Prayer Chain: The US alt rockers getting experimental

Friday 1st December 1995

The "Bad Boys of Christian Music" the PRAYER CHAIN are back once again, with the release of their acclaimed yet highly experimental album "Mercury". Liz Liew caught up with all five members on a sunny afternoon at Flevo Festival, Holland.

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So what do Prayer Chain perceive their 'ministry' to be? Says Eric, "I would just like to think that God does work through our music and manifests himself whether we're open to it or not, especially on 'Mercury'. Some people think 'Whirlpool' is more of a spiritual album than 'Mercury'. I don't think so. I think 'Mercury' is way more spiritual. If you take that argument with 'Whirlpool' it's like, I can make the greatest spiritual album if I put 'Jesus for me' 40 thousand times. But I think God is bigger than a word and I think you can't (adequately) put your feelings into words or phrases. I think music is as close as I can come to God in expressing my feelings and just feeling the Spirit cry."

Andy points out, "On 'Whirlpool' I think people picked up on the innocence that was involved and the new album has a little more experience, maturity and sometimes cynicism, bitterness, pain - life! I think people interpret that loss of innocence as a loss of Christian-ness, but I disagree. I don't think the Bible would be considered an innocent book in any way."

Wayne adds, "The last song on our record called 'Sun Stoned' has a lot of lyric in it but nearly three quarters of it is instrumental and to me that's worship... You can't talk about God in words because it just doesn't do him justice. So to do an instrumental to me is just as, probably even more, viable."

In the States 'Mercury' is even more popular than 'Shawl' was. Their deal with Reunion Records (which is owned by BMG) has allowed their album to be made available in American high street record stores. Says Tim, "I think it's really good that, at least in America, they've put our records in the rock section of normal record stores. We are a rock band and hopefully we make music that's good enough for non-Christians to accept and enjoy as well."

I ask if they have had interest from BMG or any of the mainstream labels it owns. Replies Tim, "When we played the 'Shawl' album for RCA they really didn't like it that much. I don't know if the executive of RCA or Arista or anyone has heard 'Mercury'. It looks like it would be a good opportunity for us, but in reality I don't really think anything's gonna come of it."

Reunion have, however, brought Prayer Chain over to play in several European countries including Russia, Germany, Finland, Holland and the UK. Do they generally find a vast difference between their response in the States compared to that in Europe?

Wayne suddenly surfaces from behind his 'drum', warming to the subject: "If I'm gonna totally over-generalise, I might as well do it now! I think that my experience has been that Europeans are more accepting of more experimental kinds of music, so I'm really excited to see how Europeans will react to the 'Mercury' record... I would think that this record might be the most accepted of all our records because of Europeans being more willing to branch out and to try something else (even if) they might not dig it straight away. Americans seem to be much more interested in the 'quick fix'."

Sighs Tim, "I wish we would have had the chance to play in England (this year), like at Greenbelt and tried it out."

As well as being part of the Prayer Chain the boys are also involved in other projects. Andy plays for the violet burning (who have reformed with a modified line up), Wayne for Starflyer 59 and Tim is working on a solo album.

Despite their hectic schedules, Prayer Chain have however managed to put together a hilarious limited edition CD entitled 'Mercurious'. The featured six tracks that didn't make the album are perhaps a truer representation of their new style, without the restrictions imposed on 'Mercury'. But what makes this CD so memorable is its inclusion of recent interview excerpts, demonstrating their uncanny ability to be "cool" and extremely funny. Coupled with 'inside' jokes, constant references to space mania and the 70s, this is thoroughly entertaining.

In the flesh the Prayer Chain are a bunch of friendly guys whose crazy personalities contribute to the ever-lively spirit of the band. May the Bad Boys continue to make Good Music!

Liz Liew has completed her BSc music degree and several piano diplomas. She is currently working in the media and is a part time church organist, giving private instrumental tuition in her spare time.

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.
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