Martin Smith Answers The 'Selling-Out' Question (Delirious.co.uk)
Last modified: 06 Jul 1999
Author: Martin Smith
Date: 06 Jul 1999
The following letter, written by Martin Smith, was published on the official Delirious website (delirious.co.uk) on 6th July 1999 in answer to claims from some people that Delirious? were "Selling Out".
It's the summer of 1999 and we are on a plane heading for Atlanta in Georgia, so I have at last found some time to put pen to paper (or index finger to laptop if that impresses you!) and to attempt to respond to the handful of e-mails that have posed various questions concerning Delirious? and the perception by some that we have sold out.
As you can imagine this is a difficult question to answer on two counts. Firstly we are talking about something that is a perception, and perception is something very unique to each person. For example, a hundred people could read the same poem and be affected in different ways and experience many different emotions. The poem is still the same set of words in print, but to every reader it tells a different story.
Secondly, anything that appears on our web site becomes public property for all to read, not only by fans in England but all across the world. This also means that anyone in the music press, from radio to the heads of record labels, can hook on to information that can be used for or against us and possibly out of context. But anyhow, I will endeavour to be as clear to members of the Christian community, some of whom may feel let down or confused by the direction that Delirious? has taken in the last year.
So, what does it mean if you sell-out?. I think it is paramount to define what this phrase means. Simply, I guess it is when someone has a conviction or ethos about something or someone but then chooses to deny those promises for personal gain. For example, if a man promises to be faithful to his wife, but then perceives that the grass is greener, so to speak, and leaves her for another woman, then in my book he has sold out. Or, if an oil company has promised to be environmentally friendly, but it decides to dump waste because it might save them millions of pounds, then in my book they have sold out. In both scenarios, they have broken promises and chosen what will better them above others.
With regards to music, and especially Christians in music, it is much harder to be so black and white in our opinions, and we must not ever confuse the spirituality and ethics of a band with what may be just personal 'taste'. It is also important to understand that we cannot assume what a person is like when our only contact with them is through the media, press or listening to their records. As a band, we would hope to think that our lives and characters are made up of a lot more than just being in Delirious?, and what is equally important to us is what is done in "secret" and away from the stage. These are the things that will speak of the invisible in the long term rather than 'lingo' that satisfies the short-term needs of a Christian sub-culture. When we think of music or beautiful paintings, or experiencing a great theatre show, we must agree that it is a mystery as to why things affect us emotionally or 'touch' us so to speak. It is no surprise then that God, who is the author of all these things, can ordain art that is obviously about the 'light' and also art that is created by the 'light'. For us as a band, in our own small way we have always tried to reflect both in the context of the songs and lyrics etc. Historically, it has always been a problem for the Christian community when musicians or artists explore territory beyond the Jesus, thank you for saving me lyric, to It's okay, you know I'll live to fight another day. If Delirious? had started out simply as a regular rock band, singing about non-descript stuff, then that would be okay. It's only that people have seen us grow and shift position lyrically that leads people to think we have changed or sold out.
The song It's OK caused controversy because of the word hell in the lyric, and has been pulled from several Christian stores in the U.S., despite the fact it has touched many people profoundly. For us boys, this is a case of "let's keep anything impure away from the church" when, in my opinion, purity is all about bringing justice to a God-less society. I am not ashamed in the least to talk openly about the fact that the boys and I are all Christians and believe in all that Christ stood for. It is no secret anyhow, as the whole music industry is every bit aware of Delirious?, the "God squad". It is for us like a two-twine chord, having a friendship with God and playing music inspired by that friendship that makes it so powerful.
The age-old question is, 'can a band that believe in Jesus play good rock-n-roll that is loved by people outside the Christian community and at the same time please a Christian community with lyrics that satisfy their own 'needs' and wants?'. Sadly, I have come to the conclusion that it is nearly impossible and creates a big tension between the two camps. As Abraham Lincoln once said you can please some people some of the time, but you can't please everybody all of the time.
This does not in anyway mean we have chosen to walk away from our original 'vision', but we have boots on now, rather than sandals, but believe me it's the same feet inside.
On the one hand I am every bit proud of my heritage and humbled by the way we have played a part in inspiring people to go "deeper" with God and live a radical life. On the other hand we are passionate about opening up the doors and letting people be aware of our music and spirituality. It is truly the mezzanine floor for us, and to go back to what we were doing musically would feel uncomfortable and bring death to the creativity, not perhaps for a few years but definitely in the future. Hence, If I go they say I'm wrong, if I stay there'll be no song. The flip-side is that our dream of mainstream 'success' is not here either, and perhaps it is not possible with the values and morals we hold, BUT, something inside of us tells us to keep going. For some we have slipped from 4th gear to 2nd, but I can assure you that this car has barely left the garage. We've got a new engine under the bonnet called Mezzamorphis and we're not backing down. It's time for the freeway. It's time to overtake.