people who are serious... I'm not doing it for any ego - I'm doing it for a purpose. I said to God, 'This is what I'd like to do, this is my heart's desire for you, and I want to serve you like this.'"
That summer God began to answer Paul's prayer. Various pieces of equipment were donated; speakers, compressors, microphones, a monitor and then a keyboard came on indefinite loan, he was also able to swap another false god in his life, his big Gibson E2 Explorer limited edition guitar with gold inlays ("A beautiful guitar, no doubt about it!", he says with a smile) for a very expensive recorder. "The Lord provided a way for me to give up this false god to get a tool that I could use to serve others." After starting out working from home his church supported him further by offering him space in their building which he gratefully accepted.
Paul's aim is to work with artists to produce something which is at least up to album quality and for them to take it out and use it for God.
To achieve that he demands 100 per cent effort from the people he is working with. Said Paul, "You've got to put something of a certain quality out if you're going to face the world with it. You need to give it your best, that's what I expect, that's what I try to do. I'll record, I'll produce, I'll arrange, whatever I need to be, I'm there...to get the best performance I can possibly get out of those people at that point in time."
So, apart from a heart for ministry and some hard work, what else does Paul expect from the artists he works with? "Like I say, I do it for nothing, there's no charge for the studio. The only thing is they have to buy their own (master) tapes and to make a contribution to the church for the electricity. And if they want to make a contribution (to the studio) that's fine, it will just go towards buying more gear for somebody else to use." Paul makes his feelings on the 'cost' of ministry quite clear. "You shouldn't have to balance the books with ministry. Ministry is seeing people saved or seeing people hear the message. They (the bands) shouldn't have to keep paying for it as well, continually having to go out on a limb so it's balancing everybody else's books."
Paul stresses that he doesn't record with anybody and everybody, just on the grounds of the fact that there are only 12 months in the year! "I need to know that God has led me to work with them," Paul explains, "because time is precious."
Rock Solid also works in co-operation with Dave Williams of the Meltdown ministry/label and together they decide on the artists they work with. "We'll pray with them (the artists) and if both of us are agreed then we'll record with them. Then at the end of the day the choice is with those people, if they want to put it out on something with a label they can take it to Dave, or if they don't, their master belongs to them...they are then in charge of their own product, but I need to know that these people are going to pull out their finger and do something, use their product to its utmost to give somebody the Gospel, that's the whole point."
Paul recounts stories of how, over the previous 12 months whilst having three or four different albums on the go, the bands he has been working with have co-operated and supported each other. "It's been teamwork all the way and I believe God wanted that... I really believe that's the way forward, teamwork really is the answer. It's good to see that Christians can help each other to get their products out so they can give the Gospel to other people."
I asked Paul what motivates him. "My motivation's God because I promised God that I would now serve him. I praise him because I am in a privileged position. I'm wanting other people to know that if God can save a slime bag like me he can do it for anybody, ANYBODY."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.