|Published on february 10th, 2018 | by Scott Weldon|
A lot was happening in the world in 1988. In the world of Christian Rock, legendary pioneers Rez were about the release Silence Screams, the first record on their own brand new label. I had the privilege to sit down with Rez's Glenn Kaiser to talk about that new label, the themes of that new record (which in my humble opinion is one of the best Rez projects ever!), as well as a host of current issues. And thought the historical details of those issues might be different, the issues behind them are still very real, making Glenn's message just as relevant today. Here's part one of the interview:
Scott: Why don't we start with the new label. This is relatively new then isn't it, having your own label to work on?
Glenn: Yeah, very much so. We talked before we even release “Awaiting Your Reply” in '78 about doing our own record label. But, I mean first of all you had to have capital. You had to have enough money to be able to have warehousing, and you know, you had to put together a staff that would be educated; and understanding of how the record business would be run from manufacturing, to shipping, publicity, etc. etc. There's so much involved there, financially and also from the perspective of just understanding how to go about it all, that we were actually very thankful that Star Song said "Go for it," you know, we'll sign you; so we didn't have to mess around. Even back then we were kicking around doing our own label.
Now here we are with our ninth album, which is called "Silence Screams" by the way, and we, after a lot of thought and prayer put together Grrr. It's actually Grrr/Ocean. Ocean is a small Christian label out in LA. A guy named Freddie Piro started up Ocean with a real vision to work with, I guess, peculiar kinds of bands; and figured we were peculiar enough. So, we were able to do our own label in conjunction with Ocean. We got Word distribution, plus he has a very unique relationship with Word to where the agreement is such that he can shop Rez to secular labels. We don't have to go into Word's distribution outside of the US.
So, in other words we may sign contracts with individual secular distributors or record companies in other countries while we are simultaneously doing the same album via Word in the US. And other labels that work with Word, or other Word labels, just don't have that kind of flexibility. So, we're in a very unique situation as to where we can write what we want to write, say what we want to say, do what we want to do as far as artwork and everything else. And, we're totally free, which is a very great position to be in because that way...uh, this is going to sound crazy, in a sense, but I'm going to say it anyway...that way integrity can rule and not the dollar, or where we are on the Christian charts, or anything else.
Scott: Exactly. So, I take it that since you do have that freedom now, this album; is it going to be just really, really different from past albums, or is it going to be pretty much the same just beefed up a little bit, or how are you looking at it?
Glenn: In some ways it's the same and beefed up, but I'll tell you the truth. From the first time out the most shocking thing about this record, I think, and I could be wrong; this is me talking and I'm in the band. But I think the most shocking thing will be the cover. (laughs) I think people are going to see the artwork and go, "Wow!" And it is a shock. We want to reflect in this album a number of themes that basically boil down to the need for human rights. I think the world has gone pretty much insane and it seems to be getting crazier out there as the days go by. And I'm telling you what, whether it's in the Christian world or the non-Christian world, we really see an awful, awful lot of decay. And an awful lot of destruction. And this album in some ways is simply a mirror.
Years ago people asked Rez, "do you really speak for God; do you speak to God?" And biblically there are all kinds of songs. There are incredible amount of lyrics in the Bible, and when you take them apart in teaching seminars and writing books on it; the more you dig into Scripture, there are all kinds of lyrics. This album lyrically deals with the ravages of war, a song called "Someone Sleeps." And it speaks about the innocent bystanders, the mothers, the children, the old people who are killed; who go through all
kinds of suffering, through all kinds of sorrow and despair and anguish as a result of war being waged in their country; whether that's Northern Ireland, or Nicaragua, or El Salvador, Afghanistan. It speaks about broken relationships and how ultimately people come to the Lord as a result.
The title cut "Silence Screams", although people might think it's about abortion, it isn't. It's a song that deals with a youth camp where I witnessing to a kid about a year ago up in the mountains outside of Colorado. And what happened at the very end of the session up there, there were like 14 of us in a little cabin, and after I shared some testimony and some Scripture. He tended to be, you know, one of the most lost, unsaved hard guys. He was just up there because his friends came to the church camp every year and they did a lot of fun activities. I finally said, "Look, if you drop dead tonight, you can't say that haven't heard the Good News. You know. Because I just got through telling you. You understand, and I know you do, and you know you understand how to receive Jesus. What are you going to say to God when you stand before His throne and He asks you, 'What did you do with my Son? Jesus died and shed His blood for your forgiveness. You had the chance for eternal life, you had the chance for forgiveness of sin and for a deeper love than you've ever known, and you said “No.” You refused to receive the Lord and live in the truth. You chose sin.' What are you going to say when you stand before God and have to give an account of your life? Because, you know, it's appointed unto men to die once and then the judgment."
And I mean it was two minutes, which is a long time; two solid minutes of dead silence. And I'll tell you what, it was the loudest silence I've ever heard. It struck me as the loudest thing I've ever heard. And, I mean, fourteen people in this little cabin, and this kid just stared at his shoes and didn't say anything. It was uncomfortable. It was convicting. It was really the presence of the Lord came down and there it was, you know, the facts were the facts. I had a tablet next to me which I whipped up and grabbed a pen, and in the middle of this; at about a minute and a half, you know I went, "Man, oh man. This is ridiculous." I picked up this tablet and I wrote the lyrics to the song. Silence screams when we stand before God and have to give an account for what we've done with Jesus, and for the way we've treated one another on this earth. There isn't gonna be anybody talking but God. It's just gonna be a complete, I really believe in my heart, it's gonna be dead silence. And people think Rez is loud! Let me tell you, you've never heard volume like that. It's an experience that I had.
So the album is loaded with different issues. The homeless. There's a whole song that we deal with refugees, Cambodian, Vietnamese, Thai refugees in the inner city here in Chicago where we live; being thrown out of their houses so that people can make money. The developers come in, fix up the place, and of course a lot of people in the city kind of go "Oh that's great, you know; they're fixing up the neighborhood; get that slum out of there." But they forget, that there are all kinds of poor people, many of whom are not alcoholics; many of whom really do work hard; and are finding it very difficult to make ends meet. And somebody comes in and decides to make more money for themselves, so they can have another Mercedes, and live more comfortably. And they throw whole families, elderly people, throw them out on the street, and fix up the apartment. So there's a song called "Waitin' on Sundown" which hints to the judgment of God against people who ultimately treat people like that.
So the whole album is dealing with human rights issues. Another song, "You Get What You Choose" which hints towards the televangelist scandals. The whole comment I was trying to make there is "choose you heroes carefully." So in some ways it's going to be a little bit of an incendiary album. I think it's gonna light some fires under some people and hopefully stir some people to start living biblically as opposed to just twiddling our thumbs and, you know. I don't know, yeah it's like other Rez albums. But I think there's an intensity that, a lot of it's come out of three solid years of experiences, you know, as opposed to "OK, here's another album. The contract's come up and an album a year," which I never really believed in in the first place.
Again, having our own label and being tied in with Ocean Records, between Grrr and Ocean and then the Word distribution system, we're not stuck into that mold either. So it could be another year and a half before we do the next album, I don't know. But, again, there's got to be some integrity, you know? It can't just be "OK, we're a Christian band, what's the trend? Or “what is it this time, songs about faith? OK, good everybody's writing songs about faith, let's all write another song about faith." “How do we get a hit on Christian radio?" Quite frankly, that just doesn't interest me. What does interest me, what really interests me, is to speak to people's hurts, and to speak to people's needs. That's really what's happening in Rez.
Scott: That partly answers the next question I had. I was going to ask you if you think that this extended period of time between albums has really been beneficial.
Glenn: Yeah, very much so. You know, we've been at home with our wives and kids. We've been involved with Jesus People here in our community here in Chicago. I was in jail, as a matter of fact, for four days with Operation Rescue down in Atlanta. God is sovereignly doing a work in His people, and throughout the US I'm finding many different things happening in various churches, and among different people within the Body of Christ to where... for example, I just go a letter in the email the other day asking us if we could be involved in Washington where people are fasting and praying and demonstrating against the situation of homelessness that exists in America.
I really believe that God is trying to raise up Christians who are willing to be activists, but activists in the biblical sense of the term. You know, the book of Acts was a book of acts, and I think some Christians have finally begun, because of the Holy Spirit's prompting, to care and get involved more. And that's what happens when we're at home. You know, living in the community of Jesus People USA, and being in a neighborhood like uptown, which is relatively poor; a lot of gang activity and prostitution. We see the way children are treated all the time. You're thrust in the middle of it.
So, for example when the lady in Atlanta from CNN talked to me about abortion and why would I try to block an abortion clinic with other brothers and sisters, and allow the cops to carry me off; why go through the suffering and being thrown in prison and the whole bit. I said, "Are you kidding? This is revival. Finally, Christians are willing to stand up and say 'Enough. We have got to do something.'" It's very much like Corrie ten Boom and her father hiding the Jews. It's very much like Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was involved in the assassination plot of Hitler. He was an avowed pacifist who realized that this is an evil and a wickedness that even though Romans 13 says to obey the laws of the land...we have to be very, very careful; I mean extremely careful. And I'm not condoning violence either, I'm not talking about that. But I'm saying in principle, Bonhoeffer finally had to dump his pacifism because of the evil.
And is it not evil for unborn children to be cut up, to be brutally murdered; that their mothers are not being told the truth about what's happening to them? And the church has written letters, we have picketed, we have prayed, we have written songs. I mean probably the topic of the last year in my mind was abortion in terms of CCM lyricism. But how many of us musicians, or pastors, have literally gotten on the steps and wept, and prayed, and sang hymns to the Lord and asked God for forgiveness? Fifteen years. Fifteen years. 25 million children. So, you bet the Lord's done some things in our lives in this last few years.
I'm writing a lot of books about music and I'm doing seminars. I'm just about finished with a praise album of songs that I've written that we've sung in our fellowship over the years. Eventually that'll be out through Grrr. I demoed up a blues album, a real electric urban blues, and eventually I'll actually go into the studio and record it for an album. Everybody in the band is just cranking, there's just so many things going on. So, yeah, it's good and it's right.
And I think too many people are caught up in the system of another year, another record. No wonder records aren't selling. Why should they? If God hasn't done anything in our lives and we don't really have a message, why preach next Sunday? Get somebody up there whom God has really been ministering to. And there's power in that, you know, rather than rhetoric. And I really believe that that's what's missing in much of Christian music. Again, hey, Rez, what are we? We're no different than anybody else. We have to be very careful that we're not just rattling off a bunch of truisms in our lyrics. But when a lyric comes out of a life, you know "out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks," and that's where the power is. So, yeah, this has been an excellent time, and an important time for Rez to be away from the whole Christian music scene, to be...I guess to be in the real world, to where we can come back into what sometimes is a very unreal situation in doing Christian concerts and touring, and hopefully shake up some folks (laughter).
To Be Continued...