At long last the compulsively polyrhythmic sound of drum'n'bass has some Christian practitioneers. DJ Coopoid Investigates Andy Hunter and Martin King, otherwise known as TRIP.
Back in January, Bristol's cutting edge ministry NGM had an open day. I was there and a jolly time I had too. (While there I managed to hold dj, church planter, youth worker and musicprogrammer Andy Hunter in conversation for 15 minutes in order to find out as much as possible about Trip, the first drum'n'bass album to be released on a Christian label!
Trip had, like many good projects, quite a humble beginning. Explains Andy, "Originally Martin King and I were doing a little drum'n'bass cassette for Eden, the youth church I'm part of, so the young people could have something to take away with them because they're all into drum'n'bass. Alliance Music then got interested in it and decided to take it on board, so we did about five more tracks and made it into a full album."
Being in such a musically creative city as Bristol must have helped Andy in his own sonic experiments. Indeed, the influence of Roni Size can be heard in certain tracks, as well as other drum'n'bass masters like Goldie and LTJ Bukem. For the uninitiated, this style of music might all sound the same, but here, though the tempo doesn't vary a lot from song to song, each track has quite a different vibe, conveying different feelings and managing to bring out different emotions in the listener, all within the context of worship. In fact, using this kind of music in worship has always been one of Andy's goals for Eden. "We needed to find some kind of format which the young people could relate to for worship, to tell them about how to worship God," says Andy. "They're not used to hymns because they're so un-churched and they're not used to bands because they're all into drum'n'bass, house and happy hardcore. So we took on dance music and the record decks, and used them to worship God!"
Andy continues, "Some of my best worship times to God and feeling close to God, feeling God's Holy Spirit, has always been when listening to dance music or when playing dance music. I just feel I can express myself easier with loud music. Probably because I can't hear my own voice, I have a terrible singing voice!" Lyrics are few and far between on this album and when they do appear, they blend in quite tastefully with the music. However, that tends to make it difficult to know exactly what the tracks are all about. So here's Andy to help explain a few things: "'Cultural Shift' itself is about the post modernist culture which this nation is shifting into. Rather than just hearing the truth and then becoming a Christian, people now say 'That's alright for you, but it's not for me thanks.' Young people are just out there looking for different experiences, so we say 'Let them experience God." We pray [with them and lead them in worship to show them God, and hopefully then they will make a commitment!
"The track 'Dark Storm' is about the clouds of revival gathering: awesome and kind of scary, waiting for God to pour out his Spirit. Similarly, 'Wildfire' is about Acts Chapter2: Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit spreads like wildfire!"
Most of the vocals are performed by Tanya Farthing, who is also part of the NGM clan. She'll be starting out as a soloist soon, but has previously done quite a bit of singing at Spring Harvest and with the old band Re:fresh. Shaz Sparks from dBA also appears on one track.
Andy deejays with Hydro when they perform live. So how did he first get behind the decks? "Again, it all stems from Eden really. I always used to see DJs and be really interested in how they mix records and all that. I saw myself as a bit of a DJ, but never really had the time to actually get myself some decks and sit down and learn. Then when I moved to Eden I saw the young people were into it, so it gave me a nice excuse to go out and buy some decks and slam a load of records and start learning. That was about two and a half years ago now.'
There's an argument going on amongst some people about using non-Christian music in worship services. How does Andy feel about that? "I do use mainstream music to worship God and the proof of the pudding is that I've seen God do so much stuff in worship: seeing people go out in the Holy Spirit, being touched in such a powerful way by God, and it was with mainstream music! So to my eyes, how can that be wrong if God is touching people? Obviously there're boundaries when buying records. Certainly I won't buy some stuff because it's clearly against my beliefs and against my faith. But if it's nice music, Ibelieve that music is from God. It's creative, and all good gifts are from God. So why not use it for God?"
Hydro have had a couple of 12 inches released into the clubs. Will the same thing happen to Trip? "It would be great to do," exclaims Andy. "Probably what we'll be doing in the near future is sending a couple of tracks from the album to a drum'n'bass label, or get a few dub plates cut to get it on some 12 inches, which would benefit me a lot, so I can actually play it when I deejay!"
Talking about vision for the future, Andy says, "I'd like to see it take off a lot more in the mainstream. We've been seeing quite a buzz with Hydro and I think I'd like to play in more clubs as a DJ with Hydro, really to network with people and to see people's lives changed for God. Basically, the heart of me is an evangelist and I want to see people becoming Christians. The deejaying and the music is all part of that, just to see people's lives changed at the end of the day."
At the same time, NGM have set up a monthly "clubby" worship event called The Gathering, held at a school hall in Thornbury. "The vision behind that is to see revival coming to Thornbury, which is where we all live. It's like a harvest machine just to se people becoming Christians. So every month on a Saturday night, we have this event where we worship God, people will preach, and we'll see God changing people (I've seen people become Christians, seen God heal people), having a great time and having a vehicle for seeing God's revival come. So all the people off the streets can come into the Gathering, once revival hits, and there's something already there for them."
Let's pray that it happens soon.