with Christian Musician Brian John Mitchell of Remora
City: Raleigh, North Carolina
Bands: Remora, Vlor, Small Life Form, Casual Bombs, etc.
Websites: www.silbermedia.com/remora, www.myspace.com/remora, www.silbermedia.com/vlor
Listen to "Into the Light"
Listen to "The One I've Been Waiting For"
QRD – Do you try to keep your faith life & musical life separate?
Brian – Yes & no. I try to keep pretty much any given portions of my life as separated as I can because I’m a fairly private person, but eventually everything is all linked together & part of the same thing.
QRD – When creating music do you feel closer to God?
Brian – Only when the music is good & seems beyond my level of control & ability. With luck this happens at points in any live performance.
QRD – How has your music helped you grow as a Christian?
Brian – My music (once again, when it’s working) definitely makes me feel like I’m part of something bigger than myself, which I think any musician would say. For me it feels like evidence for the existence of God.
QRD – How has your music effected your faith?
Brian – My music has ended up pretty substantially shaping my whole life, so I’m sure it’s effected my faith; but I’m not quite sure how.
QRD – How are your faith & aesthetic ideas linked together?
Brian – They are at a certain point indistinguishable. Which is how I feel it should be. Because my music is about creating a sense of community & a lack of loneliness between individual humans & how that points to some kind of inter-connectedness in the world (not that I’m a pan-theist). Of course part of my aesthetics is also about tapping into something bigger than myself & that I’m not sure where it comes from, so somewhat revelatory I suppose? It’s hard to explain.
QRD – What has been your experience being a Christian in an underground “artistic” community? Have you experienced any negativity towards yourself regarding your beliefs?
Brian – People are confused. I have pretty clear religious references in a lot of songs & I take a Bible with me on tour & people still think I’m doing some kind of weird ironic thing a lot of the time. Sometimes people act like it means I’m stupid or somehow attacking them just by mentioning something about religion. It’s funny how people get like that. At the same time I’ve had a lot of positive experiences with people I’ve been on tour with who stop associating Christianity with judgmental jack-asses after hanging out with me for a week.
QRD – How do you reconcile the idea of making “dark” music against the perception that Christians making music “should” be creating music of praise or trying to “save” people?
Brian – I don’t think of my music as dark, but I understand that some people do. But I think people that only think Christian music should be praise music could stand to read the 95% of the Bible they seem to be ignoring. Psalms is essentially a collection of songs & a good percentage of them are about feeling abandoned or asking for help with the death of enemies. I think a lot of praise music is beautiful & it has it’s place, but to focus on it exclusively builds a division where you aren’t a missionary to the world you live in & that’s just not my thing – at least not right now.
QRD – How do you feel about performing with & for people who have a completely different set of beliefs than you do?
Brian – I like it a lot actually. I feel it gives me a chance to help people think about Christianity in a way a lot of them haven’t as adults. I find I get in a lot more arguments with Christians about Christianity than non-Christians.
QRD – What’s your take on bands that refer to themselves as Satanic or Pagan?
Brian – Usually it’s for publicity & it’s dumb. If they really have those beliefs & think they are going to make the world a better place by spreading their belief system (even if I think they’re wrong), then I have a little more respect for them as human beings. I think bands like Christian Death where there is some question as to whether they are Satanic or exploring & questioning Christianity can be beneficial to anyone regardless of their intent. Because there are a lot of weird things when you’re trying to wrap your mind around Christianity as being possible, much less true, & if you don’t question it or at least become aware of some of the questions you can easily lose your faith at some point down the line. A lot of the strongest Christians I know have had some point in their lives where they were involved with the dark side of things & I would never think of condemning these bands as I think there’s a good chance that they are on spiritual journeys & there’s a good chance they’ll be better Christians than myself at some point. The prodigal son & all that, you know?
QRD – What do you think of Contemporary Christian Music?
Brian – They generally have decent guitar tones & horrible drum sounds & mediocre vocals. I hate knowing how the business side of it works, because it’s as disgusting as the pop music industry. I also get upset at how often there seems to be really bad theology behind them. Jesus wasn’t just this hippy walking around loving everybody; he was also a revolutionary & I like to think of Jesus as more like Che Guevara than most people do.
QRD – How did you become a Christian? Can you share your experience?
Brian – I have always been on a quest for transcendence & as a kid it led to substance abuse (predominantly hallucinogens & alcohol) & eventually when you get to a certain point of debauchery & moral decline you either are going to die or you do finally meet God staring at you in your filth. Which is a really humbling thing that I think helps create true Christians, but I would never recommend it to anyone. It’d probably be better to have a unifying experience with God when you were able to talk, walk, & remember your own name.
QRD – Name a scripture that has personal significance to you & why?
Brian – I don’t really like to go around quoting a sentence from the Bible out of context & I don’t even know where this bit or that bit is a lot of the time. But the prodigal son bit is fairly important to me. & I like the part about spitting out the tepid water. I also did a song on Songs I Sing that was just reading part of Job & I’ve heard DJs call that track “job” (like where you work) & I think that’s funny. I do read Psalms a lot.
QRD – How have traditional music & hymns influenced your music?
Brian – I was raised going to church & a lot of those songs are unquestionably influential to me in the same way punk music is. I like how some of them are narrative oriented & how others are anthem oriented.
QRD – Would you like to be more involved with playing praise music?
Brian – Yes, I suppose I would. But I don’t know how my skill set would really fit in with that. That said I’ve been talking for a while about doing a drone-praise album. I have no idea what the reaction to that would be; I think if it’s good enough drone-enthusiasts would like it more than the average Christian. I also wrote a little prayer book that I’ll mail to anybody who asks for one. & I’m planning to write another little prayer book that is written from the standpoint of a justified killer (it’s a comic tie-in).
QRD – Would you like to try your hand at writing traditional praise music or hymns?
Brian – I suppose I have tried in a way & there’s this new Small Life Form piece that is just a droning vocal reminiscent of a chanting monk. But I don’t think I have a great interest in doing all the things it would take today to get a song into the religious canon. But a few people have covered my song with the most obvious religious reference (“I Told Jesus Christ How Much I Love Her”) & I suppose that’s about as close as it’ll get.
QRD – Do you ever intentionally or unintentionally have Christian references in your songs?
Brian – All the time, mainly unintentionally. I also unintentionally write songs about girls & robots. Sometimes I’m banging away on the guitar & I think that it relates to Jesus & other times it relates to a girl or a robot or whatever. I really don’t know how that segment of my brain works, nor would I like to understand it. I need the mystery.
QRD – How do fans & peers respond to first finding out you are a Christian?
Brian – Either “That doesn’t make sense!” or “Oh, that makes sense.” I think it depends on what they think Christianity is about more than what they think I’m about.
QRD – How do you respond to people making statements like, “I thought you were too smart to be a Christian?”
Brian – “You’d also think I’d be too smart to be a musician.” It all depends on who says it. Sometimes I go into Thomas Aquinas’s arguments for the existence of God. It’s silly to assume believing in something you don’t fully understand is unintelligent. Believing in democracy as a fair form of government seems at least as dumb to me.
QRD – How do you keep up your spiritual life while on tour?
Brian – Usually reading the Bible every day. Spending some time praying the rosary while driving. Sexy stuff like that. It is hard to make it into a church. But I really don’t feel the link to the community of living Christians (as opposed to those that died a thousand or more years ago) the way a lot of people do & that’s probably a bit of a weakness in my spirituality.
QRD – How has Christianity helped you with dealing with the stresses of working in the music industry?
Brian – I think it’s helped me get in my place as far as humility & knowing even under the best of circumstances that I’m not the center of anything. Which is helpful in everything. But I think especially in the arts you can get people giving you accolades that are a little silly & if you believe them you’ll get into trouble. Also I guess it eventually helped me steer away from substance abuse & general self-destruction & has helped me have a calmness in seemingly stressful situations.
QRD – Has your faith ever hindered your career in anyway?
Brian – Yes, in that if I was a more self-centered jackass than I am, I could probably have put more time & energy into my music. But I think that is true with more or less everyone I’m friends with.
QRD – Anything else?
Brian – I really wish more people actually read the Bible. Whether they are Christians or not. It seems like any semi-intellectual who feels drawn to read all of Shakespeare’s works or a lot of Russian literature should read the Bible as a highly influential work of literature that shaped basically everything that came after it. It’s unfortunate that so many Christians are jerks that people don’t want anything to do with Christianity. It seems like such an obvious thing that this 2000 year-old book is the basis of so much of western civilization that everyone should read it for school & I’m a bit confused by it being largely unread given it’s the best selling book every single year.
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