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Project 86

On October 30, 2004 JFH ventured out to Lancaster, PA for the Pillar: Where Do We Go From Here Tour with guests Project 86, Falling Up, and Subseven. We were lucky to score an interview with Andrew Schwab, frontman for Project. We gathered in Schwab's dressing room following their set and had this following in-depth, honest and personal talk with Andrew concerning the band, the music industry, and life in general...
This interview took place on: October 30, 2004

  • JFH (Kevin): What inspired you to start a band?
    Andrew: Thats probably like a deeply psychological question. Im really gonna be honest. Its just whatever the mix of experiences, insecurities, even pain in my past or childhood. It's that desire to perform or to be used in that way or whatever you wanna call it. I dont know if that means for a long time, its just that switch thats there, that theres a desire to sort of educate and entertain for a long time. Kevin: Like an outlet? Yeah, definitely. Im sure that theres a therapeutic element to performing for certain.

  • JFH (Kevin): How did the band respond to the book, Its All Downhill From Here?
    Andrew: The guys were supportive of the idea. I think the one thing that has been confusing for the other guys is that the way its been marketed by the publishing company as more of like an officially endorsed Project 86 product. Whereas, I wrote it as to be biased and sort of slanted in a humorous way from my perspective. The guys didnt have a problem with that. Its just; the publisher doesnt necessarily understand how to market the book. And to understand when you sell... This is kind of a unique situation for themselves. Were still kind of working through the details of that sort of thing. I think its a good thing for the band overall. I just want people to know its written through my eyes and its slanted. If they were to write the book, itd be probably a much different take. Theyd be making fun of me a lot.

  • JFH (Kevin): Since the book has been out have you heard from Brooke?
    Andrew: No, not yet. Im hoping it reaches her. Shes probably married though to a professional football player. *laughter* Im still clinging to that one. Kevin: Have you talked to Jeremy? Ive talked to him a couple times over e-mail. That story happened a few years ago. Well, no a year and a half ago. The last time I heard from him, he said he was doing much better. He was back with his family. He was going to rehab. And thats the last time I heard from him. So, Id like to think that that means he gets on the right track. I mean, the reality is that people who are in that severe of a situation, sometimes its a very difficult path from that point on, but I definitely think about it from time to time. Kevin: Yeah, its an awesome story. Yeah, thanks man.

  • JFH (Kevin): When you guys are on-stage whats going through your mind?
    Andrew: Depends on the show. Tonight it's I wonder how many songs were gonna get through before they stop us. *laughter* However, at the end of the set tonight it was really magical, cause I really felt free at that very last moment where I was there with the crowd and I was sort of doing the very thing at the very end, and I felt like I dont care what happens. Im not worried about what happens at this moment with my band - what our future holds - because Im right here right now and this is what its all about. And its amazing too that I felt that way, in this sort of environment that is sort of not conducive to a rock show. You know what I mean? And it was all because of those kids and everyone that was out there that was just being one notch higher than our normal show. I could tell those were most of the people that were at Purple Door. Kevin: Yea, we saw some of the photos of Purple Door online. That looked pretty insane. We were actually gonna be there, but had been told it rained out. We still have some pending circumstances with that whole thing. So Im hoping that everyone is upstanding about how they deal with that. I mean, of course everyones blaming Project 86 and me for all that stuff and to a certain extent justifiably so, but we still werent the ones throwing the mud. They did allow it to continue for quite awhile. And I allowed it to continue, just because of having fun without even thinking about it. I dont know. I hope it doesnt get ugly and it turns into this multi-thousand dollar thing and Purple Door blahblahblahblah and the production company blahblahblahblah. As of this point its still not quite resolved yet, so Im hoping it is...

  • JFH (Kevin): What advice would you have for an up-and-coming artist?
    Andrew: Music is hard right now. Its not necessarily a worthwhile profession. You have to really love music to be able to live a life of somewhat poverty. Unless you go huge like Underoath or Norma Jean. Its tough man. Its tough right now. It was much different four or five years ago when people were buying records more. Theyre buying records a lot less now and thats sort of what drives the whole industry. I dont know, count the costs, I guess. You have to really know thats what youre supposed to be doing.

  • JFH (Kevin): Whats your favorite Scripture?
    Andrew: Whats my favorite Scripture? *thinks for a moment* I like Psalm 91 a lot. A friend of mine shared that with me a long time ago when I was like really hurting and stuff. Thats one that always kinda sticks in my head.

  • JFH (Kevin): What do you do to relax on the road?
    Andrew: I play a lot of video games. We play Halo a lot, Game Boy Advance, listen to music, sleep, hang out with friends after the show. Today we played basketball and I have these enormous blisters on my feet. Its awful because I dont have any basketball shoes. I try to exercise a little bit here and there and find anything to take up time because sometimes it gets boring. Theres a lot of downtime. First of all, youre in the van all day and thats downtime and then you get to the venue, and unloading and theres like four hours of downtime before you play. So [it's easy] finding time to read or exercise or play video games or write.

  • JFH (Kevin): After someone sees Project 86 live what do you want them to take home with them?
    Andrew: Well weve always been a band thats sort of searching for some sort of reputability and integrity and respect in what we do. I think thats why weve had some sort of influence is because, on one side of the coin, weve been known as a Christian band. Which I understand in one sense, I dont in the other. Because Ive been saying a lot lately that I dont think theres a such thing as Christian rock. I think that you are either a real band doing it for the right reasons or youre not. Im not saying that its wrong to play music because you wanna play for Christians. Notice I didnt say play for God. God has nothing to do with that whole equation. But I think that we do have a responsibility as artists to be genuine professional musicians. To write creative music, not music thats some sort of rip-off form of a band that did something better than you beforehand. I mean, we want people to come away seeing a professional show thats genuine. Thats honest and for them to know that were real people. And thats why real people relate to our band. And people who arent, maybe who are really, really, really sheltered, dont necessarily relate to Project 86 because we dont approach things from that perspective. Because its not who we are. Definitely something weve always liked to try to do is develop our own sound, so that we dont sound like anyone else. Thats why the music and content is the way it is. Yeah, I mean, we take it seriously, but we dont necessarily take ourselves seriously. We take it seriously. And we want everyone to know that its a somber, sobering thing to be at a Project show. Its a freeing thing as well, because its a place where people can sort of free up those pent-up emotions in a safe environment with people who are doing the same thing on stage. Hope that makes sense. Kevin: While writing up questions for the interview and reading the book I realized God uses different channels to reach people. Yeah thats one thing I definitely wanna get across. Because its not necessarily written from a Christian angle, its just heres what happened.

  • JFH (Kevin): I felt the whole time that the book was building up to something and not knowing where it was going. I think whats awesome about the book is that it puts in perspective what you guys do and all the criticism that you get, as well as all the other bands that may decide to go mainstream or not sit up on stage and preach Christ. But there are people who can go to shows and still get touched in that way. And God still gives you those opportunities to witness to somebody.
    Andrew: Totally, totally. He makes it clear. He definitely makes it clear when its that time. We just come from a completely different life perspective than most really conservative, churchy schools of thought. And I dont know how to explain it to people in a way that it makes sense other than to just tell it like it is. Weve always struggled getting on the tours that we want to get on, because we have this reputation that follows us - mostly because of our fans. Or our fans in the past who are so, This bands a Christian band and there are good Christian bands and you should follow Jesus. And its like the people who dont wanna hear that that are like, Im never listening to that band. That word of mouth is what makes the perception about a band. You know, Marilyn Manson came up to us and asked us to do some shows a couple years ago. And were like, Were all about it. That would be awesome. The rumor was he loved our music, but then he heard through the grapevine that these guys are Christians and a Christian band. So were just like, Dude gimme a break. So one thing weve always tried to do is to teach through the music. Hey, there is a way to reach people in this day and age, in this post-Christian culture. And I say "post-Christian" meaning most people have heard it and theyre not turned off by the message of Christ. Theyre turned off by the actions and the reputation of Christians. And its justified. In a lot of ways I agree with that. So many Christian people are - if they were honest with themselves - not real people and dont know how to relate. You know everythings a super-spiritual thing with angels and demons and everything is. The main thing is, I dont think God ever wants us to have an agenda when we love people, when we build relationships with people. Its not, Hey I befriended this guy I work with. Im really working on him to make him believe what I believe. You know what I mean? Theres that subtle religion and that subtle little pride that creeps in and its really wily and its really dangerous. And every Christian goes through that, especially when youre trying to do right. It always comes back to that. Were flawed, you know? But I think the way to get around that is to just be friends with people. Just be friends with them. And if the opportunity comes about to talk about your perspective on life and your faith, so be it. But if it doesnt, dont force it on people because it only pushes them away. Thats the culture that we live in. Thats the reality and thats why I like the way we approach our band. Its probably a little bit different than maybe some people would want. Its because we get it. We understand and we know the way people are. Its just really hard for me and frustrating. Were trying to destroy "Christian music," but were also trying to save it. And maybe weve already done our part, but as long as were doing what were doing, were gonna talk about these things in an honest manner and a respectful manner and try to redefine and bring about better artistry and better communication and better understanding from fans, and from the media and from people in the industry. Its important.

  • JFH (Kevin): In your book you said, I am a reactionary who resists and questions the things I see." I really like that outlook even though you said it was objective because you were referring to yourself. But what are some of those things that you question?
    Andrew: I question everything, man. The idea of being a reactionary means trying to go into a situation with an objective viewpoint, but when the elements of a situation or experience play our upon you, you respond to them accordingly in hopes of gaining a better understanding of the world around you and about your life and about who you are. I question first and foremost how the church approaches things today and that causes me to be very much on the fringe of church culture. And again, this has nothing to do with God, it has to do with people and the way they interpret God or use God or worship God. Its all about the actions of people. Thats first and foremost. I mean everything, every other question about life, sort of stems from that. I guess going back to your first question, Why am I an artist? Why do I perform? Why am I in a band? Because Im driven to learn. Im driven to question. Im driven to create and search, and I think the artistic process is that thing. That process of questioning and searching and illumination and creation. I dont know. Its a pretty broad question I guess, but I question why people do what they do. And why I do what I do. You know what I mean, and that gets into a lot of psychological things, but because I question why people do what they do. Why do people act the way they do towards me, towards my band, towards my friends, towards just me I guess. In my experiences and stuff, why are people the way they are? And that sheds an interesting light when you start seeing the patterns that we go through. When human beings hurt, they respond in characteristic ways. When a human being is loved, they respond in characteristic ways. But a human being who has been hurt and is loved, they also respond in different characteristic ways. Noticing those patterns in people and watching the interplay of those things: family, pain, relationship and how that works into religion and faith. Because thats my lens, thats my area of the way I view the world and humanity. It sheds way different light on the Christian experience and the search for God. Because you start realizing so many other things that weve been taught are not necessarily originating from God. Theyve been somehow made up by people and I always wanna get to the root of the matter. Thats why, like tonight when we played, is a great example. We come on stage, weve got this huge banner behind us with a guy with a knife and a hole in his chest and Im painted up like a skeleton for Halloween and the crowds going insane. And the promoters and some people from the school or whatever are like really offended by some of the things that they were seeing or some things said from the stage. You know, I went up there and Im like, How do I say something about this, about who we are, in this context that sort of exemplifies it. Im in my Halloween get-up, just thinking about it beforehand. Is there such a thing as a Christian holiday? There isnt really. I mean, Halloween started out as All Saints Day, All Hallows Eve. It was a Christian thing to begin with and then it sort of became something else. I dont care, its just a holiday. Its just a superstition. My life isnt concerned with that other stuff. Thats why I can do whatever I want and make fun of it and have fun with it and go trick-or-treating and do whatever. Thats why its like you get so caught up in that. But not only that, on the flipside of things we get so caught up in Christmas and Easter and its just as bad. Not because it has its roots in paganism and Constantine or in whatever century made it the official religion of the Roman Empire and 'blahblahblahblah.' Other people know this and some people dont. But then all of a sudden its endorsed by the Catholic church and on-and-on-and-on down the line its endorsed by Christian people and then we make it into this like hyper-spiritual thing where its like, Dude its just a freaking day. Its no different. We dont even give gifts because of God anymore. We give gifts because its some stupid thing. And Easter and all. Im not gonna go off about all that. Its just that a holiday is just a holiday and a guy painted up like a skeleton is just a guy painted up like a skeleton. And thats why we so something like that and go up there on stage and say, Look, once we diffuse our superstitions about holidays and about these types of things were a little bit more free and open to get down to the real things about our spirituality and our faith. And people are kinda like *makes contemplative face* some people really got it and other people were like, Uh, what is he talking about? What I find is that in any attempt to try to approach things objectively, like really try to get to the heart of the matter people get offended. And for whatever reason, our band has always played that role where its were those guys that you never know what to expect. That somebodys always really, really, really getting their life changed by or really, really getting ticked off about. And the same thing can happen on any given night with Project 86. Its like Purple Door. So many kids are gonna remember that day for the rest of their lives just like we will. Thats all I was thinking about when I was up there when all the mud was flying. I wouldnt stop this for the world. I dont care about the consequences because I know that this is going to go down in the history of our band as one of the greatest things ever. Yeah, its for whatever reason thats us. Thats our band and weve had a lot of bad things happen to our band over the years and were still here and thats sort of our testimony I guess.

  • JFH (Kevin): Seeing the way God still kept the four of you together over this length of time since day one is a great testimony to have. He obviously wants you to continue what youre doing and not quit.
    Andrew: Yeah, yeah totally, totally. We just need people to buy our records. Thats what it comes down to. I hate that it comes down to that, but thats really what all matters to a band. Buy the record, come out to shows. Its all industry people care about. They kind of decide our fate? Its like the record label says, How many kids were at the Project show? How much did they sell in merch? How many records did we sell for the week? Thats it. Its all they care about. I think if fans really understood how vital that was, people would go out of their way. Our fans are starting to look out too, because Ive been ramming it down their throats for a couple of years. Its like, Dude, if you want our band to stick around, you gotta support us and you gotta come out to shows. You gotta buy the record. You gotta make a strong showing. Its exactly what I was saying tonight, because next time we come through were not gonna play a church or whatever this is. Were gonna play a club. And we need those people to come out.

  • JFH (John): With all the discouragement you get with dealing with Christians and stuff like that, what keeps you going with Christianity and your belief in God? What keeps you grounded?
    Andrew: Just knowing that theyre not God. They can sour me from the Christian experience and they can push me away from church. And they can make me say this and make me say that about blahblahblahblahblah, but they cant really touch how I feel - thats between me and God. And thats why its about - relationship. Because if was just about relationships with people nobody would believe in God. Its why, like I said, so many people have such a problem with Christianity is because of Christians. I know its clich, but when you think about how goonie and stupid we are, and I use the term we loosely, cause I used to be the goonie super-spiritual Christian guy a long, long time ago and I realized how many people that hurt. If I had things to do over with my band Id probably do it a little differently. But this is the path that God has chosen for us and this is the path that He has given us. We keep going on as a band and I keep going on as a Christian because I dont know what else I would be doing. This is what Im supposed to be doing. Tonight is evidence, our show. I walked in here today and I was like, Why is the show here? Why cant we do it in a gym or somewhere it can be run like a rock show, not like a youth choir thing. Thats not disrespecting anyone at all, its just the fact of the situation. JfH's Sean: I know that we were one of three car loads that were here to see Project. Thats cool. I anticipated a lot of people being here just for us and its been that way on the entire tour. We all wanna play Purple Door again. They know that we have a big following. I just wanna make sure that everythings handled on the up-and-up. The only way sometimes that we have power with these kinds of people is by the communication with our fans. If were powerful enough to demand that much following at a show then all of a sudden were respected. Its unfortunate, but on the Christian side of things theres just as many crooks. John: The worst part about it is its still a business. The thing is, in the music industry, you deal with label people on just the normal side of music and you kind of expect them to be crooks. This industry recruits the lazy and the leeches and the schmoozers and all that stuff. On the Christian side of things, if youre nave to it, you go into it anticipating it to be different. Well those people just smile a lot more. And they use Christian words when theyre trying to screw you. Its true, man. It sucks. It totally sucks.

  • JFH (Kevin): After Project 86 is done, how do you want people to remember you?
    Andrew: All theyre gonna remember is Drawing Black Lines. *laughter* Im just kidding. I have this joke I say sometimes at shows, You guys know we did two [more] records? *more laughter* And every time I meet someone, Dude wheres the fro? Dude, I love Drawing Black Lines. *laughter* We just scratch our heads and were like, What did we do? John: I guess you guys lost some people on Truthless Heroes? Burn Your Britches Yeah, justifiably so. I had different aspirations for that record than what came out. Theres no such thing as a perfect record. You live and you learn. I think our new record is definitely a step more in the right direction. Im happy with it. I dont think its our best record ever. I think we have some really good music in us left, and not just good, because well think its good, but because people will like it too. John: I was curious With Songs to Burn Your Bridges By, what were you hoping to do with that record? Thematically and stuff?. Just try to tell people who were soured by Truthless Heroes why Truthless Heroes was the way it was. Know what I mean? We try to. John: What was your favorite song off there? Oh boy. Favorite song to play live is Breakdown in . Favorite song to listen to Shadow On Me and Safe Haven. I love "Safe Haven." John: What is Shadow On Me about? Its about being broken. Its really simple. Theres some deep stuff on this record and theres some real deep stuff you can grab a hold of. Because the concept is a little simpler, its not just me using some big words or something. Uh, whats the legacy we wanna leave? We didnt compromise. I know we have compromised along the way in some areas, sometimes out of stupidity or being nave here and there. But now we dont with anything because we know where we need to be and we know what we need to be doing. And we cant change our sound or change what we do to cater to people, to cater to kids or the record label people or to radio people. We just have to be who we are. And I think in the end, if we stick to that from here on out, well be very happy with the legacy we leave. Even if we sell five records on our fifth album. And thats a terrifying thing to say. Its much harder to do that than it is to just write songs that people wanna hear. Believe me, I can go up there and scream like all the other 10,000 metal-core bands that are out there or hit the same notes as most of the screamo bands and appeal to the scene kids. But were not scene kids. We think scene kids are trying too hard and their endorsement of certain bands being cool or being uncool fades. And it makes what those fans do a flash in the pan because theyre part of like a little mini-trend. And its no discredit to the bands that sound like that, its more just about that scene. Though wed love for those kids to come out to our shows because we like to talk to everyone, even when theyre sort of anti-our band. Our band exists on the edge of 'scene.' There are some scene kids that really like our band, and there are some scene kids that really think were stupid and we dont get it and were cheesy. But if they sat down with us and checked out our music collection and saw what we were in to and where our roots are and how many hard-core shows we used to go to and blahblahblahblahblah, they would realize theyre just little kids trying too hard - wearing black make-up, black hair dye and lip rings and girl jeans. Eating pita bread and hummus. *laughter* But anyway, I could go on and on and on about all kinds of stuff.

  • JFH (Kevin): Do you have any last words?
    Andrew: I just want to keep encouraging people to continue to support the band. Weve been through a lot. Were not really dwelling on what weve been through. Even though this is kind of what this record is about. Ill keep hammering home the point to support the bands you love. Go out to the shows. Buy the records, dont burn them. Buy the merch. But mainly buy the record and go out to shows. We need that support. You can join our myspace group, become our friends at\project86. You can visit our website and join our forums or you can go to my website - which is today! Im waiting on a template to update it myself so I can put up fan writings. Yeah! Thanks guys, I really appreciate it. That was good guys, I liked it!

    Project 86


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