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4/10/2006

MIKE RIMMER ON THE POINT

Mike Rimmer conducted my second ever interview way back in 2001...or was it 2000? The point is we've known each other a long time. He is by far the most antagonistic interviewer and the most most fun I've ever worked with. Antagonistic in the sense that he often follows up easy answers with harder questions to provoke me to think beyond the usual paths. Fun in that his honesty and sarcasm are entertaining - and the accent doesn't hurt either.

See, when you're in a room at GM Week (Gospel Music Week in Nashville) being interviewed fifteen times a day for a few days in a row you tend to fall into a rut, answer in a ritualistic way, get bored and boring, and Mike is the best in the business at turning the interview routine into a surprise-filled sometimes difficult conversation that makes me question my sanity one minute and laugh out loud the next but always leaves me feeling as if it was time well spent.

Mike pastors a group very much like ikon back home in England so we have much in common and talk often about how to teach and what we learn while doing it. He dyes his hair a different color each year at GMA Week - this year was red - so we have a love of hair care products in common as well. And he likes to talk theology. We have that in common as well I guess.

(Sarcasm alert) Imagine that: questions about my faith and view of God at Gospel Music Week. (This is rarer than one might think.) He isn't interested in what's in my CD player or what animal I'd choose to be if I were in a zoo (real questions I swear). He wants to have a conversation about how God has affected me, the way I think, the way I live, the way I write and see the world. And he wants to question every answer. He's a master at interviewing in a way that makes me think.

This year at GM Week I turned the tables on him. As he packed up his microphone cable and brought our conversation to a close I opened it back up by asking what HE would write and sing about if he were in my shoes. What would HIS point be for making "Christian music?" Here's his answer.

Play Mike Rimmer clip


More audio from GM Week to come.

28 Comments:

Blogger Tracy said...

Cool! Glad you got to have a good conversation and challenging interview. Your post last week on cussin' is still resonating in my mind. It was bold and honest. I like that.

4/10/2006  
Blogger BethelTraumaRN said...

Hey!
That was a brill move you pulled :)
I love how you get us to think, it's awesome.

~*Amb

4/10/2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mike has some very interesting ideas about music. I don't think there's really a right or wrong, black or white truth to the music business as it relates to being a Christian. He's right -- for the most part, CCM is more entertainment than anything, since it's all over the place as far as its message. Some is worship with a modern sound, some is "God or girlfriend" stuff, with a lot of "you" instead of the name Jesus, some of it teaches or encourages believers, some of it tries to reach unbelievers. Some I can't tell what the heck it's about.

But Mike is trying to narrow it down to a specific ministry purpose per Ephesians 4. What about just giving Christian folks something to listen to that is not secular? Listening to sex, drugs, violence, hatred, strife, etc glorified constantly can have a negative effect on our relationship with the Lord and other people.

Yes, we live in a consumer-driven society. We are bombarded with information from all sides constantly. Just having songs with a nice hook running through your mind as you go about your business, or to fill the space in your car as you're driving, is a nice diversion from the cares of the day. If the message of that song in your head deals with some aspect of your walk with the Lord, all the better.

And of course you have Mute Math, Family Force 5, and a whole movement where people just want to say "yes, we love Jesus in our personal life, but we're also professional musicians that want to explore music as art, or as a business", or whatever. I don't think any of this is a matter of sinning or not, or is a matter of earth-shaking importance in the final analysis. That the Gospel is preached, in whatever form, by whomever, or that controversy is sparked that can lead to discussions with non-believers that end with "please come and see for yourself this Jesus that I know and have been telling you about", that's what really matters in the end.

-TCH

4/10/2006  
Blogger Amy said...

I'm not sure what I think about this. On the one hand, by far the Christian music I choose to listen to, I do so because it has had an effect on my life. It has spoken into my life in some way, and often I think of it as living..it continues to speak to me.
on the other hand, I can understand the valid point of the simple need for "clean" music...music that is entertaining and does not detract from our relationships with the Lord.

4/10/2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As somebody who used to have music as an idol in my life, and has already dealt with that in my walk with the Lord (and beaten, burned, and buried that idol more than once!), I sort of forget that music is very meaningful to a lot of people, especially young people. Most of us have probably been nearby and heard (or been actively engaged in) a conversation between two people that went something like this:

"Band A rocks, Band B sucks!"

"No way, Band B rocks, Band A sucks!"

"You're so stupid! Everyone knows Band A rules, and Band B drools!"

"You idiot! It's very plain that Band B is art and Band A is horrible noise!"

Etc. I sort of wonder how often the arguments about music that we hear in the Church aren't just these same exact arguments all over again, spoken mostly by adults, and framed in a more pious setting.

Anyway, I feel like I've gotten off-topic here. Shaun -- you are a gentleman and a scholar, honestly. How or why anybody would choose the craziness that is involved in the music industry, and more so the Christian music industry, is beyond me. Surely for most people it's either "wanna be a star" or "love the Lord and are called to serve Him", and I know it's the latter for you Shaun because you've touched a lot of lives for the Lord, including mine. Thanks.

-TCH

4/10/2006  
Blogger Shaun Groves said...

Maybe.

ANd maybe I'll get around to saying why I got involved sometime.

4/10/2006  
Blogger BethelTraumaRN said...

I think you should ;p

PS- ya'll want some good music, get ahold of the newest Bethel College Chapel Band cd..THAT is good music.

I'm with ya'll on this, I listen to Christian music for 2 different reasons: 1) Worship 2) Cos I just want something clean & not full of sex or drugs or violence...Something that's as upbeat and has the same sound as secular music, but is clean & actually means something to me. That's why I LOVE the BCCB cds so much; they can totally draw u into worship, or they can just make you smile and remember awesome chapel services & make the day happier. I guess that's my 2 cents. Do with it what ya want :)

~*Amb

4/10/2006  
Blogger Shaun Groves said...

If "Christian music" stopped being manufactured tomorrow there would be plenty of music in the world that is not stamped with an "explicit" warning label and does not talk at all about - how'd you put it? - "sex, drugs or violence." Do we really need an entire industry existing for the purpose of creating "clean" music? How about just not listening to music? It's nor bread or water? It's not essential?

Just stirring the pot. Nobody freak out.

Thoughts?

4/10/2006  
Anonymous Tabitha said...

When I choose to listen to Christian music, I listen for one reason.

Because I like whatever particular song I am listening to. I still remember a friend's shocked reaction when I chose to attempt to sing "Sing your praise to the Lord" at a Karaoke bar. But I chose it because I love the rhythm and because it's a fun song to sing (I sang it badly because I thought I knew it better than I actually did - next time I do it I'll do much better since I've been practicing).

It's actually the same reason I listen to country music, or to rock music, or to classical music. Because something in the music or the words or the story (or ideally all of it combined) speaks to me, says "this is how the world is."

I want to glorify God in whatever I listen to, even if it is secular or even "dirty."

That said, I do love that there is a good deal of quality music out there that is singing our praise to the Lord.

4/10/2006  
Anonymous Stephen said...

Do we need "an entire industry existing for the purpose of creating "clean" music?" I would say no, absolutely not.

But is music essential? I would argue that it is. Why? I'm always quoting a phrase Dr. Harold Best wrote in his book Unceasing Worship as one reason I want to be involved in the arts. It is:
“In spite of these questions and issues [about the nature of art], I end up with the unshakable conviction that art truly exists, that a large portion of it is transcendently significant and that I need to partake of it regularly, to let it magnify and refine what I see minutely and coarsely and to challenge me to do everything as beautifully as I can.”

4/10/2006  
Anonymous Stephen said...

Tabitha said: That said, I do love that there is a good deal of quality music out there that is singing our praise to the Lord.

There is, in my opinion, much higher quality music "singing our praise to the Lord" that exists outside the "christian music industry" than inside.

4/10/2006  
Blogger Amy said...

I can't really get into the whole industry thing...I mean, I just don't know. I do know that music has been significant to me, hugely instrumental in healing in my life, in keeping my mind and heart centered, in challenging me, etc. I am deeply grateful for the sacrifices that Christian artists make. I am thankful that so many Christian artists write songs about Jesus. I guess the whole business side to it, probably gets tiresome.
It's funny, I was recently realizing that most of the Christian music I now enjoy comes from indie artists. But's that just a side note.
Here's one more...I think that book by Harold Best is an excellent one! :-)

4/10/2006  
Anonymous Stephen said...

Unceasing Worship has influenced me more than any other book. I can't recommend it enough.

4/10/2006  
Anonymous c long said...

Is music really a non-essential? There are many I know who don't yet hear the Word without the music. They just aren't there yet. Just last week someone who is struggling in their walk told me oftentimes sermons don't touch their heart, that the one time they are certain of God is when they are singing to Him. I know with enough diligence, he will get to the point where he can hear the "music" of his faith within the silence, but for now, music is essential. God uses whatever means necesarry to draw the hearts of the lost and hurting closer to His own. There are many songs that I sing that I don't feel are relevent enough to hold water in mainstream, but when I preface the singing of that song with what I know to be true of God and am honest about my struggles and sing the song from my point of pain the hearts of those that hear are drawn a bit closer to the heart of God and that is the only reason I sing. So, while music is not an essential of our faith corporately, there are many to whom music is most essential....for now.

4/11/2006  
Blogger Shaun Groves said...

Alright music lovers, you know what I mean. Music is not essential in the way that - as I said - bread and water are essential. You will not physically die if you never hear recorded music.

4/11/2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is the amazing thing about music. There is no right or worng, and everyone will have their own "truth". I may listen to only Christian music because I think that somehow it will make me a more spiritual person, I may not listen to Christian music at all because I don't believe K-Love plays talented enough artists.

The Christian music industry doesn't make sense as it is. Why does it exist? Is it for "entertainment" purposes? Is it an "easier market" for artists to get into? Is it a place for people to easily find music that is "safe for the whole family"?

I think the thing that I don't inderstand is, Where is the music specifically designed for Buddhism? Is there a radio station and entire industry focused on catering to Islam pop stars? Or are those artists that believe other religions forced to "play in the major leagues" with other "secular" artists?

I am not 100% sure, but I have heard that in Australia (correct me if I am wrong) the radio stations play "popular music". Christian or otherwise, the stations recognize what people want and play that regardless of any religious agenda behind it. Imagine hearing "I Can Only Imagine" right after hearing Black Eyed Peas "My Humps". Imagine actually being forced to have an opinion on what you and your family listen to. Can we Christians handle that much freedom? Or are we looking for someone to tell us, "Don't worry, all this music you are about to hear is designed to make you and your family comfortable. You don't even have to think."

I may be focusing on the radio side of things too much.

4/11/2006  
Blogger Amy said...

no, it's not physically essential, but we are so much more than physical beings. :-)
and....God certainly knew what He was creating in music...it's mentioned perhaps more than any other art in the Bible?

4/11/2006  
Blogger Shaun Groves said...

There are Australian Christian Music stations. I've interviewed on them.

But there may very well be stations in Australia - how would I know - that play a mix like you've described.

About radio. Radio does not equal the industry. It has a tremendous amount of influence on it but it only plays a tiny fraction of artists making music in this industry.

Good discussion.

4/11/2006  
Blogger BethelTraumaRN said...

I don't think the "Christian music industry" is around to just create 'clean music'. I think that it's around to produce music (by extremely talented artists,I might add ;p) specifically for Christians. I mean, if it wasn't for Christian artists, where would music have its place in worship, or in edifying us in our walks? Yeah the Psalms are all songs, but I personally can't live without "Everyone" or "Ever Sing" (both by BCCB. I'm a walking advertisement :) because they push me toward God. It's kind of like a 'set apart' industry that God had created for us so we don't have to listen to all the trash & hidden messages the world sings about. I get so much more out of listening to something that actually mentions Jesus' name or "Lord" or "Saviour" from the Christian music industry than I do from some song by a 'clean' secular artist.
Does that make sense? Aww, who cares, it makes sense to me.
Luv ya'll
~*Amb

4/11/2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Are there artist in the Christian music industry that are in it to entertain?

Are there artists that sign record deals, tour, sell merch and sign autographs that aren't in it to entertain?

Is it possible to make a living without becoming an "entertainer"?

I'm sure there is are plenty of artists out there that are completly uninterested in the "entertainment" aspect of writing deep spiritual songs. The problem is, you and I have never heard of them because they are working a different day job and recording those songs on a 4 -track in their living room, completely unable to make a living "worshiping", because people and the industry want to be entertained.

I don't know of a single musician that deep down doesn't get a small thrill from being on the stage, having people sing along with your words, and being recognized. It's human nature.

4/11/2006  
Anonymous bdg/theTRu said...

Hope my interview wasn't too drab for you...

peace... love... bdg...

4/11/2006  
Blogger Seth Ward said...

Okay, gonna get real nerdy here for the sake of a different viewpoint. In Physics, Entertainment is a process in where the frequency of one system is combined with the frequency of another system, to generate a single wave. So if we kind of look at it as two things working together than we dont have to be so hard on ourselves and CCM artits. Talent, artistry and the Good News can go hand in hand. It doesn't have to, but, why not? I am not talking about twisting balloons into animals at the invitation, but not being afraid to use all that you have to communicate.

I was listening to an old bootleged recording of Rich talking to an audience back in the 80's, and talk about an entertaining guy. The cool thing was that he was able to use all that talent that held the audience's attention, (which is the regular def. of entertainment) to build trust and likeabliltiy. He then used that to direct them to more profound issues. Entertainment has such a crappy stigma around it, but if entertainment is simply diverting someones attention then, by all means, divert. Just hopefully, in the CCM industry they are using it to divert our attention to God and the virtues of God otherwise, go into another industry not designed and maintained with that in mind.

Although i guess you dont need an industry to do either one.

4/11/2006  
Anonymous c long said...

As an artist, if you're not entertaining you may as well stay at home. If people can be more entertained by a d.j. on the radio or a weekly episode of their favorite t.v. show, then should they really leave home, drive to whatever venue you're playing at and sit watching you for two hours while you DON'T entertain them. I think not. If you're going to take the time to set up your gear, be sure you fully engage with those who come out to listen. If I don't fully engage with my audience, I know I failed somewhere in my preperation.

We get so caught up in the silliness of words. Ex: I found myself wanting to enclose the word audience in quotes. "I don't want an audience for myself. I want to draw others into my audience with God." I so need to get ove myself. I constantly think I need to explain myself to "them". God knows our hearts and if it's genuine the explanations will be unneccesary. Entertain! Enjoy its rewards!

4/12/2006  
Blogger Shaun Groves said...

I entertain (or try to). Pastors do too. Authors do. We do, to some degree, what we think is enjoyable to others. I think that's called entertaining. Do we also give people what we think they need? Sure. It's not an either/or deal...I don't think. Is it?

I've read everything here and I've held back public comment on Rimmer's opinion so - basically the three categories of Christian music. Hope I'm not killing good discussion by commenting now.

My opinion is that these categories of his are too narrow. But I know Mike well enough - I think - that I'm not sure he meant to narrow the options for Christians in music to three black and white categories. I know what it's like to answer a question with tape rolling and having to reduce all my thoughts, the gray ones mostly, into sound bytes that in the end make me sound much more certain and dogmatic than I am. The nature of the beast I guess.

Mike basically said we have to make "worship music" (music sung for, to and by churches together), OR "secular music"" (music sung for, to and by non-Christians in clubs and theaters etc) OR music that is teaching. Most of what I've done is in category three, but some is in the other two categories as well - and some is undefinable.

I think Mike would allow for that too.

SG

4/12/2006  
Anonymous c long said...

I think we'll really have a grasp on it when all of A & B is also C.

When we can give them what we think they need without them realizing we're doing it....that's when it's real good. Keep on keepin' on!

4/12/2006  
Anonymous c long said...

By the way Shaun..."As an artist, if you're not entertaining you may as well stay at home." wasn't directed to YOU directly, but rather any you who is out there in the "do". You know I think you rock! and you're one of the most entertaining out there! nuf said

4/12/2006  
Blogger Kat said...

I'm not much of a musician, so I may be totally off here, but I was looking through my journal and I noticed that I have written about all kinds of things. From the exciting fact that my toddler went poopie in the potty to amazing and deep things that God is teaching me, and everything in between.

Isn't music just concise journaling with notes attached to the different words? Isn't it just an expression of who we are, where we are and what we are going through?

Of course, we can package it to be this or that. We can commercialize it and compact it into a 3 step process, but at the heart of music is, well, the heart. It should cover the gammut of who we are and how we feel.

Isn't it ideal that every "Christian" artist would have songs that lead us to worship, songs that entertain and songs that teach?

Just because it makes money, doesn't mean that it's some huge spiritual calling. I'm not saying some people aren't called to lead people to God through music, but we don't need to divide the expression of someone's heart into all these different sectors.

I can't make nice sounding music. Shaun can. Shaun is a Christian. What he writes is Christian music - i.e. music written by a Christian. Can't we just leave it at that?

4/12/2006  
Blogger Kat said...

By the way, I was just using Shaun as an example. I wasn't insinuating that anyone was arguing about Shaun's music.

4/12/2006  

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