Delirious: A Musician's Interview With Guitarist Stu G (Crosswalk.com)
Last modified: 01 Jul 1999
Author: Bruce Adolph
Date: Jul 1999
Make no mistake about it, Delirious is still the best thing to happen in Christian music in the last 15-20 years or so. As of yet they really haven't been exposed to the American market properly, and we believe that what we've experienced to date is only the tip of the iceberg.
The band is huge in England, where their steady touring, Top 40 secular radio air-play and MTV / VH1 coverage have all added up to a great opportunity to gain a platform via music to reach people for the kingdom.
In the US, we have been exposed to seven years of Delirious' music in just over 24 months. Cutting Edge (youth praise album) has revitalized the Praise & Worship movement in their homeland and is spreading like wildfire here in the States. King of Fools raised the standard of quality in music being distributed by Christian labels and Live and in the Can gives us a taste of what we've been hoping for: to hear Delirious play live. You can hear clips from King of Fools and Cutting Edge right here on the Music Channel at crosswalk.com by clicking on the album titles.
Up to now the band hasn't really played anywhere near the number of dates in the States that the fans think they should have. Why, you ask? For one, the distance. All of these gigs are trans-Atlantic flights. Also, Delirious has been working hard making the UK market work, and adding the effort of breaking into the American market stretches them pretty thin. There's an old saying in Europe: "You can't win a two front war."
But now something new is taking place; their hard work is starting to pay off for them. The new record, Mezzamorphis has already been released in the UK and US and is off to another smashing start. The album is a bold step forward musically and demonstrates how gifted this band is as musicians and songwriters. In the States, Virgin Records (the secular side of the distribution arrangements; Sparrow Records is the Christian-market side) is working on behalf of this new project.
While last year just a handful of the summer festivals slated Delirious to play (you should have seen them on the main stage of Creation '98 at Agape Farm in front of over 50,000 people... it was an amazing set!) and only a few cities had the opportunity of hosting their concerts, this time around the band is committed to spending a lot more time touring the great US of A. This fact alone will help the rest of the country catch up to our opening statement: Delirious is the best thing to happen to Christian music in the last 15-20 years. They perform great music along with emulating a heartfelt worship of God and do it in a manner and style that is not only at a consistent quality level but is also quite accessible to both Christian and non-Christian ears.
It's been said that "the only constant in life is change," and this band is definitely a band in process. We talked transcontinentally with Stuart Garrard (or Stu G. as he goes by), extraordinary guitarist and one of the primary songwriters for Delirious:
CM: Because the album released to the US market had already been out in the UK for awhile, you had a good amount of time to work on the new project. How long had you been writing the new material?
SG: Well we started getting the songs together and doing a demo in February of 1998, and we started recording around that time also. Basically it took almost a year to complete because we spent most of the summer touring in the States and the UK. It probably took about five months altogether. We started recording with only about half a dozen songs, and we were writing as we were recording.
CM: Tell us what the record title, "Mezzamorphis," means.
SG: "Mezzamorphis" comes from two different song titles. One is "The Mezzanine Floor" and the other is "Metamorphosis." It's kind of a whole play on the theme of change and where you fit in. We feel that as a band and as individuals that we have to embrace constant change. We never want to stay still, both in our spiritual lives and in our careers. We always want to push forward. In that way, we feel like we started on a journey that we haven't completed. The mezzanine floor is not a real floor, but is in between floors. And metamorphosis is what happens to a caterpillar becoming a butterfly; it means changes. There are a lot of songs that mention heaven on this album. This life is a temporary thing. One of the songs says, "heaven is our home." Even the seventy or so years that we have on this earth can be seen as a type of metamorphosis. We're made from dust and we return to dust, but heaven is our home.
CM: Who produced the album?
SG: We produced it ourselves, and we had a lot of help from Lynn Nichols, the A&R exec at Sparrow Records. That was great fun having him around.
CM: Did you record it in England?
SG: We did. We recorded it all in England, but not in studios. We had a mobile sound again. Some of it was recorded in an old college, where they had this big oak dining room. We got some moveable drapes so we could change the size of the room, and we experimented with a big drum sound, a small drum sound, and getting all sizes of rooms happening. A lot of the drum sounds on the album are natural reverbs, they're not processed. We spent a lot of time getting great tones on tape this time. We used other classrooms on the college: guitar rooms or singing rooms or whatever, so we had a blast doing that. We recorded some of it in a little tiny studio not far from where we live, finishing off some vocals. Mainly it was all done out and about at different locations.
CM: The guy that you used to mix the album is a pretty heavy hitter. Tell us about him.
SG: Jack Joseph Puig. We really were thrilled to get a chance to work with him. I don't need to run off the complete list of previous work he's done. Bands like No Doubt, Jellyfish, Eric Clapton, the Black Crows, we were so privileged to work with him. We called just at the right time, because he's definitely coming up as a main mixing guy, especially in America.
CM: Did he sit down with you to get to know your music, or did you share your vision with him, or what?
SG: He had heard our music before, and that's why he agreed to do it. He's an incredibly busy chap. He liked what he had heard, but he didn't really get inside the stuff right then. Martin and I went out to LA in January for three weeks and sat down with him and explained to him what we were doing and where we were coming from, what we were trying to accomplish with the music. He was very perceptive. He definitely took our tracks and made them into something we couldn't have done ourselves. This is the first time we've used anyone else to mix, and it was a quite scary thing to let go of. But he really did catch something. He's got a great thing going on with the drums and bass in this album.
CM: Sonically, it seems like a natural progression for the band. It's a lot harder at times. How is it going in the live concert setting?
SG: Really good so far. Especially songs like "Heaven." The harder songs are going down really well in the context of a set. They're all big songs to do anyway, and our live set did need some more big input. Other songs that have been going really well live are "It's Okay" and "Great Moment." When the instrumental bit comes in, all the spotlights go onto a mirror ball and you basically hear gasps from the audience over the music. It's a really magical moment.
CM: You've got some really unique guitar sounds on this album with the strange feedback and such. How are you getting those? What equipment are you using?
SG: When I went to GMA (Gospel Music Association Week) in Nashville last spring, I brought home a Les Paul Goldtop Deluxe from 1974, and that became one of the main instruments on this album. I also used a modified Danelectro on it as well. I had a preamp with a control knob put in it that boosts it four decibels, which brings it to the level of modern guitars. When you turn the knob up it boosts the mid range, giving you great slide sounds. I used both of those on "Bliss." The Les Paul with my Marshall head, an Expandora pedal and a Digitech Talker pedal created the hollow "Bliss" sounds. On some of the other things we used an old Revox for tape delay and then slowed the reels down with our fingers while I was playing. We did that on "The Mezzanine Floor," and it almost sounds like keyboards.
CM: How are you going to pull that off live?
SG: (laughing) We don't know yet. It's interesting, because we really try to create the same stuff live. We've been running clicks with a couple of tracks on minidisc of things we can't do. Of course everybody does that, it's not like a Milli Vanilli scam (laughing). This time, we're trying to make the live sound a little more raw. For that guitar sound, if I can't do it live then I can't do it.
CM: The first single you released to secular radio in the US is "Gravity." Why did that song get chosen?
SG: I don't know. It's our second single here in the UK. I think it's one of the songs Sparrow felt like pushing to pop radio. It's one of the hookier choruses. We've actually done a single edit of it, which gets into the chorus quicker and is a bit more punchy on the intro. We shortened it by cutting the second verse in half and putting a double chorus on the end for radio.
CM: Besides the single, is Virgin going to push your album a lot? Will you be in the secular bins in music stores?
SG: That's what we understand. We have a great relationship with the guys at Virgin, especially Ray Cooper and Dan Goodwin. They seem to be on our side a lot. We're looking forward to working the pop stuff as well as the Christian market.
CM: How has your songwriting changed, knowing that this record will be reaching a larger, non-churched audience? Did that come into play when you started writing?
SG: We've never been good at writing to fit a certain market. Some people take the approach that you've got to witness and talk about Jesus all the time. We've been inspired by people like C. S. Lewis, who told the truth and spoke about God, but in a way that ordinary people can understand. We tried to take that approach this time around. We've gotten great reactions. Quite a few emails have said, "The first time I heard the album, I thought 'Oh no, Delirious has lost it.' But then as I kept listening I really got inspired by the lyrical content." In "Beautiful Sun," the last verse says, "Grace is my story/Hope is my song/You've been so good to me/I should have nothing/But I've got it all with the Son." That's pretty blatant. We've tried to be a bit more poetic with the lyrics and speak in pictures rather than giving it to you on the nose.
CM: There are many cities in the US screaming for a Delirious tour. What are your plans?
SG: Well, we're having a meeting to discuss that. We're really excited about the response from GMA in April, which was basically "We need you here!" We have two or three trips scheduled for this summer doing various festivals, and then in the fall we're definitely going to be there. In what form or for how long we're trying to figure out. We really are up for it. Last winter we had to stay here, because we hadn't had an album out in the UK for nearly two years. So we turned down the dc Talk tour, which was really difficult. But we had to make a concerted effort touring here. We love coming to the States too.
CM: Martin said that this album is also a worship album. Can you expand on that?
SG: The songs come from a place of worship within us. We have a vertical relationship with God. We definitely think that worship is a lifestyle that affects everything you do, rather than just a style of music. Obviously some songs are easier to sing in church, but this album wasn't written to be that way. But on the other hand, we didn't think people would be singing "Mountains" or "History Maker" in church, and they are. There is a song on the album called "Jesus' Blood," which is kind of a choral worship song. We'll have to wait and see on this one.