This band can fill Brixton Academy but Radio 1 won't play them (Q magazine)
Last modified: 01 Jul 1999
Source: Q magazine
Author: Nick Duerden
Date: Jul 1999
This band can fill Brixton Academy but Radio 1 won't play them. Is it because they're Christians?
As if Delirious? didn't have enough problems, what with the braying infidels and sceptical radio, Neil Morrissey is their biggest fan. Nick Duerden reports.
Somewhere in the middle of an unappealing industrial estate, 15 minutes from the sea, is the headquarters of the Revelation Church, Chichester branch. On a notice board outside a hall which today is being used for band practice, there is a poster that reads Vision Statement: Love God, Love One Another, Love The Lost. Each time a drum is hit inside, the board trembles slightly.
Through the door, at the far end of the cavernous hall, are five young men. Two are bald; one has eyes set weirdly deep into his skull; one, considerably cooler in appearance, could pass for a surfer; and the youngest, 22 going on 12, looks like Ryan Gigg's baby brother. Handshakes are tentative, and the mood anxious. The manners, however, are impeccable.
"We're Delirious?" says one, without irony (the question mark, incidentally, is silent). "How are you? Safe drive from London?" More courteous than Ian Brown, then.
Delirious? are the hottest thing in Christian rock. They've just released their second album - the broodingly anthemic Mezzamorphis, on their own Furious? label - and are on a tour that will take them to venues as large as the Glasgow Barrowlands and London's Brixton Academy. Their 1997 debut, King Of Fools, has so far sold over 130,000 copies in America - US Christian radio deeming them even more exciting than Amy Grant - and they now employ a team of nine people who help run their over-expanding empire.
"We've got over 35,000 people on our mailing list," explains keyboardist Tim Jupp, 33, "so it's pretty much a full-time job."
Despite scoring three Top 20 hits, Delirious? have yet to be invited onto Top Of The Pops. T.F.I. Friday isn't interested, and even a solitary play on Radio 1 is cause for celebration. Delirious? wonder if it's the religious angle that puts people off.
"Historically, few Christian groups have managed to break through," says singer Martin Smith, 28. "There's a stigma attached. People think our music will either be second-rate or happy clappy. But we don't have a specific agenda. We're not solely about bringing God into the charts." He frowns, then leans forward. "Our faith is woven into our very fabric, and it is absolutely integral to our existence, but we want to be a mainstream rock band just as much as the next."
Delirious? first met one another at church six years ago where they set up a monthly event for local youths called Cutting Edge. They'd write songs on the acoustic guitar, then play them live. The local youths, finding band worship more exciting than campanology, grew found of them very quickly. Gradually, word spread, and the band began touring. Then, in 1996, after many discussions, they gave up their day jobs - electrician, designer, studio employees - and concentrated solely on the music.
"I was involved in a car crash," says Smith, "and for those few weeks in hospital, I did a lot of soul-searching about what I really wanted to do. There is no plan B for us. We believe this is our destiny, and we're just at the beginning of a very long journey."
Think Christian Rock and think Cliff Richard: his mistletoe, his wine and his risible musical, Time. These are not encouraging associations for Delirious? If only they were Lauryn Hill (always offering lurve to Gaaad yet rarely tittered at) or Bob Marley (always on about Jah and stuff). Being white and from Littlehampton doesn't help.
"It's true," says guitarist Stuart Garrard, 35. "There are a lot of cool religions out there. We just happen to have picked the wrong one. Kula Shaker wouldn't get the same treatment, but then their religion is now seen as chic. And Norman Cook recently has that single Praise You at number 1. If we'd released a song like that, we'd have been..." Crucified?
Later in the afternoon, in the tranquil surrounding of a country church, Garrard's mobile phone chirps into life. He natters amiably for a few moments, then hands it over to Q. "It's for you," he says, smiling, "a big fan of the band." The little screen bears the legend Morrissey, Neil.
As incongruous as it may seem, the Men Behaving Badly star is Delirious?'s biggest celebrity fan. They met on Venice Beach in Los Angeles last year, and have been firm friends ever since. "They're a great bunch of lads," says Morrissey, an atheist. "And I just happen to love their music."
Does the religious stance unnerve him at all? "Absolutely not. It doesn't stop them from enjoying lager, so they could be Buddhists or Satanists for all I care." His laughter is long, and loud.
Morrissey will be introducing Delirious? on stage at Glastonbury and he plans to direct their videos. "I went into Radio 1 last week and insisted they play their music," he says. "They're ace."
As the afternoon creeps on, Delirious? make their excuses and leave. As they all pile into the van, the singer bands his head on the door. "Oops, mind the halo," he says, with a smile.