Posts tagged Strongarm
Okay, just one more day of narcissism. Monday I posted some highlights from our road trip to Nashville and the Stand Together Fest. Here is footage that VENIA posted of the show last weekend when I performed “The Call” with them. It’s way better quality than my Flip video. Enjoy!
*Below is an excerpt from my book 10 Things I Hate About Christianity: Working Through the Frustrations of Faith. I thought this would be good due to my involvement with Stand Together Fest last weekend and I talk about my band Strongarm.
I was in a band called Strongarm. Psalm 89 in the Bible inspired the name. It talks about God delivering his people with his strong arm. Our name also had a double meaning as an indirect reference to Jesus. But mainly I picked it because it sounded tough.
Musically, we called ourselves hardcore. The style fell somewhere between metal and punk rock. Like punk, it was outspoken and raw. Like metal, it was heavy and a little more polished. Either way, if you heard Strongarm, you’d probably wonder what the heck we were saying and why we were so mad. The style was passionate, aggressive, and cleansing. I loved it. I still do.
I was the lead singer, but I can’t really sing. So I was the screamer. I also wrote the lyrics. In fact, I wrote 15 of the 19 songs that are out there. But who’s counting? And I ran most of our business affairs. By the time I quit, we’d recorded a full-length album, released a few singles on seven-inch vinyl records, shot a music video, and done several small tours. There’s still a bunch of our merchandise floating around online auctions, if you’re interested.
I learned a lot in the band. Overall, it was a great experience. Though I quit in 1996, I still get a few emails a month from avid fans. I’m always complimented and honored by their well wishes.
When our first album, Atonement, came out, we did something out of character. We did a tour of Christian venues. The opportunity came up, so we took it for the quick exposure to support the record. There were a lot of memories, like the last show of the tour when we stood around and shared how much we hated each other before going on stage. Did I mention we were all Christians?
We brought along a friend named Tom. He volunteered to be our roadie, helping us with extra muscle. This gave him an opportunity to travel the country for free. He didn’t believe what we believed, but he was an amazing guy. We really liked him, and he liked our band. We also hoped the experience might have a positive influence on him. It influenced him all right.
One show in particular stands out. It was in Memphis. We arrived and were greeted by the promoter, who told us he’d received a call from our previous stop. They called to advise him that we weren’t “Christian” enough. They recommended he cancel the show.
You see, our friend Tom had an underground magazine (called a zine). He hoped to promote it and make contacts on the tour. There was some slightly coarse language in it, but it wasn’t a huge deal to us. It really wasn’t any worse than what is on primetime television. We just asked him to hand it out on his own time and not from behind our merchandise table.
Anyway, a parent got hold of one of the zines and went ballistic. So, we were horrified when we arrived in Memphis to accusations that our band promoted filth and pornography. At the time, we felt the parent’s reaction was unwarranted. Tom felt terrible about jeopardizing our tour. We felt bad for him. But something even worse had happened.
This hit Tom hard. He just wasn’t the same after that. He learned something about Christians. He learned to hate them. It’s something I’ve always struggled with, because there always seems to be some type of fallout when they’re around. The deeper issue was that Tom, like many, decided to stay away from Jesus. I don’t know where Tom is today, but in the grand scheme of things, I wonder if it would have been better if he hadn’t toured with us.
Nothing has discouraged me more in my desire to follow Jesus and know God than my observations of those who call themselves “Christians.” They make it so easy to hate them. They can be crazy, annoying, judgmental, and hypocritical.
Even worse, I regret that each of those words also represents me personally, to some degree.
So last weekend there was a music fest called Stand Together Fest (by the way, that is the title of a Strongarm song). I got asked to do a cover of “Trials” by Strongarm with Debtor and to sing “The Call” with VENIA (it was the 2nd to last show ever). So I took the whole family. My kids loved it.
PS-It’s been 17 years since I did “Trials” so don’t be too hard on the old man!
So I’m going to Nashville today to Stand Together Fest. I’ll be doing an old Strongarm song Trials with an awesome band called Debtor and doing the song I wrote with Venia entitled The Call. Looking forward to Roadtrippin’ with the family.
Anyway, just for fun here is the worst guitar solo EVAR! You gotta make to the end:
Nothing is truer.
>If you are doing Christianity correctly—if you’re taking it seriously and really devoting yourself—it is very difficult.
It is hard to say ‘no’ to going out for drinks after work with the gang, so you don’t predictably end up doing something you shouldn’t. Maybe you think you can be a ‘good influence’ or even assume the role of designated driver. But it always ends with some regrets.
It’s hard to break up with someone you love, get along great with, and have tons in common with. It’s hard to finally face the fact that this person is not a Christian. He or she may be ‘Jesus-friendly’, but it just isn’t enough.
>If you’re faith doesn’t have regular and reoccurring moments of difficulty, you may be doing something wrong.
I’m not saying to be a contentious and cantankerous person. Don’t make things harder than they need to be. But taking a stand when it would be easier to be passive and ‘go with the flow’ isn’t easy.
It’s hard. It’s supposed to be.
Taking a stand singles you out, because Christianity is harder than you think.
This is a zero humor day again. What I am about to share is one of a handful of the most important things I have learned in my life–more specifically, in my faith. This one is also the basis of some lyrics I recently wrote (and sang) for a band called VENIA. Listen to it here and read all the lyrics here if you’d like.
As I have said before, over the course of life and 22 years of my Christian faith I have talked to thousands of people. This has been through being a small business owner, being in a band called Strongarm, doing around 100 interviews and connecting with people regarding my book 10 Things I Hate About Christianity, spending 5 years helping start a church, being involved in other ares of leadership at other churches, and just meandering through life in general. My point is, I have had a lot of conversations, especially on faith. In fact, most people do just meander through life.
Hearing stories (and subsequently, reflecting on my own) I have learned there is basically only one (of two) reasons that people either stray away or stay away from God.
One of those is PAIN, as I explained here in Part 1.
What is the other one?
There is something. Something that has a draw over you. It’s something that pulls you to itself when you are tired, stressed, depressed, have had a fight with someone you love, are failing at work, have lost your job, etc. (you get the idea.) When life sucks, you are tempted to indulge in your little hidden pleasure.
Now, this pleasure might not necessarily be bad in the right context or in moderation–like sex, eating, drinking, and shopping. But when we use it to escape life, get that rush, or generally anesthetize ourselves from reality, it’s unhealthy. Of course, it can be blatantly bad–like drug use, drunkennes, or pornography–especially when it becomes addictive.
Oh, let it be clear, dabbling in any ‘escape high’ (you know, just giving in once) is dangerous. Habits like this always progress. Yes…they always progress toward addiction, especially because there is always something sucky in life that we want to escape from a little.
Remember the lyrics I mentioned? The second part of the chorus is:
When pleasures tempt you to stray, will you stand with me?
Although the line from the chorus is from me, I often imagine these are words God says to me to keep me focused.
Here’s what I know… This is called sin. That’s not a popular word. It sounds archaic, but it is still true. When we dabble in sin it drives a wedge between us and God. Too often it’s as simple as feeling shame and not wanting to face Him. So we let the connection with him dull and fade away–all the while clinging to our imitation (or functional) god (our hidden pleasure).
Most people who stray or stay away from God don’t have some sudden epiphany that “there is no God.” Most people dabble in a behavior that they know is wrong, don’t want to stop, so they change what they believe so that it is not longer wrong in their own mind.
As I heard Andy Stanley say it once at church:
People stop behaving before they stop believing.
You can’t really say it any better than that.
So we have to learn to develop an enduring faith. If we want to finish this race (and life) well, we must do this.
Be ever so careful. Train yourself to starve the appetite of that hidden pleasure. It never goes away, but it can be muted. It’s the only way to not look back on life and see a series of small “just once” moments that have lead you down a path of loneliness, emptiness, apathy, and distance from God. When food, alcohol, sex, shopping, porn, [or whatever your struggle is] tempts you to stray when you’re down-and-out and need an escape high, what will you do?
When pleasures tempt you to stray, will you stand with God?
Sadly, most people don’t. But you can always break that trend. I hope you will. I work at it every day.
As I have mentioned, I recently did a song with a band called VENIA because of the influence of my old band Strongarm (often known for the lyrics) has had on the scene. I sang and wrote the lyrics to one song called “The Call” on their new EP called “I’ve Lost All Faith In Myself“ which is available now at Blood & Ink Records. You can listen to it here, read the lyrics here, or read an explanation of them is here, which includes an explanation of the two most important lines I have ever written.
Anyway, some reviews have come in and they are very favorable. Here is an excerpt from one:
Each song on I’ve Lost All Faith in Myself features a solid breakdown and a chance to sing along, but all of the songs seem to be in support of “The Call”, the best track on the EP… “The Call” features duel vocals between Venia frontman Chad Urich and the original vocalist for Strongarm Jason Berggren. Jason actually co-wrote the song and leads off the song with “This is the call / a time for reckoning!” This song could not get any better, the breakdown which starts with spoken words “Sear this on your conscience and brand it on your heart / for the faithful there is a promise / a sacred trust of salvation / never forget and never give!” leads into the high-point of the song, gang vocals repeatedly shouting “I will not deny!” “The Call” could easily be the closer to Venia’s live set…
You can read the whole review here. Very cool stuff. In fact, I can’t believe it. VENIA is a great band so check them out. I am honored to be part of their project.
I’m about to get serious, real serious. There’s zero humor today. And you are either going to get what I say or not. There will be no middle ground. What I am about to share is one of a handful of the most important things I have learned in my life–more specifically, in my faith. And, incidentally, it is the basis of some lyrics I recently wrote (and sang) for a band called VENIA. Listen to it here and read all the lyrics here if you’d like.
Over the course of life and the 22 years of my Christian faith I have talked to thousands of people. This has been via being a small business owner, being in a band called Strongarm, doing around 100 interviews and connecting with people regarding my book 10 Things I Hate About Christianity, spending 5 years helping start a church, being involved in other ares of leadership at other churches, and just meandering through life in general. My point is, I have had a lot of conversations, especially on faith.
Hearing people’s stories (and subsequently, reflecting on my own) I have learned there is basically only one (of two–here is the second one I wrote about and part 2) reasons that people either stray away or stay away from God.
What is one of those?
Is it really that simple?
It is something that I have long wrestled with. When I was asked to write and perform lyrics for VENIA (like I once did in my old band) I thought, “If there’s one thing I can tell people in this music scene about the future, what would it be?” And it is a truth for all us:
Life will bring pain, so be ready to endure it.
Because here’s the reality: if I look over the past, nearly half of the people that I have known who were Christians, no longer are. Read that again, because it is absolutely true. Why? About half the time, it’s because of some pain in their lives that has overwhelmed them and sapped their faith.
More specifically, their painful situation has caused them to doubt the goodness of God. It’s just that simple. It has crushed them and destroyed their faith.
Remember the lyrics I mentioned. Part of the chorus is:
When the world crushes you with pain, will you stand with me?
Sure, these are words from me, but they mirror what I believe God is saying to all of us. I believe he is always wondering if we will remain loyal to him through the trials of life. Will we endure? That’s the key.
We have to learn to develop an enduring faith. Not an easy task, but absolutely necessary if we want to finish this race (and life) well.
Don’t let pain get in the way of your connection with God. This is a vital place to start in your own dialogue with God. When bad things happen, especially when they happen to good people, it crushes us. Be it the death of a loved one, miscarriage, cancer, a lost job, a cheating spouse, an abusive parent, an absentee parent, bills that can’t be paid, lack of opportunities, failed dreams, dead hope, or [insert your painful situation here], what will you do?
When the life crushes you with pain, will you continue to stand with God?
Most people don’t. But I want to break the trend, don’t you?
“When the world crushes you with pain, will you stand with me?”
-Actually, I am the one who wrote the line above. And it is one of the most important things I have ever written. It is a question I ask myself all the time. These are recent lyrics I wrote and sang for a song called “The Call” for the band VENIA’s new release. The explanation of them is forthcoming.
Have a great weekend!
I am posting some lyrics I have recently written. You can listen to it here and read the explanation of the lyrics here. They contain what I would classify as the two most important lines I have ever written. And understanding them can literally affect the trajectory of your very life (an idea I will develop in my next book). Sound presumptuous? I promise it’s not–because it’s true.
As I have mentioned, I recently did a song with a band called VENIA because of the influence of my old band Strongarm (often known for the lyrics) has had on the scene. I sang and wrote the lyrics to one song on their new EP called “I’ve Lost All Faith In Myself“ which is available now at Blood & Ink Records.
So here are the lyrics to The Call. Again, an explanation of them is here, which includes an explanation of the two most important lines I have ever written. Also, I sing the song with VENIA’s singer, Chad. Below I have darkened the lines I sing, in case you wondering who the heck is screaming:
This is a call, a time for reckoning
Lay rest to the past, awake a new beginning
Let it be known, this ends all confusion
These words are the anthem of a saving revolution
No more chasing shadows leading to the depths
No drawing from a well of sorrows and sewing more regrets
Leaving nothing to fortune and nothing to fate–there is only that which we create
Generations test it true, the future is made from the decisions of today
And so I ask, my friend. I ask you now, will you stand?
When the world crushes you with pain
Will you stand with me?
When pleasures tempt you to stray
Will you stand with me?
(whole chorus 2x’s–I sing the 1st one)
Sear this on your conscience
And brand it in your heart
For the faithful there is a promise
A sacred trust of salvation
Never forget and never give in
I will not deny (4x’s)
Will you stand with me? (4x’s–I sing the 2nd & 4th)
Although I’ve written a book, I first delved into writing via lyrics as a young lad. If you don’t know, I used to be in a band called Strongarm and I have done a new song as of late due to the influence that band has had on the hardcore music scene (FYI-that’s a genre somewhere between punk and metal).
No, it’s not a Strongarm song. But a band called VENIA asked me to write the lyrics and sing on one of the songs on their latest release “I’ve Lost All Faith In Myself.” (pictured to left). The song is called “The Call” and there is a video below of me recording it with them. You can read the lyrics here and an explanation of them here.
The press release it says:
“Featuring dueling vocals on closing track “The Call” with Jason Berggren, original vocalist of the legendary Strongarm!”
Legendary! How cool is that? It’s awesome to be part of the project. These guys are a great band and amazing guys. So click here to check it out and order it to support them. It is available on collectable 7″ vinyl and you get a digital download code when you order it. And you can listen to a song here.
I’ve been listening to the raw version of the whole EP and it is amazing. I’m not just saying that because I’m on it. I met VENIA 2 years ago. My family took a RV road trip and went to Cornerstone Festival where they put on a brutal show (that means good for any old folks reading this). I’ve been enjoying their blend of metal ever since and it’s raw.
On Strongarm (if you’re new around here), I sang screamed (on the first album “Atonement”) and wrote the lyrics (for 15 of the 19 songs out there). Not to sound like a washed-up-never-was-been, but it has become a highly influential band. It was named one of the top 10 bands of the last 30 yrs, has inspired tattoos , and even been the the love-connection for some match-making resulting in marriage. In fact, here is a video we did and some FREE songs, if you’d like. I still get emails about the band from fans, which is why I will be posting a brief history soon. There is also, of course, the cursory stories of certain Christians who told us we were going to Hell for playing such heavy music (which I tell about in my book). Anyway, indie record label Blood & Ink Records has decided to do an LP reissue of the first album Atonement. (That’s a vinyl record for all you younglings.) I am totally honored by it. It’s available now. You can click below to order. That’s the first bit of new news about Strongarm. The second bit of news is, well…I’ll tell you that next week. Order and enjoy some heavy metal to brighten your day!
*And here is the video of me recording with VENIA.
Every once in a while I mention the band I used to be in called Strongarm. It was named one of the top 10 bands of the last 30 yrs, has inspired tattoos , and even been the the love-connection for some match-making resulting in marriage. In fact, here is a music video we did and some FREE songs, if you’d like. Blood & Ink Records is even re-releasing our first album on vinyl. Very cool.
I was recently contacted by a band called VENIA and asked if I would write lyrics and sing to the song on their new album. Of course, I said yes. So here is a brief video of that road trip last week to Richmond, VA to do it. I brought my family in tow. It was a good time. The album is set to release in the fall. I will post more specific details as I learn them.
UPDATE: Here is the video of me recording with VENIA
Let’s talk music once again. You don’t have to be around here long to know that I was in a band called Strongarm many years ago. It was named one of the top 10 bands of the last 30 yrs, has inspired tattoos , and even been the the love-connection for some match-making resulting in marriage. In fact, here is a video we did and some FREE songs, if you’d like. Blood & Ink Records is even re-releasing our first album on vinyl. Can you imagine? This is, of course, very cool and humbling.
If you’re a Strongarm fan, this post is for you. If you’ve ever emailed me about a Strongarm reunion, this post is for you. If you just like heavy metal, this post is for you.
BIG NEWS…I’m doing a new song!
Last summer while on our family RV road trip , we went to Cornerstone Festival. While there I met several bands. One of those bands was called VENIA. I talked to them a bunch. They were real heavy and put on a great show. I even gave them a bunch of bad advice. They were kind enough to humor me and listen.
Well, a couple of months ago they contacted me asked if I would do write the lyrics and sing a song on their newest project. Of course I said yes.
So a month ago they emailed the song to me and i got busy on the lyrics and vocal patterns. I emailed them the lyrics and they loved them. They even wanted to begin playing it on tour immediately and asked me to send them vocal patterns. How the heck was I going to do that? I’m a handyman not a producer.
Eventually I figured out how to drop the MP3 into GarageBand on my mac. I then screamed the song into the built-in mic on my mac (by the way, I still haven’t cleaned the dried spit off it…yuck!). It sent it to them and now they’re playing it. They were even nice enough to say I’ve “outdone” myself (nice of them to humor this old-timer). (I also made sure to tell them that this version better not get out or I would have to hire the mafia to hunt them down.)
Anyway, we’re recording it July 10th. I will post it as soon it is available.
If you don’t know, I used to be in a band called Strongarm (I’m the ugly guy on the left up above). There are 2 new and exciting things regarding Strongarm to tell today.
I sang screamed (on the first album “Atonement”) and wrote the lyrics (for 15 of the 19 songs out there). Not to sound like a washed-up-never-was-been, but it has become a highly influential band. It was named one of the top 10 bands of the last 30 yrs, has inspired tattoos , and even been the the love-connection for some match-making resulting in marriage. In fact, here is a video we did and some FREE songs, if you’d like. I still get emails about the band from fans, which is why I will be posting a brief history soon. There is also, of course, the cursory stories of certain Christians who told us we were going to Hell for playing such heavy music (which I tell about in my book).
Anyway, indie record label Blood & Ink Records has decided to do an LP reissue of the first album Atonement. (That’s a vinyl record for all you younglings.) I am totally honored by it. It’s available now. You can click below to order. That’s the first bit of new news about Strongarm.
The second bit of news is, well…I’ll tell you that next week.
Order and enjoy some heavy metal to brighten your day!
Back in the first half of the 90′s I used to be in a band called Strongarm (you can listen to some songs here, watch a video here, see tattoos inspired by the band here, or even read how it is the reason this couple got married here.
Anyway, this week I stumbled upon a list compiled by www.noisecreep.com (a BIG heavy metal music site owned by AOL Inc.). The article starts with:
“Noisecreep has compiled a list of 10 bands from the Christian side of the metal world that everyone should check out.”
The range runs from bands like Stryper to Zao (one of my favorites). It’s quite a blend. You may not like (or even know) the bands, but they are all good in their own right–something about them stands out.
And smack dab in the middle coming in at number five is…Strongarm! The article goes on to say:
“While they weren’t exactly head-bangers, Strongarm’s inventive yet always vicious take on hardcore had metal in its DNA. They were only around for a handful of years (1993-1998) and made just two full-length albums, but their influence on the current Christian metal landscape is irrefutable. Strongarm’s chaotic guitar outbursts aren’t far removed from a band like Burn and the late, great Deadguy. A lot of the bands currently rocking out on the Tooth & Nail label learned a lot about their craft from this Florida wrecking crew…”
Wow! That’s amazing. I can’t even believe it. More importantly, Strongarm was my first experience in pursuing a passion.
I sang (often described as screaming) and wrote the lyrics. It is where I first began to try to write down the frustration and difficulty of trying to live in the intersection of real life, simple faith, and raw emotion (as described on the back of my book now).
So it is a great honor. It’s nice to now things you did as a stupid kid had a positive impact.
Thank you Noisecreep!
*You can read it all here.
If you didn’t know, a long time ago in a galaxy far far away, I used to be in a band called Strongarm. Here is a free song, the video, and some tattoos inspired by it. The important thing to know is that I sang screamed and wrote the lyrics.
What’s amazing is that I still get emails from people even though I quit back in 1995 (I think that was the year).
For example, I met a guy at a function last weekend and spent the better part of an hour talking movies. He is a High School teacher and was trying to figure out how to incorporate some classics in his lessons (like Hitchcock’s Rear Window). Later in the week he emailed me and asked, “Have you heard of the now defunct band Strongarm?” It was totally unexpected. I told him I’d heard of it somewhere. Just kidding! I told him that I was in it etc. He said my name sounded familiar and this was his way of not appearing too nerdy while confirming if I was THAT Jason Berggren.
The emails I get express gratitude for the contribution to the ‘scene’ I made. I’ve heard:
*Strongarm is the reason we started a band.
*Strongarm is the reason I got this tattoo (with the lyrics).
*Strongarm is the reason I didn’t commit suicide.
Truth be told, I was just doing something I loved. But it is a wonderful honor to be told these things.
A couple of weeks ago I got one the best emails regarding the band, ever.
Here’s what it said:
“My husband, Jay, and I were talking the other day about how we met. We thought it would be cool to tell you that you’re the reason that happened.
We met on a chat program back in ’97. It wasn’t a dating site or anything, just a little text-based chat program on telnet. Anyway, we were able to set “sessions” on there. Sessions were just a topic someone could set and others would comment on it.
His session had something to do with Strongarm. I can’t remember exactly. It may have been lyrics. I commented, we started chatting, and now we’re married. Neat, huh? –Lori”
Strongarm is the reason we got married? I’ve never heard that one! What an endearing thing to be told. It is hilarious and amazing all at the same time. I expressed gratitude for sharing it (and permission to do likewise).
I also recommended a reading of my current book, saying that it will perhaps inspire a child (oh yes I did!).
What’s the lesson? No, it’s not that you should necessarily use heavy metal to woo a woman into dating you. There just aren’t that many female fans out there. If a love-connection is your goal, it’ll probably take a while.
Here’s the real lesson: when you use your gifts, experiences, and passions for good (and God’s purposes), it’s never in vain.
There is often a lot of crap and fighting (with the process or the people) involved in whatever you’re doing. That’s why it’s called a labor of love. And it may take a long time before there are any measurable results. In fact, you may never observe any measurable results. Is that okay with you? If you believe your efforts are never in vain, then it will be.
A mark of maturity is the ability to pursue a goal off in the distance regardless of the surrounding circumstances.
*And by the way, I do weddings.
I am very sorry that I have not posted any of my slightly above average insight this week. I have been crazy busy traveling, selling, and speaking (for the book) this week. I get home Friday so things will normalize after that. For the time being, I appreciate the patience.
Monday AM I am doing a TV interview in Chicago. On my way home I hope to also do an interview of sorts for the community organizer position that has recently been vacated…HA!
I am at Cornerstone Festival 2009. I am sorry for not posting like usual this week. I am out early, up late, with the family, meeting old friends, making new friends, selling books, and speaking. It’s a little hectic but lots of fun. If you’re at the fest, come by and see me at the Anchor Stage.
The picture above is when I ran into Sonny from POD. We shared some old memories and laughed. He was showing Brian ‘Head’ Welch (formerly of Korn) around. Believe it or not, POD opened up for Strongarm many years ago while touring. Thank God it didn’t ruin their future career.
But when I get a chance I will get back to normal and start sharing some things on my mind. And I hope this day finds you well…
I’m sorry but posts will be patchy at best for the time being. Internet
signals are sparse. I am on what is called a working vacation. I’m not
really sure what that means because it feels more like work is on my
mind than vacation. But there are certainly fun parts.
the family in the rented RV for the next two weeks. Time will tell if this was
a good idea. I am speaking 4 times, doing a radio interview in
Tennessee, and television show in Chicago. In between we are visiting a
water park (actually this leg is done) and some historic cave.
Anyway, I am visiting Cornerstone Fest
where I have gone many times in my past band days in Strongarm. I am
speaking four times with four different themes. These talks are tied
into my book and are as follows:
Why do Christians suck?
Why doesn’t love work?
What’s the #1 thing?