Keeping Rock & Soul Gospel fresh, streaming it live. Grandfather Rock answers 15 Tollbooth questions.
There's been confusion over just where C.W. Post campus really is located. Although Google will give the address in Oyster Bay, most Long Island natives know that it's in Glen Head - but if you're driving to the on-campus radio studio you're going to Brookville – Old Brookville, to be even more colloquial about it. And since we're talking about a guy that calls himself Grandfather Rock, who's been broadcasting from that station for 30 years, let's stick with Old Brookville – just seems more appropriate.....
Chris MacIntosh – aka Grandfather Rock – has been a fixture on campus long enough to have graduated three times with two semesters left over, but he keeps things fresh behind the microphones of the FM station (WCWP-FM Live Streaming Site) with the energy of a freshman on Spring Break. Armed with his own private stash of CDs, MacIntosh plays as eclectic a mix of spiritually-oriented music as you'll hear anywhere on the air.
Having long-ago moved away from the established territory of what was once known as CCM, MacIntosh has an encyclopedic knowledge of music and artists that are on the fringe. Far from the cookie-cutter 'Praise and Worship' and Christian pop genres, Rock & Soul Gospel (the name of his long-running radio show) features everything from folk, to progressive, to jazz, and certainly pop and rock – when it's done right.
"Christian music has changed drastically," said MacIntosh in an earlier interview," Not only is the production value as good as or in some cases better than mainstream product but also the artists are writing better material. At least the independent artists are." Grandfather Rock pulls no punches discussing where the mainstream CCM industry went wrong. " The artists tied to the "Christian" labels still have to fit a certain profile. For the most part they are looked on as ministers first and musicians secondly. I think in some cases they are doing a disservice to the individual. They may not be called to be a preacher or a great theologian, but they might be an excellent poet or composer...."
Those words were from several years back, but the good Grandfather is still firmly in the corner of the poet, the composer, the artist. The prospect of at least another ten years looks strong. Six years ago, celebrating 24 years of Rock & Soul Gospel, I asked MacIntosh twelve questions – one for every other year at WCWP. The tradition continues...
Here are fifteen questions for Grandfather MacIntosh – long may you rock!
1 - In 2005 I asked you how your show had changed over 24 years. How has your show evolved since then – six years later?
Over the past 30 years the show has changed radically in some ways but subtly in others. When I first started the program it was, for lack of a better term, the atypical "Christian" rock show. The target audience was the high school youth group kids and I was going to save the world with rock n roll for Jesus. With age and a bit of wisdom the emphasis of the program has been altered to its present status. The purpose of "Rock N Soul Gospel" is to be the best radio show on the airwaves and to be a program that impacts the culture in general. I am not a radio evangelist or preacher, I am a disc jockey who has chosen to limit my play list to artists who hold to a biblical worldview because that is what I base my life on. I am not interested in playing propaganda in the guise of music, I want to play good – no, great musical art. Luckily there are many artists who feel the same way as I do and are using their talent to create amazing music in many forms. I am a disk jockey not a gatekeeper, it does not matter to me whether an artist is Protestant, Catholic or Orthodox. If they are creating great art they deserve to be heard.
2 - Are you a downloader or a guy who likes to hold a whole CD package in his hands? Why?
Although I download tunes to my MP3 player so that I can listen to music during the day I prefer a hard copy of a CD. What can I say - I'm a dinosaur. I want to look at album art, I want to know who played what on various tracks. Especially I want to have the information available for the radio program so that I can pass it on to my listeners who are interested in that type of information and there are many who do.
3 - In terms of 'mainstream' Christian radio, is creativity dead? If so, what's the future for artists like Terry Taylor, Over the Rhine, etc.?
Mainstream "Christian" radio for the most part is two things - it is boring and it is irrelevant. As long as it caters to a small, very small, female evangelical audience it will remain totally non-effective to the culture at large. Unfortunately most evangelical Christians continue to suck up the pablum that they are being fed on stations like this. Many stations have adopted the catch phrase: "Christian music that's safe for the whole family". Do I really want to listen to music that my 90 year old mother-in-law or my 13 year old nephew would consider safe? I don't think so. Great art and especially rock n roll music is supposed to be dangerous - not safe. It is supposed to make a person stop and think about what they are being exposed to. I thank God that I am on a non-commercial college radio station where I am free to experiment with the music that I play. Not every song needs to ask and answer a question and wrap it up neatly in 3 minutes. There are some artists who take over 20 minutes to tell a musical story. They deserve to be heard. Certain artists will never be heard on mainstream "Christian" radio and I can think of many who would fit into that category, yet they fill halls where ever they play. Actually, I know they prefer not to be played on that type of station anyway.
4 - What group or artist has put out something within the past six years that has really disappointed you?
I can give you an extended answer to that question but I am trying to tone down my natural cynicism.
5 - Flip side: what artist or group in the past six years has put something out that has really impressed you or sparked some excitement?
A number of years ago I stumbled on a track by a band from Chattanooga, Tennessee called Glass Hammer and I was instantly hooked. I have been a fan of the band since their release of the album called Lex Rex. They have never disappointed and keep on getting better as time goes by. Complicated music along side extremely intelligent lyrics make them one of the most important bands recording today.
6 - You're putting together a super-group consisting of Christian artists that are among the very best at what they do and have an excellent track record. Who's on bass, drums, lead guitar, second guitar, keyboard, vocals and any other elements you want to add?
Lead Guitar: Dave Bainbridge
Second Guitar: Mike Roe
Bass Guitar: Steve Lawson
Keyboards: Rick Wakeman
Drums: Marcus Finnie
Female Vocals: Joanne Hogg
Male Vocals: Steve Winwood
7 - What three albums from the vinyl age never made it to CD but really deserve to be heard by a new generation?
Hill Climbing For Beginners, The Water Into Wine Band
Reborn, The Talbot Brothers
Paul And, Noel Paul Stookey
8 - Who would be the three most interesting musical guests for you to have in studio at the same time – but without any instruments...?
Terry Scott Taylor, Jeff Johnson & Dave Bainbridge
9 - Who is the best new artist that nobody's heard of yet?
Kelley MacRae, but she is well on her way to being heard
10 - What genre, trend, technique or gimmick deserves to be put to rest?
11 - Thinking about your 30 years in Christian (or spiritually-aware) music, what artist or group deserves a prime spot in the Rock & Soul Hall of Fame?
Iona, one of the best bands ever!!!
12 - Same question: this time let's go to the Rock & Soul Hall of Shame...
DeGarmo & Key, their first four albums were great. After that it was downhill all the way.
13 - Assuming you have a CD player, cassette deck, 8-track player and a working turntable set-up, what ten albums do you want on that desert island we always hear about....?
Blame It On My Youth, Rachel Taylor
The Eye Of The Eagle, Dave Bainbridge, David Fitzgerald & David Adam
Veil Of Gossamer, Dave Bainbridge
I Don't Know Where I'm Going But I'm On My Way, Murry Hammond
Victims Of The Age, Mark Heard
A Thin Silence, Jeff Johnson
Kerosene Halo, Kerosene Halo
Mr. Beuchner's Dream, Daniel Amos
Perfect Time, Moya Brennan
Daydream, Mike Roe & Mark Harmon
14 - 30 years ago, in 1981, who was making music that's still relevant today?
That's such a simple question, the answer obviously is Phil Keaggy
15 - What artist from 30 years ago do you wish was still creating new music today?
That would have to be Robert Vaughn & the Shadows or, if he were still with us, Mark Heard.
· Words / interview / photos: Bert Saraco