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Today's word on journalism

Monday, October 8, 2007

Celebrating Columbus . . .

"1492. As children we were taught to memorize this year with pride and joy as the year people began living full and imaginative lives on the continent of North America. Actually, people had been living full and imaginative lives on the continent of North America for hundreds of years before that. 1492 was simply the year sea pirates began to rob, cheat, and kill them."

-- Kurt Vonnegut (1922-2007), author, from Breakfast of Champions

(NOTE: Strictly speaking, this Vonnegut quote doesn't have anything to do with journalism. I'll owe you one. On the other hand, Columbus didn't have anything to do with discovering America, either, strictly speaking.)


Christian band Skillet rocks with message about finding peace

• "I think we relate very well to lonely people, people who feel that they don't deserve a second chance or they have messed up in life." -- John Cooper

FRONT MAN: John Cooper leads the band Skillet in a May 3 concert. / Photo by Shannon Gibbs

By Shannon Gibbs

May 7, 2007 | Ask and ye shall receive. . . . (if you had a ticket, of course) entrance into one of the most anticipated concerts so far this year: Skillet, live at In the Venue.

Hordes of eager concert-goers flocked In the Venue on Thursday. Lines stretched around the block hours before the show started. The diversity of those waiting was amazing. Young and old alike were waiting for a chance to rock with Skillet. Gothic crowds mixed with Christian rock followers and everything in between, all possible differences and stereotypes set aside in order to come before a band that some refer to as a godsend.

The night started out with Ayin, a Utah band, followed by Decypher Down. The audience jammed hard to these opening acts. The excitement was contagious as all anticipated the main event.

Lights dimmed . . . a hush overcame the entire venue . . . slowly chants of "Skillet, Skillet," filled the room until it became a deafening cry. Then out of the darkness came John Cooper, Korey Cooper, Ben Kasaica and Lori Peters. All cheered then went quiet as the soft pleas of Korey Cooper's piano keys became heard. The crowd again broke into cheers and then into a frenzy when the band slammed into Whispers in the Dark.

Despite earlier problems that day with a tour bus breakdown, construction in SLC, hindering transportation to and from the venue and other locations, Skillet was 100 percent present and accounted for musically, spiritually and every other way possible.

Skillet never stood still through the entire show. The band's energy was amazing and seemed to only get more intense as the night wore on, feeding of the crowd's delight and entrancement.

The crowd grew more rambunctious and out of nowhere the body surfing began. At least 10 to 15 people were surfed from the middle of the audience to the front of the stage, where security had to grab them to keep them from hitting concrete underfoot. The music raged on, seeming to thrive off the crowd and antics involved. At one point an audience member somehow got backstage and out of nowhere came flying across the stage, then suddenly he threw out his arms and did a swan leap into the audience. Everyone went wild, The band later commented that they thought it was one of their own who decided to just go nuts and jump into the audience but realized it was a fan when there were no gaps in music.

The show continued at an amazing pace and level of energy. Skillet took a few brief moments to thank all who came and show appreciation to all the "Panheads," the name for the band's fans. They made a few jokes about fry pans and the like, even suggesting that if anyone wanted to come up with a new name for the band they could go ahead and post it on Skillet's MySpace page and the band would consider all posts.

All in all the interaction between Skillet and its fans was amazing and they only seemed to feed of each other and become more interactive within the venue. This show was definitely a cut above the rest, proving yet again that Christian rock can be everything mainstream rock is and then some.

After the show I had an interview with the band. I was impressed that after all the energy and emotion they expended, they still had more in reserve and seemed to anticipate another chance to talk about their songs and the meanings behind them.

Here's the transcript:

Shannon HNC (Hard News Café) -- Well, first off, I didn't know you guys were a Christian rock band; I had no idea till I started doing research.

John Cooper (Skillet Lead Singer/bass) -- (Laughs) Cool, that's funny, 'cause people say that all the time.

HNC -- What song do you believe expresses your beliefs the most?

John Cooper -- Oh man. . . . Maybe Rebirthing, which is the first song on the new record. Umm . . . probably because it encompasses so many things. It can be interpreted so many different ways, a lot of which kind of what we want to express. Simply put . . . second chances, it's kind of a song about starting over again. . . . I think we relate very well to lonely people, people who feel that they don't deserve a second chance or they have messed up in life, in a relationship or spiritually or whatever it may be, and that they can never come back to where they started from, never start over again, top late. So I believe what I'm singing is about that, someone that is unhappy. . . .

HNC -- Wow . . . that's awesome. What's the worst cliché or stereotype you have encountered as a Christian rock band?

John Cooper -- Oh gosh. . . . Where do I begin? A better question would be what cliché do you not hear (laughs.) it is the case that people kind of do (stereotype), not as much as they used to 'cause there have been some really great Christian bands that have gotten so much acceptance, like P.O.D. and Switchfoot, ya know, that those people will be like, "Oh so it's OK." There is a bit of people like, "Oh you're a Christian band," so they think that maybe we're there to judge them all the time so they can't be themselves, so we people will always be like, "Get the f--- (Covers mouth) I mean get the freakin'." All the time, ya know, 'cause they think, "Oh, they're a Christian band; we gotta act really . . ." and we're like, "Hey, we wanna be real with people," ya know, and have fun.

HNC -- That leads me to my next question. Utah is predominately LDS.

John Cooper -- Mormon, is that what that is? OK, haven't heard it called that.

Korey Cooper -- Latter-day Saints

HNC -- Politically correct now is LDS instead of Mormonism.

John Cooper -- Oh really, oh, I didn't know that. OK. Good to know, "Whitey." Just kidding.

Ben Kasaica ­- "Crackah."

(Everyone laughs)

HNC --I was just wondering what you think of "Mormonism" as a whole? Because Mormons say they are . . . Christians and a lot of people are like, "No you're not, it's a cult."

John Cooper -- Yeah, I know what you're saying. . . . I mean, I have latterly only known a few LDS people in my life. Where I'm from, I'm trying to think. . . I've always got along great with them, there's never really been any issues there.

Korey Cooper -- I think that they are a really moral people. When I think of Mormons I think of really moral people. But there is a big difference.

John Cooper -- Yeah, I think there is a difference.

Korey Cooper - The beliefs of Christians and Mormons have some overlap, and there is a big difference between, I think, the foundations of it, but they are really moral people.

John Cooper -- But probably what I would want to key on is the fact that . . . and maybe this is, ya know the thing, maybe the stereotypes we wanna break down for us is that we don't feel in our music that our job is to be telling everybody what there doing wrong. That's not really the message we wanna get across. It's not really about "What do you think about Catholics or this or. . . ." Its kinda like. well, more of what we wanna focus on is the fact that there is hope in this world. And even though it is getting darker, teen suicide rates and teen depression rates are up, even though those things are happening, that we want to be a voice of hope kinda, to a lost generation. So we wanna focus on what brings us together as opposed to what separates us. . . . Can I get an Amen (laughs.)

HNC -- In all the research I did (for this interview) I didn't come across anything about what you guys believe as far as the Devil goes, or Satan.

John Cooper -- Oh, in terms of like do we believe in him?

HNC -- Well, personally I think you would have to if you believe in God.

John Cooper -- (laughs) Well. yeah. but there are some different views about that to. I don't really know exactly what avenue you're going for.

HNC -- I guess like, do you believe there is one God, there's one Devil.

John Cooper -- Right. . . . I do believe that. We all believe that. I believe there is one God, one devil, but he has many co-workers (laughs) minions. And I do think there's a lot of times, and I think Christians can really do this too much I think. Christians can blame the devil for a lot of things that humanity is just doing wrong. Humans are just. . . . We do lots of evil things, whether we're provoked by the devil or not. And I find it interesting, it's not just Christians probably, but for instance, a lot of times it's the same people that don't believe in God that will kinda get a little bit mad at God when something bad happens. Like September 11th -- "Why would God do this to us," this is there thing, and kinda like was it the Devil or is it just that fact that man is evil and needs to be redeemed . . . in an incredible way. So I do think the devil is at work and he wants to lie to people and he wants to keep people down, he wants to hurt people and that's what we're really combating against I think ya know.

HNC -- Wow. . . . Well I just have a few more questions; I was wondering what you guys think the essence of rock 'n' roll is? And if there is a Bible verse that would describe that?

John Cooper -- Gosh… For me the essence of rock 'n' roll is passion. And that is why I don't believe even as a Christian that rock 'n' roll is evil, and there are a lot of Christians that do think that. In fact I was raised that way, I couldn't listen to anything with a drumbeat, anything with guitars for years and years. Even Christian music, my parents wouldn't let me listen too, like Amy Grant. . . . She was the devil's temptress. . . . But the thing is I think that it was just about passion, "This is my moment to sing about what I'm most passionate about in the whole world. It's my time, my song to say to everybody on the whole planet if I could." That's what rock 'n' roll is about.

HNC -- So is there a Bible verse?

John Cooper -- (Laughter) No, it would be a stretch, a lot of people would say weird things but there all a stretch, like in Psalms, it says, "I will worship with a stringed instrument and symbols," ya know, but I don't think King David was talking about rock 'n' roll music but, ya know, not that far off. In n the end I believe that music was created by God and I do think that music is eternal, it will be never-ending in heaven.

HNC -- My last couple questions are from my daughter, Echo. She is 12 and she loves you guys. As a fan she feels like a lot of bands you can't get personal with and what she wants to ask you on a personal level is what are your favorite colors?

John Cooper -- Nice

Ben Kasaica -- Silver, cause it reflects all the colors

(All laugh, hear "Oh my gosh, are you serious, I have never heard that.")

Koery Cooper -- Mine's black, I like it.

Ben Kasaica -- Yeah black's cool.

John Cooper -- Mine is purple; yeah I don't know it's a little bit weird but. . .

(Background- Royalty, that's purple.)

Lori Peters -- Red, ill go with red. I like red a lot.

HNC -- In closing, is there any one message you would like to send out to the youth today? Cause a lot of your songs are like that, like Looking for Angels.

John Cooper -- Ya know if I could sum up, say one thing, it would be Looking for Angels really. Which is the idea of course is that there is just so much darkness in the world and so much evil and depression. That song really kinda lists everything from wars to senseless violence, to racism, to drug abuse, to internet pornography, in the whole thing. There's so much going on, you can kinda look around and it's easy to ask yourself the question, "Is this ever going to OK? Is there anything in life worth living for?" I hope the people find, in our music, maybe a little bit of peace to those questions. And Looking for Angels, has a little bit of a twist which is not just yes there is hope but also like "What are you going to do to make this world a better place, to help someone who is needy . . . the poor or whatever that may be." To reach out to someone else and connect. I think that were not really connecting like we need to. Its one of the things that I find really. . . . It seems to me people are connecting less then when I was younger except there are more forms of communication now, in that its all impersonal. All this massive technology that we have accomplished but we are really reaching out to one another less and less. And I think the American Dream is a little bit to blame for that, that it's all about me and that it's all about my money and the kingdom of . . . me.

Korey Cooper -- The Kingdom of Self.

John Cooper -- Yeah, the Kingdom of Self . . . and so I think that's the message. Yes, the world is getting darker but there is hope and why don't you be a part of the solution to someone else and you just might find that when you begin to reach out to someone else that you don't feel so lonely.

BEN IN BLACK: Ben Kasaica wears his favorite color. / Photo by Shannon Gibbs



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