Since the announcement that Audio Adrenaline is back with Kevin Max taking over vocal duties, talk has been buzzing about this beloved rock band. JesusfreakHideout.com's John DiBiase had the pleasure of chatting with the band's original bassist Will McGinniss and former dc Talk vocalist Kevin Max about the band's new chapter, new music, and continued journey...
This interview took place on: 10/3/12.
I thought it went great! It was a showcase for festival buyers and promoters. It didn't have the same kind of feel a regular show would have, with people really getting into it and jumping around and goofing off and connecting on a deeper level, but there was a bigger response than I would have imagined there would've been. They were really anticipating us going on and when we went on, they were super, super cool with us and they applauded like crazy at the end of each song! We played three new songs. There was a standing ovation at the end. We unleashed the premiere of our new video for "Kings and Queens." So they dug it all. They saw an early version of it. We're not completely finaled out on the video. We'll have it today or tomorrow, but they had a sneak preview of that and we played the song overtop of it. I thought the response was great!
Exactly. Yeah, I thought for what it was, we had maybe five or six times to come together and rehearse before that, but not real rehearsals. I mean, really, we had one day of rehearsals before that. So from that perspective, and not really doing any live dates together yet, I thought it was great. I thought the public responded really well. And also, it was only three tunes, so you can't really do much with three songs in front of an industry crowd. But we did the best we could, man.
I think we went away feeling like people are going to have us out again, so that was good! *laughter*
Yeah, exactly! *laughs*
They weren't like, 'Oh no! We won't have you come to our festival!' *laughs* So that was the win out of all of it.
Kevin: Yeah, we do. We have a radio event that will be about a thirty to forty minute set. And we were just getting ready for that last night. We're going to be playing, again, three new songs and the rest classic AA songs. That's in Tulsa, Oklahoma. And I think there are three or four other acts on the stage for that show. I know Jaci Velasquez is and we are, but I don't know who else will be at that show. Maybe Will does.
Will: Petra. A big radio station in Tulsa, it's their thirtieth year anniversary shindig, so they have a bunch of old school artists coming. But it's that Saturday, [October] 20th. Petra's bringing out Greg X. Volz and unleashing their whole Beat The System tour package that they had eons ago. We're probably going to have four feet in front of the stage to stand in front of that setup, but it'll be fun!
Will: We've tried to put together a few songs that span several records. So we go all the way back to "Big House" and "Never Gonna Be As Big As Jesus." We kind of combine those two. And then we have "Get Down," "Ocean Floor," "Hands and Feet"... So those are the ones we're starting with. I mean there's tons of others that we kind of gravitate toward, and Kevin's voice can really kill about any of them, so it's kind of the sky's the limit when we do our own headliner, but for now, with just having thirty, forty minutes, we kind of want to have a good balance of new and old and not just make it terribly one-sided either way. So I think those are the first four or five old ones that we'll tackle first. And then we'll go ahead and try to pull off three or four new ones as well, just to kind of give them a taste of where we're going. I feel like we have a solid, great ballad reminiscent of "Ocean Floor" with "Kings and Queens;" that's the new single. And then the video's going to be coming out on that. "He Moves You Move" is a new one that feels to me like a "Get Down." It's kind of comparable to that. We break a little new ground with one called "Fire Never Sleeps." It's a Martin Smith worship song that we kind of rock it up a little bit more and Kevin slays it on that one. So I feel like that one is kind of reminiscent of early U2 and early Audio A, back to the Lift days. Stuff like that. So those are the three we're taking on initially. We have some other rockers, and probably half the record that has them hasn't even been produced [yet]. I'm sure some others will grab our attention and we'll want to play them live. We feel like these three are the ones for now. But I know there are other ones that we dig more. These are the ones that have gotten done first.
Will: About 18 months ago, we were approached by Wes Campbell, he's obviously the big manager guy in town; manages the Newsboys and several others. [He's] a guy that we've known for a couple decades. Mark [Stuart] and I have done business with Wes for literally a couple decades and done tours with the Newsboys with and ended up at a lot of festivals together, so we know him. He just came to us and said he thought there was a super high integrity and strong brand still in the way that Audio was out there and the legacy that we had left, the kind of brand that we had built. 'So what do you think about getting it back together?' and initially I don't think either of us felt too keen on the idea. Y'know, just kind of disrupting our current lives and all of that for no reason didn't seem real exciting, just to go play my bass and tour around and make records. It's fun, but it's not the end-all, y'know? And I think about six or seven months after that, we kind of continually laughed it off a little bit and then we realized he was pretty tenacious and pretty serious. We started to think through it and figure out, 'Well, what would make us get the band back together?' or 'What would be exciting or fun to talk about?' and that's when the Hands and Feet Project component came into play. Mark's the Executive Director and I'm the Chairman of the Board and we dedicate our lives to this thing and so we said, 'Would you be into doing a creative model, a new model outside of the normal box? Attaching Hands and Feet on a lot of deep levels, not just the surface. They'd be a part of the label structure, they'd be a part of the message at every show. Mark could be able to be involved and write on the record and do things behind the scenes, but also be out front and talk about Hands and Feet at a few events here and there and on radio.' So when that kind of component got added, it felt really sweet and felt like I was doing something bigger, cuz none of us want to go back out just to beat the roads down again and leave our families for that. But to go out and champion orphans and that cause, it felt really right.
So we got into more serious conversations with Wes and at that point, he was great with the idea, Fair Trade came on board, James and those guys were great with the Hands and Feet component, started talking to Kevin and others previous to that, and they loved the idea. So the thing that I thought could be the biggest stumbling block--by attaching Hands and Feet--turned out to be the thing that everyone loved about the idea. That's just a God thing and we feel like He's been doing something bigger than us, bigger than Audio ever was, this time around just in adding that to this thing. It kind of gives us a whole new heart and a new reason behind this. It's kind of where we ended when we left the road. To come back with it in the forefront is amazing to me. Wes probably brought Kevin to the table early on. We had talked about a few other cats--well, mostly Mark [did]. Mark was throwing a bunch of ideas out and I hadn't felt good about any of them, to be honest. Not one did I feel good about, until Kevin came along. And then I thought it was crazy and psychotic, but that's typically how I like to do stuff. Those are right up my alley. We took some coffee with Kevin, just to see where he's at, and for him to communicate the respect he has for Mark and I and the brand, our friendships just kind of picked up where they left off. It was like an old sock; you put it back on and it feels great. [He's] an old bro, y'know? He sang on an early record and we did miles and miles of touring together--
Kevin: I like being referred to as an "old sock," by the way, Will. That's perfect. Thanks for that. *laughter* The Old Sock. I like that.
Will: You're like an old overcoat. That's how we say. You just put that thing on and it feels awesome. Feels solid.
Kevin: Yeah. Because, see, my nickname through the years with dc Talk was "Old Leather Throat." That's what they used to call me.
Will: Oh! There ya go!
Kevin: Now I can be like "Old Sock" or "Old Leather Throat." Either one. Both still work.
Kevin: Toby [McKeehan] actually gave it to me because my voice would never get tired in shows when I'd be singing. I rarely ever lost my voice, which is really strange saying this in context with Mark Stuart. Mark was really rough on his voice, though. He was a screamer. I've never really been a screamer, but I've had to sing really high throughout my career with dc Talk. I was always the guy singing a couple notes above Mike [Tait]. So it's a blessing I've never really lost my voice, even for a short period of time. I've been sick, y'know, and I've had colds--actually, I had a cold last week--but as far as losing the voice, I never have. That's where the nickname came from and we used to make jokes about it. But I kind of like "The Old Sock" even better. People will be like, 'What does that mean?!' Will called me an old sock. *laughter*
Kevin: From what I've heard on my end, no. And the fact that this was kind of a brainchild of Wes Campbell--but he obviously had to come to both me and the other guys. Even from the very beginning, I understood the thought behind this. Cuz Audio Adrenaline has been such a great brand throughout the years for so many people, and as far as the band goes, it's really hard to start brand new. And on top of that, the "brand" Audio Adrenaline is not really being changed beyond what the thought process behind it is, what they're doing with Hands and Feet. Obviously, Will is still a huge part of all of this, Mark Stuart is still a huge part of this behind the scenes, and so if we were to take those components out of it, and we were going to start brand new with a different thought or vision or path, then absolutely. But, I think this band is on the same path it was from the beginning. It's there to entertain people but it's also there to be a ministry for different things and raise awareness for people that are hurting and help the poor and help the orphans. So, in that case, I don't think it should be changed.
Will: There's something that Audio has always had about it and it was kind of the greater heart of the greater goal in mind. It wasn't usually about the individuals as much. It's not the sum of the individual parts but the sum of them together. So for us to come under the banner of Audio A, it makes sense. Cuz we want to be all about the same business: making amazing music, crafting a live show that rocks people's faces off/blows stuff up, at the same time enters them in to the throne of God, gives them things to think about, pulls them outside of the confines of their own life and their own issues and puts their eyes and their sights on other things so that they might start to be able to get through their own life things. To me, it's just coming under the banner of Audio A and knitting our hearts together under the bigger vision of Hands and Feet. It makes perfect sense to me. It's what we always were.
Kevin: I never ruled it out, because you know how this industry is. The one thing I like about the Christian music industry is that, even though there are so many flaws in it and there's a lot of judgment and all this kind of stuff that runs rampant through the church as well, there is underlying brotherhood. There is a sense of family, even if we backbite and tear somebody's head off. *laughter* You're still a part of the family. My dad, which is really hilarious, when I kind of went my separate way from dc Talk and started doing solo music, my dad would always be like, 'Well why don't you sing for Bill Gaither?' *laughs* I would explain to him, 'Look, I'm more of a pop / rock 'n roll singer, not necessarily a gospel singer. I don't think it would make sense.' But his thought about that makes sense to me because it's how people see the body of believers or the church. We are one family under the banner of Christ. So I don't think it's too far out there. I do think you have to be careful with the severity of the decision. I mean, are you defacing a band's legacy by doing something completely different? [JFH (John): Right.] In this case, again, I don't think we're defacing it, I think we're only just continuing the story, continuing the journey and hoping that we will continue making records in a great way, musically and stylistically as well.
Kevin: Well, that's not necessarily true. I don't think I could have worked with anybody. Because, the truth is, I'm a pretty specific type singer and I have a long train of things that attach themselves to me as far as character or style or belief. [JFH (John): *laughs* Yeah.] So for somebody to come out and grab me to sing for a band, I think it's kind of a specific thing. [JFH (John): That's true.] But I was drawn to the whole thing when the proposition was made, in a very naturally way. Again, it is, literally, like being back with a bunch of friends that I was with in the very beginning days of my career. We started touring together as early on as Jesus Freak. I was there when they were basically signed and I've made friendships with these guys over the years. I have several memories of hanging out with Will and Mark on the road and doing things together even on the side of performing. We'd go off on little adventures together. I remember one trip we took to Mexico together. So, for me, it was kind of a no-brainer. And at the same time, it felt like I was just back with some old friends. What's exciting about it, and I don't want to go too far off on this but, is that we have a huge potential still to create something--and not only fill a hole in the industry, but to expand the industry with this brand. Cuz I think the whole rock 'n roll pop band within Christian music is kind of missing. [JFH (John): Yeah, definitely.] And I think this is a band that can reshape some things, and I'm very excited about that.
Will: We've had a relationship with all the labels in town forever. *laughs* We were on the same management group as MercyMe, so we knew Fair Trade (formerly INO Records) back when MercyMe first signed. We did lots of touring with MercyMe; they opened for us and we ended up opening for them on our final farewell run. I mean, we've known them forever. So just in how [Fair Trade] do business--they have the James Fund, they have some other benevolent things. Their motto is as you're blessed, you bless others - that kind of thing. They have a really unique perspective on their position. They just have an incredible vision, I think. So, to me, of all the labels in town, I think it's just the way God writes stories into our lives. He picks the characters and the parties to come in that He wants. They make the most sense in the end. Things we would try to do would probably be mucking things up. I think Wes has had a relationship [with Fair Trade], Mark's had a relationship because of Hands and Feet. We've been doing stuff with them outside of this deal, with the James Fund and Hands and Feet. It's just how God orchestrates stuff. It's really awesome to see. He picked Wes and Mark and James to try to come together and it happened way easier than most deals go down. Everyone was amicable right away. And they got our heart with Hands and Feet and got why we want to do this and they were on board from the first step. It's just, to me, it's the fit. Hands and Feet is in partnership with them on the label side, so it's basically Fair Trade/Hands and Feet, which is a cool thing! Something that's never been done. That's an exciting component too. Literally, the record proceeds will end up at Hands and Feet too. That's amazing to me.
Will: Oh, man. *laughs* I'd like to say we whittled it down from about 50 or 60 songs to these 10 or 11 we have right now, but Kevin, I'll let you take that. Tons of writers.
Kevin: Yeah. When we started out the process, of course, I got interested very quickly from a writing standpoint. Cuz I've had several songs laying around from several projects that really never took shape and some great ideas that I felt needed to be thrown out there. So, initially, I just kind of attacked it. (*Will bursts out laughing*) I think Will would agree that I just immediately responded, 'You want music? Here it is! Let's finish it.' I think the general idea from the beginning was, 'OK, Kevin, these are great, but this sounds like a Kevin Max solo album.' So we had to kind of get in there with different writers. Mark and I started out real early writing together with different guys. Stu G. from Delirious? was one of them. Seth Mosley, who's very involved in this project. We started writing with different guys. Juan Otero, who used to tour with dc Talk as a dancer, has basically co-written the first single, "Kings and Queens," and the list goes on. I mean, we've written with a few other people beyond the ones that I've mentioned. My friend Ricky Becks out in LA wrote a couple with me and Anythony Skinner. Will's right, there are so many songs that are on the table right now, but we had to decide what this album is going to sound like, which is obviously important because when people hear this record, they're going to wanna know 'What direction are they going in?' Truth be known, I think this album has a shape now. It has absolute intention behind it and it's a cohesive piece of work right now, because we have it whittled down to 10 or 11 songs. I think it is a really strong, really strong record. And I say that as being a member of dc Talk and a solo artist, as well as being a member of Audio Adrenaline. And I can honestly tell you this is a huge project.
Will: Yeah, I agree. I think--not to overplay Mark, but--Mark helped kind of shape this thing in a big way, as far as keeping the Audio component, the Audio A sound. He was integral in the long list, Kevin bringing his thing and me speaking into it as well; I think God knew it would take the three of us--again, it's not the individuals, it's the three of us coming together and that produced this new thing that was Audio A but it's also uniquely it's own thing, too. I think people are going to be really blown away by it.
Kevin: Oh, really? Like what? *laughs* Like how?
Will: Oh, yeah! That's a great comparison.
Will: Oh, cool!
Kevin: I'm a chameleon, man. People that don't know me really well don't know that. People that know me very well understand I can change my voice. I change my looks. *laughs* I can change a lot of different things. Vocally, I've never really tried in public cuz people have wanted a certain thing from me in my perception, y'know? But with Audio Adrenaline, I'm really happy to just be able to be a singer. To be one of the many individuals in the group that will make the whole sound better. I'm not really trying to showboat on this record as much. I'm just kind of singing the song properly. And the truth is, with "Kings and Queens"--I'll be able to say this because it's funny--but they had me re-sing that several times, the record label and a couple other people, because they felt like there was too much vibratto on the song. Here's the thing, at first, it kind of shocked me because, 'Really? You do know who you have in this group, right?' *laughter* [JFH (John): Yeah. *laughs* Seriously!] I'm kind of known as the guy who sings the vibratto. But I really took it as a challenge, too. 'OK, you want me to sing this straight? I can sing the song without any vibratto.' And when I told one of the guys at the label that, they were like, 'Really?!' and I said, 'Yeah! If you want me to sing it straight like a piece of paper, I can do it for you.'
Will: I'll add on to that; I think the humility in which Kevin's approached every song has been unbelievable. He's laid down his preferences, his normal go-to things and he's really put the greater vision out in front and I am blown away by that. It's amazing to see that, y'know? And, again, it's just the cool thing about this project. I think all the guys in this band are doing the exact same thing; they're putting they're preferences aside and their things that would normally be a draw-the-line-in-the-sand moment and they're like, 'Whatever, dude. Whatever would make it the best it can be.' And that's just been mind-boggling and awesome at the same time.
Kevin: Thank you, dude. I'll just be honest, it's not really hard to do either. It might be hard to do because I've been doing it a certain way for so long, but for me to be able to be just a guy in Audio Adrenaline now is a great blessing and an honor. I don't even look at it like, 'Oh, I really gotta change myself to do that,' which is cool because there is a line that I'd probably have to draw in the sand when it comes to compromise. I wouldn't want to compromise who I am just to be a part of something. And I don't feel like I'm compromising in this at all.
Kevin: Y'know, that's a good question. I really don't know the answer to that right now. Hopefully, yes; I've had a conversation with management about that. I really haven't had a conversation with Will about it and the guys in the band. (*Will chuckles*) But y'know, I do have a whole EP that I haven't released yet, which is Side Two: The Fiefdom of Angels project. It's a possibility that I could do that before the end of the year, or not. At this point, Audio Adrenaline takes complete priority. So I'm just waiting for the powers-that-be to make that decision.
Kevin: Absolutely, man.
Will: Yeah, dude! Love ya, buddy!
Kevin: We love Jesus Freak Hideout, man!
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