Petra Still Means Rock!
- Monday, October 13, 2003
Aerosmith has done it. So has Mick Jagger and his Rolling Stones cohorts.
But overall, rockers who have been around for more than 30 years and are still making commercially viable and critically acclaimed music aren’t exactly the norm, especially in Christian music. However, even when an artist like Petra gets to that point in a long and successful career, how does the person or band know if and when to throw in the towel?
As the front man for the band for 17 years, John Schlitt, surely designed to carry his fiery passion to the back rows, answers this question with confidence. “We’ve watched the ministry be used all over the world. It’s not getting any weaker,” he says. “It’s still relevant. People say, ‘Why another record?’ We say, ‘Why not!’ That’s what we do. Just because we’ve been doing this longer than most doesn’t make this [album] any less valuable than our first one.”
Having been around the professional block a time or two certainly doesn’t make one’s product any less valuable, but it often makes capturing that younger audience more difficult. But despite the struggle, Schlitt still feels he and his bandmates have something important to communicate to the younger generation. “You, at least, have to know that you need to go somewhere,” Schlitt proclaims. And relating the message to its music, he says: “The first record I really enjoyed was 'This Means War' (1986, Star Song). It’s a shame that every Petra record can’t be titled 'This Means War 2', 'This Means War 3', etc., because it’s always that — the battle is never ending. If anything, it gets worse. Every generation seems to get bombarded by even more garbage to grab them away from [what] God wants them to know,” he says with conviction.
“I still have a lot to say, and Bob has a lot to write,” Schlitt defends. “Granted, we’ve been blessed with several generations of fans, so that keeps us busy. But I still say it’s war going on, especially for the young. Someone has got to be carrying the banner. It doesn’t have to be us; there are others that are [carrying the banner], but we will carry it, too.”
And with that in mind, Petra’s newest release on Inpop Records, "Jekyll and Hyde," is quite a milestone — the band’s 20th album and perhaps its most aggressive rock project to date. Answering the requests of the members’ devoted fan base (Petheads) for an all-out rock ‘n’ roll record, "Jekyll and Hyde," produced by none other than Newsboys front man and Inpop co-owner Peter Furler, is filled with huge guitar and drum sounds slamming their way through impressively catchy and memorable tunes. You will sing along, the album’s big sound nearly demands.
But what Petra is, what its fans want it to be, and what its current label wants it to be have, in the past few years, been in conflict, according to Schlitt.
“In the last three or four years, it feels like I’ve gone through three or four major bands,” Schlitt admits, referring to the revolving door of band members in the recent past. “With all the changes we’ve been through, people say, ‘How can you call this a band?’ The best way to answer is by saying the ministry is always first, not the band members. If there’s any walking of faith to focus in on, it’s the fact that God has put it in our hearts to do this.”
With the difficulties of the past few years behind him, founding member and chief songwriter Bob Hartman comments on the newest release: “I can’t say this enough: We like it. That’s really important and something we don’t take for granted.”
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