They are loud. They fling sweat when they play. To the uninitiated, they sound like they're playing in a garage. To headbangers, few do it better. They are Christians, yet they never sing the "J" word, have always been on secular labels, and rarely play traditional Christian venues. One cannot help but admire their irrepressible joy on stage and their impeccable craftsmanship despite the rough buzz and crunch of their chosen style. A sad litany of management, label, and timing problems have prevented the Galactic Cowboys from achieving mainstream commercial success, but our discussion with Monty Colvin, bass player of The Galactic Cowboys, makes it clear the band has no interest in compromising for fame. All they want to do is perform their art on their own terms, asking nothing of their audience except the opportunity to entertain.
Tollbooth: One thing I noticed that seems really different about you guys is all the smiles. You are all having a good time while you're playing.
Monty: Yeah, that's the whole thing to me. We have the unbelievable privilege of being able to do this for a living, and to get to make albums. This is a dream for me to be able to do. What do I have to be unhappy about?
Tollbooth: But as a genre, the louder stuff tends to be pretty negative.
Monty: Well, that's the weird thing with us. Even if we're singing a song that's negative, still when we're playing it live, it's just the joy of playing. It's an exuberance, an explosion of emotion. What I hope comes out is the fact that I'm digging this, and I hope you will too.
Tollbooth: You are also a visual artist?
Monty: Yeah, I paint.
Tollbooth: Were you into music first or painting?
Monty: I've done art most of my life, ever since I was a little kid. I got interested in wanting to do music in high school, but I kind of had the art thing too, which I went to college for. While I was in college, I continued writing and playing. Eventually, the music took over, but I got a degree in painting.
Tollbooth: And what does one do with a degree in painting?
Monty: He plays in a band.
Tollbooth: And designs album covers?
Tollbooth: Are the covers you've painted typical of what you do? Primary and complementary colors, without any blending?
Monty: Yeah, especially the "Feel the Rage" EP. That's a good example. I just like a lot of color, exaggerated subjects.
Tollbooth: How big is that painting?
Monty: It's not that big. I've worked on bigger scales.
Tollbooth: It looks on the cover like you're standing in front of a mural.
Monty: No, that was superimposed.
Tollbooth: What do you do with your painting? Do you put on shows?
Monty: No, I haven't. I've done some commissions, portraits, but my style is not the most popular. Somebody wanting a nice, traditional portrait might not want me, but if they want something really interesting and fun, I've done some of that. Mainly I just do what I want, and for the albums.
Tollbooth: How does your faith intersect with all this?
Monty: Your faith is your life. It affects everything. No matter what I do, it's affected by the fact that I'm a Christian. That's really the only way I look at it. If I'm playing music, that probably comes out through lyrics, or something eventually, but it's not something I set out to be the way I save people. It's art, and it's also a job right now.
Tollbooth: Whatever Christian references I can find in your work seem to come out as sort of a natural expression, but they're there.
Tollbooth: Do people who aren't aware of your beliefs spot it?
Monty: I don't know. Most of our mail that is interested in that kind of thing is from Christians. We've found that people that aren't Christians like us because we rock, or that we're positive, or something like that. Just different reasons.
Tollbooth: It seems to be conventional wisdom to think that as a Christian in the arts, you're going to get slammed; there's no way to make a living. Has it ever been a liability for you to have some beliefs and values?
Monty: It could be, maybe on a subconscious level. I don't know. I wonder sometimes if maybe we're not what the world is looking for. Maybe we are in some ways, but what is selling right now is the more decadent you can be, you know--Marilyn Manson. The farther away from anything holy you can get, the better.
We've never even said anything [about our faith]. The press has inquired because they knew King's X were Christians, and we were friends of theirs. Outside of that, they don't ask us. We're not out there with a banner saying that we're Christians because to us this is music, and you get what you want out of it. That's who we are as people, and if you want to talk to us about it, we'll be glad to talk about it. I don't know how many people have been turned off by that or not. We don't really worry about it.
Tollbooth: You're just out there doing your thing.
Monty: Yeah. It didn't matter to Geffen when we were with them. They just liked the music and were going to put it out there. A lot of things got messed up, so they dropped us, but it doesn't matter to Metal Blade. Brian Slagel at Metal Blade knows we're Christian and has no problem with it. He likes what we do.
We want to be a band that anybody can listen to. As far as being in Christian record stores, we're all for it. We want our music out there anywhere, and as far as Metal Blade, they are very interested in getting into Christian stores. We mainly just want people to find it, get it, and listen to it.
Tollbooth: Is your music generally available across the country?
Monty: I don't know. It's weird. Some places you can always find it, and other places you can't.
Tollbooth: Have you ever considered playing any of the summer Christian festivals?
Monty: Yeah, that's a possibility this year.
Tollbooth: Are you seeking out such bookings, since it's not really a market you're going after?
Monty: No, because we don't know what we'll be doing next summer. This past year we did (toured with) Anthrax in Europe, we did King's X over here, we did a headline thing over here. We actually talked to Cornerstone (Festival) last year, and for a while it looked like we might do it. But it was kind of late in the game, and they didn't get everything together in time, so we didn't end up doing it. But we're not opposed to doing that because a lot of people who write us are Christians.
Tollbooth: Did you play Greenbelt?
Monty: Yeah, first album, in '91. That was fun.
Tollbooth: That's probably where some of these rumors started.
Monty: About what?
Tollbooth: That maybe you were kind of a Christian band. That's kind of an influential venue.
Monty: Well, like I said, we don't care if people know we're Christians. That's who we are as people.