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Star United Interview - The Rhythms of Redemption Series
By Steve Stockman
Stocki interviews Ian Eskelin of All Star United about their new album Revolution
Stockman: There seems to have been some changes in the time between albums.
Eskelin: Yes, a lot can change in a couple of years. You get a little older, hopefully a little wiser, and you meet new people (wife Peggy).
Stockman: How has a new band changed the sound?
Eskelin: I'm not exactly sure what the ASU sound is. The band has been an amazing outlet for my rock and roll outpourings, and I've been fortunate enough to record with a number of my friends over the years. It's exciting to witness a group of guys transform an idea in my head, into a listenable recorded product. Well, sometimes it's listenable. I try to write songs that are short and to the point, with a singable hook, and with the occasional touch of wit. Add my odd voice, my cast of rock and roll pals, and there you have it.
Maybe we do have a sound. Not to mention, I'm drawn to a sort of low-fi production style. Less is more. Most of the new record was done in only a few takes.
Stockman: Are you still writing with Doug McKelvey and/or are there any other co-writes?
Eskelin: This is a very personal project for me. I spent a lot of time crafting songs for this record and they come straight from my heart. There is a co-write with my friend Doug, my friend Chris Smith, and others with Richard Evenlind.
Stockman: Change is a theme this time. Is that in the light of the band changes or subconscious or coincidence?
Eskelin: That's a good question. I guess I got a little "John Lennon-esque" lyrically on this album. There are several songs that deal with the idea of change. With all that's going on in the world, there must have been some sort of subconscious element within me craving a revolution. I personally rest in the fact that God has the ability to take our problems and change them into something perfect.
Stockman: Could you talk us through the inspiration of a few of the songs?
Eskelin: The track "Kings And Queens" is a song that touches on the idea that we are all future royalty waiting to receive our heavenly crowns. Life can be tough sometimes. However, we have the choice in life to exist in emptiness or accept the invitation to one day sit at the side of majesty. I love this imagery. "Sweet Jesus" is a track that I wrote in a time of searching. I remember sitting on my roof, with guitar in hand, overlooking downtown Nashville. The melody and chords just started to come. Sometimes I fall into a comfort zone where I put God on the "back burner." It's easy to take your salvation for granted when everything is going smoothly. This song is an actual moment of getting reacquainted with an old friend. "Global Breakdown" was written on 9/11/01 watching CNN in my underwear. Not Doug's part, of course.
Stockman: How do you write? Is there a theme first? A line first? A tune?
Eskelin: I tend to come up with the tune first. Then I stumble across a motorway billboard that gives me the title. And as the engineer is setting up the microphone I'm usually scribbling down the rest of the words.
Stockman: Brit Pop was an influence on the first two albums. What was the soundtrack to the writing of Revolution?
Eskelin: Not many people know that I have a bizarre day gig writing country songs for BMG Nashville music publishing. So----------Johnny Cash.
Stockman: You always seem a bit quirky and edgy to fit easily into the CCM scene. Has that been a struggle?
Eskelin: I find it quite exciting to be involved in an industry that needs to be shaken up a little bit. Humans have divine creativity flowing through their veins. Do not be afraid to create. The rest will happen as it should. I've seen a ton of young CCMers come and go. Many new bands get bummed out and jaded when their debuts don't go triple platinum. It can be a struggle, but you have to ask yourself why you do it.
Stockman: Who in CCM do you feel the closest affinity to?
Eskelin: We hang out with the Supertones a lot (about an hour ago). But we don't like each other that much.
Stockman: Anyone else in the general market?
Eskelin. I don't know, I have an amazing capacity to leave entire CD collections in rental cars. However, I have hung on to the new Weezer, Jimmy Eat World, Pete Yorn, and Stereophonics. It's funny though. I don't listen to a lot of music when I'm writing.
Stockman: Do you feel pressure on your subject matter or image from the Christian marketplace?
Eskelin: I have often said that writing songs within the Christian box is the most challenging songwriting gig on the planet. There are huge limitations on subject matter, and what the perceived audience will actually buy. However, I find this challenge exciting. It really is a thrill to devise new and creative ways to talk about your faith with metaphor and imagery.
Stockman: You have always been the kings of humor, irony and satire. Not a very American thing.
Eskelin: Ironic, isn't it.
Stockman: Signing to Furious [record label]-- there is something about you and Britain. What is it?
Eskelin: What can you say
about the Brits? I mean, come on! Without you, I might be writing this
in Portuguese. God Save the Queen, I mean it man.