Interview With Jon Thatcher (Infuze Magazine)
Last modified: 19 Jan 2007
Source: Infuze Magazine
Author: Robin Parrish
Date: 19 Jan 2007
It's been almost 15 years since Martin Smith and company first got together to make music for a youth event in the UK. Several studio albums later, much has changed for Delirious. The new year holds new music and several tours for the quintet. In this Infuze exclusive, bassist Jon Thatcher discusses the upcoming album, touring in America and what has changed over all these years.
You guys recently played to 1.2 million people in three nights in India. What does that look like to see 400,000 people at a show?
Jon: Your brain can't compute that kind of number. It was just a sea of people as far as you can see. You're thinking, "What a strange life. I was mowing my lawn yesterday." (Laughs). The faces just begin to blur into the distance. As a bass player's brain, I just can't compute that number. (Laughs). You can't even see even the front row.
But that is one of the drawbacks of fame. I personally love the smaller gigs where there's someone three feet away from you and you really feel that chemistry and vibe. Whereas when you're outdoors, you always feel detached from yourself.
You recently completed a tour through the UK, so how does that compare with the venues you play there?
In England, we try to play more neutral venues so people can bring along their best friends and it's a non-threatening environment. We're probably playing two-to-three thousand capacity theatres. And they'll be... the night before, your regular circuit band will be playing there. The staff at the bar will wonder, "Who is this band? I've never heard of them. Why are they playing our venue? How come no one's buying any drinks?" (Laughs). I think the staff at those venues love us and hate us. They almost get the night off, but they're also thinking, "Why am I here?"
But we love playing those venues like I said. We want our music to stand alongside anything else that's out there. We try really hard to do that, so you need to be playing those kind of venues where the regular music, the normal music has been played.
Your website declares "2007: The Year of the Studio" which obviously means some new music is in the pipeline.
Yeah, we spent a lot of December, once we'd come off the European tour, in the rehearsal rooms, in the writing rooms, just getting together some ideas. Getting some inspiration, reading up a bit, listening to some stuff. Now at the end of February, we're gonna get together in the studio all together and start to see what is going to emerge in the initial writings. We'll get together the five of us and put our fingerprints on it and try to create that Delirious? sound and then some more.
What is more?
The added stuff. I think we're always wanting to push it a little bit further. We don't want to make another Cutting Edge record. We don't want to make another Mission Bell. We want to push it further. We want to dig a little bit deeper. We want to set new challenges. We want to be provocative with our lyrics, provoking people to ask a few more questions and to dig a little bit deeper with their faith.
What are those questions you think you'll be asking?
Well, I think Mission Bell just kinda crept up on us and was full of questions. I think with this next record, we'll try and answer some of those questions. Whether we've got the answers yet is another question. I think a couple of us in the band have really been inspired by an American preacher called Rob Bell...
From Mars Hill?
Yeah, from Mars Hill. We've been reading Velvet Elvis and been downloading his podcasts, so that style of thing has really got us thinking and passionate about asking the questions and not being afraid to ask the questions. So we'll probably take some of that back into the studio with us. But we also know we have the truth and we're not afraid to put some of that stuff down.
Sonically where do you go from here?
Very good question. The five of us in the band have very different music tastes so we'll all take in our references for a little bit of show and tell time. But I think it will have the same vein as World Service and Mission Bell. I think it'll be guitar-based. Hopefully the melodies will be up there. But we never go into the studio with a particular product or audience in mind. We just want to see what emerges and what God puts in front of us so we can try to be obedient.
How do you find that spiritual obedience in the studio? I mean, do you pray before you record? How does that work?
Well, there are times that we pray together. We usually take communion together at some point when we are recording. But there's not a rigid schedule or format. We trust each other and our feelings to take us where we're supposed to go.
The five of you have been doing this for over a decade. What's the biggest difference between going into the studio to record a Cutting Edge or Mezzamorphis versus going into the studio in the next couple months?
Great question. I think when we first started off doing what we do, we were oblivious to what we were doing. When we wrote the Cutting Edge stuff, we didn't really realize that they were gonna be big worship songs. That was obviously written for people in our church to sing in a kind of congregation environment. Those were songs that just came out of that. Then when we went in to do Mezzamorphis and King of Fools, they were in front of us so that's just what we did. We didn't really think, as we don't now, "Who is this targeted at?"
But I think in your career that you get pigeon-holed. The labels come on board and they say, "We want another Cutting Edge record. We want another worship record. We want the next 'I Could Sing Of Your Love Forever.' We want more radio-based songs. We want another Mezzamorphis, because that's when you were really on fire." You get all these different opinions which you're trying to weigh out. But at the end of the day, you're really wanting God's favor more than man's favor. We're sitting there trying to weigh what's been said to us and not wanting to dismiss everything, but at the end of the day, we want to make music that glorifies God and that will inspire people to glorify God.
So do you have that artistic permission to do that? Is Delirious able to define it's own sound or who has the ultimate say?
I think we do have control. We're in a very privileged position where, not being from America and not being signed to a major record label, we can go in with a real blank canvas and we can produce whatever we want to produce. It's up to the record label whether they want to actually release it or not. But we do have absolute artistic and spiritual freedom to write what we feel.
But having ultimate freedom is also in tension with having an already defined sound...
I think you've got a responsibility to our audience and our fans. They expect there are going to be lyrics that are God-focused and I'm sure they expect there will be guitars on it. So you have that framework. But you look at bands like Radiohead where every time they go into the studio, they deliver something that's different than what you expect but you still respect it.
And that's actually what their audience expects is the unexpected. They expect them to throw away the previous box and create a new one.
Exactly. And I think we have an element of that to us. We've confused a lot of people. We've changed directions. When people think we're one thing, the next record we're something else. And I think we've confused ourselves in that. But I'm kind of happy that we have. There's the thing where you say you want to deliver your fans something they want, but you also want to take them a step further. You want to challenge them and you want to challenge yourself. You want to push it that little bit further rather than saying, "This is Cutting Edge part three." Or I think we had four Cutting Edge's out there, so I guess that would be part five. (Laughs).
Is this where you thought you'd be at this point? Are you happy with Delirious as a band?
To be honest, I'm totally surprised. If I look through the diary, we're doing some more work with Joyce Meyer, and we seem to be more in the Christian camp than we've ever been before, which I'm really excited about. But there's also part of me that thinks there's another side to Delirious that I don't want to miss out on. I think that's the paradox of Delirious, where we can appear to be too Christian for the mainstream market and too mainstream for the Christian market. So selling out to one group of people is going on tour with Radiohead. And selling out to another group is going on tour with Joyce Meyer.
How do you make those creative decisions then?
I think it's in listening really. I think it's in being obedient. I think this year I've come to terms with not being interested in what's cool or what's not cool. I'm more interested in being obedient. I hope I'm not speaking out of turn, but I'm aware that for some people, going on tour with Joyce Meyer is not a cool thing to do. But I'm more interested in searching for what God is doing and where the presence of God is. And I will follow that whether I like the style of it or not.
Would you say that you speak for the band when you say that?
Yeah, I do. Now, if I was to plot out my musical career, I wouldn't see myself in ten years on tour with Joyce Meyer. That was never on the radar for me. But now that we're here, God has really done something because this doesn't make sense to me, although when I get on stage and see what she's doing and the effects, I think, "You know, I might not even personally get this, but this is just amazing."
You guys are getting ready to come to the States. What's the best part and worst part of touring over here?
When we tour in the States, we usually get to tour with our families. We'll go on the road for a month and we'll hop on buses. I think we have three buses this time. It's an absolute zoo. But that is a way our children and our wives actually experience what we do. Because we're away so often being a band and part of it is travelling. So it's great that they can come and be a part of what we do. There aren't many places in the world even logistically where you can just jump in a bus and go coast to coast. In Europe, you're jumping on planes and all that kind of stuff.
What about the worst part of being in the States?
Hmmm... the worst part of being in the States. [Long Pause]
(Laughs). Or am I setting you up?
You're setting me up, but I think I can evade the question properly. (Laughs). Your breakfasts are too good and you end up putting on too much weight. I think that's a proper way of getting around that question.
You guys work with HopeHIV. I'd love to give you the chance to tell us more about how that partnership happened.
Sure. We've been working with HopeHIV since the year 2000 when we met a guy named Phil Wall who is the founder of the charity. He was at a youth conference in England and was actually giving ten pounds or about twenty dollars to every person. I think he gave away about 40,000 pounds or 80,000 dollars that weekend. His challenge was to give that money in the light of the parable of the talents. He challenged everyone to take that money and go do something with it, invest it, and then give the money you make back to the charity.
So for the band, we used that money as our entrance fee into the London Marathon. We finished it and raised a lot of money for that, which was brilliant. So that was the beginning of our relationship. We've now been to South Africa a couple times where we've actually seen these children, these AIDS orphans, and that totally turns your life upside-down. We actually got to look them in the eyes and spend time with them. That was a great experience.
The relationship has just been ongoing. Tim, our keyboard player, had a 40th birthday last year where he celebrated by inviting a lot of these AIDS orphans and threw a big party for them. We were already in South Africa. Again, it was totally humbling. Just the basic things like balloons and music and a barbecue and some of these kids hadn't eaten for a week. So they were literally putting food in their pockets because it was like Christmas to them.
So those are little flags along the way that make you say, "I want to do more of this." You see what little you do and how much of an effect it has and so that's something we're definitely very passionate about. We'll encourage people to give as much as they can because we've been amazed at how much it has changed personally.
After over a decade together, what are you most proud of?
I think the thing we're most proud of is that we're still together. It hasn't been all plain sailing. We're normal people where you have the normal team dynamics and struggles and all that kind of stuff. We actually have a love and a friendship that holds us together. It's just incredible to look back and think we're still doing it.