|Chritian Musician Interview
with Jim Baptizer of Baptizer
Name: Jim Baptizer
QRD – Do you try to keep your faith life & musical life separate?
Jim – No, I do not. I see my faith as an integral part of Baptizer. I make my religious beliefs pretty blatant. I think one’s faith is supposed to inform every aspect of one’s life, although I am a sinner & obviously do not do this perfectly.
QRD – When creating music do you feel closer to God?
Jim – There are times when the process seems somewhat mundane, but for the most part, yes. Even when I seem to explicitly reflect the infernal, the point is that this has been part of my life & I know that others have had experiences with the darker aspects of this fallen world, so even the “darkest” tracks ultimately have the potential to be a furious calling up to God.
QRD – How has your music helped you grow as a Christian?
Jim – I use music to work through both internal personal conflicts & what I see as external conflicts indicative of the modern age. Therefore, in working through both, I believe I eventually get glimpses of clarity that help me improve communication with Him & help me understand my life as an imperfect child of God better.
QRD – How has your music effected your faith?
Jim – I see my music, as ugly as it can seem at times, as intensifying my faith, of helping me clarify what faith truly is. I do not think a person of faith can cower from the ugly things within the world… nor within themselves. There is more than one kind of message in Baptizer, but one would be to say, “I know how dark & ugly things can get. I have been there. I might very well find myself there again… but God’s mercy is far more powerful!”
QRD – How are your faith & aesthetic ideas linked together?
Jim – While I will use musical structures in my releases, I use them strategically. Similarly, I use noise strategically. The aesthetic of Baptizer I suppose is to use multiple methods to communicate. The apostles also did this, didn’t they? The point is partly to not be bound or boxed in. God transcends that; the spirit behind sounds also transcends that. Not that I’m the best out there by any means, but that’s partly the point behind not accommodating one particular genre. But it is also about personal mystical experience. It is odd that some Christian denominations shun mysticism. Mystical experiences have always been a part of traditional Christianity, both Eastern & Western.
Also in this aesthetic of Baptizer is the concept of defending Christendom. A Holy War extends from the time of Jesus’s birth up to the present age. That Holy War might take different forms over time, but it has never really stopped. At one time, this War was blatantly physical. Warfare between unified Christian & anti-Christian forces was in one’s own backyard, so to speak. Now, I do not see centralized armies as waging a war against enemies of Christendom. They might think they are. They might be told by their leaders that they are. But anyone with at least a basic awareness of politics & economics today will recognize that is untrue. There are definitely still forces that make martyrs of Christians with violent means; but in recent times, their victimization was just a way to justify the expansion of a Godless Empire.
I’m using that tangent to explain that the aesthetic of Baptizer is also tied to my own ridiculously obscure attempt to throw a molotov amidst the cultural battleground of this Holy War.
QRD – What has been your experience being a Christian in an underground artistic community? Have you experienced any negativity towards yourself regarding your beliefs?
Jim – Most folks I have come into contact with seem okay with me even if they disagree. However, I’ve had plenty of negative reactions. That’s okay with me, particularly since my live sets can at times be pretty confrontational. I don’t expect everyone to accept what I do & what I believe, nor enjoy the sounds that I make. I do, however, get some hostile reactions based not on performances, but the beliefs themselves & in some minor cases get ostracized, which is the way it’s supposed to be! I still won’t become mild or quiet about what I stand for. That’s what the engineers of this age want. I won’t give it to them.
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?
Jim – I sort of addressed this when responding to the second question, but I’ll elaborate. It makes no sense to me to ignore the dark side of this fallen world. If you want people to acknowledge faith has some merit, mutually ignoring this dark side is like a symptom of psychosis. It’s denial. I have had to wrestle with quite a few unsettling experiences. As a child, I was an object of abuse. At age 12, I saw the suicide remains of my most beloved uncle. In my teens & early twenties, I plunged heavily into drug addiction. I struggled for years with diagnoses of PTSD & schizophrenia. I have experienced jails & institutions. I have let myself be seduced by insane strains of political ideology, both far left & far right. What sense does it make to deny unpleasant experiences? I would be doing a disservice to people who might consider God’s mercy, but ultimately see mainstream Christian artists, & probably Christians in general, being “full of shit” & ignoring part of themselves.
QRD – How do you feel about performing with & for people who have a completely different set of beliefs than you do?
Jim – I have no problem with it, because being completely exclusionary & isolated is counter-productive. Also that would mean I am completely “stuck up” & I was never fond of that stance before converting. Additionally, many of the artists who caught my interests in the decades before my conversion were not Christian. I still respect & appreciate them for breaking through the boundaries of the formulaic, which even punk ended up succumbing to.
QRD – What’s your take on bands that refer to themselves as Satanic or Pagan?
Jim – My take is, “There but for the grace of God go I.” When I was in my early teens & discovering experimental music, I became infatuated with the rituals of Crowley & the Temple ov Psychick Youth. In my late twenties, I became involved with a folkish Germanic pagan group. I have plenty of experience with being an unbeliever, so I won’t try to force people to believe what I do. I know that doesn’t work.
QRD – What do you think of Contemporary Christian Music?
Jim – It probably comes as no surprise that I’m not a big fan of popular Christian contemporary music; but I think there are plenty of good Christian artists involved with genres like grindcore, noise, martial industrial, & neo-folk.
QRD – How did you become a Christian? Can you share your experience?
Jim – I guess it is impossible for me to truly articulate the experience of the Holy Spirit, but this is ultimately what called me to the faith. It started with whispers & gradually over years grew louder & eventually I recognized what was calling me. Now, there is no turning back! There were times earlier when I turned & attempted to cling to denial, but that is impossible now. I am grateful I had another chance to embrace it - not the second chance, but the hundredth? It’s hard to say how many times I tried to deny His presence. Thank God I received the Gift of the Holy Spirit! There was also an intellectual & rational aspect to coming to terms with Him, but I won’t bore you with the details. I’ll just say that I reached a point intellectually at which I could no longer deny there was a spiritual component to man. That lead me first to folkish Indo-European paganism, but I eventually had to ask myself, “When I reach the end of my life, will I really call out the name of a finite, mortal god, or will I call on the Almighty, the source of all substance throughout all existence?”
QRD – Name a scripture that has personal significance to you & why?
Jim – In keeping with the transition from paganism to monotheism mentioned above, one of the first truly striking accounts I discovered was Paul’s discourse with Greek pagans concerning the altar of the “unknown God” mentioned in chapter 17 of Acts. This reinforced for me that polytheistic ideas in multiple European cultures seem to imply an omnipotent source, or what some pagans I’ve known would refer to as “Supreme Godhead.” You see that term also in English translations of Vedic texts, but I hold to many theorists’ view that the Rig Veda also has Indo-European roots. This account from Acts called to me as a pagan who had come to venerate his ancestors. & of course, preservation of Christendom would not long after become a pan-European cause. But the more I read the Bible & learn, the more I understand why my grandmother, when asked what her favorite part of the Bible was would say, “All of it!”
QRD – How have traditional music & hymns influenced your music?
Jim – I at times use samples from classical music & opera. People don’t seem to think about it as much now, but these usually have religious roots. The requiem compositions of Mozart & Verdi, for example, seem to be exploited a lot now for movies & commercials, but they were intended for use by the Roman Catholic Church. But I will also distort these sounds for an unsettling effect. Eastern Orthodox chants & hymns of both the Byzantine & Russian variety have already had quite an influence on my tracks. You will hear samples & field recordings of these at times. The same is beginning to hold true for traditional chants & music of the Roman Catholic mass, & as I become more immersed in the Tridentene Mass in particular, I’m sure you’ll hear its influence.
QRD – Would you like to be more involved with playing praise music?
Jim – Had I more time, I would be way more involved in the choir that sings for the Latin Mass at our church, but there are so many life demands that it just isn’t possible right now.
QRD – Would you like to try your hand at writing traditional praise music or hymns?
Jim – Well, it wouldn’t be writing new stuff, but rather learning more about existing traditional chants. I’m actually trying to do that currently. I pay attention to every word I possibly can at the Latin Mass.
QRD – Do you ever intentionally or unintentionally have Christian references in your songs?
Jim – Absolutely & it’s always intentional! Pick a release & it will be in there somewhere, if not obvious throughout!
QRD – How do fans & peers respond to first finding out you are a Christian?
Jim – It doesn’t seem that I get too many negative responses anymore. People involved with noise & its ilk usually know before I meet them.
QRD – How do you respond to people making statements like, “I thought you were too smart to be a Christian?”
Jim – I’ve never actually gotten that one!
QRD – How do you keep up your spiritual life while on tour?
Jim – I don’t do real tours actually. My family must come first, so I do occasional shows, but never a long string of them all at once.
QRD – How has Christianity helped you with dealing with the stresses of working in the music industry?
Jim – I don’t really consider myself part of the music industry, but I have had to practice forgiveness with a couple of folks. Perhaps someone had to practice that with me as well.
QRD – Has your faith ever hindered your career in anyway?
Jim – Luckily, music is not my career, because I doubt I’ll ever make enough money to provide for my children with it!
QRD – Anything else?
Jim – I am so grateful for the people I have met since starting this project - all of them! No matter the hostilities & indifference certain people have toward it, it will continue! I am also grateful for YOU - the person reading this! God loves you! Forsake the empire; seek the Kingdom!