Issue 7 Cover

CoE: When Code of Ethics started five years ago, it was just myself. I was living in Michigan at the time where my Father was a minister of a church. That's where I spent about 21 years of my life growing up. All my influences were there. I wrote and recorded ten songs but it didn't really go anywhere. I didn't have connections or anything like that to push it, and the material wasn't recorded very well, so it didn't get very far. I was all by myself without any kind of help, so I just let it go and started writing again. I'd packaged it up and everything - made it look like a decent demo - but it just didn't go anywhere. We moved about a year after that first demo to Florida, where my Father took another church down here. I met Eric at that time. I had already started on a second demo, another ten song demo. Eric helped on a couple of songs on the second tape. Then the entire year we shopped it to record companies, but didn't get real good response. It was just okay. Actually, I was really disappointed at some of the responses. It just didn't seem like we were getting anywhere. I wasn't sure if it was the material or what...

ACM: What sort of response were they giving you?

CoE: Well, people liked it. But some of the Christian record labels, to be honest with you, just strung us along. They told us that it was really cool and they wanted to do something with it...that they heard good potential. They would say to send more material and keep stringing us along. We didn't play out or was just the two of us. So over the course of that year, we basically shopped the tape and sat around, which was not a good thing to do. On the third demo I had decided to go ahead. I was more influenced by keyboards (even more on the third demo), bought some new equipment, and decided this was the last demo I was going to do. I was really sincere about it and I prayed about it. I told the Lord this is it, I'm tapped out financially, because it's so expensive. I'm going to go in, do it 24-track, and lay all the tracks down. I'd come up with some material that I thought was really cool this time. So I went ahead into the studio and laid down some songs that I had written. I thought this time it sounded really decent. I went into a fairly good recording studio, actually a church basement, and laid it all down professionally. I packaged up the whole demo and made it look really decent. Then I sent it off to about six different record companies. The first that called back was R.E.X., and I just built a really good relationship with them really quickly. They just seemed to have a lot of potential with what I wanted to do, and we just worked out a really good working relationship. We went from there and started the record deal. In the meantime, Eric and I decided to go ahead and form a band and start playing out live, so we went ahead and started booking. I got a full-time manager who is a friend of mine from Michigan. He was really interested in the Christian music field and had done quite a bit of work in it before (not managing bands, but just doing other things). He moved down to Florida about four months ago just after we'd signed the record deal and started working fulltime as the manager. We started playing out immediately after the demo tape was finished, even before we got the record deal, which was cool. So, since the record deal we stay pretty busy with our gigs and playing live.

ACM: What sort of venues are you playing?

CoE: Well...we play some secular gigs. In fact, this weekend we're playing downtown at a big art festival called Arts Mania. It's a big festival they have every year. They've asked us to come down and headline it and play on the main stage which is real cool. And that's all secular. I don't do a whole lot of talking when I do secular gigs, I let the music do more of the talking. We 're also doing churches, which were the first concerts we ever started playing. The first were really cheap, but now we've started to pick up and do some clubs, a few secular clubs, and we've booked quite a few Christian clubs, which is really cool. That seems to be the real in thing now. Christian dance clubs are starting to pick up, which really helps us a lot since we're doing dance music. We've booked quite a few Christian colleges and we're going to be going on a tour now in November, looks like probably our mainstay is going to be Christian colleges and clubs. So far we've been received well; I haven't really heard anything negative. They know it's Christian music. When we go to book secular colleges or any kind of secular venue, we don't tell them that we're a Christian band. After they listen to the tape, of course, some of them, actually most of them, know that we are promoting Christian ethics. I think there seems to be these days some sort of a need for morals. And it just seems like they accept it really well, you know, Code of Ethics. We don't bash people over the head with Bibles. I know that there are a lot of older groups that feel you need to have an alter call, and you have to preach the Word - like a pulpit in a way. We feel, especially with alternative music, that doing that really turns off the alternative crowd in the clubs and things like that. I think they want to hear it in the lyrics and in the music. I think they want to hear good ethics and morals, but they don't want to be bashed over the head with Bibles. They don't want you to come out and say God Jesus every few words. Yet inside their heart they really do want to hear it, and I think they appreciate it. They appreciate having a group out there that will bring it to them. Anyway, so far we've had really good response getting into secular colleges and places like that. I'm sure at some point we'll run up against a wall somewhere, because they're really anti-God, but so far it's been pretty well received.

ACM: What do you hope to accomplish over the next couple of years with your shows and with your music in the stores?

CoE: Well, one of the main things that I would like to see happen is alternative music being brought into the mainstream of Christian music. I always felt that the Christian record companies always told us what we could listen to, and would only give us a certain small selection of music. That was one thing that really aggravated me as a Christian listener. It made the supply of groups very, very limited. And they were handpicked groups, I think. Alot of the groups just weren't reall aggressive, lyrically or musically. I don't think that alot of bands were really up to the technology that maybe they should've been. What we're trying to do is add today's technology...we hope to stay up with the times musically. It seems that Christian music is 3-5 years behind schedule. We want to stay right on top of things, musically, that are going on. And to always provide a good moral background for our listeners. We'd really like to see alternative music go into the mainstream. Our music is more...maybe pop oriented. That probably comes from some of my background. Before I was saved, I played in clubs quite a bit. Alot of the pop, I think, influenced some of the writing. So, although it's alternative music, its got a crossover pop feel to it. Hopefully we're going to grab some mainstream listeners. It may open up a lot of doors for other alternative bands which is really what I'd like to see in the future.

ACM: You think of yourselves primarily as a dance band with a Christian emphasis?

CoE: Definitely. I love dance music. Our first two demos were not quite as dance oriented, really. We weren't exactly sure where we were fitting in. I was really influenced by Peter Murphy, and more guitar-oriented types of alternative music. What I really really always wanted was to get into the dance groove, because that's what I really like the most - dance-type music. That's where I really see Code of Ethics going at least for the next three albums. For two to three albums it's going to be really dance-oriented music. It always seemed to me that when I went to Christian concerts over the last couple years that people were just starving for dance music. Everytime somebody would play a song that you could dance to, the crowd would always get into it and get involved right away. I thought the best way to get a message to a crowd was through dance music and that was the type of music that I liked the most.

ACM: How does this go over with your Father, being a being a preacher's kid?

CoE: For years, I grew up in a pretty staunch hardcore Baptist home. And, so I grew up feeling that there was no Christian music. That is was wrong...drums were evil. I started on drums when I was a little kid and then I moved into guitar. I was always taught that these instruments were wrong...that they couldn't be used for the Lord's glory. That was just one of the stupid ideologies that we were taught. I ended up really rebelling, because I loved music so much. I just rebelled and felt, well...the only place for me to play was in the world. So I was using my talent, but I wasn't using it for the Lord. Finally, through different events in my life, I was totally brought around through sickness and things the Lord put in my way. It really opened my eyes. I totally turned and gave my music to God. I actually stopped for about a month when I got out of secular band I was in. I actually stopped music for about a month just to find out if Christian music was even right. Over the course of that month, I really did a lot of soul searching and came to the decision, finally, that it was right and that I was given a talent that I needed to totally use for God. Through the last few years, my Father's really been turned around by the music. In fact, the other night he was listening to the tape, and he told me how much he really appreciated it and liked it and was hoping that it would open a lot of doors for me...that the ministry itself would help other people. He was really excited about it. And that's coming from a really staunch Baptist preacher who used to preach that even Christian rock music was wrong! But, he's just seen the changes that it's brought in my life, and actually seen that it does work. That the Lord can use that type of music just as well as anything. So he's actually pretty excited about the group and the things that we're doing now, but it's taken a long time.

ACM: You mentioned that you've got a tour in mind, coming up here in the next couple of months. What's that going to involve?

CoE: Well (laughing) involves us buying a van and a trailer, packing it up, and hitting the road. We're going to go ahead and go up North and...let's see...we're going to Ohio, Illinois(Chicago area), Indiana and Detroit. I'd say that most of our gigs are going to be in the Detroit area...Michigan area actually. We've got a few gigs even all the way up to the U.P. (Upper Peninsula), but most of them are going to be in the Michigan area, a few in Chicago, one or two in Ohio, and a few in Indiana.

ACM: You were saying that you were frustrated with the industry somewhat from your dealings with shopping your demo around and from some of the feedback you got...the stringing along. If you could make some changes to the industry, what are a couple of things you would want to change about it pretty quickly.

CoE: I definitely think that the Christian record business is just that. It's just a business. There are very few that are really ministry-minded...definitely very few. And you'll find that it's probably just the really small labels...they're the ones who are ministry-oriented. But, for the most part its just a business like anyone else. And it's a cut-throat business a lot of times. The more you get involved, the more you see that there are a lot of problems inside it - internally - in some of the bigger companies. I think they have A&R people who are strictly concerned with whether they're going to make a big killing on it or not. The only reason that a few of these progressive bands now see openings is because these companies are realizing that people are absolutely screaming out for it...that they're going to buy it so much. That's why the doors are opening. It's taken a long time because there are a lot of people out there like myself who've wanted to hear good Christian alternative music, but could never get it. I think they have something like a quota - here a few heavy metal bands, and there a few alternative bands. They have a whole lot of regular contemporary's almost like they're just filling a quota. And once they have enough, it doesn't matter what you're trying to say, or do, or how good you are. Alot of the time...they just don't care. Like they already have enough of what they want. That was the attitude we got from a lot of the companies. The change I would like to see would be from inside the company, to the people who actually listen to the music and make the decisions over getting new material and signing tapes. I think sometimes that the listeners are really contemporary-minded people who strictly like the mainstream. They don't step outside that. They don't take risks of any kind in picking up new bands because they're not sure what they are going to do. That's actually where I'd like to see the change...inside the company itself...where they do the listening, the A&R people.

ACM: What about you see any hope there?

CoE: Yes and no. I think Christian radio has a long, long, long way to go. Even down here in my's almost like they're cut off sometimes. In fact, the radio station that I listen to (which is a contemporary station) just found out about Steve Taylor, you know? This is a group that's already been off the scene for two years, and they're just finding out about Steve Taylor. Alternative music has always been strongest on college radio, and I think thats where its going to remain unless an alternative band can break through and have something that's real radio play but still remains alternative. And that's where Code of Ethics is trying to go. We're trying to open some doors in that area as far as having a song that will get airplay, but will still remain alternative enough. That's a really hard thing to's a really fine line you have to walk. As far as having a lot of hope for Christian radio, I think it could be a great, great thing if it's done right, but it just seems that so many Christian radio stations are still stuck back in the seventies or eighties, you know? They're just not up on the times. I'm hoping to see a lot more alternative stations open up...or at least programs. It's still just very, very mainstream right now.

ACM: What's R.E.X. going to do to put you into mainstream college radio?

CoE: Well...that's a good question. Through the Pure Rock Report we've actually gathered quite a few different college radio stations, program directors, and the addresses and all for different college radio stations. Alot of secular colleges also. That's where we're going to aim mainly. And, of course, the Pure Rock Report will distribute the cd's to all of the air stations that they serve. I've been gathering a lot of secular alternative stations and alternative college stations...that's where I'd really like us to see push some of our material. It's hard to say, at this point, whether they'll play them or not, or whether lyrically they may be too strong. I'm not sure. I'm kind of waiting...I'm really anxious to see what will happen, and really hoping it will open some doors. But that remains to be seen. I'm not really sure what Doug's planning to do. I think they're pretty much just going to send them to college radio stations right now, all the Christian ones and some secular.

ACM: Listening through your material...I was wondering if there's any possibility of you putting out a cd single with four or five extended remixes...any chance of something like that?

CoE: We played around with it a little bit.. We went up to Detroit to mix the album down and played around a little bit while we were there with some remixes. They were really coming out neat, so it really gave me the idea to do that, to go back in. The single they're releasing off of this is not necessarily a dance song. It's called Greater Love. I think it's more for the mainstream radio station. That's their hope also, that it will cross into the mainstream. I would myself like to go back and redo a few songs that are on there, and try to distribute them to some clubs and see if we can get some play like that. There's a song that didn't make it on there,...its a really good dance song called Follow On we're doing live in concert. It didn't make it onto the tape, but we're talking about going back in and remixing some dance mixes and then doing that. Just coming out with one or two songs that are on cd. I hope that works out. We'll probably do that later this year.

ACM: If someone went to a school or college and would really like to find some way of getting you there, who would they contact? How would they go about that? What would they be looking at realistically to make something happen?

CoE: Well, right now we're doing all of our own bookings. We have several offers from some booking companies to sign with them, but we haven't made a decision because its a real serious decision. You end up signing a long agreement with a booking agent and you want to make sure that the booking agent is really going to do what they say they are going to do, so we haven't jumped into anything yet. Again, we're still doing our own bookings, probably right up until the first of the year.

ACM: Finally, what sort of advice do you have for a band doing something similar to what you're doing...not signed to a label of any kind...just doing their own recording and promotion?

CoE: I would say the best thing to do...if you're looking for that record deal (if that's the direction you think you should go in)...the best thing at this time is to record yourself 24-track (if you can afford to do it), package it up really nice, and send it to a company, though not necessarily a major label. Alot of times major labels tend to pick up a whole lot of bands and throw a few out to see which ones work. They won't stand behind their bands. I've found it best to find a company that you see putting out really really good music, like R.E.X. Find a smaller label that you think is a really strong label. I think you'll find those are the labels that really stand behind you with advertisement and everything they can possibly do for you. If they really believe in your product, that's what they'll do. A lot of times a major label won't do that. I would definitely recommend for a band shopping for a record label to shop for a smaller independent label, because they're always looking for a great new act to stand behind. And, that's what we did. We shopped around.

Tom D. Stephenson