TRYTAN: Redeeming the Time
What led to you guys getting back together? Who are the guys playing with you?
That’s such an awesome question, and the answer certainly is a tribute and testimony to the sovereignty and guidance of the Lord. And certainly won’t be a brief answer.
My family and I have been pastoring and building churches since 1990. We planted and launched a church called Extreme Church in 2006 that was and will always be committed to connecting, effecting and helping the new/next generation, young families and people that have never been involved with the traditional or contemporary church know and grow in the Lord. Early in the building and development of Extreme and out of a commitment to meet people and connect with people where they were at in their real world we started to re-write and arrange a lot of praise and worship songs into really tough, rockin’ and progressive interpretations. Our church Body and all the musicians involved really enjoyed it to the max..
People are excited to invite their unsaved friends because the music is so rocking and extreme. We even did our praise-meets-metal brand of praise & worship a few years in a row at Cornerstone at the Sanctuary tent with Matt Hunt from Retroactive Records. Those were really awesome times and my youngest son and I would make it an annual trip for a few years. We played a head of my old friend Rex Carroll one year and I hadn’t seen Rex for many years . It was just awesome to see him again and enjoy his amazing gift in his set. On one occasion my good buddy Ronnie Faisst from the Whosoevers sat in on one of our songs and he brought most of the key artists from the Whosoevers to praise and worship the Lord with us. Sonny from POD, Head from Korn and Ryan Ries the founder of the Whosoevers hung out with us that day.
Spending a lot of time writing our own original songs and rearranging church songs to impact and connect with the new and next generation started the ball rolling and got me playing electric guitar and writing quite a bit. In no time at all, all of these musical ideas begin to bubble up in my heart, coupled with the fusion of working with people on a day in and day out level. Helping folks through all the traumas and trials of life led me to start building songs that expressed what I felt was the Lord‘s heart for His people and the lost. At that same time a lot of my old mates from the 80s & 90s we’re doing albums, playing quite a bit and doing some great work. Bands like Stryper, Bloodgood, Sacred Warrior, White Cross, Rex Carroll and others. So I started praying.
There was also an economic curiosity dimension and an age factor. Economically, I’ve always wanted to find ways to provide and save for our retirement. Working towards not having to take a paycheck from the church. Being able to relieve the church of that and free up that money for other things has always been a goal of mine. We are approaching retirement age (not that I’ll ever retire) but, my wife would like to slow down, chill, travel and do some things after decades of grinding. And that sure sounds good to me.
So, I started to pray and I thought well Lord, what can I do? I can teach, evangelize, lead ministry teams, lead worship, counsel and SING!!! So here we are. Part of me thought, I’m almost 60 so if I’m gonna do some more Trytan (rock/metal) type music, I better get going before I’m not able to anymore. That was a vocal performance thing more than anything. The brilliant Neil Peart from Rush retired from touring because he didn’t want to perform at a standard that was less than his very best and not be able play the songs the way he composed them. Playing Rush material is extremely difficult for any drummer. Similarly, singing Trytan stuff is also extremely difficult. And, while I have strong, real and growing faith, I’m not sure that I will be able to do the Trytan material the way I want into my 80s. Maybe my 70s, but probably not my 80s.
As motivating as residual, passive income & the age thing are, more than anything I am truly driven by Lord to do Trytan music again by two main factors. Emanate & RMA.
So I’m sure you’re asking, “what’s Emanate?”
Emanate is really the result of all of that song writing and song modifying that we did for our praise and worship ministry at Extreme Church. We’ve re-written and transformed hundreds of praise and worship songs into these tough, rocking and heart capturing God songs. This project is my goal and end game. More than anything I want to do a music ministry that specializes in praise celebration outreach. That celebrates Almighty God with head snapping-heart stirring music and shares the love, grace and cross of Jesus in an undeniable, powerfully life changing way.
And hopefully you’re also asking ‘what’s RMA?’
RMA stands for Real Ministry Alliance.For many, many years now I have been moved and burdened by the need for Bible based, excellence, passion, Spirit empowered, follow through and commitment to share the truth of Christ’s love, grace and cross through music and all forms of art. Helping artists be equipped to passionately, clearly and powerfully share who Christ is to them with their audience. Especially in their life performances when they have such an incredible connection with their audience.
When we understand that there are droves of people who desperately need Christ, not only for their lives today but even more so for eternity and see all of the amazingly talented artists that are connecting with their audiences, we’re driven to provide the encouragement, support, mentorship, example and resources that will optimize their desire and ability to lift up and share the Lord. Our key verse truth is John 12:32. Christ said “and I since I am lifted up will draw people to myself.” RMA will train and encourage artists to lift Jesus up with their own expression and voice. Like Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness and the Lord miraculously made the people whole as they looked on that unique and extraordinary act. RMA will offer training, mentoring, equipping and seminars that will give Christian artists, bands and other entities an opportunity to grow, be trained and able to share Christ clearly, Biblically (effectively) and in God’s power.
The new Trytan lineup is the brilliantly gifted Eric Gillette (Neal Morse Band) on drums, keyboards, engineering and producing with me. And the one and only Jim La Verde (Barren Cross) on bass. We will have some incredible guest artists singing on the new “Blood of Kings” album too. We are so fortunate to have the amazing John Elefante, the incomparable Rey Parra as well as the incredible Eric Gillette all singing with me on the album finale “Revelation Song.“
My former bandmate and partner Steve Robinson went to be with the Lord a couple years ago. I just had lunch with “Sylentiger” drummer Jim Dobbs last week. It was so awesome to spend time. We caught up and talked about a project that we may be doing together in the near future.
What was the first meeting or rehearsal like this time?
I had seen Eric play a couple times with the Neal Morse Band and had studied up on his career but, I was absolutely blown away when I met him for the first time. He is a kind, bright and a very humble and approachable person. When we first met we just talked for hours before we even got to the music.
After building the ProTools maps for each song he fired up the drums and Eric had a remote engineer station behind the drums. We set my pedal board in front of the drums facing the kit and Eric engineered and played the drums all at the same time from behind his drums in a remote set up in the EKG drum room. He set the headphone levels, the input levels and then asked me to start playing the first riff to the opening song on the album “The Descender.” As we began to play and write the parts my jaw was down on the floor! It just clicked and felt like we’d been playing together for 20 years. The depth, magnitude and scope of his ability on multiple instruments is extraordinary. I felt like I was in a session with Mike Portnoy on the drums. No joke, it was incredible! His playing is so sharp, fresh and original! And the sounds were the best drum sounds that I’ve ever had on an album I did. And we’ve had some good ones.
Probably what blew me away most of all was that, not only is he a phenomenal drummer with great feel, amazing feet and incredible pocket, he is a super virtuoso guitarist, keyboardist and singer too. I was like, “wow Lord, I’ve got a multi instrumentalist genius super freak to do this album with, “Thank You Lord!"
I’ve been a fan of Jim La Verde since the 80s and always loved “Barron Cross.” When I thought about my old partner Steve Robinson’s work, contribution and style and who out there was a super tasty bassist with a savage heart for God, Jim’s name was the first one I thought of. So I hit him up and the Lord got the ball rolling. Eric‘s in the Tulsa, Oklahoma area, Jim is outside of Nashville and I’m just outside of Chicago. So meeting up a couple times a week or on the weekends to write, work through songs and rehearse wasn’t not an option.
But with ProTools and just about everyone having a recording studio in their home these days, the distance wasn’t going to be an obstacle.
The recording of “Blood of Kings“ was a completely foreign and awkward process for me. I’ve always been used to writing, wood shedding and rehearsing with the band until the songs were finalized. Then we’d go into the studio and execute the process of getting the rhythm tracks down, then the overdubs and vocals, etc.
That first song, the opening track on the new album “The Descender” was the only song that I was in the same room as Eric for the recording of the final drum tracks. Which turned out AMAZING! In phase one I played all of the rhythm guitar parts on to the Protool maps/tracks with scratch sampled drum tracks that Eric played on his keyboard. Then added some lead work where needed and then Eric did all of the drum tracks in his EKG studio while I was back home in Chicago.
As far as Eric and Jim are with their involvement in Trytan , I just called them, asked them and they said yes.
What have you been keeping busy with since way back in the 80s (Celestial & Sylentiger)
Well first of all, just being loved by the Lord and doing our best to love Him back. His goodness and faithfulness to our lives is beyond amazing. Raising our four kids, planting Churches, pioneering ministry and loving and helping people I guess sums it up best. Our kids are all grown up, our youngest daughter Lauren is 28. Both of our daughters Asherah and Lauren are married and have awesome husbands. Both of our sons are single and are just incredible young men and truly living out their dreams. Our oldest daughter Asherah has a 12-year-old daughter Charlotte who is just a beautiful, talented, smart and precious young women. So for more than a decade we’ve been enjoying her and loving on her as much as we can.
We were commissioned by the Warehouse Church in 93 to be the lead pastors in the first church that we planted. Since 2007 we’ve been involved with and pastoring at Extreme church.
Around 2003 the Lord led the founder-pastor-director of Team Faith Brian O’Rourke and I to establish a prayer partnership and we became really close friends and ministry partners. We still are to this day. Since 2005 we’ve done ministry at X Games, Dew Tour, Supercross, Arenacross and Extreme sport events all around the world. Locally here outside of Chicago in Illinois we birthed a track side Motocross ministry which is an affinity church Outreach called Moto church.
In 1996, after several years of planting the first church that we would pastor our ministry bought a building that came with a lot of legal battles, headaches and hardships. During that time I had a stress related heart attack. My wife knew that I raced motocross when I was younger so she bought me a dirtbike so that I could ride myself into shape, have something to get my mind off things and relieve some stress. We prayed, scrimped and saved and got both of our boys bikes too. We started to pray where we play and the Lord began to open up doors like crazy for us to do ministry into the motocross subculture and extreme sports world.
There is so much that I could say about our ministries over the years, with Extreme Life-Extreme Church in Illinois and California and Team Faith, at Supercross, motocross and in the extreme sports world, but, I would literally need to write a novel bigger than War and Peace.
What about the other guys, what’ve they been up to?
The Trytan Ménage.
Well first, sadly we lost Steve Robinson as he was able to go be with the Lord through a firearm accident just a couple years ago. Not too long ago I spoke with his son Zach and they all seem to be doing good. Steve was an extraordinary individual. He had and incredible servants heart and was the consummate partner to everyone he worked with. We worked together really well and complemented each other with our skill set and our ideas. He got so proficient and brilliant with the Macintosh computers that we used in writing our music that he went on to become one of the most respected computer techs and consultants in the Midwest. He even started a successful computer service with one of our Trytan team members Tom Panozzo.
Scotty Blackman the drummer on “Celestial Messenger” and his family were very close to our family over the years. In fact, they were I nvolved in our first church plant with us for over a decade. We lived right next to each for almost 15 years. Their kids are like our kids and our kids are like their kids. It’s a cool thing.
He just recently moved to California and is touring in a pretty successful metal band. We stay in touch a bit. His son Kyle and our youngest son Michael are best friends. Michael, my wife and I flew out to Arizona and did Kyle‘s wedding a couple years back. So we’re still connected in one way or another even after all these years.
Jim Dobbs lives right here in the same city that we do and we just got together last week. He’s got a really key position at a great company here in town. He’s working hard, still loving music and still an incredible person. We threw a music project idea that I’ve been stewing on for quite a few years on the drawing board and we’re both praying about pursuing it.
Eric and his wife Jaci just had their first child last year. A beautiful little girl named Eleanor. He’s been touring pretty extensively up until the beginning of last year with the Neal Morse Band and Mike Portnoy’s “Shattered Fortress“
He’s the main guitarist in both those projects. He played all the drums on the prog instrumental album “Tree of Life“ and has two solo albums of his own. Both are just incredible!
Over the past couple years Eric has done a “masters class“ at his studio. It’s a week of training that covers everything from engineering and technical skills, working with ProTools and logic, sessions and songwriting from A-to-Z and composing and writing songs together. His talent, creativity, engineering and production skills are like the ocean. You know it’s deep, you just don’t know how deep. EKG is just incredible! It’s a state of the art recording facility with all of the technological bells and whistle’s plus it has accommodations for the artists right there. It’s like an extraordinary recording studio resort! I just love staying down there. And Eric and Jaci are just an awesome couple and the consummate hosts. Doing the Trytan “Blood of Kings“ album down there has been the most awesome experiences of my musical career.
Jim LaVerde as many people in the Christian rock – metal world know is just an awesome guy with huge talent and a gigantic heart for the Lord. As always, he’s loving and serving Jesus and his family, leading worship and lifting up Jesus in everything that he does. His heart for the Lord and people has always been real and awesome.
It’s a super huge blessing and grace from the Lord to be able to work with two artists that I respect and admire deeply on so many levels!