Even before arriving in Minneapolis to attend North Central University, I had heard of Ace Troubleshooter, the Tooth and Nail band that had previously attended there. Since then, I’ve seen the local heroes of the Twin Cities play a few times and have even had a couple of conversations at shows with their singer John Warne, who is a real laid-back guy with a good sense of humor.
It took a little time to get a hold of him, but on Thursday, June 6, I was able to touch base with him for a phone interview. During which he discussed subjects like Ace Troubleshooter’s upcoming album “The Madness of the Crowds,” along with some of his serious beliefs and humorous stories.
Matt M: Your tour bus used to be owned by the Dixie Chicks.
John Warne: That’s the first question?
MM: Well, I’m getting there. Did you get to meet them when you bought it and has the bus accounted for your country influence?
Warne: Oh, our country influence. No we haven’t gotten to meet them. It was basically like a consignment place. They put it on a lot and they just waited for it to get sold, and so we got it. But we never got to meet them, but it did smell really good in there for about the first day. Before all of us stinky rock’n’rollers came on the bus.
MM: And you have no country influence?
Warne: I’m really not a big country fan. Some people might be and that’s their thing. But I look at “country” music as an oxymoron.
MM: Somebody told that your drummer once drove around P.O.D. for a week or something. Does he drive a lot of bands around?
Warne: He actually drove around Living Sacrifice, they were on the P.O.D. tour. Yeah, but he did drive around Living Sac. He does that once in a while. That’s part of the reason that we got that bus, it defers a lot of the cost of touring. So it’s an investment and there are big weighty payments. So basically we just try and get other people to pay for it. But he drives in the off-time, whenever we’re not practicing or touring. So that’s a way he gets a little bit extra cash.
MM: You said in another interview that your hometown audiences in Minneapolis don’t move around or get into the shows.
Warne: Yeah that-I should have guarded that statement a little bit more carefully. Oh, what were you going to say?
MM: Well, just why do you think that is?
Warne: Well, it depends on the show. Usually when we play there we have great shows. The kids are just like anywhere else; they love to have a good time and move around, it’s great. But a lot of times like if I go to shows that aren’t that populated, the kids stand back and have that like “Impress me” look on their face. That’s what I’ve noticed: it’s a lot more prevalent in Minneapolis than in most other places in the country.
MM: Have you toured everywhere in the country?
Warne: Yeah, we haven’t hit like Maine or Alaska or anything like that, but we’ve been pretty much most everywhere else.
MM: I noticed Isaac wasn’t playing with you for a while, where did he go and is he back for good now?
Warne: Yeah, he was doing children’s ministry back home in North Carolina. So he did that and basically it lasted throughout the term of his internship. So that’s what he did and not that he got it out of his system, but he just wanted to come back to Ace. So now he’s back for good.
MM: And as far as you go and the others, what was it like having him gone and what was it like having him back?
Warne: Well, it was interesting having him gone. For some reason I just hate teaching songs to other people. So I had to teach all the guitar parts to other people. It’s fun and everything, but I just get really tired of it. You can’t establish as great of relationships when it’s just going to be for like a couple of months filling in. So when he came back it was just a great relief. He’s a really good friend of ours and it’s just great to hang out with him. He’s knows the music better than anyone else, so it’s just awesome.
MM: Does he play like a songwriting role at all?
Warne: No, I do all the songwriting, but he comes up with cool guitar parts.
MM: You have a song where Josh plays guitar and you take over the drums.
Warne: You’ve done your research.
MM: What’s the name of that song?
Warne: We just call it “The Drummer Song.” Basically where he comes up out of his throne and he plays this song and says, “I am the drummer who likes to sing and play guitar.” That repeats over and over. Then, he says, “Oh won’t you see me,” that repeats over and over and over, “when I play a show.” That’s the song; that’s it. I play drums and it’s cool.
MM: Do you ever sing “Don’t Trust that Girl” or “Yoko” to your girlfriend or to any of your friends about their girlfriends?
Warne: There’s a funny story about that. The girl that I wrote that about, she lives in Minnesota. She came to one of our shows and I didn’t really want to do it because I thought it would be weird and everything. But we did end up doing it and we were selling these “Don’t Trust That Girl” T-shirts at the time that has a picture of a broken heart and then across the heart in a big banner it says, “Don’t Trust That Girl.” She called me up and she wanted to me to mail one of those to her. So we actually did. She’s totally cool with it. It’s kind of like water under the bridge, so she just thinks it’s funny now.
MM: Can you tell me about the line from “Yesterday” that says “I remember a different time, I remember a different me, when there was springtime in my heart. But it’s winter and I’m shivering with cynicism now.”
Warne: I actually wrote that at North Central. It was after that whole break up thing. It’s not a song about that, but it’s just remembering brighter times. I have a tendency and I think a lot of people have a tendency to look back at the past as “the glory days.” It’s okay to feel that way sometimes, but we can’t live in that. That’s just kind of me like ruminating over the past and remembering some stuff. I think we, as people, tend to get more cynical over time, especially about life and circumstances and everything like that. But we also can’t live with that; we’ve got to let God deal with that.
MM: When you said “the whole break up thing,” was that when Isaac left?
Warne: Oh, no. I meant that girl that I was talking about, that I wrote “Don’t Trust That Girl” about.
MM: You covered “Your Love Broke Through” for the Keith Green tribute album. Did you get to pick that one?
MM: And if so what do you like about it? Is there any spiritual significance there for you?
Warne: Oh definitely. I’ve always been a big Keith Green fan. I love his music. I love his heart. He’s actually got this biography from his wife called “No Compromise” and it’s really good. Anyway, he’s a really good songwriter, a really good musician and just an excellent example of a Christian who sacrifices everything for what they believe. That song was basically for him about a turning around point in his life. He had just been a self-described “dreamer” and God pretty much met him, found him. That’s just significant for everybody I think who comes to know Christ.
MM: How do you handle the expectation that a lot of people place on bands in the Christian music industry to do ministry?
Warne: I totally understand it. I’ve kind of been in ministry for a while. Like I used to help out with the praise and worship times at my junior high and senior high church stuff. So I recognize that need and that’s cool. But what a lot of people don’t realize is that rock’n’roll really can be a ministry and it just takes different forms. For us, we feel that we are a bridge band between people that like punk music or rock music or whatever style that people think we are; a bridge between that and the church and between a relationship with God. You can go overseas to be a missionary, but there’s also a big mission field here. So yeah, we feel like it’s our place to be a bridge type of band. Not so much speaking too much from stage and being like an evangelical type of band up on stage, but more of like talking to kids afterwards and doing one-on-one stuff.
MM: I read some negative reviews of your last album basically saying that your music isn’t any different from bands like Craig’s Brother or Slick Shoes. What do you think sets you apart from the rest of the so-called “punk” bands out there?
Warne: I really couldn’t tell you. I really like the music that I write. Reviewers are going to be reviewers and critics are going to be critics. Not that we don’t pay attention to that, but it’s just really bares no significance to where we want to be as a band because we’ve a lot of kids that do like us and think that we are different from those bands, so that’s just fine by me. We’re just making our “art” and there’s always going to be critics.
MM: I thought you were going to say the new album because I’ve heard the new album and it seems very different from the self-titled. And I was wondering how satisfied you were with it and like how do you think the listeners will respond?
Warne: Well, it is different. I think it’s a little bit slower or maybe even a lot slower. It’s just got a lot more rock’n’roll feel and some emoish type stuff, but that’s okay. I really don’t know how kids are going to accept it, but I think there’s still the same attitude, still the same topics that the songs deal and I think it still has the same aggressiveness; that the kids that like that will still like this album.
MM: I was talking to the Relient K guys and from what I understand Dave, their drummer, sang backup on the album.
Warne: Yeah, on about half the songs probably, he came up and sang back-ups on. It was only a couple-hour-drive. Yeah, he had actually been filling in for Isaac, when Isaac was gone. We toured with Relient K for a long time and it just worked out that instead of hiring a new guy we’d just get Dave to do it. He was great. We just love that guy.
MM: So is that hard to do that live then? Does Isaac do the back-ups then or?
Warne: Yeah, he does the back-ups live. Isaac wasn’t there for a big chunk of the time during the recording, so during the time that he was gone we just got Dave to do that stuff. But Isaac does all of the back-ups live and he does all of the cool guitar playing.
MM: I was talking to somebody [who] mentioned that you have these chick songs on there or these songs about girls, but that they’re really not about girls. Is that true?
Warne: They’re really not about actual girls?
MM: Yeah, that they’re made up girls.
Warne: Yeah, there’s one song called “Estella,” that’s actually taken from…
MM: “Great Expectations.”
Warne: Yeah, “Great Expectations,” you know it better than I do. Yeah, it’s just kind of his relationship with Estella, her name is. And so it’s just kind of like my take on that. Then, there’s also this song called “Amanda.” We were a little bit short on material when we went in there, so basically one afternoon I just had to write that song. It’s not about anybody; it’s just a fun little two-minute song that we came up with.
MM: The song you did for the Christmas…
Warne: Happy Christmas Volume Three.
MM: Right. That one you re-released it on the album. Do you really like that one or?
Warne: I do. It speaks a lot to me. I try to be open for what God would have me write through songs. I think he moves in big ways through some songs that people write. To me, he really moves in that one. So I just wanted to put that on the album, so I guess more people could hear it.
MM: What are you trying to convey through that one?
Warne: Well, a couple of different things. We wrote it for the Christmas album, so it obviously had to deal with Christmas stuff. One of the topics is there’s a total greed about Christmas; just money-minded, material-minded things that go along with that. Obviously, it’s got to be; it’s in America and that’s the culture we’re steeped in. So it’s kind of a reaction against that back to what Christmas originally was: Christ being born, coming down and being born into a humble manager scene; that’s one of the topics. Then, it’s also kind of also about when he was born there, he wasn’t born in a palace or a kingdom or anything like that, he didn’t have power, but he was born into this nasty little food trough. What that says to me is that: “No matter what we’re going through, we don’t have to be having the best circumstances in our life, but God wants to be born into our hearts. He wants to live in every situation, whether it’s high and mighty or low like he was born.”
MM: Are there any last words, thoughts, comments or suggestions?
Warne: We got a new website, so go check that out. We’ll be playing all summer and all fall, so we’ll be in your town wherever you’re at. We hope you like the new album; we really like it.
For more information about Ace Troubleshooter click here.