If you think you can’t be cool within your faith, Nashville trio RED will most certainly prove you wrong. The twice Grammy-nominated Christian Rock band has garnered five prestigious Dove Awards in their career, and have achieved Top 10 success on the mainstream Rock charts a few times. That said, it’s a fact that good music has few boundaries, and RED is a group that thinks outside the box when it comes to spreading the good word.
We can find proof of the band’s creative edge in their current Pledge Music campaign, which offers various packages for the pre-order of their album of Beauty and Rage, including a collectible graphic novel based upon their passionate visuals. They even have packages with things like guitar lessons from the band via Skype and a custom Harley Davidson. Fans who pre-order will also receive special sneak peeks, downloads and more.
But wait… a Christian band with a graphic novel? It’s not as wild as you might think, as there are a few publishers dedicated to this genre.
In our quest to learn more about RED, we found out that twins Randy and Anthony Armstrong only find they compete when it comes to video games. So with that, we talked with them both about their influences in gaming and the music biz, and much more. Why is putting raw emotion in their songs so important, and how does it affect people? How do they deal with negativity on the internet? How are they balancing family, career and raising kids? And how do they stay grounded with their fans amid being recognized by the mainstream? Read on…
Tell us about your favorite video games of all time and what made them special to you.
Randy: I’d say Madden NFL Football. I’ve been playing that since the first year it came out. Maybe like Madden ’89 or something like that. My favorite team to play with is the 49ers, of course.
Anthony: I like the first-person shooters like Call of Duty and all that good stuff. Since those games started coming out, I think the first one was Socom where it was like an online game you can play. That was one of my favorites, and we wore that out… It was a first person shooter that you can play online against others. So that was what introduced us to it. I’d say the most recent Call of Duty’s though, Ghost and Black Ops are my two favorites so far. You have your nostalgia games, but these new Call of Duty’s are so hard to beat because of the graphics.
Any other games that stand out that you enjoy playing together?
Anthony: We were big Contra fans back in the day. It was on the very first Nintendo.
So you guys have had literally every system every made?
Anthony: Actually our singer Michael has had every system, the biggest ones ever made. He’s probably had a couple of oddball ones that people don’t even know about, like the 3DO system, and stuff like that for a gaming console.
What would you say is your personal favorite gaming system over the years? What’s something if you could go back to it you would?
Anthony: Super Nintendo I’d say maybe. The graphics and games were so cool.
If you guys can have any one of your songs put into a video game, what would the song be? And what would the game be?
Anthony: Any one of the first-person shooters. They are so intense; I think our music would find itself very well with that. We had a song on our third record called “Feed the Machine” that we thought would be perfect for the Transformers movie. I think our music is more set for a trailer-esque action-type movie than video games. I think if you think of any real intense video game, sci-fi or shooter game I think our music would work well with it. But we’re more about the movies for sure.
Do you let your kids play video games?
Anthony: The iPod games and all that stuff now.
Randy: My son’s heavy into Skylanders and Skylander Giants and Skylander trap team.
Are there certain games that you wouldn’t let your kids play?
Anthony: Grand Theft Auto! [laughs]
Now when you’re out on the road, you have families at home. How are you managing to not only balance your career, but also monitor what your kids are doing?
Anthony: 100% of the time we are on the phone, checking in, talking to the kids on the phone, catching up with them on their day, making sure they did their homework and they’re behaving, and not forgetting about daddy. [laughs]
You’ve decided to put a graphic novel out with of Beauty and Rage and did an extensive, cool package. What made you decide to make this so interactive for the fans?
Anthony: That’s the reason we get to do what we do. It’s a process that’s more about collaboration. We can’t do it all on our own. The fans have to listen and buy our music in order for us to do what we do. It’s a give and take. They also would say “if it wasn’t for your band, I would be in some dire situations.” It’s a give and take type of relationship with fans, which is cool, and we both have something to offer each other.
I think a lot of bands are doing the Pledge Music drive because it’s just the overall state of the environment with music. There are a lot of bands out there that can’t afford to make records and can’t afford to tour. They have to ask their fans to help them out. It has to do a lot with the piracy situation and people stealing music. The value has been lost in music, so we’re definitely supporters of it. We did it totally based on giving our fans an extra bump; giving them access to what we do, into our lives, and interaction where we get to hang out with them, and stuff like that.
We’ve been fortunate enough to stay under the very delicate financial radar that’s happened with a lot of bands, and we’ve made it though and been fortunate enough to make the money we needed to make to stay on the road. Our first drive was based on that, giving our fans another taste. Not just buying our CD and coming to a show.
When it comes to writing a graphic novel and doing the music that you do, does it ever conflict with people in the Christian world? Do you deal with being judged much?
Anthony: It doesn’t matter what it is, [some people]will have something negative to say about it, that’s the sad part… Our whole career is based on giving someone some sort of inspiration, to lift them up. Even if their life is doing good and feeling good, to just relax and let go and listen to music.
You kinda gotta take the good with the bad. A lot of those situations come up and a lot of those battles have to be fought, because people need to understand that the comments they make and the things they say are so far out of left field. Because our lives are so public and on the internet, people just assume and interpret things however they want and they turn it into good or bad. It’s a challenge, but I think we [handle]it pretty well.
Who has been your favorite group to tour with?
Anthony: There have been so many. I’d say the Papa Roach guys are good buddies, very good guys. One of the best tours we ever did was back in 2008-2009. We went out in Spain with Papa Roach. It was an incredible tour. They were good guys and took really good care of us being a young band it was a lot of fun. It was a long tour and we learned a lot. It was us paying our dues and continuing on this road.
How do you balance out the imaging of winning all these awards and staying true to your die-hard fans?
Anthony: We balance it because we don’t set out to win those awards. It’s just things that come our way solely based on our peers loving what we do and voting for us for those awards to happen. But if you’re set out to win awards, you’re doing it for the wrong reason in the first place. I think if you’re a legitimate artist you are doing it for the love of the art, and not just for people to be patting me on the back. That’s how we balance it.
There’s no thought that goes into “I hope we win this or I hope we win that”. It’s cool. It does garnish more fame and exposure and the fame being important, because more fame brings more people to your music. We do this to make a living too, there’s no doubt about it. We’re not rich like people think we are. We work very hard.
We’re here in Franklin, Tennessee right now cleaning out our storage units with all of our gear and stuff we don’t even use any more. Our crew guys aren’t even here doing it. Just the three band guys are here doing it, getting dirty. [laughs]
Going into this Beauty and Rage album, what do you want people to know about you as men and as a band at this stage of your career?
Anthony: I think as men we want them to know that we’re just trying to make a difference. Regardless of what anybody says or tricks themselves into believing. There are a lot of people out there who just want to hate on someone’s accomplishments, opportunities, hard work and dedication to doing something for the better of man. I think that what we’re doing. We just want people to know that our continued goal in everything we do is to inspire people.
We’ve met so many kids who’ve had such a rough upbringing and tough life, near death, or the night before ready to kill themselves and their friend dragged them to one of our shows, and they heard some stupid song that we wrote and it changed the whole course of their life. That’s a huge responsibility for us.
Every single record you put out, you have to deal with the constant banter and back and forth of fans who love or hate it. Most of the times it’s been great because we get a lot of love from fans who have loved what we’ve done. Sometimes you get those entitled people who are the ones downloading your music illegally and complain about the smallest things. People get caught up in the wrong things.
We did this, and we did it for a reason. That’s what you should be lifting everybody up about. Praising the band, whether you like the songs or not, they are going to change someone’s life, period, and that’s the whole point.
Is there anything else you want people to know about of Beauty and Rage?
Anthony: We are convinced, in our very humble opinion as the artists, that this will be the biggest record we’ve ever done. We’ve never been able to say that before and it’s just an overwhelming emotion about this project. Things we did different and the feelings behind everything that we did that just poured into this project. You can tell that it’s so real. I think that’s what people are going to relate to the most, is that they can actually feel the pain, the angst, the love and all those things in the music. It’s not just a song written for three minutes and thirty seconds of radio play.
Watch the preview of RED’s “Darkest Part”