Interview With The Devil Musics Pastor
Real True Confessions With Padre Pienbique
For as long as theres been self-centered pricks in the music business, the universe has sought to bring balance by providing drunks and fools with guiding lights: As soon as promoters got comfortable with shafting bands on the division of concert revenues, Led Zeppelins manager, Peter Grant (a retired professional wrestler), literally strong-armed promoters into a 85%-15% split of the gross receipts. This has been the standard practice ever since.
And for as long as self-centered pricks have bothered playing music, theres been the one fan that circumvents egos, rallies fans and reminds everyone why music is worth listening to despite the hype, the fantasy and the bullshit.
Ive been lucky enough to know such a person for a decade. Hes a genuine music nut. Hes a certified character. And hes the best kind of guy I would ever want to know: Hell rip it up with me when my band actually gets around to kicking ass, hell let me know when we stink, but he always makes the best out of any situation. In short: Hes my kind of soldier.
Pastor Tim is the kind of man wholl tell you in forty-five seconds what his favorite Jerry solo is this month, a tragic story with an ironically comic ending, and why you should have another of whatever beer hes drinking without losing your attention (which is hard with the beers he wields like a ninja with a sword). He might- and I mean might- agree that Jesus whispered a poop joke just for yucks before Pontius Pilate gave him the thumbs down.
Despite all these good deeds, Pastor Tim befriends bass players like stray dogs. This is not as easy as it sounds, but YMSBs Adam and I couldnt hold our heads up without him.
Without further ado, the only man in Montana that can mention Bobby Kennedy, the Dead Kennedys, Judy Collins, AC/DC, Maxell XL-90IIs, and his wife in one interview: Lutheran (and all-around swell fella) Pastor Tim!
PADRE: WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST RECORD THAT (PRESUMABLY) YOUR PARENTS BOUGHT YOU? DO YOU STILL LISTEN TO IT? HOW DID IT INFLUENCE YOUR LATER SELECTION OF MUSIC?
PASTOR TIM: The earliest record I remember Mom buying for me was a compilation album called History of Rhythm & Blues, Vol. 3: Rock & Roll 1956-57. It came out on Atlantic Records in 1968, and my favorite songs were The Robins’ "Smokey Joe’s Cafe," Lavern Baker’s "Jim Dandy," and The Coaster’s "Youngblood." I’ve still got the original LP and it’s in pretty good shape. I was 8 years old when she gave it to me along with a cool little box-turntable, one of those ones where you flipped open the lid to play it or you could close it with these clasps and carry it to your friend’s house like a big lunchbox. Unfortunately I don’t have the turntable anymore.
Considering that it was 1968 and America was right in the middle of the civil rights protests, I think my mom was giving me a lesson in both music and politics. That was the year that both Bobby Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. were assassinated and those deaths really rocked our family, so listening to music by black artists was a kind of cool way for an 8-year old kid to get in on what was going on. The other two records I remember from that same time were two collections called The Motown Sound (Vols. 3 & 9) that included songs by Martha & The Vandellas, Stevie Wonder, The Temptations, Marvin Gaye, Gladys Knight & The Pips, and The Four Tops. Funny, thinking back on this now makes me realize how much of my early listening was based on great rhythm & blues and the cool beginnings of AM stations in San Francisco. My very first "favorite song ever" was Sly & The Family Stone’s "Thank You (Falletinme Be Mice Elf Agin)."
PADRE: EVERYONE KNOWS THAT MUSIC WILL NEVER BE MORE IMPORTANT- OR IF YOU PREFER- INFLUENTIAL TO A PERSON THAN IT WAS WHEN THEY WERE BETWEEN THE AGES OF 11-17. (DONT ARGUE. ITS A FACT.) WHAT WAS THE MUSIC THAT SHAPED AND MOLDED YOU?
PASTOR TIM: The first record I really remember running out to buy was Stevie Wonder’s Songs In The Key of Life in 1976 when I was 16. (Funny that we just listened to that album last night while we were painting the living room.) The other thing that really influenced me musically was radio. Being a teenager growing up in San Francisco (the city proper, not the ‘burbs) in the 1970’s meant that I got to hear the early days of FM radio, and radio at that time was still completely local (not Clear Channeled) so I heard tons of great music on KSAN, KTIM, and later on KMEL. At that time I was listening to a lot of soul music like Tower of Power, some AM Top 40 on KFRC, a lot of the California sing-songwriter folk-era stuff (I thought Judy Collins was totally HOT!), and of course, my brothers’ Grateful Dead, Country Joe & The Fish, Pacific Gas & Electric, and Jefferson Airplane albums.
Around 1976 I really hit my metal phase and saw a bunch of Bill Graham’s Day On The Green concerts over in Oakland with Ted Nugent, Blue Oyster Cult, AC/DC (I once touched Bon Scott’s shoulder as they did the crowd-piggy-back thing), and the first northern California show by Van Halen. Within a couple of years I was on my way to college and working in college radio in southern California (KRCL in Thousand Oaks) completely blew my mind as I heard Brian Eno, Sex Pistols, Be Bop Deluxe, and the whole era of punk and new wave. I was a huge fan of San Francisco’s underground scene (Dead Kennedys, Flipper, Romeo Void, SVT) but I also got interested in the whole LA scene (X, Circle Jerks, Black Flag, Descendants, minutemen). I even got fired from KRCL in 1982 when Greg Ginn and Henry Rollins of Black Flag came in and completely took over a 3-hour portion of my show. Greg & Henry were baiting football jocks outside the station on the air, and someone even phoned in a bomb threat that evacuated the building, but not until after I was already done with the show. I still have a couple of cassettes from that night that I pull out once in a while. And Henry was totally skinny and wiry back then, not nearly as hulking as he is now, but he spoke his mind just as clearly then as he does now. That was probably the most fun I’ve ever had in radio.
PADRE: MANY SELF-STYLED EXPERTS, INCLUDING AL &TIPPER GORE, SUSPECT THAT ROCK-N-ROLL HAS TOO MUCH SWAY ON THE ADOLESCENT MIND. HOW HAS MUSIC CORRUPTED YOU, AND WOULD P.M.R.C. (PARENTAL MUSIC RESOURCE CENTER) STICKERS HAVE SAVED YOU FROM YOURSELF?
PASTOR TIM: The PMRC didn’t have any influence on me at all because I was already "of age" when they started their misguided effort to "protect impressionable young minds," but I thought the whole thing was a huge joke kids were going to listen to the music they wanted to one way of another. Censorship never works, except against those who are doing the censoring.
By the way, I continued working in non-commercial radio for almost 20 years, and I still listen to radio all the time, but almost exclusively public radio because everything else is pretty much pre-digested dreck.
PADRE: WHAT IS IT ABOUT TAPERS AND THEIR OBSESSIVE DEDICATION TO CAPTURING ALL MUSIC, EVEN IF IT BLOWS? (I SHOULD KNOW) THAT BEING SAID, HOW DID YOU FALL INTO THIS DEN OF INEQUITIES?
PASTOR TIM: Face it, buckwheat, we’re your historians, and whether the band rocks like God Almighty or blows huge chunks, on any given night the tapers are going to be there to preserve it for your long-term delight or suffering!
No, I don’t know exactly what it is about taping that makes us so obsessive about it, but for a long time it was because we felt like the Grateful Dead weren’t the only ones doing shows worth hearing again and again. Face it, the Dead were the band that set us on the Golden Road of Taper Devotion, but I also used to record shows off the FM, especially KSAN, and I have old tapes of The Byrds, and Doctor John, and even Devo that were broadcast for our listening pleasure… only we happened to have a nice Akai GXC-725D cassette deck (yeah, I still have it) and a big old stack of Maxell XLII’s. It’s something about "capturing the moment" that makes tapers go to such lengths and spend such ridiculous amounts of money on both hardware and software, but it’s also about being able to share it with friends. Those of us who grew up with the Grateful Dead would search for months and years to find "that magic show," and when those cassettes finally showed up in your mailbox it was kind of a holy grail experience. Then when we started making our own recordings we got some kind of rush of ‘taper pride’ because OUR recording of the show was the one everyone wanted.
PADRE: IS THERE AN EXODUS FOUNDATION FOR TAPERS WHO DONT WANT TO BE TAPERS ANYMORE, BUT CANT FIND THEIR WAY OUT? (OR, ARE TAPERS JUST BORN THAT WAY?)
PASTOR TIM: What got me started doing live taping was when my friend Michael Fraase decided he’d had enough of taping (gasp!), and he sold me a Tascam DA-P1 (field DAT recorder) and a Panasonic SV-3800 (home DAT deck) along with all the batteries, cables, blank tapes, and a bunch of other stuff for some price WAY below its value. My wife knew right then that she was doomed for years to being a taper’s widow, but she’s also grown to love the concert and festival scene, and now our son John (11 years old) goes with us a lot of the time. I have no idea whether John will become a taper but when I die it’ll be up to him to either throw all of my old recordings in the trash or start some kind of My Dad’s Audio Rock & Roll Museum. Thank you, Michael!!!
PADRE: GIVE SOME HISTORY AS TO YOUR RELATIONSHIPS WITH BANDS OF THE TRAVELING SORT
PASTOR TIM: The first band that grabbed me by the heartstrings after the Grateful Dead era was ended was The Big Wu. Back in the fall of 1997 I was still working at KGPR, the local public radio station, and I saw an envelope on the music director’s desk that had a return address of "The Big Wu, Minneapolis, MN." Well, I figured I’d do the MD a favor because (a) he just had WAY too much music to listen to, and (b) I had actually LIVED in the Twin Cities for 8 years, so I just grabbed the package and took it home. Out dropped a CD called Tracking Buffalo Through The Bathtub (weird name, great art) so I drop it into the player and listened to it through like two or three times. Then I remembered the package also had a couple of DAT tapes in it so I dropped one of those into my deck (I think it was 9-12-1997, the "CD-less CD release party") and by the time that show had ended I was hooked. I got in touch with Paul Hagen, the Wu’s "executive skid-greaser," and we’ve been great friends ever since, and I joined the Wu-List, an on-line bunch of maniacs that have also become what seems like life-long friends. But it wasn’t until 6-29-98 that I finally got to see the band (an AL-less version that night because of elbow troubles, I think) at The Zebra Cocktail Lounge in Bozeman, MT. I walked in with my recording gear during the soundcheck, introduced myself as "the man with the gentle hands," and after a brief explanation Terry said something like, "No shit, so you’re really a pastor?!" They played a great show, we camped up at Hyalite that night, ate breakfast in town in the morning, and then I stood on an overpass and blessed the caravan of vans as they headed west for their first High Sierra Music Festival appearance.
The other band I totally fell in love with was Yonder Mountain String Band in late 1999. My wife and my brother and I went to the Stafford Lake Festival in Novato, CA to see The Big Wu play two sets, and there was this bunch of high-energy crazies from Nederland, CO who took over the late-night tent, played until like 5 in the morning, and then anahuaced another band (I think it was the Floodplain Gang), and all that was BEFORE they took the mainstage at like 10 AM to play the second set of the day. I saw them a month later in Missoula, and we’ve been fast friends ever since.
PADRE: WHAT GIVES? AND WHAT TAKES (IN A RELATIONSHIP WITH TRAVELING BANDS)?
PASTOR TIM: Everyone thinks bands live like rock stars from the moment they hit the road but that’s a complete crock. What some of us have been able to do over the years is give the band some friendly hospitality like a meal in our home or a place to crash for the night, some folks who will help with load-in and load-out (I’m a self-proclaimed fantasy roadie), and who just make the long-ass road seem a little less daunting. People who take care of a band when they’re out on the road will be remembered for their kindness for years. I’ve also been able to help bands out by taping shows, getting them distributed to people who share them with others, and keeping track of the archival collections for both of those bands for a whole bunch of years, but for me it’s all about having some friends who happen to be in a band. I wouldn’t do this kind of thing for just anyone it’s getting to know the people in the band, finding out they’re real human beings, and just doing something to help them feel a little more human. I think that makes a huge difference, and it’s something I’ve really enjoyed doing.
PADRE: YOUVE MADE THE MOST UNLIKELY PLACE IN AMERICA (GREAT FALLS, MONTANA) A SPIDERS WEB WHERE YOU CATCH, SEE, AND MAKE FRIENDS WITH BANDS. WHATS THE MOST REWARDING PART OF THIS?
PASTOR TIM: Simple answer: I GET LIVE MUSIC IN MONTANA, BABY!!! Anywhere I live, I have to have live music, and for me being in Great Falls, MT (not exactly a musical Mecca) that’s meant putting on the shows myself. I have a little not-for-profit production company called Stone Soup Productions that I use to put on acoustic music shows here in town. That means booking the show, doing the advance work (posters, press releases, selling tickets), arranging sound, hosting the show (and recording it, another bennie!), and then usually bunking the band in our home for the night, giving them full access to the showers, computers, and cold beer, and feeding them a monstrous breakfast the next morning before they head for the next town. It’s kind of like me getting to throw a party, inviting one of my favorite bands, and then getting all my friends in town to foot the bill so the band gets paid well and everyone has a Real Good Time. It’s mighty sweet.
PADRE: WHAT THE HELL IS ‘STONE SOUP’?
PASTOR TIM: There’s this old French story about three soldiers who are traveling back from the battle front when they come to a small village. Being hungry and with no money in their pockets they begin asking door to door for a bite to eat, but they find that everyone says they have nothing to offer. Rather than become discouraged, they go to the edge of the village, build a fire, set a large cooking pot of water in place, and adding a large stone they announce that they’re making Stone Soup. A curious person from the village comes out and asks if they have carrots for their soup, and when they say no, the villager says, "Well, you can’t have a good soup without carrots," and they suddenly are able to provide a few carrots from their hidden supply. The same happens as others ask about potatoes, cabbage, leeks, rice, seasonings, a bit of meat, etc, until what’s cooking over the fire is a batch of some of the finest soup anyone could ever hope to eat.
The story has always inspired me. It’s only when everyone adds their small part to the soup pot that you end up with this amazing feast, and I found that out at the Big Wu Family Reunion all the way back in 1999 when I invited people to bring whatever they had to share to the feast. Way back in the oaks of Harmony Park we created this amazing stone soup that fed so many people it was mind-boggling, and all it started with was a large crystal stone from Montana and an invitation for others to bring what they had to offer to the pot. I just carried the same name over to my not-for-profit production company on the assumption that everyone in the ‘small village’ of Great Falls, MT had something they could add to the pot, and we’ve been doing live acoustic music shows ever since. All I do is cover my costs for the soundman, PA, and a few general expenses, and everything else goes to the musicians. In fact, the Stone Soup Productions motto is "Bringing Great Music to Great Falls and Making Money for Musicians." It’s been amazing how this community has responded to the call. Over the last few years I’ve had Reeltime Travelers, Greasy Beans, Open Road, Kane’s River, Danny Barnes, The Special Consensus, Town Mountain, Growling Old Men, Wayword Sons, and many more bands play here, and every band has been blown away by the chance to get to play music for an attentive sit-down audience instead of having to play to a smoky bar full of people who couldnt give a rip about anything other than a band being onstage as acoustic wallpaper. People end up buying CDs they couldnt otherwise get their hands on, the band gets treated like royalty by folks who they’d never reach any other way, and they leave town wondering why they don’t get to play more shows to people who just love to hear great music. It’s a total win-win situation. And I get to hear my favorite acoustic music bands play their butts off to an appreciative audience that pays the bills and sends the band down the road with both a great feeling and some jack in their jeans. You could build a pretty sweet life around that in most any town in America, and I hope others do.
PADRE: TELL US A STORY ABOUT BEING A LUTHERAN PASTOR WITH LONG HAIR AND DEAD STICKERS ON YOUR CAR (I.E.: HOW DID THE BLUE HAIRS IN YOUR CONGREGATION FEEL ABOUT THIS UNTIL THEY FIGURED YOU FOR A NICE GUY?
PASTOR TIM: Hey, I am NOT a nice guy and I resent your implication! No, the (as you call them) "blue-hairs" have been more than understanding about my musical peccadilloes. (Go look it up, Andy; it doesn’t mean what you think it does.) I almost got in trouble at one point because some people saw that I was going off to Bozeman or Missoula for a couple of days and then I’d come back all happy, and they thought I was interviewing for a call to some other church. One of the trusted elder women asked me about it, and I trusted her enough that I told her I was actually going to hear live music. She told me I had to let the congregation know that so I did, and the response was just great! I’d say, "Hey folks, I’m taking off for a couple of days to go hear such-and-such band," and they’d say, "Have fun, pastor! We’ll see you when you get back."
Being both a pastor and a music freak felt kind of weird for a while, like I could only be one at a time, but for the most part they take me as I am. Yes, my car is parked in the so-called Pastor’s Parking Spot, but it’s a Forerunner that’s covered with all kinds of stickers from all the bands I love. Yes, I’m the guy in the white robe (okay, off-white) up in the pulpit on Sunday morning, but I don’t have to be afraid to quote a Ben Kaufmann YMSB lyric in my Epiphany sermon. Yes, I’m "The Pastor," but I have long hair, I laugh a lot, I listen to weird music and go to festivals, and I try to live an integrated life that includes both deep faith and a God-given tail-feather that I love to shake when the music’s right. In some ways I think that’s a whole lot more Christ-like than these stained-glass fundamentalists who live tight little lives, pass moral judgments on others, expect you to toe-the-line, and live high on the hog while people in their community survive on a crappy minimum wage. What’s Christ-like about that?! Jesus hung out with people who were outsiders, people who didn’t "fit in," people that others (especially the religious folk) looked down on, and he LOVED it. And he loved them too. In fact, it was the uber-religious folks who nailed him up and left him for dead. Me, I’d rather live an integrated life that welcomes everyone than ever try to put up with that kind of closed-minded smallness.
PADRE: SINCE YOU WEAR A WHITE COLLAR (THUS HAVE BECOME A MAGNET FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED COUNSELING) IS THERE ANY REWARD IN HELPING MUSICIANS? (AS OUR PROBLEMS ARE ALMOST ALWAYS SELF-CREATED AND FED LIKE A MONSTER IN A FUTILE ATTEMPT PRESERVE A CORRUPT, YET SEXY LIFESTYLE)
PASTOR TIM: Let’s just check this for a moment: Andy Miller, "Sexy…"?! Uh, think again, Toolmaster. [chuckle…] Yeah, I guess that’s the flipside of the being-a-pastor coin, when I was willing to go to music festivals and not feel like I needed to hide my beliefs in the tent. I don’t know, partly it was because my email address started with "PastorTim" that I figured maybe I should test the waters in the same way I’d done with my congregation. I mean, if a bunch of Sunday morning church-goers could accept me as a music freak then maybe the real test would be whether a bunch of music freaks could accept me as a person of faith, a pastor even. And it’s worked. Most people think it’s pretty cool that the big guy dancing next to them or lifting them off the ground in a Giant Bear Hug is a pastor, and over the years I’ve been through some pretty intense times both with fans and friends in the audience, and with musicians and folks who work behind the scenes. Usually it starts with an email that finishes up and then adds a p.s. that says, "Hey, are you REALLY a pastor? Because if you are I’ve got something I want to ask you about." That’s when I really tune in and listen.
The bottom line is that everyone EVERYONE needs someone who will just listen when you’re struggling through some of the crappy shit of real life, and I’m honored if someone is willing to trust me with that. I don’t offer cheap advice, no simple 7-step solutions, and none of those awful religious platitudes from the Hallmark cards, but sometimes all you have to do is listen while someone pours out their guts or struggles through some painful moment, and if you can do that for another human being, well, that’s like the greatest gift in the world, only I think I’M the lucky one.
PADRE: OPEN SLOT! FOR ONCE, YOU DONT HAVE TO KNOW THE ANSWER- YOU CAN JUST IMPART A MESSAGE TO THE FLOCK
PASTOR TIM: What, like you’ll work up some question to for the answer? Cool! Okay, here goes…
Don’t be afraid to live out what you believe, even if it makes you look like a dork. Most people will respect you more for being real than if you’re always trying to be who someone else wants you to be, and you’ll have a lot more self-respect too. The world can be such a screwed up, phony place (God knows we’re suffering from an epidemic of that right now at all levels of American life), but you can change that by BEING REAL. Yeah, maybe it sounds all hippy-trippy and altruistic (dewd, I was born in 1960), but you really CAN create the kind of world you want to live in. You just have to do it each and every day, show some care and concern and compassion for others, invite your friends to join you, and just watch what happens. Who knows, you might even end up standing in front of the bass-player of one of your favorite bands as he and the woman he loves exchange promises of love. Face it, folks, stranger things have happened.
Okay, is the interview done, Andy? It is? And you’ve turned off the recorder, right? Oh good, now I can say what I REALLY think. Man, I hope this wasn’t too lame. I read the column every month and I knew how edgy you like to be, and I’m just afraid this is a little too tame for those who expect you to always ROWYCO. Oh, and I think I’m supposed to have my picture taken with a can of Old Style, right? Only, I tell have to tell you the hard-hitting truth: I think that stuff tastes like piss! The only time I actually ever drank it was the night we all appeared onstage in those "I LIKE BEER!" t-shirts to be your backing vocalists on the Tom T. Hall song. And in honor of that moment, I’ll attach this picture.
I love you, brother.
+ Tim ***
The Old Style Zealot of the month is none other than the incredibly sexy Pastor Tim. When hes not busy saving souls or modeling for Maxim, he enjoys drinking beer. Because of his close relationship with God Almighty, the heaven-on-Earth rapture of actually drinking a fully kreausened Old Style pales in comparison to the previews of heaven-in-heaven that he thinks hes so privy to. (What he doesnt know is that in heaven, the Old Style bottles are much bigger- eternity sized)