The Anti-Rockstar

Forgive me for this post, because this may bore some of you right to sleep. But I have this huge thing for musicians who show up to video shoots without caring how they look. And no, I’m not talking about carefully picking out your most worn looking pair of shoes, tearing the Guess label off your torn jeans so you can say you bought those fitted flare jeans at a thrift store, and finding the perfect ‘I didn’t shave today’ setting on your razor, so that you can get that ‘I don’t care how I look’ look. And for what it’s worth, I shop at Guess (well, the outlet stores, anyway), I love when my shoes get frayed, and I do have a setting on my razor that makes it look like I was too cool to shave this morning. The current musician style is awesome because it started out with folks who didn’t have enough money to care about how they looked. Now we take great care to keep looking like we don’t. And I’m probably one of the worst. But still, it’s incredibly refreshing to see musicians who know they’re going to be filmed, yet didn’t polish up, didn’t polish down, but showed up as if they thought it was a Chili’s:

(This is the guy who did the music for The Fighter, Into the Wild, and some of Heat, and the gal who has sessioned and toured with Smashing Pumpkins, David Bowie, Sheryl Crow, and Jewel.)

(And just saw these guys in best picture nominee Winter’s Bone, and thought they were fantastic. My disclaimer here is that the example is Marideth Sisco herself, not the guy towards the end who has made his widow’s peak patch into a mohawk. Although he is now my new hero.)

And I wonder if we put too much time into polish. I’m not saying stop caring. If people in your church are trying to worship, and the drummer’s (sorry, drummers) half-eaten donut is sitting on the sub-woofer, that’s gross. And gross is distracting. And if you did go to Chili’s the night before, maybe put on a clean shirt. There is definitely a place for aesthetics and doing our best not to distract. Same as not hitting wrong chords, and not blacking the lights out while people are conversing. But there is also a place to be real. And not ‘try to be real.’ Just, real. Meaning, your stage does not have to have movable led lights shining blue for the slow song with the With or Without You chords and bright white on the downbeat of the first fast song because it worked in Rattle and Hum (although that was pretty awesome, huh! hehe), your guitar does not have to be a Tele, Duesenberg, or Gretsch, you do not need line array and a digital board and whatever else Church Sound magazine told you to get, and basically, if everything you do isn’t a complete copy of Hillsong, you’ll still be okay. And if you think I’m reaching here, just do a quick search of worship centers in contemporary churches across America, Europe, and Australia. Oddly the same.

Now if you like blue lights, four chords, Tele’s, and digital boards, go for it! (Connect four. Wow.) It’s just that sometimes the time and polish put into these things may, on occasion, get a little out of hand. Might be nice to be truly ‘authentic’ for a little while. Because those ‘we’re still under construction’ metal trusses on stage? Those aren’t fooling anyone anymore. Neither do people think it is magic when the pastor prays and then they open their eyes and the band is suddenly on stage. And I’m pretty bad at this myself…I have a default ‘Stevie Wonder move’ (at least that’s what people call it) that I do whether or not I’m feeling the worship, rather than being authentic. And are any of these things inherently bad? Not at all. But just something I was thinking about tonight. I don’t know; just a little less rockstar and a little more Chili’s might do us some good.


51 thoughts on “The Anti-Rockstar

  1. Great post Karl! We could all do with a little more authenticity in our approach to worship. It’s easy to get caught up in projecting a certain image in an attempt to look good or professional or…cool, instead of projecting authentic worship to God.

    This kind of reminds me of those worship leaders that have a short boom mic stand for those pre-planned “impromptu” down on our knees worship moments…

  2. Yeah I definitely don’t want to become a clichéd “worship guitar guy.” That’s one reason why I have moved away from using my thinline tele all the time, even though it’s an amazing guitar. I guess the fact that I’m even aware of it means that I’m playing into the stereotype a little.

  3. It’s true!

    By the way (this question is for Karl and everyone here…):
    Is it normal to notice a significant volume change between a distortion pedal and an OD? My ts9 is a lot louder than my Danelectro dist! I mean I have them set as best as I can, but it is still pretty significant. The sound guys and my volume pedal helps me out on it…

  4. I was just wondering yesterday “Guitar for worship, is it about worship?” Your blog post answers my thought. Authenticity is essential in worship. No amount of pedals can cover this. Though, culture seems to think that.

  5. Its funny how many musicians fall into this category. I used to be like that (and probably still am a little) but it just reminds me of the Pharisees. Clean the inside of the cup.

  6. ” Neither do people think it is magic when the pastor prays and then they open their eyes and the band is suddenly on stage.”

    you mean this isn’t magic but a planned thing? man this ruins it for me.

  7. Image is a tricksy thing. The Grunge look (and whole genre, really) of the 90’s was an assault on the Glam Rock look of the 80’s, which was partly trying to differentiate itself from the hippies of the 60’s and 70’s. Being “indie” today is in and of itself a misnomer, since you’re labeling yourself by the fact that you don’t have a label. It’s like trying to be Goth or Emo or Punk or Post-Punk Alt. Rock.

    In all of those genre’s, there was someone who did it first, and then hundreds of people who came after and tried to be like them, mistaking the image for the substance. Apparently it’s not a new thing either, especially for artists. There was a lot of bad music out in the Classical period by no-talent hacks who were trying really hard to be Haydn. The only reason we don’t hear about them is because bad music doesn’t survive the decades, so the only thing we’re left with is the best of the best. It’s the same reason why a “classic rock” station is full of awesome music, whereas the Top 40 station might have a good song on it, surrounded with dreck. Good, authentic music survives, copycats don’t.

    I think the heart of your post really nailed it, though. Just freaking be yourself. Someone told me just this weekend that it’s better to be a first rate version of yourself than a second-rate version of someone else. So. True.

  8. The director of the video for Smells Like Teen Spirit said when he worked on that video, it was the first time he had ever seen a lead singer care that little about the way he looked. He said Kurt genuinely wasn’t interested in looking cool. If you watch the video, you will see that a lot of the time, especially during the solo, he isn’t even playing, just messing around with the guitar. He didn’t want to be glamorized like the ’80s hair metal guitarists.

    Unfortunately, Karl, people like you and me have to mimic the “I don’t care” attitude. But that’s okay, because I think we came to a point probably a few years ago where we both realized we would never be as cool and rock the music world as much as Cobain, Edge, Hendrix, Lennon, etc. We are okay with just playing guitar and enjoying it for what it is, and just pretending like we might one day become famous and people will be writing books about us and interviewing us.

    Of course, understanding that you are not cool is the first baby step in actually becoming cool.

    Check this guy out that I found on youtube… I’m pretty sure he is on his way. Ha ha.

  9. brandon ALL PEDALS are very dif some of my ODs theres a huge volume boost when its set at 12 o clock so i have to turn down likie my rockbox to 8 and some i have i have to go up 12 or 4 there very dif my barber dist is very dif than my ODs also

  10. woah, i didn’t realize that using a Tele makes me a stereotypical worship guitarist, i thought that’s when you see someone have more than one delay on the board! lol

  11. I would be that some of us here have enough blue lights shining at us from our pedal boards that we get the same effect and don’t even notice it. Ah…blue LEDs…you’ve gotta love ’em!

  12. Winter’s bone. Tell me you’ve seen this. I am instantly 15 again.
    Anyway, as with all these things, when the focus stops being about God and moves on to something else we have a problem. I’ve said before we should be able to worship to some guy standing at the front banging two spoons together (with dotted 8th’s of course) but that probably isn’t us giving our best worship. Let’s spend our time practising, getting our tone right and spending time with the Lord and then letting loose in the moment. I’m so glad he created music as a way that we can worship Him.

  13. I have an Aria LP copy! 10 indie points to me. I also shave most Sundays, wear brand name shirts and jeans, and need the glasses I wear. -100 indie points to me.

    Karl, you forgot to mention v-necks, particularly deep v’s. Deep V-neck Syndrome (or D.V.S. for short) is a serious issue plaguing worship leaders around the word.

  14. MikeZA–that happens?! I’ve never seen that, but that is absolutely hilarious!!

    Phillip–haha Same here. Sometimes I go back and forth thinking about what shirt to wear on stage…’that one’s too v-neck, but that one’s too colorful, but if I’m thinking about it, then maybe that means I’m caring too much.’ haha And then I have to force myself to literally stop thinking and grab the first thing closest to me.

    Dan–thanks, bro! :)

    Caleb–lol From what I’ve been told, it’s more of a quick upper body sway. Sounds a little more like Ray Charles to me, but people say Stevie Wonder. Either way, I’m sure it’s quite awkward.

    Brandon–if I remember correctly, that Dano pedal is more of a fuzz at its core. And yes, it’s normal for fuzzes or distortions bordering on fuzz to not have much of a volume boost when engaged. Hope that helps!

    David–I definitely agree! Authenticity is irreplaceable.

    And my apologies if the worship part isn’t coming through. There are so many blogs dealing with esoteric views on ‘worship’, that I generally point this blog towards the practical nuts and bolts of worshiping God.

    But if you’re looking for more directly ‘worship-related’ posts, there are a good number of them in the archived posts to the right. Check ‘Life, Love and God Posts’, ‘Worship in General Posts’, and ‘Worship Leading Posts.’ For my specific views on worship itself, check the heading ‘Worship’ at the very top of the page. :)

    Sorry sometimes my lack of organizational skills makes things hard to find. :)

    Alex–ya, I hear ya. And I’m sure I’m still like that too.

    Joel–thanks, brother.

    Kenrick–lol Great comment. Sorry to ruin church for ya. hehe

    Ben–great point about being who you are. And great point about trends! Isn’t that so true? Especially what you said about indie!! ‘Hey everyone! Come see how much I don’t care how you see me!’ hehe

    David–huh, that’s actually pretty cool about Nirvana. I had heard that his not playing the right things in that video was his way of ‘sticking it to the man.’ haha

    And I must be very careful what I say here…is that video serious?

    Kenrick, Sal, KennyG, and Mark–have you heard of this guy? Is it for reals? I feel like a jerk to ask, but I have to. hehe Granted, he has better range than I’ll ever have.

    Patrick–thanks for the info. :)

    Rhoy & Larry–ah, correct and correct! I should’ve mentioned more than one delay, having a Tim or a Fulldrive that you want to replace with a Tim, and Herdim picks. Blast, I still fall into every category!! hehehe 😉

    Nater2–haha Absolutely!

    Mike–the beauty makes it work. :)

    Ben G–haha That’s alright. I have worn shoes, always choose the songs with the With or Without You chords, and like blue lights on stage because I saw it at an Editors concert. hehehe

    Baggas–haha I have no point when you put it like that. I’d like more blue lights and a Tele too, please! :)

    KennyG–hahaha Comment of the day! So it’s not really that every church I go to has blue led lights, it’s that all the guitarists are actually lighting the stage with their Keeley mods!! haha Why didn’t I think of that before!

    Matthew–lol Yes! Taylor’s can definitely go in there. And I want one. 😉

    Mark Colvin–awesome comment, bro. Totally agree.

    Oh, and party time, excellent!!

    Sam–yep, V-necks should totally be in there!! :) And yes, I wear them. Just not on stage. hehe


  15. hey just wanted to let you guys know i just got my email saying im on the waiting list for the KOT and the bjfe bee =) i know its only the list but the bjfe is only like 6 months caint wait to have them!(best part of my week) haha jk

  16. Great post!

    Karl or anyone on here: Any idea on the origins of how the tele became the “go to” guitar for worship players? Always wondered…

    • let’s see … keith richards, bruce springteen, david gilmour, andy summers … oh wait, you said worship guitarist … then, yes, that would probably be Edge, Jonny Buckland and maybe even Jonny Greenwood! :)

      • Yea, wasn’t sure if there was someone in the Christian music realm that helped spread its popularity, or if the trend was taking cues from popular mainstream artists.

  17. Patrick–right on!! :)

    Hsiehdy–Edge on Vertigo, 2004. 😉

    I know that sounds funny, but check out him using a 335-style guitar on City of Blinding Lights on the ’05-’06 tour, right around the time those started getting popular.

    It’s a conspiracy, I tell you. No one believes me. 😉 hehe

  18. Karl: That is fascinating, I saw them in Boston in 2004, but this was before I started playing electric. Now I know who to influence if we ever want a resurgence of the Flying V 😉

  19. Have you seen that worship fundamentals animated youtube video? On fauxhawks: “If you have normal hair, we put our vision of evangelism at risk.” :)

  20. Hsiehdy–haha The Explorer? That made a slight comeback a couple years ago, but I think the lead pastors got involved. 😉

    Dan & Kenny–haha Nice.

    Is it bad that I agree with her on the 8th notes, though? 😉 😉 😉

  21. Just to let you know, NO! Ha. My friend showed me that guy’s page. I feel bad making fun of other musicians, but it’s honestly hilarious.

  22. Sal–me either.

    Alex–haha Nice. Not knowing what to do with my rig definitely fits me. I wouldn’t call my rig complex, though. hehe But ya, thus far, they all fit. :)

    David–ok, he’s serious. Hmm. Honestly, I don’t think he’s that bad of a musician. Probably more talent than I’ll ever have. But the facial expressions may start to be a drawback.

  23. Yes. The Dano is more of a fuzz at the core. It treat it like a dist though. When I play, I have the dist all the way down basically and it still gives me a thick sounding dist for great choruses. Works really well on “Break Free” and stuff like that!

  24. Say, have you guys heard of Heavy Electronics? Gonna try out their distortion pedal (Hwy 77) for my soon-to-be-acquired Tele. Apparently they’re hand-made in Minnesota, pretty nice, and the guys as Willie Guitars love them, which is saying something. I can get info off the net about them, just wondering if anyone had experienced them firsthand. They look cool–which is a def. plus–but what would really be nice is to make my next dirt purchase a “utility” pedal–that sounds good with the Tele but also works to stack with my Tubescreamer clone, for BOTH guitars (SC’s and HB’s). We’ll see…

  25. Rhoy & Hsiehdy–ya, I know. All the older guys used Tele’s a lot, but it seemed none of the newer guys did until ’04 when Edge’s was all over Vertigo. haha I could be wrong, though. 😉

    Brandon–ah, that’s what I thought I remembered. Then yes, as to your original question, most fuzzes bring a distorted effect rather than an increase in volume. So what you’re experiencing is normal.

    Caleb–nope, never heard of ’em here. I’ll look into it though. Thanks for the info!

  26. Ya, they’re both credited and may have even worked together a bit! That’d be cool! But you can hear the atmospheres that are Michael Brook’s guitar and composition contributions, and the growly vocals that are Vedder’s contributions. hehe In a good way! I actually thought ‘Big Hard Sun’ was one of the best things he’s done. :)

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