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.