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Violet Burning an Interview with Michael Pritzl
I hadn't listened to much Violet Burning prior to Cornerstone 2000 but after an incredible live show and a humbling interview, I'm definitely a Violet Burning listener. The beautiful sounds of worship on I'm a Stranger in this Place have kept it out of its case for a couple of months. The interview with Michael Pritzl intrigued and impressed me. Pritzl is as down to earth as musicians get.
Opus - Start out by telling us a little about yourself. When did you start playing music and how long has The Violet Burning been together?
Pritzl - I was born in Long Beach and grew up in Huntington Beach, California. We're currently based out of Long Beach.
I kind of started playing music when I was about 16 in punk rock bands. Then I had a real powerful conversion experience. I wanted to worship God, so I had a friend tune my older sister's K-Mart guitar and I kind of taught myself to play. I just had this K-Mart guitar chord book and I just started figuring out chords. I was raised Catholic and I was converted as a Catholic, but I didn't know about any of this evangelical stuff. I would just sit in my room and worship God. That was when I was 18. I started this band, I think 11 years ago.
Opus - Has the line-up stayed consistent?
Pritzl - No. It was originally just my friend Kurt Gentry and I making tapes and then my friend, now brother-in-law, Mike, started playing guitar with us. I think I have changed line-ups with each record with the exception of the last two and the one that's coming out. We made two this year and _Plastic Elastic,_ which was a couple of years ago.
The newest one just came out, _I'm A Stranger In This Place_. I just did a worship record in May and I just need to finish the artwork for it. It's a modern kind of congregational worship record.
Opus - Something that can be played in churches?
Pritzl - Yeah, I try to make the songs as verse-chorus as I could, not as much meandering as I'm prone to.
Opus - Tell us about your musical and lyrical influences. I know a lot of it is you just wanting to worship the Lord. That comes across in your music.
Pritzl - My conviction has always been to write about what God has brought me through. I heard a band say the other day, kind of in a really proud way, "God wants us to quit writing songs about where we're at and just focus on Him." I thought, "Yeah, that's kind of true," but then I thought about it later that day. I realized the Bible is not really that way, when David's crying out to the Lord or Jeremiah in Lamentations.
God really cares and loves us. The things that weigh heavy on our hearts concern him. It's OK for us to express ourselves in that way. I won't say who the band is, because they are very popular, but I just happened to be at their press conference. At first I thought, "Well, maybe I'm missing it and I shouldn't be so selfish." And then again, God really does love me. When my friends die, He cares that my heart is broken. He cares that I've had a hard day or that I've had a wonderful day. He wants to share all those good and bad times. He wants to be the friend of sinners.
Mike Roe and I stayed up for like 3 hours last night, until dawn came up, just talking about that and how Jesus said, "If you've seen Me, you've seen the Father." Sometimes we picture the Father as this ogre up there ready for judgement. If we've seen Jesus, we've seen the Father. Is that how Jesus was? The only instance in which Jesus had words that were harsh or strong was when they were religious people. The rest of the time, with all us rotten sinners, He was a friend. That's how the Father is, too. We forget that sometimes.
Inspirations? Movies inspire me. Life inspires me. For me, writing songs and writing music is more of a "I can't really plan it, it just happens." I go through seasons in which every time I pick up a guitar there's something new on it. I actually have to keep a tape player with me. I have this ghetto blaster, it's totally beat up. It has this little microphone on it. It's always set up in my house and whenever I play or worship on my own, I just put it on. I have boxes and boxes of cassette tapes, front and back full of ideas. Then what I do, when I need to make a record, I go back and start listening to things. I see what things are actually any good, in my mind at least. Maybe I should start playing them for someone else. Maybe I have a hit somewhere (laughs).
Opus - You guys have been around for a while. Where do you see the band going? What are your hopes for the future?
Pritzl - I think that's hard for an artist, because there are so many things going on inside of you. All of us as people, and especially as artists, are selfish and we have our own dreams that we want to pursue. Some of those things God has set in our hearts and other things are me, me, me. I have wrestled with those things through the years and with the Violet Burning. I really hope the music would impact as many lives as it could. It's always been about making music that would move the hearts of men. Man being man and woman.
As an artist and music fan, there are so many things that I love. I love dance music, country music, punk rock. I actually used to get beat up for loving punk rock, a long time ago. I love all that stuff, but my band isn't any of those kinds of things. My band thrives when it has that heavy thing. It does that the best. People are drawn in by it. That's how it has always been. How can we make music that moves people's hearts? I really want the songs to be the key.
It's not about that or what licks I can play on the guitar. It's about letting the song take you where it wants to go.
Opus - What music have you listened to lately that has inspired you?
Pritzl - You know what's funny? I've been listening to my favorite Rolling Stones song for the last two weeks. It's called "Moonlight Mile" off of "Sticky Fingers." It's the very last song. It's always been one of my favorite songs and it's just been one of those things lately. I've always loved the band The Verve, and a lot of people are just starting to discover them now. "Moonlight Mile" is probably 1972 and it's probably the song that The Verve just rips off over and over again. It has that vibe and that sweet melody. That's been really moving me lately.
There's a friend of mine that's younger than me and I've had the privilege to be an encouragement in his life. His songs blow me away. He is in this band from Longview, Washington called The Rock N' Roll Worship Circus. This new thing that he has, which hasn't come out yet, will be called Big Star Logistics. Just driving into this campsite today I was listening to it and just weeping. He's amazing. They have this thing that they do that's sometimes pretty rockin' and pretty vibey. It's kind of like Ride or Curve or the Danny Warhols. It's that kind of poppy, glammy thing. It also has this space rock vibe to it. It's almost a quiet U2 reflective thing to it. It just has the Holy Spirit on it more than anything. It totally moves me.
Opus - Is that going to be out on a label or anything?
Pritzl - I'm trying to get them a deal right now. Hopefully, over the summer we will secure something for them. I had them come and play on the worship album I did in May. His name is Gabriel Wilson.
Opus - You guys have been around a lot longer than most of the bands here at Cornerstone. What gives you the drive to stay with it?
Pritzl - I think some people
want to be in a band because it's cool. There's a certain charm to it.
For me, if I could stay in my room and play songs I would be just as satisfied.
Playing live is a very nervous experience for me until we start playing
and I feel the Lord in the music, then I feel OK. I kind of forget about
the crowd. You know, it's like God gave me this fish. I want to say, "Here
Lord, I've got this fish and it's all I've got." He takes that fish and
makes it special in a lot of people's hearts. That's what makes it worth
it. Nothing else does.