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Interview

Sleeping Giant Talks About Miracles, The Band's Forthcoming Album, And Scream The Prayer Tour

From day one of their existence as a band, Sleeping Giant has been up-front about what they’re here to do in life: Save people. The band is saving people nightly in the 2011 incarnation of the Scream The Prayer tour throughout the month of July. On their first stop in Nashville, TN, I had caught up with lead vocalist Thom Green and bassist J.R. Bermuda on their RV for some insight into their message, their forthcoming new album, "Kingdom Days in An Evil Age," and more. Photos from the show will be up in the photo gallery shortly, but here is the full text of the interview.

Frank Serafine (Progressivity_In_All): This is the fourth year for Scream The Prayer, and your third year with the tour. You guys obviously have a mission, because this whole tour is about Christian metal. What are your personal goals, as a band, for this tour?

J.R. Bermuda: Miracles.

Thom Green: The shows are great. As a band, we’d love for people to like our band and buy our record. Support us and keep this thing rolling, but the most important aspect of who we are as a band is really a bunch of dudes who are trying to become like and represent Jesus through our culture. So I think the thing that we’re most looking forward to is seeing how God is going to interact with people and seeing how the rule of heaven gets extended at every show. The whole thing is like, the kingdom just showing up.

Miracles. I think that encompasses everything that we’re about. For people that don’t know Jesus at all, coming into a relationship with him and having a new perspective on who he is. Relationships being strengthened, people being healed emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Even people having encounters with God that are supernatural – we want to see it all. That’s the reason to come out – to preach the kingdom.

FS: Other bands have taken to doing Bible study on tours, getting crowds to participate. Do you see that going on at this tour?

TG: Yeah, every year. Last year, the dudes in For Today and the dudes in The Great Commission met and did Bible study on tour. The first couple years we were there, that’s what we were doing as well. Because it’s kind of pointless to go out on a Christian tour and not be more like Jesus when you get done. Every day matters when you’re on the road, especially because you’re trying to give away a whole lot and try and pour into other people courage and strength. There needs to be some time for personal devotion, and then it’s nice as individuals to come together and do corporate stuff together. As bands, we’re still just people that love Jesus. Let’s help each other out. Let’s build each other up.

FS: Do you have any tour habits you’ve developed over the years?

JR: The only thing we have is weird. (laughs)

TG: I feel like we’re total weirdos!

JR: After each show, me and our other guitarist, Jeff, meet to have baby wipe showers in the RV.

TG: (laughing)

FS: That’s… interesting.

JR: When there’s not a shower readily available, which is most nights.

FS: Gets the job done, right?

JR: As long as I don’t stink like a butt.

TG: I don’t even know – what’s something different? Ryan, our guitarist who fills in right now, is a tri-athlete, so the dude is just fit. I’m stoked because I run, so I like to run. I ran in Nashville earlier, it’s one of my favorite places on tour because you’ve got a lot to see. That’s something – trying to get runs in. Ryan runs much faster than I do because he’s in really good shape, and so he usually kicks my whole entire butt in about 25 minutes.

FS: Do you have any post- or pre-show rituals?

JR: Baby wipe showers. (laughs)

TG: I’d say, post-show, one of the things I think that we try to do every show, is a lot time for personal ministry at the end of our show. Individual people that come to the show that maybe have been inspired by something we said, or maybe they really came here and had a need in their life and they felt like they could talk to us and we could pray and God would answer and do something. We want to give room for that. When we get done, as much time as we can, we spend time with kids and pray for them and be there. That’s where we’ve been seeing a lot of cool stuff.

A couple days ago, a kid had a damaged retina and he was losing his vision and was about blind in one of his eyes, got his vision restored. The other day in Wichita, we got done with our set and this lady came up to us in tears because she had been in chronic pain.

JR: She broke one of the big bones at the base of her neck in some kind of accident.

TG: She had been in chronic pain for years and couldn’t shake her head and couldn’t move. She came up to us, crying, saying “I can move my neck, I can move my neck,” just freaking out. We had prayed from stage and she just came up to us at the end. That’s just the last couple of days that we’ve been on the road.

JR: Two for two!

TG: We see that stuff all the time on the road. We really believe that God is real and he’s supernatural. It’s fun to watch. There’s a pastor that’s smarter than me, and he says, “We owe people an encounter with God.” That’s why we’re here. We owe them an encounter with the God that we talk about so they don’t just get talked to. That’s the most important thing.

FS: Would you say that’s also your personal message, too?

TG: I think so. I think it’s kind of becoming a lifestyle. We want to encounter him ourselves and we want to see him encounter other people because it’s the best kind of fun.

FS: How do you reconcile listening to different bands like King Diamond with Christianity?

TG: Being a Christian and listening to non-Christian stuff?

FS: Yes.

TG: I think it comes down to individual relationships and where you’re at. For the most part, most bands that we listen to, a lot of the bands aren’t as good as other people. It’s great to find an inspired creative Christian band. We’re huge The Chariot fans. They’re legit. They’re about what they’re about and they do it. I feel like there’s creativity on them and it just comes out and it feels organic and natural.

But then, there’s a lot of people that copy the creativity that’s going on other people. So there’s a part where, in the very natural sense, it’s like sometimes it’s just hard to find good music to listen to if you care about that form of expression. If you’re a painter, you’re not going to short-change Rembrandt because, “I don’t look at his art because he wasn’t a believer.” You respect the medium.

It takes different things for different people, because music is so powerful. If you let it in, it’s going to change the way you think about things. I think music can be a weapon and it can be pretty dangerous. You need to be careful about what you take in. That’s definitely true. But there’s different graces at different times in people’s lives. There has been times when I could listen to whatever and it didn’t matter, but then there has been times when I’ve shut it off and was like, “I don’t really care about music right now,” because I just cared about maybe what God was showing me about something else.

So, it’s really personal. It’s like if you’re in the car with your wife and you’ve got the radio on and she wants to talk, just turn the stupid radio off. There’s going to be times when you need to communicate, and if music gets in the way, turn it off.

FS: You guys have a new album coming out in July – “Kingdom Days in An Evil Age.” Tell us a little about it.

TG: Yes we do! It’s our third full-length record, it’s the first record that we put out on a brand new label called “Ain’t No Grave Records,” and that is fun because they’re friends of ours. They got given the opportunity to help establish a Christian label and promote bands and start. We were friends with them, and so they told us we were one of their first choices. They really do want to be about Christian sound, and promoting bands that are actually about what they’re about – giving place for that, at least within Christian music.

It seems like there’s a shift in how people perceive Christian musicians, and I think there’s a lot of Christian kids that are in bands now who want their life to reflect what they’re about for real onstage and off. I think it’s helping to shift some inconsistencies in our culture, and it’s good to make room for it. ANGR’s doing a good job of that.

The record, itself, is our best one to date. I think we started just a group of goofy hardcore kids and we put out a record where we were trying to be honest with where we were back then. Then, with “Sons of Thunder,” we tried to create some sounds that were stretches for us, and it was out of our box a little bit. I feel like we’ve really kind of been looking for a sound that would bridge a gap in praise that most people haven’t heard before – giving sound and space for kids in the front to jump and freak out, whatever they do, and a space for the older generation to go, “I’ve never heard that before, I’ve never been able to worship to that before.”

That’s one of our favorite testimonies is when we get done playing a live show and someone’s mom or dad walks up behind their kid and goes, “I loved it. I didn’t think I would ever like this kind of music before.” Because there was a bridge built in the sound, they can respect it and see it. Maybe that will give kids coming up permission. I think this record’s a good blend of the heavy stuff that we do that we’re not going to abandon, because it’s super fun and awesome. It’s what heavy music is about, but we’re learning to crystallize that element of praise – how to create songs that are intimate and driving, not just sissy.

I feel like it’s our best offering – Eric Gregson, our guitarist, engineered and produced the whole thing. He just killed it. He did such an amazing job. It’s like his baby, front to back, as far as all the technical stuff. He made it sound awesome. It’s a good blend of everything that we’re about and will continue to be about in the future of our band. It’s a good offering right now to have, and it’s a lot. There’s like 14 or 15 songs. That feels pretty cool.

FS: The release date on that is July 12th, right?

JR: Yes.

FS: Are there any influences that you picked up a little bit more of for this record, lyrically or musically? Different messages or themes?

JR: Eric, who wrote a lot of the music, has favorite bands that are like black metal and stoner metal bands like High On Fire, Wolf Brigade, and a lot of weird stuff like that. A lot of our sort of slower songs are really sludgy and heavy, with that kind of stoner-rock influence. The other guy, Jeff, derives a lot of influence from bands like Gojira (one of our favorite bands,) Mastodon, stuff like that. Blood Has Been Shed.

TG: Blood Has Been Shed.

JR: We set to rip them off many years ago. (laughs)

TG: Musically, doom metal and black metal and punk rock bands like Integrity. I think it’s all becoming this weird combo of heavy praise-metal. I don’t know what it is.

JR: It’s kind of just “us.”

TG: I try to not pay attention to what other people are doing because it tends to be a distraction for me.

FS: It’s almost really hard to not pay attention nowadays.

TG: I listened to Advent a bunch last year. I’ve listened to the new Deftones quite a bit. Maybe that lent something to it, but I think what comes out more, lyrically, for me, is that I love to play with words. I know it doesn’t matter. Most people have heard our band and are like, “those dudes preach all the time,” but in the music itself, I try to have fun with words and convey themes and speak to issues. It probably gets drowned out in the live show and kind of the touchiness of our band or who I am.

I really love lyricists and I love emcees, and I listen to hip hop. The things I listen to more than most are like that. Worship music. Bad Brains, Ascend the Hill, POS, and Jay-Z, and just a bunch of people. I tend to stay away from our own genre.

FS: That’s a thing I’ve heard a lot of metal bands say, that they listen to metal the least. Are there any bands you’re particularly anxious to see on this tour?

TG & JR: The Chariot.

FS: That was quick!

JR: You can watch them every night and not get sick of them.

TG: Way awesome. That was one of the biggest ones that we’re all excited about. We went on tour with them a couple of years ago on Scream The Prayer, and we started as affiliates, so we knew who they were. It was fun to hang out with them. Within a week, I was a fan, and by the end of the tour, all of us were superfans and loved them and hung on their every word and started dressing like them. (laughs) Just kidding.

But I really respect who they are and what they’re about. I feel like there is substance to what they are, and they’re really sincere. They’re amazing.

FS: Do you have a favorite hobby on tour?

JR: Trying to locate Starbucks, which we call “Buckingham Palace,” and Chipotle – those are our two favorite places. Locating those and hunting them down.

FS: Which we both have here in Nashville.

TG: I like it, I’m a fan. And I’ve gotta say it, Nashville…
JR: Say it!
TG: Chipotle is better than Qdoba.
JR: Wooo! (high fives TG)
TG: Booya! Running and playing whiffle-ball.

JR: Yeah, we play a lot of whiffle-ball. We’re whiffle-ball enthusiasts.

TG: Parking lot whiffle-ball is the best thing ever.

JR: Anything air-conditioned.

FS: That’s a good point. You don’t want to pass out. Lastly, what’s the most meaningful song you’ve ever heard?

JR: Oh my gosh! (laughs) That’s such a hard question.

(silence)

FS: Stumps them all every time!

(silence)

TG: Ray Charles? I don’t know. “Slaughter of the Soul,” by At The Gates. “Out of Step” by Minor Threat. I don’t even know. “California Uber Alles” by Dead Kennedys. “What A Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong.

JR: That is so hard. My head almost exploded.

TG: It just depends on the time in your life. If you really have an investment in music the way that nerdy music people like us do, it just depends.

FS: Here’s a better question: Have you heard that one of your own songs was the most meaningful song to someone in the audience?

JR: Absolutely.

TG: We wrote a song on the last record called “He Will Reign,” and it’s more of a piano kind of song, and I’ve got a number of testimonies about that song halting a spirit of suicide. People are ready to kill themselves, and then for some reason they’ve heard that song or something happened and then they did not. Then, I wrote a song called “Whoremonger,” that was a personal testimony from when I was a young kid and some poor choices that I made in regards to a sexual relationship with someone else.

There’s a number of people I’ve talked to where that has legitimately helped them get perspective and get freedom from some pretty serious sexual stuff across the gamut. I feel like that’s pretty awesome. That’s where you get to change people’s lives. Then, I think about listening to Figure Four and talking to Andrew, the singer of Figure Four, just telling him that before I was a Christian, I listened to your band and during the time I was living out “Whoremonger,” he didn’t even know.

I told him, “The fact that you guys existed in my universe, I could go and I could listen to the stuff you sang on “When It’s All Said And Done,” and you guys really helped get me through.” “For all the other bands I was listening to that were pounding self-hatred, anger, and frustration in me, every once in awhile there’d be glimmers of light from your band.” So, when people say that, I’m like, “I know how you feel.” Because I needed music as a language at that time in my life, I get it. We’ve heard that.

The best testimony we can get is people that go, “I got saved, I really became a follower of Jesus because of your music.” That’s the inheritance that we’re going to have for eternity.

Progressivity_In_All's avatar

Frank Serafine is an avid writer, music producer, and musician, with five albums to his name. While completely enamored with metal, he appreciates a wide range of music. He also works full-time at the American-based performing rights organization, SESAC.

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