Shifts in the Blamed: New Singer Brings Direct Message
- Diane Flick Entertainment Writer
- 2002 18 Jan
First thing in the morning, The Blamed can rock.
It's not an easy gig. At the Purple Door music festival, the bands who play first on Saturday morning are there for little more than the love of playing. It's rare to hear anyone make any notable comments about the early bands in the wake of the day-long extravaganza. But The Blamed were more than up to the challenge, and I discovered there's nothing like waking up to a little punk while enjoying the fresh air.
After some hunting, I managed to find Chris Witala, The Blamed's bassist. In record time, he enthusiastically discussed The Blamed's new album, Give Us Barabbas, the band's recent tour in Europe and some of the changes in the band over the years.
Crosswalk: What was the theme for Give Us Barabbas?
Witala: There was no real theme. We had another guitar player, Matt, and he was more of a singer. He quit in February, so it's mostly his work, lyrically. Musically we all worked on it.
There was a lot of pre-production . . . so we had everything done the way we wanted it before we went into the studio.
Crosswalk: What can you tell me about the lyrics on Give Us Barabbas?
Witala: Most of that comes from Matt and Brian. I don't think that Matt was really blunt with questions and answers, but he's kind of more artsy in his way of approaching things. I think a lot of his ideas for the last record came from family, his wife, touring.
Matt's kind of the artsy, pretentious lyric writer. He doesn't want to tell you what he's thinking. He likes to be vague about it. Brian's more direct. But I think ultimately, the message we try to convey is hope and love, respect of beliefs and unity.
Crosswalk: So what brought you guys to Christian music?
Witala: Well, The Blamed has been around since '94, before I ever came. I joined the band two-and-a-half years ago. Then the band had a different musical style, but it's always been about the same thing.
We're not necessarily trying to stay in the Christian scene. We play both shows -- clubs and bars and whatever -- and Christian shows. We prefer non-Christian shows, but we really feel that no matter where we're at, we don't want to be labeled a "Christian band."
We're Christians. Our lives are our ministry. Our lives are about daily living for God and showing people His love through actions. We're big on spreading hope and love, that's our main thing. As far as us being in the Christian scene, we're Christians, so we get invited to Christian shows. But we don't want to be just one side or the other. If anything, we'd like to get to the point where we can just play bars and have just anybody show up.
If people read our lyrics, they'll know we're Christians. They'll understand the perspective, if they really look. We don't really want to be too blunt with what we say.
Brian doesn't share [his faith] all the time. Like, we played mostly bars in Europe, and he won't share if he feels it's tense. He's just really led with that. There's no real set thing he says. Each night he says what he feels. It's like that with everything; we feel that God will bring us to the people He wants us to talk to, and bring us to the situations He wants us to be in. It's just up to us to listen for His voice, to be open to what He wants us to learn from certain things.
We played a show at a church in this really small town in Germany with all these kids that have nothing to do except just totally ruin their lives, and Brian at the beginning of the last song, he said something like, "I believe in Jesus," and someone was like, "Jesus is dead!" And he was like, "Well, you may believe that, but I believe this." So it's all about respecting each other and each other's beliefs.
Crosswalk: Do you think that people who come to your shows in Europe are even aware that you're Christians? Do you encounter much hostility or apathy toward your beliefs?
Witala: Well in Germany, we've run into more hostility toward the state church, because people have to pay taxes to the state church even though they don't even go and they don't believe in God. It's more of the religious institution that young people rebel against, even though they don't know it. This last time we ran into some of that attitude, but mostly it's just drunk kids with nothing better to do. We trust that the seeds will be planted.
Brian's wife said that after that show, she saw the guys that were shouting walking out, and they had bought a CD, which is a cool thing. Obviously the music is doing something. That kind of thing is really encouraging.
Crosswalk: Where do you see the band moving in the future?
Witala: We definitely want to tour more. It's very hard because Brian has a wife and kids. And of our jobs in the community, mine's probably the easiest to get out of. I write for Cornerstone magazine. We only do two issues per year, and I do the Web site now, so when I get home, I can just do it. But Brian works at our roofing supply company. When he gets home he tends to have to work a lot, and especially before a tour, just so he can get the time off. Trevor works at a recording studio we have, and they're really kind of hard on him when he leaves. But we want to tour more, and of course, we want to play to bigger audiences.
It's kind of interesting, though, because it's like two-and-a-half years ago, we became a new band, and then when Matt quit, we became a new band all over again. We still have the same threads of direction, as far as what inspires us to play, what motivates us to play, why we want to play.