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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: Thatís probably like a deeply psychological question. Iím really gonna be honest. Itís 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 donít know if that means for a long time, itís just that switch thatís there, that thereís a desire to sort of educate and entertain for a long time. Kevin: Like an outlet? Yeah, definitely. Iím sure that thereís a therapeutic element to performing for certain.

  • JFH (Kevin): How did the band respond to the book, Itís 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 itís 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 didnít have a problem with that. Itís just; the publisher doesnít necessarily understand how to market the book. And to understand when you sell... This is kind of a unique situation for themselves. Weíre still kind of working through the details of that sort of thing. I think itís a good thing for the band overall. I just want people to know itís written through my eyes and itís slanted. If they were to write the book, itíd be probably a much different take. Theyíd be making fun of me a lot.

  • JFH (Kevin): Since the book has been out have you heard from Brooke?
    Andrew: No, not yet. Iím hoping it reaches her. Sheís probably married though to a professional football player. *laughter* Iím still clinging to that one. Kevin: Have you talked to Jeremy? Iíve talked to him a couple times over e-mail. That story happened a few years ago. Well, noÖ 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 thatís the last time I heard from him. So, Iíd 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 itís a very difficult path from that point on, but I definitely think about it from time to time. Kevin: Yeah, itís an awesome story. Yeah, thanks man.

  • JFH (Kevin): When you guys are on-stage whatís going through your mind?
    Andrew: Depends on the show. Tonight it's ĎI wonder how many songs weíre gonna get through before they stop us.í *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 donít care what happens. Iím not worried about what happens at this moment with my band - what our future holds - because Iím right here right now and this is what itís all about. And itís 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 Iím hoping that everyone is upstanding about how they deal with that. I mean, of course everyoneís blaming Project 86 and me for all that stuff and to a certain extent justifiably so, but we still werenít 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 donít know. I hope it doesnít get ugly and it turns into this multi-thousand dollar thing and Purple Door Ďblahblahblahblahí and the production company Ďblahblahblahblah.í As of this point itís still not quite resolved yet, so Iím hoping it is...

  • JFH (Kevin): What advice would you have for an up-and-coming artist?
    Andrew: Music is hard right now. Itís 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. Itís tough man. Itís tough right now. It was much different four or five years ago when people were buying records more. Theyíre buying records a lot less now and thatís sort of what drives the whole industry. I donít know, count the costs, I guess. You have to really know thatís what youíre supposed to be doing.

  • JFH (Kevin): Whatís your favorite Scripture?
    Andrew: Whatís 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. Thatís 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. Itís awful because I donít 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. Thereís a lot of downtime. First of all, youíre in the van all day and thatís downtime and then you get to the venue, and unloading and thereís 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 weíve always been a band thatís sort of searching for some sort of reputability and integrity and respect in what we do. I think thatís why weíve had some sort of influence is because, on one side of the coin, weíve been known as a Christian band. Which I understand in one sense, I donít in the other. Because Iíve been saying a lot lately that I donít think thereís a such thing as ĎChristian rock.í I think that you are either a real band doing it for the right reasons or youíre not. Iím not saying that itís wrong to play music because you wanna play for Christians. Notice I didnít 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 thatís 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 thatís genuine. Thatís honest and for them to know that weíre real people. And thatís why real people relate to our band. And people who arenít, maybe who are really, really, really sheltered, donít necessarily relate to Project 86 because we donít approach things from that perspective. Because itís not who we are. Definitely something weíve always liked to try to do is develop our own sound, so that we donít sound like anyone else. Thatís why the music and content is the way it is. Yeah, I mean, we take it seriously, but we donít necessarily take ourselves seriously. We take it seriously. And we want everyone to know that itís a somber, sobering thing to be at a Project show. Itís a freeing thing as well, because itís 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 thatís one thing I definitely wanna get across. Because itís not necessarily written from a Christian angle, itís just Ďhereís what happened.í

  • JFH (Kevin): I felt the whole time that the book was building up to something and not knowing where it was going. I think whatís 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 itís that time. We just come from a completely different life perspective than most really conservative, churchy schools of thought. And I donít know how to explain it to people in a way that it makes sense other than to just tell it like it is. Weíve 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, ĎThis bandís a Christian band and there are good Christian bands and you should follow Jesus.í And itís like the people who donít wanna hear that that are like, ĎIím never listening to that band.í 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 weíre like, ĎWeíre all about it. That would be awesome.í The rumor was he loved our music, but then he heard through the grapevine that these guys are Christians and a Christian band. So weíre just like, ĎDudeÖ gimme a break.í So one thing weíve 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 theyíre not turned off by the message of Christ. Theyíre turned off by the actions and the reputation of Christians. And itís 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 donít know how to relate. You know everythingís a super-spiritual thing with angels and demons and everything is. The main thing is, I donít think God ever wants us to have an agenda when we love people, when we build relationships with people. Itís not, ĎHey I befriended this guy I work with. Iím really working on him to make him believe what I believe.í You know what I mean? Thereís that subtle religion and that subtle little pride that creeps in and itís really wily and itís really dangerous. And every Christian goes through that, especially when youíre trying to do right. It always comes back to that. Weíre 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 doesnít, donít force it on people because it only pushes them away. Thatís the culture that we live in. Thatís the reality and thatís why I like the way we approach our band. Itís probably a little bit different than maybe some people would want. Itís because we get it. We understand and we know the way people are. Itís just really hard for me and frustrating. Weíre trying to destroy "Christian music," but weíre also trying to save it. And maybe weíve already done our part, but as long as weíre doing what weíre doing, weíre 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. Itís important.

  • JFH (Kevin): In your book you said, ĎI 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. Itís all about the actions of people. Thatís first and foremost. I mean everything, every other question about life, sort of stems from that. I guess going back to your first question, ĎWhy am I an artist? Why do I perform? Why am I in a band?í Because Iím driven to learn. Iím driven to question. Iím driven to create and search, and I think the artistic process is that Ďthing.í That process of questioning and searching and illumination and creation. I donít know. Itís 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 thatís my lens, thatís 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 weíve been taught are not necessarily originating from God. Theyíve been somehow made up by people and I always wanna get to the root of the matter. Thatís why, like tonight when we played, is a great example. We come on stage, weíve got this huge banner behind us with a guy with a knife and a hole in his chest and Iím painted up like a skeleton for Halloween and the crowdís 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 Iím like, ĎHow do I say something about this, about who we are, in this context that sort of exemplifies it. Iím in my Halloween get-up, just thinking about it beforehand. ĎIs there such a thing as a Christian holiday?í There isnít 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 donít care, itís just a holiday. Itís just a superstition. My life isnít concerned with that other stuff. Thatís 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. Thatís why itís 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 itís 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 donít. But then all of a sudden itís endorsed by the Catholic church and on-and-on-and-on down the line itís endorsed by Christian people and then we make it into this like hyper-spiritual thing where itís like, ĎDudeÖ itís just a freaking day.í Itís no different. We donít even give gifts because of God anymore. We give gifts because itís some stupid thing. And Easter and all. Iím not gonna go off about all that. Itís 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 thatís why we so something like that and go up there on stage and say, ĎLook, once we diffuse our superstitions about holidays and about these types of things weíre 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, ĎUh, what is he talking about?í 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 itís Ďweíre those guys that you never know what to expect.í That somebodyís always really, really, really getting their life changed by or really, really getting ticked off about.í And the same thing can happen on any given night with Project 86. Itís like Purple Door. So many kids are gonna remember that day for the rest of their lives just like we will. Thatís all I was thinking about when I was up there when all the mud was flying. I wouldnít stop this for the world. I donít 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, itís for whatever reason thatís us. Thatís our band and weíve had a lot of bad things happen to our band over the years and weíre still here and thatís 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 youíre doing and not quit.
    Andrew: Yeah, yeah totally, totally. We just need people to buy our records. Thatís what it comes down to. I hate that it comes down to that, but thatís really what all matters to a band. Buy the record, come out to shows. Itís all industry people care about. They kind of decide our fate? Itís like the record label says, ĎHow many kids were at the Project show? How much did they sell in merch? How many records did we sell for the week?í Thatís it. Itís 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 Iíve been ramming it down their throats for a couple of years. Itís like, ĎDude, 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.í Itís exactly what I was saying tonight, because next time we come through weíre not gonna play a church or whatever this is. Weíre 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 theyíre 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 canít really touch how I feel - thatís between me and God. And thatís why itís about - relationship. Because if was just about relationships with people nobody would believe in God. Itís why, like I said, so many people have such a problem with Christianity is because of Christians. I know itís clichť, but when you think about how goonie and stupid we are, and I use the term Ďweí 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 Iíd 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 donít know what else I would be doing. This is what Iím supposed to be doing. Tonight is evidence, our show. I walked in here today and I was like, ĎWhy is the show here? Why canít we do it in a gym or somewhere it can be run like a rock show, not like a youth choir thing.í Thatís not disrespecting anyone at all, itís 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. Thatís cool. I anticipated a lot of people being here just for us and itís 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 everythingís 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 weíre powerful enough to demand that much following at a show then all of a sudden weíre respected. Itís unfortunate, but on the Christian side of things thereís just as many crooks. John: The worst part about it is itís 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 youíre naÔve 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 theyíre trying to screw you. Itís true, man. It sucks. It totally sucks.

  • JFH (Kevin): After Project 86 is done, how do you want people to remember you?
    Andrew: All theyíre gonna remember is Drawing Black Lines. *laughter* Iím just kidding. I have this joke I say sometimes at shows, ĎYou guys know we did two [more] records?í *more laughter* And every time I meet someone, ĎDude whereís the fro? Dude, I love Drawing Black Lines.í *laughter* We just scratch our heads and weíre like, ĎWhat did we do?í 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. Thereís 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. Iím happy with it. I donít think itís our best record ever. I think we have some really good music in us left, and not just good, because weíll think its good, but because people will like it too. John: I was curiousÖ 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 ďBreakdown in ĺĒ. Favorite song to listen toÖ ĒShadow On MeĒ and ďSafe Haven.Ē I love "Safe Haven." John: What is Shadow On Me about? Itís about being broken. Itís really simple. Thereís some deep stuff on this record and thereís some real deep stuff you can grab a hold of. Because the concept is a little simpler, itís not just me using some big words or something. Uh, whatís the legacy we wanna leave? We didnít compromise. I know we have compromised along the way in some areas, sometimes out of stupidity or being naÔve here and there. But now we donít with anything because we know where we need to be and we know what we need to be doing. And we canít 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, weíll be very happy with the legacy we leave. Even if we sell five records on our fifth album. And thatís a terrifying thing to say. Itís 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 weíre 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 theyíre part of like a little mini-trend. And itís no discredit to the bands that sound like that, itís more just about Ďthat scene.í Though weíd love for those kids to come out to our shows because we like to talk to everyone, even when theyíre 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 weíre stupid and we donít get it and weíre 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 theyíre 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. Weíve been through a lot. Weíre not really dwelling on what weíve been through. Even though this is kind of what this record is about. Iíll keep hammering home the point to support the bands you love. Go out to the shows. Buy the records, donít 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! Iím 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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