Surviving the Scrutiny
Rocker Rob Beckley of Pillar offers some advice to former Korn guitarist and new Christian Brian 'Head' Welch.
BY: Interview by Dena Ross
Rob Beckley, singer for the popular hard rock band Pillar, doesn't like the labels put on Christian artists. Although Christian and embraced by the Christian community--Pillar is playing the Alive Festival this summer and they're up for three Gospel Music Association (GMA) Dove awards this year, including Rock Album of the Year for "Where Do We Go From Here?"--the group has been gaining success in the mainstream as well, playing with big-name bands like Korn and Sevendust. Their video "Bring Me Down" has been featured on MTV2 and Fuse. "People can call us what they want to call us," says Beckley. "[But] the term Christian band is a stupid tag. The Beastie Boys aren't Buddhist hip-hop."
Beckley talks to Beliefnet about Christian rock, how he handles critics of his band, and the challenges he faces as a Christian in the public eye.
It was reported recently that Korn guitarist Brian "Head" Welch has left the band because he found God. You've played with Korn before. What do you think about his "coming out"?
I think it's awesome. [When I heard] I just got really excited for him, but really nervous for him too. I hope that people are gentle. I have a feeling he's going to get a lot of pressure from the Christian community right away. You never know how it happened or what impact who had on him, but it's cool to think that somebody that you've prayed for and that you've taken time out of your day to really think about...to hear [he's become a Christian] in such a public platform is just really cool.
Do you think it's hard being really rooted in your religion and being in a mainstream band? It seems as though it must have affected this guy if he felt he had to leave.
I wouldn't say any religion, but definitely becoming a follower of Christ--not just calling yourself a Christian. Millions of people in the U.S. call themselves Christians who don't necessarily uphold those values. I would say to live up to the standard that's placed on Christians' lives, it would be really hard to be in that environment without any type of other support.
Because of the temptations that being in any band would bring?
Yes and no. It would be hard for me. I know Dave Phoenix, the bass player from Linkin Park, he's a Christian and has been before he joined the band. For myself, it would be really hard to be in that environment without any other accountability-friends that could be there with us to go through the same type of environment together and just encourage one another. I don't think I could personally be in Pillar if we were at Korn's level, and had done things this certain way for so many years and then to have this conviction in my life. In order for me to really be convicted by it, I'd probably have to bow down as well.
You guys have had your fair share of criticism within the Christian community and outside of it-that you've sold out, etc. Why do you think people criticize you?
One, is just being uneducated. A lot of people can't even tell you why they believe what they believe. [Two], just being naive. There are a lot of people who live in small towns or communities that don't have that type of culture. Especially with [the band] living in the Bible Belt, we really see people who don't know any other way. They don't know that there are people out there struggling. They just don't get it. And the third [reason] would be insecurities.
I remember I had this long [email] conversation with this guy one time. We were playing a show at the Whiskey A Go-Go down on Sunset Boulevard [in L.A.] and he pretty much just blatantly ripped me a new one. "How can you possibly [play at a place like that]?" I straight up told him, "Don't get mad at me because you're not secure enough to stand up in front of people and cling to your faith." So I guess it just comes from insecurities. He's like, "You're right, I couldn't do it."
Do you know if he was a Christian himself?
He was. He was a pastor and he thought it was wrong that we were going into clubs and bars and playing. I remember that night meeting some guys from this band that's the opposite end of the spectrum--an openly Satanic band. I talked with [one of] the guys that night and he was like, "Yeah, that's cool. You guys do your thing, we do ours." From a Christian's viewpoint, my goal in life is to impact people the way I've been impacted. And with that, I want to live my life in a way that's going to impact people and be loving to people.
I would think that, as a Christian artist, you'd want to reach more people. Why only play for Christians who have already heard your message? Why not go into the bars and the clubs?
There are tons of different viewpoints. I was just reading on this website that was trashing Christian music about how [the music] is just all wrong. And they're talking about Michael W. Smith and Steven Curtis Chapman and these artists are super contemporary, and how it's rock and roll and how it's evil. [The critics believe] if you're going to sing a song and it's going to be Christian music it's got to give praise to Jesus' name.
I play music, that's my career and what I believe is obviously going to shine through a little bit. But I can praise God with my lifestyle and not necessarily just my music. And a lot of people have these viewpoints that you have to speak in this way and you have to use King James dialect when you talk and all your lyrics should speak about Jesus and praises to him and what he did. Well, why can't I just speak that in my life and be thankful? I don't have to make a public announcement that I'm thankful for what God has given me. I can personally thank him before I go on stage every day. I don't have to publicly announce every time I go on stage that I thank God for my talent and this is why I'm here. That's between me and Him. My impact on people's lives can be backstage with people like Korn. We used to hang out and talk with them all day.
I believe we can make an impact on people one-on-one and if more people would have that attitude more people would be impacted. Because if I do it from stage, I'm going to turn off as many people as I turn on. The people who get turned on by it, they'll be pumped up for a day and then it will kind of fade away, because there's no substance there. If I was one-on-one talking to someone about what's happened to me or encouraging them, they're going to have more of an intimate encounter with God than they would at a big concert--where I could tell people to jump and they jump and [tell people to] scream and they scream and then [I say], "OK, now everybody come down here and accept Jesus." It's kind of trite when you think about it.