“Shhhh-it!”: Idolator’s Super-Secret Music Interview Series Looks Heavenward

Oct 16th, 2008 // 17 Comments

Every week, in the “Shhhh-it!” AnonIMous Super-Secret Music-Biz Interview Series (S-I!AS-SM-BIS for, uh, short) we interview a grizzled music industry veteran via the J. Alfred Prufrock-like sinuousness of instant messaging. We talk about the person’s job, the state of the industry, and whatever else comes to mind. This week, we bring you Christian indie artist/label owner Jed_Dawn. Jed_Dawn has been a fan of Christian indie music for some time and has toiled away as a Christian indie artist and label owner, though he typically targets the secular indie crowd more so than the Christian indie rock world in his marketing, for fear of being ghettoized or ostracized by either group. During this interview we discuss this, Christian rock as rebellion, Tooth and Nail Records, and which Christian artists deserve more attention. We also discover that record execs who say they walk with Jesus are as sleazy as any others:

StumpyPete1975: you would think…being Christian and all…it would be a lot nicer
Jed_Dawn: yeah but it isn’t really like that
Jed_Dawn: just cause you’re a christian you shouldn’t assume that everyone works with you is too
Jed_Dawn: and business is business
StumpyPete1975: so ultimately it ends up being like the same ol’ music biz?
Jed_Dawn: yeah exactly but with more chance that the people that are involved have no clue what they are getting into cause they assume that christians are going to be different
Jed_Dawn: I mean, I would assume that
StumpyPete1975: I would assume it would be like Chik Fil-A
StumpyPete1975: better-tasting, cleaner, with nicer service…not open on Sunday

The entire interview after the clickthrough!

StumpyPete1975: so you run a record label and are an artist yourself, correct?
Jed_Dawn: yeah
StumpyPete1975: pretty indie
Jed_Dawn: yeah
StumpyPete1975: and you self-identify as a Christian?
Jed_Dawn: yes
StumpyPete1975: I guess I should rephrase that
StumpyPete1975: do you self-identify as a Christian artist or a Christian label?
Jed_Dawn: No that is kind of a mess and comes with lots of baggage
StumpyPete1975: really?
StumpyPete1975: I’ve heard this before from other Christian artists…
StumpyPete1975: what kind of baggage?
Jed_Dawn: It takes your artistry down a couple notches on both sides
StumpyPete1975: how do you mean?
Jed_Dawn: well on the indie side of things you will never get any attention for anything but that
Jed_Dawn: and on the christian side if you’re not all about preaching you don’t really fit in there either
StumpyPete1975: wow
StumpyPete1975: so being evangelical is a big part of the Christian indie scene?
Jed_Dawn: not in the indie scene i think if anything people try to get away from that
StumpyPete1975: ah, but CCM?
Jed_Dawn: yeah the rest of the industry
StumpyPete1975: not to get too far afield, but what’s your take on most Christian rock?
Jed_Dawn: some of it is pretty bad but there is a lot of stuff that doesn’t get enough credit
Jed_Dawn: most people start writing it off the second they hear Jesus or anything of that nature
StumpyPete1975: is that one of the frustrations you find as a Christian artist?
StumpyPete1975: that it is dismissed out of hand?
Jed_Dawn: yeah that happens more then you might think
StumpyPete1975: I’m sure
Jed_Dawn: half the time you read reviews you see someone’s commentary on christianity for 3/4th of the article and maybe what it sounds like for the last sentence
Jed_Dawn: sufjan got that a lot at first
StumpyPete1975: but by singing explicitly about Christ
StumpyPete1975: don’t you sorta ask for it, too?
Jed_Dawn: i can’t tell you how many reviews danielson got for it too
Jed_Dawn: i don’t know when some other band writes a song about something that has been a part of their life they usually don’t get the guff
StumpyPete1975: true
StumpyPete1975: but one thing that bugs me, I guess, about a lot of CCM
Jed_Dawn: some 30 year old guy can write as many songs as he wants about high school and nobody cares
StumpyPete1975: I detect frustration and perhaps anger
Jed_Dawn: haha
StumpyPete1975: it’s tough, not being able to stay true to oneself in any way
Jed_Dawn: seriously
StumpyPete1975: one thing that bugs me about CCM (and is a reason I like, say, Danielson or Sufjan or Starflyer 59) is that there are so many ways to talk about God or Christ, right?
StumpyPete1975: and yet it’s always so…banal
StumpyPete1975: it’s always you showed me the light
StumpyPete1975: I lift up my hands
StumpyPete1975: etc. etc. etc.
StumpyPete1975: when you flip through the stations, man…you can spot it within 5 seconds
StumpyPete1975: (Also, there is never any bass in CCM music, it seems)
StumpyPete1975: (so treble-y)
Jed_Dawn: well listen to any song about something specific your going to find the same things
StumpyPete1975: sure
StumpyPete1975: but is God specific?
StumpyPete1975: as the Creator of the universe, I’d think there would be more ways to sing about Him
Jed_Dawn: haha i suppose so
Jed_Dawn: like i said not a lot of the industry is really that good
Jed_Dawn: a lot of labels kind of push bands to do that kind of thing
Jed_Dawn: they want them to to fit into that cookie cutter box
StumpyPete1975: I have heard that Christian majors are as bad as regular major labels
Jed_Dawn: for the most part they are all owned or distributed by all the same people
Jed_Dawn: so the same sleaziness
StumpyPete1975: does Christian indie have a punk ethos?
StumpyPete1975: are they house shows and a rebellious spirit?
StumpyPete1975: I’ve detected that before, like, there is an infrastructure for touring, playing, etc.
Jed_Dawn: yeah there is a lot of similar stuff
Jed_Dawn: it just more church basements then vfw halls
Jed_Dawn: there is a lot of it that has that diy aspect though too
Jed_Dawn: i can’t tell you how many times i saw danielson and starflyer in a church basement
StumpyPete1975: that’s kinda rad
StumpyPete1975: what are the kids rebelling against?
StumpyPete1975: if it has that same spirit
Jed_Dawn: there is still that element of rebelling against your parents cause most parents still don’t get it
Jed_Dawn: be it christian loud music or secular loud music they still don’t like it
StumpyPete1975: I can see that
StumpyPete1975: do you remember that King of the Hill about it?
Jed_Dawn: i don’t think i ever saw that
StumpyPete1975: where Bobby Hill ran back to his room and slammed the door, saying “You guys just don’t understand how I feel about Jesus!”
StumpyPete1975: it was a good one
StumpyPete1975: Hank’s quote at the end, whilst talking to a Christian rap-rocker was, “Son, don’t you understand you’re not making Christianity any better…you’re just making rock and roll worse?”
StumpyPete1975: your response to that sentiment?
Jed_Dawn: oh man that is really true sometimes
Jed_Dawn: i go to one of the big christian festivals almost every year and it has just gotten more and more hardcore
Jed_Dawn: now it is almost unbearable
StumpyPete1975: hardcore how?
Jed_Dawn: like chugga chugga bad metal hardcore
Jed_Dawn: there are so many of those bands in the scene
Jed_Dawn: i am really glad that scene hasn’t gotten more national attention cause it would just keep giving the good stuff a worse name
StumpyPete1975: one criticism I have often heard from snooty indie types:
StumpyPete1975: Christian indie is just very derivative…your response?
Jed_Dawn: what isn’t these days
Jed_Dawn: every new band seems to be a derivative of broken arcade weekend
StumpyPete1975: good point
StumpyPete1975: I often feel that these indie types are remarkably close-minded and hypocritical for a vast majority of them being supposed liberals
Jed_Dawn: oh yeah and there are a lot of people with them
Jed_Dawn: i am surprised there hasn’t been some christian indie obama comp too
Jed_Dawn: <--- gets brilliant idea
Jed_Dawn: haha
StumpyPete1975: brilliant idea with three weeks to go!
StumpyPete1975: do you think most Christian indie folks are fairly liberal politically?
Jed_Dawn: no i don’t think so
Jed_Dawn: like the rest of the country it is pretty divided
StumpyPete1975: hmm
StumpyPete1975: do you think it is weird, though, that you have to remain in hiding in a way?
StumpyPete1975: when you live in a country that is what? 80% Christian?
StumpyPete1975: is it that bad?
Jed_Dawn: i don’t mean to make it sound like we are martyrs
Jed_Dawn: i just wish it was more of a level playing field
Jed_Dawn: that you weren’t judged by being a Christian alone
StumpyPete1975: right
StumpyPete1975: but, like I said, something that turns me off is that a lot of Christian stuff is ONLY about God
StumpyPete1975: like, there is nothing else ever brought into it
StumpyPete1975: I like the Sufjan and U2 models
StumpyPete1975: some God, some other things
StumpyPete1975: but that’s because I am a heathen
StumpyPete1975: (but an open-minded one)
Jed_Dawn: i wouldn’t worry about the heathen part
Jed_Dawn: a lot of christian bands have skeletons in the closets they don’t want talked about
Jed_Dawn: just like everyone else
StumpyPete1975: oooh
StumpyPete1975: like what?!
StumpyPete1975: dish dish dish
Jed_Dawn: haha man i am not sure i can go on the record about that
StumpyPete1975: aw man
Jed_Dawn: i can say i have known of a few bands with some gambling problems
StumpyPete1975: wow
StumpyPete1975: what about homosexuality?
StumpyPete1975: controversial in Christian indie?
StumpyPete1975: something to be kept a secret?
Jed_Dawn: i can’t really say i know much about that
Jed_Dawn: i know that the CCM crowd really freaked out over Ray Boltz
StumpyPete1975: wow
StumpyPete1975: that, I bet, was tough
StumpyPete1975: do you think Christian indie has a wider tent?
StumpyPete1975: more inclusive, because of that rebellious edge?
Jed_Dawn: yeah i think so
Jed_Dawn: i know i wouldn’t think any less of a band if they came out of the closet
Jed_Dawn: you can’t change the climate of the country when it comes to things like that
StumpyPete1975: what’s your biggest frustration besides being caught in the middle between the indie kids and the Christian kids?
Jed_Dawn: i think everything else that goes for the rest of the industry
Jed_Dawn: its not like anybody is selling records these days
StumpyPete1975: and Christian music has been hurt, too, correct?
Jed_Dawn: yeah just cause you like Jesus doesn’t mean you don’t know what a torrent is
StumpyPete1975: haha
StumpyPete1975: so…money in Christian rock?
Jed_Dawn: bands can do really well
Jed_Dawn: i was a promoter when I was in high school and little naive about every thing
Jed_Dawn: bands that we would bring in would have these giant guarantees
Jed_Dawn: sometimes we would have like 20 kids out and they would want like 1,000 bucks
StumpyPete1975: wow
Jed_Dawn: yeah looking back at it now the booking agents knew we had no idea what we were doing and just took advantage of it
Jed_Dawn: but the whole scene is like that
StumpyPete1975: really?
StumpyPete1975: you would think…being Christian and all…it would be a lot nicer
Jed_Dawn: yeah but it isn’t really like that
Jed_Dawn: just cause you’re a christian you shouldn’t assume that everyone works with you is too
Jed_Dawn: and business is business
StumpyPete1975: so ultimately it ends up being like the same ol’ music biz?
Jed_Dawn: yeah exactly but with more chance that the people that are involved have no clue what they are getting into cause they assume that christians are going to be different
Jed_Dawn: I mean, I would assume that
StumpyPete1975: I would assume it would be like Chik Fil-A
StumpyPete1975: better-tasting, cleaner, with nicer service…not open on Sunday
Jed_Dawn: i know all sorts of bands that have had that come back to bite them in the ass when it comes to their contracts
Jed_Dawn: haha
StumpyPete1975: oh yeah?
StumpyPete1975: contracts?
Jed_Dawn: yeah most of those companies love to lock in the bands in for at least 5 records
Jed_Dawn: its not like your friendly indie 50/50 split for an album or two
Jed_Dawn: its like the 18 page contract with the 5 page glossary of terms
StumpyPete1975: holy crap!
StumpyPete1975: so it’s really old-school industry
StumpyPete1975: do you think a lot of these people come from Nashville?
StumpyPete1975: that world?
Jed_Dawn: yeah a lot of them do
StumpyPete1975: I’ve heard that CCM and Country are like this
StumpyPete1975: imagine me doing that
StumpyPete1975: “like this”
Jed_Dawn: i know a lot of the bands that don’t even have industry lawyers look at it
StumpyPete1975: oh wow
StumpyPete1975: they are naive?
Jed_Dawn: and a regular lawyer looks at that kind of contract and goes this all looks good
Jed_Dawn: cause they have no idea what they are looking at
StumpyPete1975: and…is it bad karma to sue a Christian label?
StumpyPete1975: o you get blackballed?
Jed_Dawn: haha
Jed_Dawn: i don’t know if i would go that far
StumpyPete1975: I knew someone on a very prominent label
StumpyPete1975: and they had a miserable time
StumpyPete1975: Tooth and Nail
Jed_Dawn: i know some christians that would have a problem with doing suing
Jed_Dawn: oh man
StumpyPete1975: when this band left [Tooth and Nail], it was assumed they weren’t Christian anymore
Jed_Dawn: really?
Jed_Dawn: thats crazy
StumpyPete1975: yeah, but they were the same
Jed_Dawn: people get all sorts of those kind of assumptions when you get faith involved
StumpyPete1975: there are slimy people everywhere!
Jed_Dawn: haha
Jed_Dawn: exactly
Jed_Dawn: and you can change your mind at any time
Jed_Dawn: it isn’t like you should be set in stone in forever for something you did when your 18 and sign a contract for the next 5 records you make
Jed_Dawn: that could be 10 – 15 years of your life
StumpyPete1975: are these the major labels’ CCM divisions or major Christian indies?
StumpyPete1975: that do these five year contracts?
Jed_Dawn: 5 album contracts
StumpyPete1975: yeah
StumpyPete1975: sorry!
Jed_Dawn: it would be better to be 5 years
StumpyPete1975: sure
StumpyPete1975: two albums or so
Jed_Dawn: but yeah i have seen them by the big labels and the indies
StumpyPete1975: and you think that they use their faith as a facade to get away with sleazy deals?
Jed_Dawn: no i wouldn’t say that
Jed_Dawn: they just think its business and what you do
StumpyPete1975: aha
Jed_Dawn: i think they are kind of naive in that way too
StumpyPete1975: I had one more question
Jed_Dawn: sure
StumpyPete1975: Sufjan
StumpyPete1975: has he opened doors for Christian indie artists?
StumpyPete1975: he has pretty broad acceptance
Jed_Dawn: i don’t think it started with Sufjan
Jed_Dawn: i would trace it farther back to David Bazan and Pedro the Lion
StumpyPete1975: aha
StumpyPete1975: (I never really liked them, so…)
Jed_Dawn: he was really the first one that started to push me as far as a christian artist
StumpyPete1975: I’ve heard that from people before
StumpyPete1975: but he was never as big as Sufjan is, right?
StumpyPete1975: I mean, Sufjan’s in Entertainment Weekly and Rolling Stone profiles
StumpyPete1975: or at least he was a few years ago
Jed_Dawn: yeah I think Sufjan last serveral record have done really well
Jed_Dawn: the guy needs to get out some more states though
StumpyPete1975: but do you think him and Bazan help with mainstream acceptance of “good” indie artists?
StumpyPete1975: “good” christian artists, rather?
Jed_Dawn: yeah i think it gives you something to point towards that you can do something special
Jed_Dawn: and that theirs is good art and something to aspire to
StumpyPete1975: do you think the mainstream, though, has only so much room for so many Christian artists?
Jed_Dawn: yeah as long as they seem them as only christian artists
StumpyPete1975: interesting
StumpyPete1975: like tokenism
Jed_Dawn: yeah
Jed_Dawn: it really hasn’t hurt switchfoot though
StumpyPete1975: oof
StumpyPete1975: what did you used to be into?
Jed_Dawn: i loved north to the future
StumpyPete1975: oh yeah
Jed_Dawn: i was pretty naive in high school when i got into that stuff
Jed_Dawn: i loved mxpx and stuff like that
Jed_Dawn: ska
StumpyPete1975: five iron frenzy!
Jed_Dawn: it wasn’t until i heard mineral, sunny day and lifetime that i kind of got out of that ghetto
StumpyPete1975: oh yeah
Jed_Dawn: I loved those bands
StumpyPete1975: your thoughts on Tooth and Nail?
Jed_Dawn: they used to be this really cool super artsy label
Jed_Dawn: when i first got into I was really into everything they did
Jed_Dawn: even looking back at the early days are still pretty awesome as far as the bands
Jed_Dawn: i bet a lot of those bands had they not been on tooth and nail wouldn’t have sold nearly as many copies
Jed_Dawn: but i don’t really know when it switched
Jed_Dawn: every band is some form pleasant acceptable emo/screamo that makes me want to jab pencils in my ear
Jed_Dawn: or like terrible chugga screaming metal
Jed_Dawn: there is a few exceptions like mewithoutyou and starflyer
Jed_Dawn: don’t even get me started on mewithoutyou
Jed_Dawn: most underrated band cause they are christians out there
StumpyPete1975: really?!
StumpyPete1975: bold statement
Jed_Dawn: i would make it anytime
Jed_Dawn: some of the best people i know make some of the best artistic music in the christian scene and they get no recognition because of it
Jed_Dawn: if they were on a big indie they would be getting written up in magnet and paste and all those places
StumpyPete1975: hmm
Jed_Dawn: but because they have tooth and nail as their label they get stuck with hm and ccm
StumpyPete1975: paste has some christian origins
Jed_Dawn: yeah and they are a little hard for that magazine
Jed_Dawn: but even still you understand what i am getting at
StumpyPete1975: oh yeah
Jed_Dawn: the sad thing is most of the christian labels won’t even work their bands to that kind of magazine
Jed_Dawn: they are happy with just keeping it all in the christian scene
StumpyPete1975: wow
StumpyPete1975: seems near-sighted
Jed_Dawn: yeah it is kind of rough cause a lot of bands deserve it
StumpyPete1975: who else?
Jed_Dawn: anathallo
Jed_Dawn: but i think they are getting there
Jed_Dawn: i think all of chris staples stuff from 238 and discover america too were good and have never gotten much attention
Jed_Dawn: there was this band called the billions too
StumpyPete1975: you remember frank lenz?
StumpyPete1975: love that guy
Jed_Dawn: yeah
Jed_Dawn: did you ever hear fold zandura?
StumpyPete1975: yeah
Jed_Dawn: it was him and one of the guys from switchfoot
StumpyPete1975: oh yeah?
StumpyPete1975: what about Paramore?
StumpyPete1975: are they God Squad?
Jed_Dawn: oh yeah are they christian?
Jed_Dawn: not sure
Jed_Dawn: i don’t even know
StumpyPete1975: I assume that everyone is until I’m totally sure
Jed_Dawn: heheh
StumpyPete1975: switchfoot
Jed_Dawn: yeah if they have that sheen and sparkly teeth they might be
Jed_Dawn: you Christians have really good teeth
Jed_Dawn: as far as i know
Jed_Dawn: 29 years and nothing wrong with mine

Are you a grizzled music industry veteran who wants to go “anonIMous” with us? Hit us up at tipsATidolatorDOTcom.

  1. mike a

    That King of The Hill episode is classic.

    The Tooth & Nail owner does not come off well at all in Andrew Beaujon’s essential Body Piercing Saved My Life. His comments make him seem every bit as sleazy and untrustworthy as the worst major-label stereotype.

  2. Anonymous

    Great interview, though I was hoping for a mention of Halfhandedcloud. <–Hey, there it is! One of the most underrated indie artists under any standards.

  3. Al Shipley

    Members of Paramore have definitely talked about their Christian faith in interviews, although they seem to have skipped straight to the Warped Tour/Alternative Press circuit without ever courting the Christian rock market.

    As a rock critic, I’d personally love to find some great band that’s completely unknown or ignored outside the CCM community and champion them in a non-Christian publication and just talk about the music. If the interviewee or anyone else who feels there are good Christian bands being overlooked because of that, feel free to reccomend new releases to me.

  4. Anonymous

    A little confusing of a read, but the guy was spot on about metwithoutYou’s awesomeness.

  5. Maura Johnston

    @Al Shipley: paging dan gibson…

  6. Reidicus

    Great public service, Lucas, thanks. And from having spent a fair amount of time in this world, all of this rings true. Which is why, of course, I’m not really in this world anymore. (The mainstreaming of Christians-in-the-music-biz is a great untold story thus far.)

  7. Reidicus

    I can second the vote for Anathallo, btw. Bloody amazing, particularly live.

  8. Lucas Jensen

    @crippledmark: It’s IM! Of course it’s confusing!

  9. bg5000

    I really look forward to this column every week. Keep up the good work.

  10. Lucas Jensen

    @bg5000: Thanks, BG!

  11. Anonymous

    @Al Shipley: Leave your email address

  12. westartedthis

    didn’t anathallo just sign with anticon? that’s pretty great – and completely unexpected. anticon? really?

  13. Ted Striker

    Ditto Anathallo. Chris Simpson’s new project Zookeeper has gotten Idolator love in the past, and has a lot of charm as well.

    Tambersauro hasn’t gotten much press outside of Houston, but they’re definitely worth taking a look at too.

  14. Reidicus

    @westartedthis: Yup — here ’tis. [www.anticon.com] A little birdie told me that Why? is a big fan.

  15. musicquizking

    Pedro The Lion?

  16. westartedthis

    cool. i can’t wait to see them live again.

  17. Anonymous

    I’ve seen so many of these interviews and heard so many of the “wait, there are Christians making good music, and it talks about other things than Go?” comments that I accurately predicted everything that came up in the conversation.

    And it is so true, there are more than a few artists not getting the love they deserve because their street cred takes a hit when it comes out that they’re remotely religious. And it’s true, mewithoutYou would be huge if they weren’t on T&N and Aaron Weiss didn’t “preach” whenever anyone talked to him. He’s one of the most inspiring, humble and genuine dudes I’ve ever been around.

    I’d really like to know who this anonymous person is. I have a few theories, but I’m not quite sure.

    sean@buzzgrinder.com, in case an anonymous indie Christian artist/label owner would like to divulge his/her identity.

Leave A Comment