Barren Cross Concert Review and Interview


BARREN CROSS LIVE IN SWITZERLAND

 

The performance of Barren Cross  was probably the highest anticipated Band at this years Elements of Rock Festival in Uster near Zurich, Switzerland on Sat, March 18th, 2012. The White-Metal-Veterans would hit the stage one hour earlier as originally planned. For the first show in 5 years Ray Parris (Guitars), Mike Lee (Vocals), Jim LaVerde (Bass) and Steve Whitaker (Drums) especially flew over to Europe. When the four guys hit the stage, they showed no sign of slowing down. On the contrary , from the beginn there was this special energy and atomsphere – as there has always been. Each one of them was obviously enjoying to play again with authentic greatfulness, when they presented their musical message.

In the two hours that followed that wouldn’t change a bit and the enthusiasm of the audience kept staying even after the following bands had entered the stage. Besides „old stuff“, an instrumental of Mike Lee and also the first song he ever composed in 1984, with „Withwashed Love“ there was the first new Barren Cross Song in 15 years. But not only the Rockmusic experience was pleasing, but also the statement about their faith in Jesus Christ. Singer Mike Lee gave a testimony about having had idols for long years and to repent and get back to his Lord. After that, he had experienced a whole new Joy and Peace in his life.

Bassist Jim LaVerde contrasted the Lyrics of Nickelbacks „Rock Star“ to the ones of his favorite Barren Cross Song „Here I am“.

Passionately he showed, that life is not about getting fulfilled in property, but about hard-line dedication to the Lord Jesus Christ. Finally he invited the audience to sing along with the band. Everyone sang out loud to the chorus with a mixture of enthusiasm and devotion. What an experience!

(Barren Cross on stage 2012 in Uster, Switzerland.)

 

(Barren Cross Promotion Picture, 1986)

 

 

In the context of the Festival we also had the opportunity to have an interview with Ray Parris and Jim LaVerde about Barren Cross in the past and the present. We want to thank them once again and want everyone interested to have the chance to participate what they told us. So here’s the whole thing. Enjoy!!

Q:

Hello Ray, thank you for taking your time to talk a little bit with us about Barren Cross.  We prepared some questions were we try to take you back in time.

Ray Parris (RP):

Oh, I did a two hour radio thing while I was driving – they took my back to ‘83 and I said to them: “You want to do that? I don’t even know what I had for breakfast.”

Q:

Your Song „Out of Time“ from the Atomic Arena album is about Rapture. The whole evangelical scene at the End of the 80’s unto the Beginning of the 90’s was affected by a very strong expectation by the expectation of the coming of Christ. I think your song was maybe something like a mirror in the time. So 22 Years later we are still here. Looking back … what do you think about the “early” Barren Cross time? How did the band effect your personal life?

RP:

Okay, so we’re not talking about the time now? (Grinning)

Q:

(Laughing) Not this one. We’ve got some questions about the time now but some are far back. We’re beginning with them.

RP:

Okay, I thought you were asking me a theological question. Because I can answer that, too. It wasn’t meant especially as a theological statement like “This is what you need to believe”, but it was just a song that says “Christ is going to come and you need to be ready”. Whatever time it is. Because even the apostles were thinking Christ was coming back in their lifetime. So we were just telling people at that time “Be ready”. You can’t live in hell and think you’ll gonna be okay when the Christ comes. You’re a follower of Christ or you’re not a follower of Christ. So that’s all there was. But as far as the band – how did it affect me? (thinks). Well, I’m half deaf – 40% in one ear and 60% in the other.

Q:

Is it because of the band?

RP:

Oh yeah. I used to play extremely loud. Oh gosh, yeah.

(Ray Parris live on stage in Uster, Switzerland)

Q:

There was no hearing protection stuff in the 80’s?

RP:

You know, I did wear them, but it only takes a couple of times. So when the sound wasn’t right I pulled my earplugs out. It only takes one night to ruin your hearing. I wore them 90% of the time but that wasn’t enough. At least that’s what my wife says. “What? I can’t hear you!” (laughs). But you know, that’s a pretty hard question how it affected me. Well, you know, in many things. There are many things.

Q:

What do you think your life could have been without Barren Cross? How did the band influence your life or your lifestyle and how you live today?

RP:

Hmmm, I think that’s a lot of speculation. I probably would have stayed in school, probably would have worked in a regular job earlier. But I think that god had a plan with ministry, which I still carry today. I’ve got my own ministries in church, got a evangelistical in nature, always seeking how people getting churched. So it probably gave me that band of wanting people to know Christ or at least to get the opportunity.

Jim LaVerde (JLV):

I think my life would have been very boring without Barren Cross. It created a lot of great memories and a lot of great times that we had together. Most of all, we had seen the power of God move amongst people, how could I not have been part of that? I would have missed a lot good stuff. But I knew, going into Barren Cross, that  god had a plan for the music and a plan for the group that went far beyond our capabilities as individuals. The whole is greater than its parts. And it is interesting, because when you take Barren Cross apart you have four guys, really average musicians, nothing spectacular but something special happens when we get together, play music, write music and when we hit the stage.

Q:

What was the most important ore most emotional moment in the band history? Is there one thing that you still remember today, saying: “That was a very special or emotional moment?”

JLV:

When we finally signed up our contract with enigma records. That was huge for me because we were waiting for a year. Negotiations between lawyers … and I thought we will never going to be able to get signed. I remember the day, we were sitting at this big conference table with all the people which were representing enigma and our management and we singed our contract. A couple of weeks later we were making Atomic Arena. We were signed at a christian record lable first and then went to a secular one.

RP:

Oh, gosh. (thinking). Well, it wasn’t during the band time. In the late nineties, I called a good friend of mine because I came to town where he lived for a family reason. He managed a guitar center and so he said: Come on down to the store, let’s chat and catch up. So I went down to the store and he said: Wait here, there’s someone I want you to meet. And this guy came up on me. He’s big, he’s bald, he’s full of muscles and I didn’t know what was going to happen – and he gives me that biiig hug. I mean – I’m big, but this guy he was big and was all muscles. I looked to my friend and asked him: “Who is this guy?” (laughs) And he said: I got saved in your show in East Germany. When we played the wall had just come down. And they were allowing American bands, well, any bands to play shows. And he said he was stationed in the military. He was from America but he was in Germany at that time. He was there at this specific time, we played one show there and goes: “I got saved.” Wow. So, that was pretty heavy.

Q:

That was in Germany? I remember your tour, it must have been 1990, I was 14 years old and visited a concert in Ulm.

RP:

Yeah, we were there for about a month, a little bit more I think. And we were just ushered all around, we had a home base a pastor had taken who set up the whole thing. We played clubs and bars and all this different avenues. And I remember the show. I really remember the show because they said: If you talk you have to have a translator because there was nobody there who talked English – so we got a translator. But I remember the show, I remember there was a lot of people there, the place was completely packed. I didnt even know where we were. (laughs) But it was absolutely packed and sold out and this guy came up and he was 18 years old at the time and gave his life to the Lord. So that was probably eight years later and he came home and he was still walking. You know, those are probably the more emotional things than getting hits on my Facebook from people I dont know. He said „I got saved and I was 17 years old at your show. That is why ist worth wile.

Q:

And you don`t remember the name of the town?

RP:

All I remember is that I got a piece of the (Berlin) wall at the next day. It was a hall, it wasnt a club. It had a stage and it was nice. You know, it was a good show, I still remember that.

Q:

The Lyrics from Atomic Arena and State of Control are about Jesus and also about themes like love, drugs, abortion, suicide, occultism, racism. Themes which very often are more important for young people, people which were in your age at that time. So, what kind of lyrics would appear on an Barren Cross Album 2012, which is performed by People who are in their 40’s? You have new songs, haven`t you?

RP:

Yeah. I think that the recordings that we`re planning are still going to talk… Well, we used to call them “Issues of the Day”, we were always conscious writing lyrics about things that were taking place. And I don’t think they`re indicative of the 1980`s, everything we wrote about is still existing, like abortion and all those things. But I think you`ll gonna find them a little more aggressive – theologically. It`s not gonna be “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus” but it`s going to confront people because I think the people that are listening to us are probably the Die Hard Barren Cross Fans and they`re in their fourties and they should be acting – spiritually – like they are in their fourties and not like they`re in their twenties. So I think you probably would find that we are a little more confrontative to really have people step back and look at themselves and who they are in Christ. Are they maturing or the off the milk and onto the meat as Paul would say.  I think that`s what you`re gonna find, were we`re heading.

JLV:

I think that young people still deal with suicide, they still deal with drug addiction – more now than ever – . How many millions of babies have been aborted – in the United States alone – since we started the band? It’s like 5000 a day or something ridiculous. How many people are going through depression? How many people deal with alcoholism? We still want to write Music and write songs that count, that say to anybody that is a teenager ore even 30 ore 40. Pic a topic. There are a lot of topics to write about. I think that’s Barren Cross. Barren Cross has always been evangelistic, too. We are very interested in seeing people come to Christ, come to a true relationship with Christ. Not just saying a prayer and go home and live like you want to live. Make a commitment to Christ, lay down your live and take up your cross and follow him.

Q:

It was often said, that the thing, which made Barren Cross special, was the fact, that the voice of Mike Lee sounds similar to the voice of Bruce Dickinson from Iron Maiden. What do you think, what makes Barren Cross special or what was special in the 80’s, that really a lot of young people heard Barren Cross?

(Jim LaVerde Live on stage in Uster, Switzerland)

JLV:

First of all we were fighting the devil. You know, honestly, Satan dident want us out there, doing what we were doing and so we fought tooth and nail to get to the stage. Once we got to the stage, the devil had to take his hands of us and god said I’m going to come in and what you do is special. One thing I told the people this weekend was, that 25 years ago someone gave his live to Jesus and today he is a youth pastor in a church with 300/400 people.

RP:

Well, I think it was several things. I think we were one of the first to record and to play. I think Stryper kind of came in tandem at one point with a little bit of the same thing. But when they released their record, they got a lot more notoriety. And the second thing is that I think we were much heavier. There was no heavy band out at that time. When I was trying to find members for “Barren Cross” – I couldn’t find them. I mean, there was no one. I advertised in a newspaper and got nothing.

Q:

Because you were too heavy for the Christian music scene?

RP:

Yeah, you know. I was fifteen years old and was listening to Black Sabbath. In my first years as a Christian I didn’t even know that there was Christian music to be honest. And I was still listening to that, you know, Deep Purple and all that sort of bands and that’s what I wanted to play. But I couldn’t find anyone until I was finally met Steve when I was 16 years old. He was 17. And we couldn’t find anybody even after that. There was just no one out there. They would look at us crosside. And after that, after we finally found each other, there were the record labels. Everybody threw us out. They said: “We’re not signing you, you guys are crazy.”

Q:

You mean the Christian record companies?

RP:
Yeah, everyone. We went to all of them. There was nine at that time. All shook their head. Then finally Star Song came back and said: We give you a shot. We recorded the first record ourselves, they didn’t have to do much except put a few more songs on it and re-release it. So it didn’t cost them anything.

Q:

That was the “Rock for the King” record?

RP:

It was “Believe” and became “Rock for the King”. So we recorded that on our own and we sold so many copies. We sold out in several months so we knew there were people that liked what we were doing. So I think it was really that. We kind of pioneered Metal. Because no one could get signed, it was impossible. So we finally came out and then Enigma picked up “Stryper” and then picked us up. We kind of legitimized all the other bands that came afterwards. Obviously the record companies realized there was something that could be made money from. But there was legitimate ministry that could take place as well. You know, we just opened doors and we finally got the better contract and everybody said: “It’s now okay to do it.” And then all the Christian companies started signing and then all the other record companies were popping up.

Q:

So you were the right guys at the right time, and you had enough courage to do your thing.

RP:

There was no courage. We just liked to play, but you know, we were striving. We wanted to be more on the secular, so  we played Christian concerts and then we played clubs. So we played clubs for a month, which paid us fifty bucks and a pizza. But there were Christian concerts were we could make some more money. That was kind of our plan and we were hoping it would expand and we sold more records in the secular stores than we ever did in the Christian stores. So with that we kind of had the right recipe.

Q:

Was there a time in your Band history, in which you earned enough money to live from that (with a family, children)

RP:

I lived pretty much from 1985 to 1990 of the band. I still earn royalties from ITunes. Thank God for ITunes. (Laughs). None of us had kids at that time, but it was enough for most of us, I think three of us could actually live on it. I heard so many stories of people, Christian artist who lost their houses and all this types of things. I think God just watched over us. He made the avenues to play, so we could open a lot of doors.

JLV:

There is an old joke which says “how do you call a musician with no girlfriend?” –“homeless”. We did not live with our girlfriends. We were single guys, no family no children. You would have to play all the time and be away from home all the time. And we did. We spent 3 ore 4 years solid playing all across America.

Q:

We have a picture for you. We want you to look at it, at the guys and the way they are dressed. And then you tell us, what is the first thing you think today or about those guys, okay?  (Show the Album Cover from “Rock for the King”)

(Album Cover of „Rock for the King“, 1986)

JLV:

You know, the first thing I think is this: “What were they thinking? What were the guys thinking?” And “Do they still fit in those outfits?”, “Do they still fit in those things?”

RP:

I get pictures like that all the time.  All the time, it’s funny. Well, I think, I weighed a hundred pounds less. (Laughs) We were right at the end of that glam era, and actually there’s a long story behind that picture. Those are actually the undergarments. To the real costume. We had all this leather gear, it were white chaps, it was all leather and you actually could see only this part of the pant. (Points to thigh) and then on top, there was a leather legwear. And all the leather was stolen from somebody’s car who had them. So all the leather got taken and those were like half the costume. (laughs) I don’t know if I ever told this story before.

Q:

Do you know if anybody recognized that it was just half the costume? Because you just said, you don’t know if you ever told the story before.

RP:

There’s always stories like that. You know, our second video, “Crying over you”, what you have seen on MTV wasn’t the video. What you see was supposed to be the background shots. They were supposed to be projected and they hired a model and they hired an actor. We had a whole story and something went wrong – so you’ve got the whole background shots. A lot of things like that happened.

Q:

How did it come to the reunion in 2005? Did you ever sort of spilt up or was it that you just stopped playing concerts? Was there a time when you went to the press, “Barren Cross” is over, it’s finished now?

RP:

We actually played a concert in 2002 in California, which we called a reunion show. We didn’t go to the press, but it was over 1990 were we officially had broken up. Mike quit the band and Jim and I finished the tour with a couple of hired musicians, that’s when we went to Germany. We were booked for six month in advance and we had to cancel a month of that tour and I didn’t think that was right, we’re obligated to it. We finished the tour in July, I think we went to Cornerstone, played in Texas and then we came home and it was kind of officially over.

Q:

Did Steve Whitaker quit the band to?

RP:

No, he was married and was just taking a lull, he didn’t really quit. We took a drummer along, but he was planning to make the next record. He just had to take a break from being on the road. It’s hard to be away so much at a time when you’re married.

Q:

How did it come to the first reunion 1995 and then the second in 2002?

RP:

Wow. I dont know (laughs). You know, somebody probably called somebody, then called the next person, and we got together and chatted. Oh, you know, I think it was when a friend of ours started Rugged Records and I think that maybe he had approached one of us, maybe Steven and asked: „Would you guys do another record?“ And thats when we started talking and then decided: „Lets make another one.“

Q:

So you also went on tour with the „Rattle Your Cage“ Album?

RP:

Yeah. It wasn’t a tall tour, we would actually played once a month and then  flied to every show , because we were all working and had all families by that time, had kids. So we just would fly out on Friday, played on Saturday and fly home on Sunday. We did that steady for about a year.

Q:

What did you do in the years between 1995 and 2002? When I asked you 2005 you said you were working in a bank?

RP:

I was a hobo. Well, let’s see: I got married, we started to have kids, I was working. I worked for a bank. I’ve been a sales ever since, so I sale software now. I went back, I finished my degree in theology. I have a degree from Vanguard University, it’s a Christian school in California. I was involved in a church, I was the worship leader, I had a home group and I was on the board. So I was more active locally for all that period of time.

Q:

You said that you also were a worship leader. Did you have other musical projects, maybe like Mike, he alwas has something going on.

RP:

I was kind of burned on doing that music scene thing and travel. Well, I still travel now, I travel a lot, but not like touring. I’m not gone for a month at a time. At that point I wanted a family and I knew that wasn’t the lifestyle that was going to benefit being married and having kids by any means. So I made pretty much a conscious choice to stop. My guitar collection got a lot better. (Laughs).

Q:

You have been at the Elements of Rock Festival 2005. For us (and a lot of the other visitors) it was an awesome evening and a great concert. We all felt like teenagers again. This is now seven years ago and during that time there where rumors, that you plan a Barren Cross Reunion and want to record songs for a new Album. So can you tell us, what you’re up to currently?

RP:

Right now, the intention is that we’re going to try record this year. We have music, that’s not an issue. We’re just trying to figure out how to do it, how it works within our lifestyles. I’m not gonna tour, so how is it gonna look when we play, what kind of shows do we want to play. So it`s about keep doing what we’re doing and then add this component of ministry back into our lives. So we’re trying to plan it out a little bit. We’re really at the early stage, the intention is to record. We’re trying a release… (thinks). Well, I don’t wanna talk about this. We’lre trying to do something by summertime and then do some more original recordings by the end of the year. We have to package how we wanna do it, when we’re gonna do it and getting it together. For now, we’re recording in one state, in another state and somebody puts it together like a puzzle.

JLV:

Yes, we are going to do our very best to get new music out for the Barren Cross fans out there. We’re going to try our hardest. We’re going to do probably  two ore three songs at a time, no full length CD, four month later do two ore three songs again and so on, because we have to do it on our own we don’t have finances to back us up to do it. So we got to raise the money to do this and from that point on the proceeds from the songs we recorded with we take that money and make three more songs. It’s kind of our own business.

Q:

But with a little bit patience your fans can look forward to more Barren Cross music?

RP:
Yeah. I think what we’re gonna do is get the logistics down. When we fly back to America we will regroup, probably next month and we’ll start announcing everything at our Barren Cross page and facebook and will spill what we’re up to.

Q:

Will it be with Dean Cohn or Mike Lee or maybe both?

(Mike Lee Live on stage in Uster, Switzerland)

RP:
No, it will be with the original band members. We’re trying to figure out who to record with and how do we wanna record. It’s really a lot logistic stuff. Will we record in a studio or not, will we record digitally – so it’s all about how we wanna pursue what we’re trying to accomplish. The intention is to record what we have together on… I can’t even say on tape. On something. (laughs) I guess on a hard-drive.

Q:

There were also rumors about a re-release of your first record. What about that?

RP:

We’re gonna try to put some really nice stuff together this year. Some of it may be re-release stuff. We’re trying to bring both original and new material out. That’s the really the intention.

Q:

What  music do you listen today? Is it Christian music? Is it secular music? You said you were listening Black Sabbath when you were young, so now. It it still metal, is it rock, or what kind of style? Is it pop music?

RP:

Oh man, gosh. My kids like Dance music and it scares me. (laughs). I’m playing a lot of blues. You know, I did worship so I like the “worship sound” for my own pleasure. I’m playing a lot of Stevie Ray Vaughn, a lot of Muddy Waters and just trying to process and create a personal style with a lot respect. I enjoy that a lot.

Q:

Do you keep up with the Christian music scene of today?

RP:

(Laughs) Only through my kids. They like Skillet, bands like that. I have my feeling of what’s going on, I just don’t know who they are any more.

Q:

If you look on the Christian music scene today, it had more become sort of a business, especially in the US.  And maybe the content has to step back behind the business. Do you think, that’s the case or what are your feelings?

RP:

I don’t think it’s indicative of current. I mean, we saw the good, bad and the ugly when we were 20 years old. I have more stories than I could ever tell anybody about artists and companies and things like that. The mock and the mire isn’t anything new. I think there’s probably some very genuine artists out there. I think there’s probably some artists that are genuine Christians but wanna make a career and I think there are those out there that just make it for money.

Q:

Imagine you would be a rich music promoter. Which band (maybe underestimated) would you bring forward/promote? Is there maybe a newcomer blues band or something?

RP:

Gosh. (Laughs). Well, if I were a wealthy promoter I would probably try to put a band together. They would be something that I would like, it would be blues based. I knew there’s been a few blues bands and they haven’t got the reception. It’s kind of a dichotomy though, because blues is singing about the blues and when you’re saved, there’s that change in life. It’s hard to sing happy blues. I think I would put a project together and it definitely would be blues based. I think I would go about it a little different, I think they would be based more in clubs, more than trying to play in church. There are some very, very good ones. So I think I would stick a band of Christians together and I’ll stick them in clubs. That’s what I would do.

Q:

Okay, I have a last question, very short. What`s your favorite Barren Cross song? Is there one you like specially or is it like they’re your kids and you love them all?

JLV:

I like “Here I Am” and the reason why I like it so much is, because it’s a worship song. It speakes to me, it is a praise.

RP:

Wow (thinks). Well, it’s kind of weird, because we play it so much, but I like the way “Rattle you Cage” came out. It’s a little more bluesy rock and that’s probably when I started to steer into more traditional blues and for the old stuff “Living Dead” is probably one of my favorites. We will play that tomorrow.

Q:

Did you ever play it before?

RP:

We did when we first released that album, we played it for a while but then, I don’t know. I guess we got bored. If you do it 60 days in a row…

Q:

How do you manage it not to get bored of playing your own songs?

RP:

You get bored. There’s some songs that I just don’t wanna play. There’s a song that we play tomorrow, but it’s part of the business. It’s three fault: A – it’s part of what you do because people are familiar with that. B – It`s why we`re talking now. You wouldn`t talk to me if I was just a banker. There`s a certain pleasure even in the mundane of going back and playing music that we recorded a long time ago that brings a lot of memories back. And then, lastly: I think we really play some complicated music. You know, if you`re a musician. We`re gonna play “2000 Years” tomorrow and I don`t see any band copy that song. I mean, I struggle with it and I play it all the time. There`s time signatures in there and everything. So I think for us a lot of music is interesting if it has some progressive parts in it. If we`re playing 4/4 Glam music that would be probably a lot rougher. (Imitates simple guitar riff) You know, over and over again. We play a lot of different time signatures and that`s interesting. Some of it is hard, I`m gonna struggle with a few of the things tomorrow because I don`t move as fast as I used to. So I think those three things together makes it okay. I mean, don`t you get tired of interviewing people?

Q: (Laughter): No, we really enjoyed talking to you. Thank you very much for taking your time.  We`re looking forward to a great concert tomorrow.

If you’re still reading at that point, you might be willing to see the whole two hour show. 🙂 Here you go:

Interview by Andreas Vosseler and Daniel Frick, also  soon available in German at http://www.sound7.de. More pictures of the show can be found here.

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