Psalmistry: Spiritual songs, banging beats

Sunday 1st June 1997

Looking forward to taking the Cross Rhythms '97 crowd to delirium are new West Country team PSALMISTRY. DJ Coopoid spoke to the band's Edi and Tony.


It's not often that you find innovation in music these days, but here's a diverse bunch of four people from the south west making waves in the dance scene with a privately recorded cassette EP and a song played on BBC Radio 1! Psalmistry, consisting of programmer/keyboardsman/arranger Tony 'The Psalmist" Silcock, rapper / frontman Edi 'Edi Stylze' Johnson, singer Lucy Britten and drummer Matt Wiltshire are definitely making quite a buzz.

Tony, also known as the Psalmist (a name he found in a thesaurus, replacing his pre-Christian title of Acid-Tones!), writes and programmes most of the music and is "a complete techno head", influenced by "anything with huge break beats" like Moby, Orbital, Leftfield and the Chemical Brothers. Edi (MC Stylz) describes himself as a "hip hop freak... with a talent for jumping around and shouting at people", being influenced heavily by the Prodigy and the Beastie Boys. Singer LB is "a bit of a soul diva" and finally, drummer Matt "is into his jazz/funk/latin/samba music"!

If you need to describe Psalmistry's music using reasonably sensible terms, the best way is probably to call them a techno/hip hop crew. Edi says, "I know people always have this cliche about it being really hard to describe their music, but we've got so many different kinds of influences, because we're all from totally different backgrounds... We do have hip hop tunes, techno tunes, drum and bass tunes etc, but with all these other influences thrown in together. People have tried to describe us as trip hop, but there's no way we could be like that!"

Creating a new music style, however, was not something Psalmistry set out to do deliberately. Edi describes it as "a complete and utter fluke! The idea behind it came from the fact that when I MC on stage, I tend to be full on and 'in-yer-face'. We had this idea of becoming like a Christian version of the Prodigy when he first became known, with a similar stage presence and adrenaline, but doing it for God. We've developed it a bit more now, encompassing more musical styles as well as having the huge banging beats we like to create."

So what kind of person would enjoy listening to Psalmistry? "People who have fairly open minds about music," Edi reasons. "People who listen to dance music in general will find something in there for them. We aim for the age group between 15 and 30, though if someone who's 80 likes our music then so be it. We don't want to limit it!

"Though we take our name from the Bible, the music we make isn't necessarily (just) for Christians. We use the power of the music to get across the Word of God. Christians have probably heard the things we say thousands of times before, so with non-Christians we'd feel more comfortable, as we're like standing up on a hill, shouting down at people about God and saying, 'Jesus is the Way!' If people come to a gig and just enjoy the music that's fair enough, but we say the music is not from us, it's from God and so are the words, so listen to them as well."

For those who think this kind of music is only useful for encouraging violence and the use of drugs, the band state: "We take the idea that everything comes from God, and so we just use the talents we've been given to glorify God. The lyrics are very full on Christian-based. We don't want to be economical with the truth. One of the songs we do live is called 'Bullet', which is all about how the truth is going to hit you whether you want it or not. It's up to individuals to come to terms with it."

Tony emphasises that to get a true representation of what Psalmistry is about, you really need to see them perform live. So how do they manage to mix computer technology with live drums and vocals? "We use a DAT backing tape while Matt adds some extra live rhythms, LB sings lead vocals and Edi adds his raps and whatever! I also add samples live, using a W30. How we play isn't really that important though: we don't believe in being technically perfect, as long as God is glorified."

On the subject of W30s, when Tony described the equipment he uses to make the music, it started to sound like some segment of an Ordinance Survey map: "I use a standard Akai S2000 sampler, a D10, D50, Sound Canvas, and SH101, a Sequential Circuits Prol, an X5 and an M1. I like to use the analogue synths a lot (the SH101 and the Prol), layering them up using the sampler. I use the sampler a lot...maybe even too much!"

The track that Cameron Dante played on Radio 1 took Tony about four and a half weeks (on and off) to create. (It was still incomplete when broadcast.) Tony says that he "finished" it about five times before he was happy with it! So it's become a bit of a full time job for Tony, which is a step of faith, as he's not quite so popular as his musical heroes...yet!

Edi, when I spoke to him, was "currently seeking employment," so pray for Psalmistry and buy their EP! You'll not only be helping four young people who are passionate about God, but you'll be encouraging a rapidly developing talent and a growing ministry...a ministry of sound! CR

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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