Shooting Arrows Over The Horizon

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Shooting Arrows Over The Horizon

On a sunny Orange County after­noon some twelve years ago, I was in a book­store con­tain­ing (but of course) a large cof­fee shop upfront. My pur­pose in being there was to meet up with one Mike Stand, leader of sem­i­nal Chris­t­ian punk rock group the Altar Boys.

At the time, Stand’s musi­cal career, at least as far as Chris­t­ian rock was con­cerned, was decid­edly in the rearview mir­ror. In more recent years he has fronted a rock­a­billy trio call­ing itself the Altar Bil­lies. But, at the time we met so I could inter­view him for my book, we were talk­ing about what had pre­vi­ously transpired.

Dur­ing our con­ver­sa­tion, he men­tioned a sixth Altar Boys album. Now, as all fans of the group know, the band released five albums dur­ing their tenure. So, what was this mys­te­ri­ous sixth album to which Stand referred? He stated that it was planned to as a follow-​up to For­ever Mercy, adding how the album had gone so far into pro­duc­tion it had been named: No Sub­sti­tute. How­ever, for var­i­ous rea­sons the project was never com­pleted, Stand lament­ing that it would’ve been a much bet­ter final state­ment on his band’s career than For­ever Mercy.

Whether the Altar Boys can be labeled the first Chris­t­ian punk band is a mat­ter for musi­col­o­gists to argue. The band wasn’t a pure punk band; its music is far bet­ter described as raw, bareknuck­led, hard dri­ving rock ‘n’ roll. Tons of inten­sity, tons of pas­sion, and an uncom­pro­mis­ing lyri­cal mes­sage focused on sal­va­tion through faith in Jesus Christ. For­ever Mercy got away from the band’s musi­cal strength. No Sub­sti­tute would have been a wel­come return to form. Alas, it was doubt­less never to see the light of day.

I men­tion the above because recently Stand, along with the Boys and his boy (his son is help­ing with the engi­neer­ing and such), has dusted off the tracks recorded by him for No Sub­sti­tute, com­plet­ing the tracks already recorded by using the orig­i­nal vocals and gui­tars from the 1991 and 1993 ses­sions as the cor­ner­stone for com­plet­ing an album even the most devoted Altar Boys fans doubted would ever see the light of day … assum­ing they knew it existed. There’s a Kick­starter cam­paign going on right now to finance the whole thing.

I said all that to say this.

As one of the other artists in my book stated, every publicly-​placed cre­ative endeavor involves a fair amount of shoot­ing arrows over the hori­zon. You don’t know where they’re going to land, chances are excel­lent you’ll never know where they did land, and thus you do not know and will never know if you hit any intended tar­gets. You give it your best shot (no pun intended), and you move on, all the while won­der­ing if it mattered.

Lately I’ve been fight­ing a nasty streak of ennui plus hope­less­ness. My employer is going away, tak­ing the store my boss and I worked ridicu­lously hard on with it. There are few things more frus­trat­ing than the fail­ure of oth­ers sweep­ing you up with it when for your part you sweated blood to make your piece of the pie a roar­ing suc­cess. And it was. Now it’s going away. Def­i­nitely takes the wind out of your sails.

I’m rel­a­tively cer­tain I’ll land another job. I’m quite cer­tain it won’t be as per­son­ally and pro­fes­sion­ally reward­ing as this one has been. Hope­fully it’ll at least be all right. We shall see.

I think back to the book and won­der: did it make a dif­fer­ence? I did my best to lift up the artists and music I love to the world. Hope­fully it made some new fans. Hope­fully it reignited someone’s faith. Hope­fully that sunny Orange County after­noon, and all the other inter­views con­ducted at dif­fer­ent times and places, mat­tered. I hon­estly don’t know.

But I’d do it again.

Per­haps one day I’ll find out if I hit anything.

On a sunny Orange County afternoon some twelve years ago, I was in a bookstore containing (but of course) a large coffee shop upfront. My purpose in being there was to meet up with one Mike Stand, leader of seminal Christian punk rock group the Altar Boys.

At the time, Stand’s musical career, at least as far as Christian rock was concerned, was decidedly in the rearview mirror. In more recent years he has fronted a rockabilly trio calling itself the Altar Billies. But, at the time we met so I could interview him for my book, we were talking about what had previously transpired.

During our conversation, he mentioned a sixth Altar Boys album. Now, as all fans of the group know, the band released five albums during their tenure. So, what was this mysterious sixth album to which Stand referred? He stated that it was planned to as a follow-up to Forever Mercy, adding how the album had gone so far into production it had been named: No Substitute. However, for various reasons the project was never completed, Stand lamenting that it would’ve been a much better final statement on his band’s career than Forever Mercy.

Whether the Altar Boys can be labeled the first Christian punk band is a matter for musicologists to argue. The band wasn’t a pure punk band; its music is far better described as raw, bareknuckled, hard driving rock ‘n’ roll. Tons of intensity, tons of passion, and an uncompromising lyrical message focused on salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. Forever Mercy got away from the band’s musical strength. No Substitute would have been a welcome return to form. Alas, it was doubtless never to see the light of day.

I mention the above because recently Stand, along with the Boys and his boy (his son is helping with the engineering and such), has dusted off the tracks recorded by him for No Substitute, completing the tracks already recorded by using the original vocals and guitars from the 1991 and 1993 sessions as the cornerstone for completing an album even the most devoted Altar Boys fans doubted would ever see the light of day … assuming they knew it existed. There’s a Kickstarter campaign going on right now to finance the whole thing.

I said all that to say this.

As one of the other artists in my book stated, every publicly-placed creative endeavor involves a fair amount of shooting arrows over the horizon. You don’t know where they’re going to land, chances are excellent you’ll never know where they did land, and thus you do not know and will never know if you hit any intended targets. You give it your best shot (no pun intended), and you move on, all the while wondering if it mattered.

Lately I’ve been fighting a nasty streak of ennui plus hopelessness. My employer is going away, taking the store my boss and I worked ridiculously hard on with it. There are few things more frustrating than the failure of others sweeping you up with it when for your part you sweated blood to make your piece of the pie a roaring success. And it was. Now it’s going away. Definitely takes the wind out of your sails.

I’m relatively certain I’ll land another job. I’m quite certain it won’t be as personally and professionally rewarding as this one has been. Hopefully it’ll at least be all right. We shall see.

I think back to the book and wonder: did it make a difference? I did my best to lift up the artists and music I love to the world. Hopefully it made some new fans. Hopefully it reignited someone’s faith. Hopefully that sunny Orange County afternoon, and all the other interviews conducted at different times and places, mattered. I honestly don’t know.

But I’d do it again.

Perhaps one day I’ll find out if I hit anything.