Glasgow's SONS OF THUNDER have a diverse range of musical influences as Tony Cummings discovered.
Their name might conjure up a heavy metal team reaching wall-of-sound extremities, but Glasgow's Sons Of Thunder show on their debut EP a winning way with melodic pop and praise. What is unusual about the band is that they sport three musicians all able to craft a quality song hook. What is equally unusual about Sons Of Thunder is that their lead singer Douglas McCulloch has made his recording debut at an age when Christians passionate about the lost are usually teaching or preaching and allowing young music fans to make Last Of The Summer Wine comments. In fact, 49-year-old Douglas sees the platform of the band as a God-given opportunity to minister. "I really feel that this is what God has given me, a chance to use what gift I have to touch people. I couldn't go out and talk. But I could sing -1 was in a folk group when I was in my 20s. Now it's as if the Lord has formed this band, which in many ways is the alter ego of the worship band of the church where most of us go, and has given us a hunger to go further afield than our own church."
The church in question, Langside Church Of Scotland on the south side of Glasgow, ran a mission in the Easter of '97 which saw the birth of the band. The line up of Sons Of Thunder includes three seasoned songwriters Douglas McCulloch (lead vocals, acoustic guitar), Stewart Moffat (electric guitar) and' Lewis Turner (keyboards), who with Andy McCulloch (bass), Stuart Duffin (drums), Jim Macon (12 string acoustic) and two honorary 'Sons', backing vocalists Margaret Watson and Margaret McCulloch, make up a band which seems to delight in eclecticism. Pop, rock, Celtic and even punk are among the musical elements threaded into SOT's songs-for-all-ages sound. The punk element comes from one time punk rocker Stewart Moffat. "When I was in my teens I was in a punk band called the Alleged. We were signed to the same record label as Simple Minds. But when they hit big all the record company resources went on them and we were dropped. We were quite hot for a short time. Our record got a five star review in Sounds. So I had my five minutes of fame." Stewart chuckled before continuing, "After the Alleged broke up I settled down and married. I had a belief in God but the church and me didn't get on. Then my wife, who is a Sunday School teacher, persuaded me to go along to Langside Church. I'm a product of the Alpha courses."
And how, I asked, did Stewart start to write songs about our Lord rather than anarchy in the UK? "I heard some of the latest worship songs and thought, 'I can write better than that.' The song I wrote on the CD came about at the time I was getting baptised." Stewart was also responsible for the band's attention-grabbing name. "I was reading in Mark, how Jesus called James and John sons of thunder and I thought, 'What a great name for a band.' I suggested it to the guys and that was that."
The band's other songsmith, Lewis Turner, comes from a classical musical background. "I was playing piano from age eight. Later, I rebelled and played in a heavy rock band called Einstein - their name was, shall I say, considerably tamer than some of the bands we gigged with! I joined Langside when I came along to that mission in '97. I'd just bought the bass and played that for a while, then I went back to keyboards."
A fairly prolific songwriter, Lewis has written the band's "Give The Glory To The Lord", a praise anthem, now regularly performed in the band's live sets and featured o/t their EP, 'The Covenant'. That debut was recorded at Sava Studios, a renowned set-up in the west end of Glasgow who've recorded such luminaries as Deacon Blue and though the band didn't have a great deal of time to lay down their five songs (a day in fact, with another for mixing!), the EP is a sterling first effort definitely showing the band's bright potential. "We would like to record an album, once we get a higher profile," commented Lewis.
That profile is growing steadily in the far from glamorous refiner's
fire of grassroots ministry. "I remember a gig we played on a very
tough, very run down housing estate called Drum Chapel," remembers
Douglas McCulloch. "It was at a local Pentecostal church. There was an
incredible atmosphere. All these people dancing about. It's moments
like that which make all the hard work and sacrifice in keeping a band