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I remember when the first On the Cover came out and it was one of my favorite MxPx CDs. There were some great tracks on that one—Take on Me, Summer of 69, Drum Machine Joy, along with a Keith Green cover, a Buddy Holly cover and a song that introduced us to the Cootees. Other than the artwork and the fact that it is a cover album, the two EPs have nothing in common.

The music is more sophisticated with guitar solos and a plethora of guest stars. There is a wide variety of artists covered such as: Poison, the Descendents, the Ramones, Queen, U2 and a Japanese punk band. I haven’t heard most of the originals and I don’t know if their younger fans have either, so it’s hard to say how they stack up against the other bands.

Don’t get me wrong—this is a nice little cover album, but if I had to rate my favorite MxPx covers they would be: O Donna, Take on Me, Summer of 69, KKK Took My Baby Away, Seventeen, Rock and Roll All Nite by Kiss, No Action, Blue Moon, Zombie by the Cranberries and Sick Boy. Obviously none of these songs are on there, so I’m an impartial observer.

If you are one of those fans who buy everything the guys put out, then you should snatch this up. Otherwise wait till next year for the next album or pick up anything before Panic.

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I was thinking about the Christian music scene that I grew up with and what exists today, and I came to the conclusion that most of my favorite music is in the past. I’m not saying there aren’t great bands out there now or new music that will be enjoyable, but most of my favorite music has been out for several years.  (Do a test yourself. Sit down with a pen and paper and try to think of how many of your favorite albums were released within the last year.)

The Christian scene I grew up with is mostly non-existent. True Tunes closed, the Heart and Soul Cafe doesn’t do shows that I know of and the ska scene is mostly dead. I went into a Family Bookstore the other day and asked if they had a “Christian Happenings” Magazine and they looked at me like I was from another planet. I also feel old every time I look at the Cornerstone lineup and I don’t know who most of the bands are. Thankfully the North Central College Union has saved a good part of the scene for me.

I get nostalgic thinking about bands like MxPx, Starflyer, the Huntingtons, Five Iron Frenzy and Poor Old Lu. It was a time where there were tons of cool bands and every band that Tooth and Nail signed was awesome, even the hardcore bands like Strongarm.

It seems to me that the Christian industry has become more polarized with bands either totally playing Christian venues or not playing Christian venues at all, which means it’s CCM or the bar. Sure I understand that a lot of Christian musicians are not youth pastors, but historically speaking bands in the Christian market have talked a lot during shows (i.e. Keith Green, Steven Curtis Chapman, etc…). The essence of their music was the message before the music.

I know that Christian stigma exists and that bands want to be taken seriously by non-Christians—probably mostly for their egos or record sales. But I just wonder why some bands have such a hard time talking about God. It seems like either Jesus is the product the band is selling or he has no place on the stage. I know that talking about God on a stage is awkward, but we shouldn’t ever have to feel like we’re ashamed of his name.

So I realize that I can’t go back in time, but I still like to listen to the old albums and reflect on a time when we weren’t looking at the death of the CD or the corporate ownership of human expression. Maybe there are bands that don’t tour any more, but I can still listen to their music and I can still watch them perform live thanks to YouTube and you can too.

It’s funny that I saw the band live shortly before this video was filmed. My first show at True Tunes was an MxPx show with Blenderhead. Ah, those were the days. At least YouTube let’s me go back in time any time I turn on the computer.

MxPx did a bunch of acoustic shows after “Secret Weapon” came out. Here’s a link to one of the appearances.

I went to an MxPx show on Tuesday night and I posted some videos from the show. You can find one of the videos below or on one of my YouTube channels.

This is a trailer for a documentary about Christian rock. The documentary takes a different approach than “Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music?” by not only exploring the phenomenon of Christian rock, but also including clips from TV shows about Christian rock and discussing people who are against Christian rock. It is yet to be released, but from the trailer it appears to have interviews with key people involved with the Christian music scene such as John J. Thompson (founder of the True Tunes record store), Doug Van Pelt (founder of HM Magazine, Phil Keaggy, Michael Sweet, POD, MxPx, Bono and many others. The trailer is from 2007 and I heard the makers of Bleed into One are dealing with some funding issues, so I am eagerly waiting and hoping this will be out before 2009.

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An interview with Yuri Ruley of MxPx at Cornerstone 2002.
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MxPx is a band that needs no introduction. Although they’ve never made it quite as big as Blink 182 or Green Day, from their early days in the “Christian” music scene MxPx has established themselves as a legitimate mainstream punk band.

They’ve put out a slew of records and have toured constantly. After ten years, Yuri, Mike and Tom are still going strong and have recently released a disc entitled “10 Years and Running.”

I caught up with their drummer Yuri Ruley for an interview before their sound-check at Cornerstone. Yuri talked about various subjects such as their song on the “Scooby Doo” soundtrack and the band’s plan for a new album.

Matt M: Alright, so did you see the “Scooby Doo” movie?

Yuri Ruley: Yeah, my wife and I went and watched it, of course just to check out where the song went.

MM: Did you enjoy being part of that with the song?

Ruley: Yeah, it was cool. It was a lot of fun. They asked to do the theme song and our version. We weren’t sure that they were going to pick us or not. We have a home studio, so we recorded five or six different versions and they picked the one they liked. Yeah, we were definitely stoked to be part of it.

MM: You’ve been fairly successful, but you have yet to top the charts like Blink 182 or Green Day.

Ruley: Yeah.

MM: Have you felt pressure to write a hit song or “to be the next big thing?”

Ruley: Well, yeah the music industry and just being part of a genre that is…like certain bands just hit huge. It’s sort of like, “What did they do right?” We’ve been a band just as long as Blink and we’ve been friends with those guys, and we’ve sort of grown together. Then, all of a sudden, they just have something that sparks to make them huge. But as far as feeling any pressure to write a certain song that’s going to be big, no, but we do try to make our songs as fun to listen to as possible. And in turn the radio plays that kind of stuff sometimes.

MM: A & M got bought out.

Ruley: Yeah.

MM: How has that affected you guys?

Ruley: Well, we signed with A & M several years ago in ’97. We really liked A & M records and chose A & M Records, because we felt they understood us as a band. We’re not a chart-topping band, we’re not an instant success; our success has been a slow growth. They understood that and they were willing to be part of that. A & M and Geffen kind of merged into Interscope. Luckily we made the transition; there were a lot of bands that just got flat out dropped. But it has not been the greatest experience in the world. Our label at this moment, Interscope, doesn’t really understand us. And our A & R guy has admitted that he’s not sure about it. It’s been okay; it’s not been the greatest experience in the world.

MM: It seems like you guys weren’t as picky with your records in the past.

Ruley: Yeah.

MM: Do you ever listen to your old records and regret not doing it one way or another?

Ruley: Yeah, for sure, I listen to the old stuff and think, “I wish I would have tried a little harder, I wish I would have known to push myself further.” But it wasn’t until Steve Kravoc did “Life in General” that I really understood that, “Oh, I got to sit and do this till it gets done.” Because prior to then, it was really up to us to push ourselves and we didn’t really. And yeah, of course I look back on all those records and think they’re horrible.

MM: You do a lot of cover songs that aren’t released on the albums, songs like “I Wanna Rock’n’ Roll All Night,” “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” and who could your touching performance of that Cranberries song at Cornerstone a few years back. Do you ever think you’ll put together another cover album?

Ruley: Yeah, I’m not sure. I wouldn’t say yes or no to that one. I’m not sure, but I know we have a fun time doing covers. For sure, who knows?

MM: Over the years MxPx has been known for “chick songs.” I heard that everybody is now married, is that right?

Ruley: Yeah, we’re all married.

MM: Do you think Mike will ever completely stop writing about girls?

Ruley: No.

MM: Or do you think that will always be part of MxPx?

Ruley: It will always be part of MxPx because Mike’s always written about relationships. It’s an obvious place to grasp inspiration for a song from. And I think he does it well. So we’ll always do that. We’ve always done a mix of different songs. But yeah, they’ll always be the girl songs for sure.

MM: So how many songs has Mike written since “The Renaissance EP” and when do you expect to have a new record out?

Ruley: Well, how many songs? First, let me answer that question. Probably close to 50 and we’ve recorded about 40 or more.

MM: Is that like demoing or?

Ruley: Yeah, demoing. Yeah, yeah, not full on. We hope to get in the studio starting in September and probably be in the studio for a month or two. Then, a couple months after that, hopefully the record will come out.

MM: Tooth and Nail seems to be a long-time nemesis of MxPx, especially when you guys didn’t want them to release “Let It Happen.”

Ruley: Right.

MM: However, “Let It Happen” ended up becoming, if I’m right on this, your best selling record and now you guys have recently worked a cooperative effort with Tooth and Nail to put “10 Years and Running” together. Were there some wounds from your past relationship with them and have those differences been rectified?

Ruley: Yeah, there were some definite wounds. There was a five-year span where we just didn’t speak to one another at all, other than through our lawyers. When “Let It Happen” we were bummed. Because they basically said… We wanted to work with them on that too, but the relationship was at such a point where they didn’t want to work with us at all. They felt that the record wouldn’t come out, if we wanted to be involved. So anyways, twist of fate, we got everything legally worked out with them, and decided that it would be a good idea to cooperate on the artwork and picking the songs. Yeah, things are better now. Our opinion on the way Brandon runs his label isn’t different, but at least we can be civil with one another now.

MM: Right.

Ruley: Yeah, for sure.

MM: Mike’s statement: “We’re not a ‘Christian band,’ we’re Christians in a band,” do you think that has been misinterpreted?

Ruley: Oh yeah, for sure. Because I think people basically think we’re trying to shirk our Christianity. Just say, “Oh, we’re not Christians, we’re not Christians.” In fact, we’ve never said we weren’t. And when people ask us in the “secular world” or whatever you want to call it, we always say, “Yeah, we’re Christians” and talk to them about it. So they have a better understanding. Basically, what I guess we were trying to say is that we’re not a typical “Christian band,” we’re not like that type of “Christian band.” So he said, “We don’t want to be affiliated with the term ‘Christian band,’” because that’s not what we were. Not necessarily [that] we don’t want to be affiliated with Christianity, of course we do. Our sort of idea of what a “Christian band” was, we aren’t. So he said, “Well, we’re not that, but we are Christians. We’re just playing in a band, whatever you want to call it.” So we had to sort of make up our own terminology, which totally got misinterpreted and a lot of people are very upset with us. Still today, that was like seven years ago that we said that.

MM: It’s seems like you’ve taken a lot of heat from the Christian industry. What do think you’ve taken the most criticism for?

Ruley: That comment. I guess a lot of people get an idea that we used to be “preachy.” That we used to like sit up on stage and preach during our concerts, which we never did from day one. When we started this band, we didn’t know there was a whole world of Christian music. When we signed with Tooth and Nail and toured, we were introduced to that. There are all sorts of unwritten rules about what it’s supposed to be. What you have to do to fit into this mold and we didn’t. But now that we’ve signed to a “secular” label, a big label, people really thought that move was to get away from the Christian industry. Not so, it was to get away from a crooked record label. But yeah, definitely for that move, that seeming move away from the Christian market…And we did move away, we wanted to move away, not because of Christianity, but because promoters don’t know what they’re doing because they’re pastors. All be it, there are some people that know what they are doing, but few and far between. There are no real standards, so bands just get totally ripped off. I don’t know it’s just not fair. You’d think it would be better, but it’s really the opposite. We’ve found that the Christian music industry is sort of backwards. So we’ve gotten flack for all that stuff.

MM: By the way, what was the deal with that Rollin’ Stone fashion shoot with the chicks in the bikinis? Like how did that come about?

Ruley: Well yeah, I’ll never forget that. We were asked to a photo shoot for Rollin’ Stone fashion. So we were like, “For sure, any opportunity to have our faces and name out there is going to be a good thing.” So we show up and this photographer who is shooting us, is very famous and does most of the Rollin’ Stone covers and does every band you’ve ever heard of-and so that was kind of neat for us. The girls thing was kind of weird, because we show up and there’s a trailer with clothes and the make-up lady. And there’s like a couple of girls hanging around like getting dressed in bikinis. We didn’t really honestly get it; we were like not sure what was going on. And then, so they leave. We’re getting dressed and so then Tom gets called up to do his portion of the thing. And we go up and watch him. We go, “What the heck?” We were totally shocked like, “Oh my gosh, we’re posing with like girls in bikinis here.” So it was definitely uncomfortable, but it was sort like, “Okay, well we don’t want to get in a big fight over this.” So it was a little weird. Like personally for me, I was not happy with that at all. And I actually asked not to pose with any of the girls. And luckily they granted my wish. And by the time Tom was done and Mike was done it was just… We weren’t super stoked about it. It was the photographer’s idea to do it.

MM: Over the years, there have been so many rumors about MxPx, basically that you guys drink, drug, cuss and womanize. Have accusations like that come to your attention and if so, how have you responded to that in the past?

Ruley: Well, kind of the first response is a chuckle at it, because it’s typical for people to make up stories about “celebrities.” Even though I don’t consider ourselves “celebrities,” but people listen to us, people like to talk about us. So I guess I’ll categorize us as such. I don’t think drinking necessarily is wrong, so yeah some of the guys in the band do drink, but we’re all like 25 and 26 years old, so I think it’s all right. Womanizing? No. Drugs? No.

MM: And cuss?

Ruley: Cuss? No, not really. I mean we’re not angels, but we’re not like the crazy jerks that people say we are.

MM: Mike spoke last year at the Decapolis stage and it was jam-packed.

Ruley: Yeah.

MM: Did you get a chance to see that?

Ruley: I believe so, yeah.

MM: And did you talk to him at all afterwards or anything like that?

Ruley: He said it was really good. I guess he said going through that process of finding out something to say, then going up there, going through it and talking to people, he said it was really spiritually awakening for him.

MM: What were your feelings on it?

Ruley: Well, I was really happy for him to be able to go and do that. It’s not easy to get up in front of people and for…I don’t know how long he talked, twenty minutes, half hour or something? But yeah, that’s difficult, especially about something that is really, really important and close to your heart, but I guess in a way maybe it’s easier to talk about something like that. But yeah, I was really happy for him.

MM: Even though you guys don’t preach from stage, being Christians do you feel that you’ve had a positive influence on other bands and if so, how do you think you’ve impacted them?

Ruley: I think the impact has been that they see… We’ve toured with a lot of bands, “secular” bands. They’ve known we’re Christians and talked about it. Every one of the bands has talked to us about it. And I think more than anything, they’ve garnished from us the fact that not all Christians are really “psycho.”

MM: Yeah.

Ruley: Because most of these people that play punk rock and are kind of angry with society in some way, they pin the church onto society. So they basically lump church and state together. And basically they just think everyone is knocking at your door trying to sell you something. So when they see people that are just normal guys just like them, who are Christians and aren’t afraid to say it, I think they just see like, “Oh wow, there are normal people out there.” And some bands we’ve toured, they’ve even opened their eyes to touring with other “Christian” bands because of that.

MM: With Christianity and the Arts, like how do you see God being glorified through art or through music?
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Ruley: Yeah, it’s different. Well, so many different levels of art. Well, everyone is impacted in a different way. I don’t look at a picture and go, “Oh my gosh, the glory of God is so wonderful,” but there are people that do that. But I think that we are each given a gift in some way and I think because we are made in the image of God, we are creative. That’s something he’s given us, is to be creative. I guess, in a way, it’s being exactly who we are. Being exactly sort of what God has put into us when we’re being creative. If you are consciously using that as a form of glorification to God, it’s a wonderful sort of communion between you and God. For that person, personally, and for God, but there’s also other people in the audience that would appreciate that as well.

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