July 16th, 2016 will always be a very special day for me. That was the last show that I ever played with my band, Limbs Of The Arbitrator. The next day, my lead guitar player and I quit the band, rather unexpectedly. We had our reasons, of course, but it was all very last minute. Our show at Jub Jub’s in Reno, NV on the 16th was absolutely horrendous! We had been on hiatus for the past 6 months while recording our ep, “You’re Still Alive.” This show was our first show back in months, and we had a completed album to promote, and yet we played like shit...totally uninspired. As someone who prides himself on my band’s live performances, I have never been as embarrassed after playing a show as I was that night. In fact, at the end of our set, I was so pissed off that I was smashing my cymbals with my fists during the last instrumental breakdown of our very last song, and then I totally trashed my kit onstage. Not in some rock star wannabe moment, not to give people something else to remember other than our previous shit performance, but because I was THAT PISSED about what had just transpired onstage. Looking back, I’m pretty sure that was the most immature I’ve ever been onstage.
Right about now, you may be asking yourself why that date carries so much meaning for me, and rightfully so. That night was so awful that I’d LOVE to forget it, except for what happened BEFORE the show. But first, a little background.
I’ve had faith in God since I was 5 years old. I’ve been a drummer since I was in 4th grade. I’ve been a christian drummer in metal bands since about 1997. The list of major label national touring acts that I’ve shared the stage with is a who’s who of metal (both christian and secular) over the past 2+ decades. I’m pretty well known in my area for putting on crazy performances behind my drumkit (think Animal from the Muppets). In fact, I’ve been known to stand up on my drum seat in mid song, turn my back to the crowd, drop trou and moon them all. I’ve been in bands with other christians. I’ve been in bands that wanted nothing to do with my faith. I’ve played shows in churches, and in the seediest of bars. I’ve gone on a handful of tours with a couple of my bands. I don’t say all these things to brag in any way, but rather to paint a picture.
Through the years, one of my biggest fears as a creative musician is that people wouldn’t know what I believe when it comes to my faith. I mean, I’m very active on social media, and can’t seem to shut up about ANYTHING, so I know that people know that I believe in God. I’m talking more about the live performing situation. I’ve never felt the call to preach from the stage, or use my music as a tool for ministry. I truly believe that if we have faith in God, that our lives should be our ministry. As someone who holds that view, I’ve often examined my life as a musician and felt that I was lacking in certain ways, that I wasn’t being enough of a light in a dark world. Then July 16th, 2016 happened.
While the second band was playing, I was outside the club setting my drums up and warming up. While putting my cymbals on their respective stands, my buddy Aaron Hamilton (singer for the local Reno band, Qarin) came over and started talking with me. There was very little of the bullshit small talk that you often find in such situations. Right away, we got into a deep discussion. Aaron started off by saying how much he appreciated me, not just for my skills as a drummer/musician, but because of my faith in God and how I never shied away from that faith. He then gave me a little of his background, which was also in the church. Over the years, his views have changed greatly, and if I remember correctly, he now considers himself to be pagan. In our conversation, however, it was obvious to me that he is still spiritual. As I warmed up to play an incredibly shitty set, it was pretty much a verbal love-fest between two metal performers who have different spiritual beliefs, but share an intense mutual respect for one another. I was almost brought to tears several times as Aaron shared with me how much respect he had that I never backed down from my beliefs, and yet never beat people over the head with said beliefs either.
My last show with Limbs, and the most important thing that I could have ever received was given to me by my metal brother before we even played a note. It wasn’t a recording contract from a major label. It wasn’t news that our recently finished ep was well received by everyone and their mother. It wasn’t a huge endorsement deal, which would save me a lot of money on equipment. Aaron gave me the gift of knowing that throughout the years, just by being my crazy ass self, he saw the God that I profess faith in IN me, and in my life. Instantly, years of doubt and wondering whether I was doing a good enough job representing my faith just melted away. I stepped into the knowledge that being who God created me to be was enough; that my life WAS the ministry that I had hoped it would be, even though I never once preached from the stage.
That night was a mess. I’m still dealing with the fallout of quitting Limbs Of The Arbitrator the very next day. I’m disgusted that we played so poorly and that is the last memory of the band that those in attendance that night will ever have of LOTA, yet I remember that night fondly as one of the greatest nights in my career as a musician.
Too often in life, we make choices that lead us to live lives that we think others expect of us. Rarely do we ever make such choices because we are looking out for ourselves, but rather for other people, and yet it always seems to have the opposite effect. We put on an act in order to fool people into thinking that we are one way, when we are in fact, another. Even if that way of thinking is with good intent, I truly feel that it is misguided, and unnecessary. As cliche as it is, honesty really is the best policy. If you believe in Christ, don’t be afraid to let people see your flaws, just be honest about them. Don’t feel like you need to lead a quiet, reserved life in order to properly show people what faith in God entails. Be who you were created to be, but be honest about it, and in doing so, Christ WILL be seen in you!
I have one last example to share with you, in the hopes that it will bring encouragement. Once, while in a conversation with a singer in one of my previous bands, I expressed doubt that I was being a good enough example of who Christ is. My singer, who is not a christian, looked me in the eyes and said “listen man, you are the BEST example of who Christ is, in my opinion. You play in a band where no one believes what you do, yet you’re never preachy, and we know that you love us. We know that we can have conversations with you about God and that you won’t judge us at all. And you use your musical abilities to go into clubs that most other christians wouldn’t set foot in, and you love on people. How is that not what Christ would do?”
All this to say… Be yourself, my friends....you never know who is watching, and who’s life you could be making an incredible impact on.