DM: When you’re doing a church on Sunday morning, you’ve got to be more sensitive about volume. In fact, in church situations, we frequently use an in-ear system. You may still have an amp on stage, but you’re probably not running it very loud.

BS: I’m not somebody who has a volume limit, but of course everyone has their own idea of what’s too loud. For a lot of churches volume is a huge issue. There are all age groups there, and they don’t want to single anyone out for being too loud.

How do you guys determine what kind of tone you’re going for?

RC: We don’t go into a situation and say we want this type of tone or that type of tone. Britt, is great. I know what he’s going to do before he does it and he knows what I’m going to do before I do it. We always talk tone, and our tone keeps evolving year after year. We just dial it in to where we think it sounds great and go for it.

DM: I’ve never had anyone tell me that I need to sound different. I’ve had worship leaders ask me if I can make specific noises, but that’s about it. I think I have a decent enough tone going in there that it doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb.

What kinds of gear are you guys into?

BS: I’ve have an American Strat with DiMarzio Virtual Vintage pickups, a Strat with DiMarzio single coils and a Tele with DiMarzios as well. I have two Ibanezes with Seymour Duncans – one has two humbuckers and the other has single coils. Just about everything I have I’ve dropped different pickups in, sometimes multiple times!

My newest amp purchase is a Genz Benz Black Pearl. It’s a Class A 30-watt amp, and it has different amps to run it at lower wattages. It’s a head, which I run through 2x12 cabinets from a company called Avatar. The speakers are Celestions.

I have an RMC Picture Wah, a Barber Tone Press compressor and Launch Pad boost pedal. Those have been on there for a few years. I previously had a modded Keeley compressor and a four-knob Keeley compressor, but this Barber compressor works with everything – high-gain or low-gain.

RC: I have a ‘97 model Strat Lonestar with Seymour Duncan Pearly Gates. I play through a pedalboard with pedals from MI Audio, Barber, and a little H2O pedal. I usually play through a hot-rodded Classic 30.

DM: Well, I play custom-made basses, and I have 13. I play fretless bass – it almost sings. I also play fretted bass. I like Roscoe basses, made in Greensborough, North Carolina by a guy named Keith Roscoe, and I have five of those. I also like Michael Tobias Designs (MTD). The MTD series is all hand-made by Michael and a couple helpers. I play boutique gear; I don’t just go to a music store and pick something off the rack.

I also play Thomastik-Infeld strings, which are hand-made in Austria. Most of the guys I’m in contact with have gotten hooked on those strings. My speaker cabinets are made by some Princeton University physics professors – they’re called Euphonic Audio. They’re incredible – lots of your higher level players are using them. They don’t color the tone of the instrument. The cabinets are very small; people can’t believe how loud they are. As the bass head, I’m using a boutique amp called a Thunder Funk, made by a guy named Dave Funk who has worked on the space shuttle and the F16 when he was doing government contract work.

You guys sound like you’re pretty into the gear, do you see that a lot in the church atmosphere?

BS: It depends. The church I go to now, they use Line 6 stuff for the most part. Lincoln Brewster, who is just phenomenal – from what I understand he owns a lot of vintage gear, but when he travels and plays at churches, he plays through a Floor POD. Far be it from me to criticize that when he gets awesome tones. He proves that tone is all in the fingers. But I think he has some great patches on there – he spent a lot of time developing some solid sounds.

With younger folks coming into the church, how do styles like punk and metal fit in?

DM: I try to keep an open mind about that, because in the ‘80s when I was playing, there were people who thought we were of the devil. There were churches that wouldn’t even allow drums or a synthesizer in the building. Personally, those styles are not my cup of tea, but what’s important is whether the message is getting through. I have a son who is 22 and a daughter who is 19, and I would ask, as their stereo was blasting, “What in the world are you listening to?” And they would say “It’s Christian.” But when I asked them what the message was, they couldn’t tell me. My only criticism, regardless of the style, is does it communicate?

When Isaac Watts started introducing meter into hymns, it was rejected in the same way contemporary music has been rejected: because it was new and different. People thought it was evil, because it introduced an autonomic response in the body – it made you tap your foot and getting into the beat. What we now hold as sacred hymns were once considered contemporary music. So it’s funny to see how cyclical things can be. If the message is there, it might reach somebody that standard church music may not reach.

BS: When I first got into playing at church, I kind of held back because I was afraid of playing rock music at church, even though I had played in a hard rock Christian band before I started playing churches. But now I do incorporate classic rock roots into my playing – I definitely like the hard-driving rock.

What about guitar solos?

BS: We’ve been in situations where people accused us of being more concerned with the technical instead of the spiritual. It’s the same in secular music – if it adds something to the song, then it should be there, whether it’s a complete solo or just some riffs. If the person is up there and their motives are to serve God, I don’t see a problem.

It’s a tricky question though. There are a lot of different opinions on the topic – is that person just showing off, or is it all about them? I grew up loving guitar solos. And I will say this, when we play prisons, they love to hear it. It draws them in. We just crank it up and play our hearts out, and a lot of guys tell their buddies. As long as it doesn’t take away from the worship, I see no problem with it.

Where do you see Christian music and worship music going from here?

BS: Well, when I got into it, there was already Christian hard rock. It seems that over a ten year period there’s been the same kind of changes as secular music. In the churches, music has become more contemporary. There are more guitars.

RC: Gosh, that is a hard question. Where is the future? I hope it’s where the musicians and the worship leaders strive for excellence for the right reasons, because my belief has always been that God has given me a talent and I should use it the best that I can. And I think that everyone who has been given that talent should do it the same way. I hope music ministers and church musicians can get into a mindset where they do it the best they possibly can for our Lord.

I see the music going in cycles, and the trend has always been that the secular music scene is a step ahead and I think that’s because they’re willing to go out and do new things. I think that churches lag behind because they’re afraid of change. I think we’ll always see that cycle with the secular world, musically. In churches, you’ll see a big boom whenever the music scene catches back up with the secular scene and people become interested in the music. I think that music has a huge impact on people coming to church, so that’s why I’m so passionate about it and so passionate about doing it right.

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