Interview with Steve Whittaker, drummer of Barren Cross
Tuesday, January 22nd 2008
Interview conducted by Jeff Tragedy
Photos sent by Jeff
Interview with Drummer Steve Whittaker
(All members are original)
When I was contacted by Jeff and was asked if I wanted to interview Barren Cross, I had to decline due to the fact I wasn't all too familiar with the bands material or their history. So I gave him a few options and he decided to conduct the interview himself, so it worked out in the end, eh?
Although I knew and have known who they were in the Christian Metal scene (they're pretty old, ya know?), I have never been a fan. But the one thing we all had in common (besides the fact we all love music), was the belief in Jesus Christ, someone I will always support on this site, and all who support His message!!
The Outcast: It has been a long time, 14 years, since Barren Cross has been out. Why break over a decade of silence now?
Steve: All four of us maintained our music over the years playing in different settings, but we still maintained contact with each other from time to time. Ray and I stayed in close contact when he moved to the same town I live in. As time passed by, God began giving us more passion about using our musical gifts for his Glory any way we could. I began to enjoy playing the drums many times more than I ever did when we were touring regularly. One day I was surfing the web, and came across the Barren Cross My Space page that someone did for us a tribute. Shortly there after, we got an offer to play a festival in Switzerland. God miraculously opened the door for all four us to make that festival. We hadn't played together in over 7 years, but when we got together in Switzerland to practice together the day before we were scheduled to play, it was like we never stopped touring, and we could all feel the magic again. It has been amazing as we continue to rock on!
The Outcast: Just in 2007, Barren Cross played Cornerstone Festival 2007; tell us what it was like and how it went?
Steve: It was great playing in California again, where our local fans, family and friends could come. However; we were cut short on our set, so it was a little bit of a bummer that we didn't get to do the whole set. You can check out a couple of songs from that show on www.youtube.com.
The Outcast: Describe how you guys became a band, share a little history with us...
Steve: Ray and I met through a local add paper in Los Angeles called the "Recycler" when we were 18. We both answered the same add for a Christian drummer and guitarist. We first started out with two female singers and a much older bass player, and played youth detention camps and some churches. When that ended, I looked once again to the "Recycler", and answered an ad. for someone looking for a Christian drummer. I drove over to meet that guy who was Mike Lee. I was so impressed! I had Mike Play his guitar and sing into the phone with Ray listening on the other end. Mike met Jim at a local church in the San Fernando Valley, and the rest is history.
The Outcast: What have you guys been up to, individually, over the years?
Steve: When it was time to get real jobs and start a family, I became a California Highway Patrol motorcycle officer. I have three kids that keep us busy, 16, 13, and 8 years old. Jim moved to Nashville where he started his own business, and has two little boys. Mike moved to France to be near his father and pursue his music, and has become an even better singer, and quite the talented recording engineer as well. Ray lives near me in Kern County California and has three kids, one of which is a girl he and his wife adopted from China, and works in the banking industry.
The Outcast: Share some favorite memories of the band, and the relentless touring you guys endured in your career?
Steve: Man, I could write a book on this one. I had the toughest as far as touring. We didn't have the budget to hire a roady for me, so I had to set up and tear down every night. Just go to youtube and click on the video Killers of the Unborn and take a good look at my drum set back then and you will know what I mean by having a tough time. It was too complicated to have anyone help me with that kit. I need more time to answer this one.
The Outcast: What can we look forward to from Barren Cross in the near future? New CD in the works? Concerts? Touring?
Steve: We are working on some new songs right now, and are very excited to get out and rock the world together again.
The Outcast: Your booking agent, tells me to ask you about the Green M&Ms; you guys really demand green MM's to play live?
Steve: They must be in a bowl all by themselves, with no brown or any other colors mixed in!
The Outcast: Comparing music from your first release, Believe, in 1985 and your latest (the Greatest Hits of BC in 2007); what do you notice?
Steve: I notice that there is no difference in the passion of our music and the message we were called to say, just a little more polished and refined musically and "sonically".
The Outcast: Barren Cross has been signed to the Christian record label, Star Song, as well as Mainstream label, enigma, which did much to further the metal culture; what is the bands stance spiritually and how does that affect your music?
Steve: The name of our Band says it all. Ray was watching a TV movie about Jesus Christ, and when the movie ended with Jesus hanging on the Cross, Ray in disgust, said to himself, NO! the cross is Barren! and Jesus LIVES Today!. Jesus is the only reason we play, he is the one that brought us together, and we want to tell the world that he there for them!.
The Outcast: Perhaps one of the most bands you have been compared to is Iron Maiden, do you feel that is because of Michael Lee's voice or your musical style, and what musically do you feel has influenced you the most over the years?
Steve: One day on tour, we were on the way to do an in store appearance with a promoter who asked that same question. Mike began to imitate Bruce Dickinson exactly!. Right after that, he also imitated the guys in Air Supply. It was amazing and very funny at the same time. Yes, we mostly got compared to the Christian Iron Maiden from Mike's powerful voice and the intricate melody's we wrote. I think though if you listen closely to all of our songs, you will here influences from Rush, Deep Purple, and many others.
The Outcast: Any horror stories from the road, labels, or life as a band?
Steve: I will share the story that was the beginning of the end for us back then. We were scheduled to play four Texas cities starting in Dallas where my wife is from. She flew out along with Jim's fiancé to hang out with us. We ended that tour in Houston with one day off after before we headed to another state. Jim and I wanted to get back to Dallas right away to spend time with our lady's. That last concert was very memorable for us because the members of Kings X came to that show, and came back stage after to say what fan's they were of our music. We stayed up quite late that night but still wanted to make to Dallas. On the way to Dallas, we were in a terrible accident, and by the grace of God, we were spared from injury. That Motor home was owned by a family friend of my Mom's, and I had to leave it with a gas station attendant somewhere in Texas. Some of us thought it was time to take a break and re group, but we were forced to continue on a shortened tour. Resentment started to build at that time, and it went south from there.
The Outcast: Morbid Angel in an interview with The Outcast magazine claims that they find Christian Metal silly more than a contradiction; how do you react?
Steve: I find it sad that many bands out there don't take any responsibility for what they sing about or do on stage. Or even worse, do things contradictory to what is good and from God on purpose. It is quite simple for us. We found the living Jesus who died so we could get into heaven, and we want to help as many people as we can find him to. There are only two places to go when you die, and the other place is the worst, most painful, and dark place you could ever imagine. It's up to everyone to choose one or the other, and if think you don't have to choose, you already did!
The Outcast: What is in your CD player right now? What have you been listening to a lot of?
Steve: Just about everything except COUNTRY! I mean old country you know?
The Outcast: Do you have any future predictions on the music culture and industry? A lot of people are expecting it to tighten up right now, implying that it is over saturated with music and bands. Do you agree? What do you see happening?
Steve: Music will never tighten up or slow down, and I can't guess what will be popular next year. I don't think that Metal will ever die though.
The Outcast: If you could choose what was written on your epitaph, what would it be?
Steve: Steve Whitaker, a man who tried his hardest to be like Jesus.
The Outcast: What is your take on the state of the country, and that Britney Spears is all over our news?
Steve: I think we are living in the end times, and things will only get worse. Brittany Spears is just money for the press fools.
The Outcast: Hands down, no questions asked, where is the best place to take a vacation?
Steve: My new back yard pool.
The Outcast: Hands down, no questions asked, where is the best place to eat?
Steve: Teppan Americana in Manhattan Beach California.
The Outcast: If you could relocate anywhere else in the world, where would it be?
Steve: Denmark, because it was just rated the happiest and safest country on the planet.
The Outcast: What do you wish to communicate or leave with your fans and the readers of this magazine?
Steve: I hope you all enjoy the music of Barren Cross, and more importantly, find for yourself the amazing joy and peace, and purpose for your life, that only Jesus Christ can provide. If you are interested in learning more about the band, contact us at; myspace.com/barrencross or inquire about booking us through myspace.com/northcoastagency. We really just want to be your friend.