Heaven's Metal Exclusive: Holy 5oldier Interview
As you may have seen from the excellent interview by Chris Beck in
the new issue of Heaven's Metal Fanzine, the interview with Andy Robbins
offered so much great material. Here is the unused/cut material that
was too good to throw away or let rot into some un-intelligible digit
between zero and one (that's what happens to unused digital information,
it turns into fractional digital info). So, here you go...
1. You have a new DVD coming out called Live, Rare, Raw. What
can fans expect to see on the DVD and where did you pull all of the
old footage from?
I feel that the DVD came our brilliant, produced as a true
collectors piece.. Bill Bafford, (Roxx Productions) had produced a project
like this with Once Dead upon their reunion a while back. We (H5) had
always wanted something to have that would have great out takes of tour
footage, interviews, our music videos, and the out takes of us just
being geeks whenever a camera was around. I think the viewers will especially
like the preproduction footage that was shot in Fresno, CA when we were
writing the first album for 6 weeks on Michael Cutting’s family
ranch. You can actually see those classic songs take form before your
eyes. There is some footage of us with Robbie Brauns, Steven Patrick,
Eric Wayne and new footage of us with our new vocalist Don Russell.
2. So what was it like to get all the guys together to play
a concert after so many years? Had you played any concerts together
since the recording of Encore, which was in 1997?
The reunion show was pretty surreal. We all seemed to of had
mixed emotions about it. It was exciting on hand to have the line up
the “put us on the map” (debut album line up) together again
playing only our classics. I guess I really thought that would not ever
have happened so when we performed and I saw the guys around me all
playing really and having a good time, I was kind of not sure if it
was all a weird dream…
3. Why, after so many years, would you play a concert together?
What exactly about the experience made you desire to do it?
Terry, Jamie and Michael are like brothers to me. We have been
together since we were teenagers (21 years). We grew mature together
attended each others weddings and have seen each others successes and
failures. We truly love each other unconditionally. There is a feeling
in this core that is indescribable. We read each others minds and follow
each others leads, so it is always a great experience when we play together.
We all had grown into different lives for the most part. Jamie is married
with two kids and has a great career; Terry is married with 3 kids (another
on the way!) he really stayed the most musically active in the past
years. Michael had been living in Boston for like 5 or 6 years and I
never thought he would be able to come out for a ‘one off’
show. I am not sure what Steven had been doing. Myself, I had been on
a musical hiatus for about 6 years before we all met back in October
04’ in LA at a surprise birthday for Michael. It did not take
long for us to start talking about music and playing before we all agreed
to at least get together in a rehearsal situation and blow the dust
off our songs.
4. Going all the way back to the days before when your self-titled
album was released, Holy Soldier has been in existence for almost 20
years now. Did you think you would be playing Holy Soldier music for
I really felt a strong calling when I was 16 years old about
being in this band. Jamie, Robbie Brauns, Larry Farkas and Pete Kearney
started the band in January 1985. Robbie basically introduced us all.
(Sometimes that is not made clear). E ach guy individually had a strong
calling and vision that we would go pretty far. It is hard to say that
without coming across as arrogant or egotistical, because I am not saying
that. God did not need us. God obviously can use whoever he needs to
fulfill His will here on earth. We were just willing. We really asked
God to purge us a lot in the beginning. We had little or no experience,
little or no gear and NO money. But, that all gave God a chance to be
God. By the time the first record came out and we were traveling the
world with #1 singles and a best selling album, playing on state of
the art gear and staging, we could only give the glory back to Him and
say we were happy to be along for the ride. Our longevity was just a
continual commitment from each individual. If anyone wanted off, they
were let off; if anyone wanted to stay they stayed. When we eventually
called it quits, it was because the doors just were not opening like
they had been in the previous years.
5. Let’s talk about the band’s past some. Your
self-titled album was distributed by A&M Records, you shot a video
for the song "See No Evil"–simply put, many people consider
this to still be a great album. Looking back, how did you think things
would turn out for the band when the album was released?
Thanks for the compliment! We knew we had something special
with Holy Soldier (debut). We all were very discipline and committed
to go out and work it (tours, video, promo, etc). We toured 45 cities
that first year. For the fact that we changed singers between the 1st
and 2nd leg of the tour due to Steven quitting on us, we did pretty
good. Eric Wayne amazed audiences with stepping in and singing like
Steven. Many did not know the difference. But we showed instability
to A&M and to Word with losing Steven. If it was a bassist, drummer
or maybe even a guitarist departing it would not have been as big of
a deal (at least I don’t think), but very few bands can survive
after they change the singer, whether the singer is good or bad. Motley
Crue had John Corabi after they booted Vince and John is and was 100
times the singer Vince would ever be, but it did not work. It is about
talent at that point, it is about style. We all worked 10 times harder
to re position the band with a new identity.
6. You then released Last Train, another strong album with a
wide variety of songs, which I have a few questions about. Why did you
decide to do a Rolling Stones cover with "Gimme Shelter"?
Since the beginning of our band, we have always loved to put
a good cover in our set. We are all huge fans of 70s music. It was not
uncommon to hear us play a song by Zeppelin, Montrose, Kiss, etc at
one of our shows. When we decided to include a cover on one of our releases
to show that side of us, we obviously had to have something that had
a good message, something we could do justice to and also something
that some people may not have heard before. We were down to Shelter
and Rock n Roll Suicide by David Bowie. I think we liked the idea of
getting the backing vocalist for Shelter is what pushed us more towards
7. The song "Tuesday Mourning" has some of the most
emotional vocals I have ever heard. I’ve spoken with more than
one person who says the song reminds them of a loved one that has passed.
What was the original inspiration for this song?
The original lyric was written as a tribute to Michael Cutting’s
mother who had passed away the year before. Michael was not in the band
at the time we wrote the song. Steven felt compelled to write the lyrics
as we were all very close to her. She really loved Holy Soldier. She
filmed us during the pre production of our debut cd in Fresno as we
were staying on their ranch. So those who see the DVD, will hear her
asking us questions as she is filming us. Scott Soderstrom had lost
his mother a few years previous, so when we were writing the credits
for the Last Train cd, we dedicated the song to Sharon Cutting Joan
8.There’s been a lot of debate...but is it true that the
song "Fairweather Friend" is about Stryper and the article
that was written about them in White Throne magazine after Against the
Law was released? Looking back, did the song accomplish what the band
intended at the time?
Yeah, I don’t think it was a White Throne interview.
It was another ‘zine but yeah, it was Stryper who interviewed
and we thought it was a joke at the end when the magazine published
the story and went on to say that they would no longer be supporting
them like some sort of disclaimer because they did not agree with their
lifestyle or current state what ever. Steven again crafted a great parable
of how even Christ’s disciples abandoned him when he became controversial.
It was not intended as we were defending Stryper or mocking the magazine
or writer, it was just a fantastic subject matter of something we felt
strong enough to bring to the public’s attention.
9. After Last Train, the band then made a significant change
musically with the release of Promise Man. How exactly did this change
come about? Was the change made because that is the musical direction
the band wanted to take? Was it done simply to keep up with the musical
trends at the time? Was it driven by the change in lead singer?
You hit it, all three actually. I will say I feel Promise Man
is a very good disc. I am partial really only to side 1 (or the fist
6 songs). But look, most every big hard rock/metal act changed in the
90’s; Guardian, Bride, us. It was part survival. And it also that
we all probably felt it was time that we could experiment more with
our other influences The bigger you were, the more you changed. Edgy
music now had “drop d and low c” tuning, grunge had played
a huge influence; Nirvana had killed the metal scene. The labels did
not want to put out blatant metal or commercial hard rock releases.
It was 1995; H5 had survived Steven’s coming and goings, changing
guitar players, losing our management, being dropped by A&M and
Word for instability, losing Terry and still dealt with all the touring
and controversy. We were all in the middle of disillusionment. Although
we still had our faith and passion for Christ and playing the music
scene was rough. We were leaders now in an industry we really had tried
to not be too consumed by. Being solely in the Christian industry was
not in our initial vision. I wanted to avoid the “subculture stigma.”
We always had the ability and goods to be a “great secular band”
we all had the hearts to walk with Christ. Our name and message was
embraced by mostly Christian record buyers. We had shots taken at us
the whole time we were together. “You are not Christian enough,
your lyrics are too vague, and your look is too worldly.” Although
we felt like punching bags we always, just laughed at those comments.
People will be people, you will never please everybody. It was when
you meet a kid on the road or open that letter or email and somebody
says, “God used you to change my life”. Nothing else would
matter for that moment. You get hooked on that high that emotion better
than any drug. God is great! He would send a sign like that in some
dark times to help us through. Did our music change? Yes. Was due to
a singer leaving that was a big part? Probably. Did the new label want
us to change? Yes. Were they only considering record sales to youth
groups? Yes 100%. That is why we knew our relationship with them would
be short lived. We were on the other side of touring nightclubs, colleges,
arenas, and who would ever have us. We toured with bands like Alice
in Chains, Extreme, Hurricane, etc. Now it felt like “Fisher Price”
mentality and taking steps backward to appease the label so they can
“win big” with youth groups. I thought “youth groups?
I am 28 years old? What the heck are they talking about youth groups?”
I immediately started Spaceport Records as a last ditch effort to take
back our creative control…
10. As we mentioned on Promise Man, Steven Patrick left and
was replaced by Eric Wayne as lead singer of the band. And even more
recently, Steven sang at the Live, Rare, Raw concert and once again
is no longer with the band. Why, twice now, has Steven Patrick left
Holy Soldier? What is the band’s current relationship with him?
The reunion seemed fitting that Steven be there. I am sure
the fans wanted it that way. It was good for finalization. His agenda
is not the same as ours. We just leave it at that. Our relationship
with him is that we do not talk to him. He has good qualities, do not
get me wrong. And I feel that he is a gifted songwriter. It just is
a mutual decision that we do not work together. Holy Soldier may do
much more or may do a little more. That is undetermined. We take each
day together and opportunity one day at a time. We just are having a
lot of good times reacquainting ourselves with other and our families
are all bonding. We are not setting out to start “a new wave of
the Holy Spirit “a new ride” or anything like that. People
may be surprised to learn how down to earth we really are. Again, God
does not need us. It is by His grace that all this is possible again.
Being with guys again is just a bonus.
11. Going back to Promise Man, were you worried that such
a major change in sound would alienate your fans? Was Promise Man received
like you thought it would be?
No. We were happy with the cd. Again there were some “fillers”
that I do not care much for. I think that is where the album lacked
as we never really had “album fillers”. Eric is not as good
of a lyricist as Steven. We were all disillusioned so we ran out of
positive ideas as the inspiration was not there it seemed. Maybe Michael,
Scott and I could have been more proactive with the lyrics. But I really
stand behind the songs I signed off on to be on the record. It still
won two Dove Awards and charted 3 #1 singles and a # 3 single. The press
loved the release. The reviews were strong. Many fans liked the departure
from our earlier style and we picked up a lot of new fans as well. But
there were fans who wished we did not change and that the original line
up could have stayed in tact.
12. David Zaffiro produced your first three albums. As a producer,
what did he get out of the band that you chose to use him each time?
Continuity. He is good balancing out all our ideas, desires
and influences. David is also great songwriter. He has a great sense
of melody, which was a plus in working the lyrics to our music. It always
paid of to work with him – a great partnership. So we felt good
about that decision.
13. Your final release was the live album, Encore. It’s great
that you were able to have both Steven and Eric on the same stage for
the album. Whose idea was this and was it difficult to arrange?
I came up with the idea. I thought to myself, “What could we do
one step further than a greatest hits album or a live album. Some loved
Eric, some missed Steven, and they had met a few times before when we
were recording or touring in Seattle and always hit it off. So why not?”
The release is truly one of a kind. To this day you do not see many
like it. It was difficult to arrange. My appendix ruptured three weeks
before the time we were supposed to play the live concert that we wanted
to taped. I was hospitalized for three weeks and spent three months
in outpatient recovery. We eventually rescheduled. Terry during that
time, opted out to do the show and I could not justify having Jamie
included unless it was a full scale reunion. But originally it would
have featured Terry and Jamie as well. The whole project taught me so
much about every aspect of the recording industry. I am glad I released
14. What was the mood on stage during the concert? It’s
hard to tell while listening to the album.
We were really focused on playing accurately. Also, making sure Steven
and Eric were both feeling ok in that setting. Steven really felt back
at home it seemed. Eric really supported, that was ok by him as he always
had great admiration for Steven. Michael and Scott and I held everything
down. And our drummer at the time, Jason, that was his first record!
Kind of weird for him, he had never even put out a studio release before.
15. I always felt like Holy Soldier had the talent, songs and
charisma to make it big, that you were one of the few Christian heavy
metal bands who could become very popular like Stryper. Yes, your albums
sold reasonably well, you were signed to A&M Records, etc. Don’t
take this the wrong way, as I actually mean this as a compliment, but
why do you think the band never broke it big?
No I do not take it the wrong way at all. We all hear that statement
a lot. I appreciate your compliment! I am not trying to push all it
off on Steven, but the truth is he came and went a lot. He was hired
and quit many times. We tried. We really did. A&M and Word both
told us that his departure cost us our deals. So I can not lie and say
it was something else. When you are in that situation and you are going
to companies and asking them to invest their time, money and resources
into you, they really scrutinize your stability. We all had great intentions,
good hearts, the talent, but I understand looking back how severe his
lack of commitment affected us. Please print that this statement is
in no way to attack Steven’s character, just stating facts.
16. Though you obviously played the concert last year that will be on
the live DVD, have you kept in close contact with the guys from the
band over the years? Is anyone still actively playing in other bands?
Yes, Jamie and Michael mostly. Terry is still actively involved
as drummer of Neon Cross and worship leader at church Bay Cities Christian
Fellowship and he also has a side project called D.O.G. (Disciples of
God). Michael has a band called Death and Taxes with Dave Starkey of
Neon Cross on bass. Michael and I have a Pink Floyd tribute band called
In the Flesh (www.inthefleshtribute.com). We just finished mixing our
debut cd. We posted the tunes on our website. This was a nice project
to get us both singing more and has inspired our songwriting more and
placed new challenges our guitar playing and bass playing abilities!
I also play bass for a fantastic up coming artist named Brandon Reid
(www.brandonreidallen.com). The project also features Troy Luccketta
(Tesla) on drums. His debut record also features Damon Johnson (Alice
Cooper, Brother Cain) and Mark Bonilla (Sheryl Crow). I expect great
thing for Brandon. He is a very talented singer/songwriter. I am also
recording a solo project at present (www.andyrobbins.com). Michael Cutting
will be collaborating on some of my future tracks. I hired him to produce
and engineer our In the Flesh cd.
17. What does everyone do for a living these days?
Jamie actually is locomotive engineer for Union Pacific. Michael
operates sales for his families business. Terry works in real estate.
I work within mortgage lending, investing and real estate.
18. You now have a new lead singer. Tell us a little about
Don Russell. He is actually the younger brother of Terry “the
Animal” Russell. He actually sang back up vocals on Holy Soldier
(debut) and Last Train. He is a great guy with a great spirit and completely
easy going – a real blessing to have a round. He sings in any
range all day long with out any effort. Kind of scary…
19. Holy Soldier may actually own the record for the most lead
singers for a single Christian heavy metal band.
I would not doubt it. I guess we can put that feather in our
20. What exactly do you see in the future for Holy Soldier?
Will you play other concerts? Will you write new material and release
an album? If so, what style of music can fans expect?
I have written a lot of new material as has Michael. Jamie
is starting to write too. Will we collaborate for H5? We would like
to. I think we are just trying to enjoy what is happening now. Eventually
if we want some more longevity we will have to release something, whether
or not it is a full length cd or just a few tunes here and there is
yet to be determined.
21. Looking back, what are your greatest memories with Holy
The early years when we were developing the LA Christian Metal
scene with Neon Cross, Barron Cross, Deliverance, Guardian, and all
the others was a cool time. There was tons of fellowship and mutual
support for each other. I loved touring abroad. Japan was great. Both
times we were there we were treated like royalty. I met my wife while
we toured in Central America. She is from Brazil, but we met in Guatemala
when she was visiting her sister who was living there. That is a wonderful
memory for me. I also loved it when we played Red Rocks in Colorado
with Petra and DC Talk on the Last Train tour. That had to be a touring
highlight for the amount of people and enthusiasm from the show. The
stage manager denied us an Encore and the fans were chanting Holy Soldier
for about 5 minutes after our set ended. Receiving the Dove Awards was
a nice experience too. In 1991 was great because we were new to the
CCM industry. 1996 for Promise Man just was an affirmation that we still
22. What are your biggest regrets?
I live my live giving all I can and trying my best to live
with integrity so I can try not to have any regrets. But, in professional
business decisions that were made that affected H5, we could have been
more realistic on who and what we had to work with and made better decisions
for our group’s longevity.
23. Any last words for the readers of Heaven’s Metal?
Well to yourself and Doug let me first say, Heaven’s
Metal was there in our beginning and it has been equally as exciting
for us to watch the success with the magazine as it much as our own.
We appreciate the support and friendships. For those reading this who
have supported us during any or all of our periods thank you! For those
who may have heard of us but do not know much, thank you for reading
this and we hope that it will somehow inspire you or enlighten you in
a positive way. Holy Soldier is and will always be about a bunch of
guys who love God and want to share how that impacts our lives. We care
very little about rules, doctrines, fanaticism etc. To know the true
living God on a personal level and to walk with him daily is what we
encourage. Our lyrics try to reflect that. Our personal demeanors try
to exemplify this. We feel that God used us to fulfill a purpose at
a special time in music history. He will get the glory! Not I or any
one else. What ever singer was in place when we went forth to share
our message was a willing vocal piece to convey our message and we appreciate
the efforts of all for singers who have been a part of us. My favorite
inspiration to pass on to others is always to remind them that God will
bless those who seek…
© 2006 HM Magazine. All rights reserved.