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KUTLESS EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW
[ james mead, guitar | january 18, 2004 | absecon, nj ]

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Kutless Guitar Rockin'cMW: When you first came out, I read a lot of publicity saying that the band sounds like Incubus, Puddle of Mudd, Creed, or Nickelback. Some people might look at that and think that you are trying to sound like a mainstream band so you can sell out as a Christian band. What would you say to skeptics who think this way?
James: I guess my opinion of that is that music is music, even to the Lord. God is far more interested in observing our hearts in Kutless as His servants and seeing what our desire is as far as His kingdom is concerned. The fact that we chose this style of music that we like and enjoy listening to—we chose that style of music to minister to kids. I really think it is just up to the Lord at that point. He can use it however He wants at that point. It actually gives us a really cool opportunity not only for Christian kids who enjoy this music but also for non-believers who hear the sound of our music and say, "Oh, I like that kind of music so I'll listen to this band." For instance, here, we are playing at a church. We have had several instances where the kid will be wearing a Slipknot T-shirt, which is a notoriously angry evil band, and they will come in because they like our music and they will listen to who we are talking about and hopefully meet Him there. They will meet Jesus face to face. That is really our goal. That is why we chose to use this style of music.

cMW: Have you had mainstream exposure?
James: Yes. There have been some mainstream radio stations that have heard our single and they have said, "Hey that's a cool song," and they will put it on. We have not been in any amount of heavy rotation, but a few of our songs have ministered to people on mainstream radio. That is another cool opportunity to the kind of music we play because it does end up sometimes on mainstream radio and we have had a few emails—had the title "On the Knife's Edge." A man wrote to us that literally he was prepared to take his own life and our song, "Your Touch" came on the secular station he was listening to and he listened to the lyrics and for some reason they were just jumping out at him. Then he started to understand by listening to what we were talking about that he could reach out to God in this point in his life. Even though he was so close to the end, he could reach out and just turn the other way right there. And that is another awesome opportunity that we get just for the kind of music we play.

Croonin'cMW: What is your most recent song you had on repeat on your CD player?
James: I have actually been listening to the new Blink 182 record a lot.
cMW: [gasps, then laughs.]
James: Disclaimer—I bought the edited version of it. I have been listening to it a lot. It is incredible as far as artistically. Just being a musician, I think they did an incredible job on the production of it. I am most amazed by the drumming on it.

cMW: Some of the band was in college and have decided to put that on hold in order to focus on the band. How did you come up with this decision?
James: We got signed a month after I graduated High School, so I did not start college. And a couple of the guys were in college as this all happened and we all felt God saying, "I need your full attention here, so just do it."
cMW: Do any of you expect to go back to college?
James: I really don't think so, actually. As this Kutless "train" rides itself out, we will have some opportunities that we have been offered throughout the years to continue within music ministry. Or just plugging into music ministry or maybe teaching. That is an interest of mine - something that the Lord has put on my heart—to Pastor after all this is over. I think we are all just interested in serving the Lord. I would not know off the top of my head if any of the other guys want to go off to college.

cMW: Where do you see yourselves in 5 years?
James: We'll probably still be doing this, Lord willing. We have got the desire to just keep on doing this. This is definitely what the Lord has put in our lives, and has given us a passion for, so hopefully we will still be doing this.

Big BasscMW: Let's talk about your upcoming release, Sea of Faces, due to be released on February 24th. What is the reason for the title? Is there a theme on the CD?
James: We chose the title "Sea of Faces" for the album from the song. That is correct. But the reason we chose that song to be the namesake was because it was the message we most wanted to convey to our listeners. "Sea of Faces" the song talks about how it is amazing how we know the Lord personally. We know the God who in Genesis 1 created the heavens and the earth and did all these amazing things. And we know God whose palm expands the entire universe. And we know a Lord who is so big and knows us all individually, which is the amazing thing to us. We as individual Christians are not lost in a sea of faces, as the lyric says. I don't know exactly, but there are something like 9 billion people on this earth. And it is amazing that me, James, from Kutless, from Albany, Oregon, have the Lord and Savior of the entire earth interested in him and interested in making sure that I am in love with Him and bringing a smile to his face. So that's why we chose that title for the record as well, because we wanted to convey that message to both our Christian listeners and non-believers. Because that is an amazing thing for non-believers to hear is that, "Wow, God really does individually care about me?" That is an amazing thing for them.

cMW: If you could only release one song from your upcoming CD, Sea of Faces, what would it be and why?
James: [wincing] That is a way hard question. That is not fair. I guess "Sea of Faces" would make the most sense logistically. Man, that is like saying, "Which kid do you want to send to college?" I will say that potentially every song on this CD can just be the strongest song on the record. In my opinion, there is no song that stands out way more than all of them. And that is the corner that we backed ourselves into. Not in a prideful way, but we wrote some amazing songs on this record, and we don't know what we are going to do on our third record. So, like I said, I guess "Sea of Faces" makes the most sense to just release that song.

Some Crowd InteractioncMW: Was there a difference in making your sophomore release as opposed to your first disc?
James: Oh yes. A big difference.
cMW: I think it would be really hard, I mean you hit it big with your first release, and now I would think you have a lot of pressure to perform on the second one.
James: Yes, there were a couple ways where making our sophomore release was a lot different. One was there were a lot of political things that made this release very different than the first. Like, the exposure we received from the first record—obviously we had a lot of pressure from the label and the distributors to top it. "You know this record has got to be better than the first one." That kind of thing. So that was a lot different and I'd say most of it was a lot of positive encouragement, but we felt burdened a lot of times where we were not sure what we were going to do.

But that leads me into how making the record was different, the second point. When we felt burdened like that, we really just turned it over to God. After we released the self-titled record, pretty much the whole time until we made this next record, we were all in prayer and asking God to once again give us another batch of songs that would minister to people. Like that man who emailed us and girls who have kicked anorexia from listening to the song, "Down." We just prayed that the Lord would make these songs for His glory and that He would be able to use them. And the coolest thing about making Sea of Faces was that we came into the studio with enough material to make a new record. And because that whole year as we had been praying that the Lord was faithful in giving us songs, but as soon as we got into the studio, we bagged like 7 of the songs, and in like within an hour we had it like completely finished. Seven new songs in the studio that we really felt the Lord was saying, "Ok, these are the songs I really want you to use." So, that was a big difference, too—the whole collaborative effort and just feeling the Holy Spirit there.

Is he playing the drums?I mean, on the first record we obviously felt the Holy Spirit there. But that was more about being the accumulation of being a band for a while. We had a backlog of songs to choose from. With the second record, we started with a clean slate and we only had a year to accomplish writing those songs as opposed to 3 and 1/2 years.

cMW: What is your desire as a band with the release of this CD?
James: Our heart behind everything we do is that we are just 5 guys who really love the Lord and we just want to do our personal best as individuals and as a group to just bring a smile to His face every day and to be working our tails off for Him. And we do that just out of an appreciation and mutual love. We know that God loves us so much just from the character of Christ coming down to this earth to save us. Because we know that love, we want to tell as many people as we can about it. And so as far as what our intentions are for releasing this record and those goals, we definitely just want the most people we can get to hear those messages. We want to do all that we do in excellence for the Lord. That is why we try and write the best music we can.

cMW: You are a band of young men, and teenage girls tend to like guys in a rock band. How do you deal with that on the road?
James: Well, 4 of us are married, and 2 of us are going to married very shortly. I am actually one of the married guys. Our wives actually tour with us. My wife and I got married on January 4, 2003, and we went on tour on January 10th, and we have been out on the road this whole time. That kind of makes it a lot easier because the girls that potentially would be inappropriate, they see me hugging my wife and they kind of get the point. There are still some people who are a little forward. We have personal rules as a band and we try to stay above reproach. For instance, in autograph lines, we won't sign the front of shirts, we'll only sign the back. Because once the girls put the shirt on, it looks inappropriate. A lot of girls ask for hugs and we don't. If we are taking a picture with a girl we try to make it a couple of us. So we just try and steer clear of that because the minute we play into that, in my personal opinion, we are not doing things with excellence because the Bible is strict about being above reproach and treating woman with respect, and fellow Christian woman as your sister. I know that is our desire as a band.

Children, do not try singing with your eyes closed at home.cMW: Share a story from the fall 2003 Festival con Dios tour.
James: Festival con Dios was the source of many stories. That tour was just one of the most eventful tours. From the very beginning, it was an outdoor tour, and the first few shows it just poured rain. It was just insane. Not just the headlining acts, but the opening acts, too, were just getting their equipment ruined. I lost quite a bit of money in gear on the tour because it was damaged and does not work any more. So that was kind of frustrating at the beginning. And then the next few shows after that, when the sun came back out and we discovered that the gear had been damaged, it took a few trial and error experiments to figure out what was going on. So the beginning of FCD was kind of frustrating for me because every night I would go up to perform and stuff would not work and I was pretty much not able to perform.

On the other hand, there were so many funny things that happened. There were so many cool things that happened like I made some really amazing relationships from other bands on the road. I came away with some edifying relationships and stuff. We made future contacts for the "Sea of Faces" tour in the spring. We are taking out Thousand Foot Krutch and FM Static, which were both on FCD, and we are taking out another band called Falling Up, which is a new release on Tooth and Nail, from Albany, Oregon where we live. So that is going to be a really fun tour and it is cool to see how that stemmed from making relationships on FCD.

I'd say for the funny stories, though. On every tour, the last day is known as prank night. A lot of funny things happened that night. I am not sure if you are familiar with the Saturday Nite Live Will Farrell sketch where it shows him depicted as a member of the Blue Oyster Cult and as they are recording the song he is playing the cowbell like crazy. Ryan Dobson, the speaker on FCD, came up on stage during our set wearing a silly monkey mask and he was playing the heck out of this cowbell and getting in our faces and stuff. It was just funny. We all messed around with each other and the crowd laughed. It was cool because I have been on some tours where prank night ends up being destruction night. On FCD it was just about being silly, which is cool because we did not compromise the show for the crowd. I always hated that about other tours in the past where it just destructed the whole show.

cMW: Is there anything else you want to share with our readers in conclusion?
James: The last thing to say from our end is that we really appreciate and we wish to make it publicly known that we are very thankful and grateful for our fan base who are very supportive of us. We seem to have the best fans in the world. They are so dedicated to us not just for liking us as a band, but for praying for us. We know that we have a strong fan base that intercedes in prayer for us. That is so cool and we appreciate it a lot. We just wish to make it known that we are really thankful for that. So, there you go, and buy Sea of Faces February 24th.
- Kim Flanders
February 2004
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